This is part 2 of the story arc started in Superman: Man of Steel, Vol 1: Origins. I recommend the readers to have a look at it before diving into this.

Batman and its characters are DC’s not mine.

 

Bruce Wayne never wanted for anything in his early years. As the only son of Thomas and Martha Wayne and sole heir to the Wayne family fortune, he could always have what he wanted. He never really had anything to worry about either.

Until the day. It was August 12th, 1994. Bruce had been eight years old when he was out playing with his friend, Rachel. It was your usual kids game, hide and seek, and he had got the perfect spot; there was a boarded up well on the grounds of his home, Wayne Manor. He’d climbed into it, crouching so his eyes were just level with the top of the well. It wasn’t until he moved that he heard it; the boards creaking under his weight.

He moved to climb out, but it was too late. The boards gave way underneath him, causing him to fall through into the well. Fortunately, the drop hadn’t been a huge one, about seven or eight feet. Not enough to cause lasting damage since he’d been crouched, but enough to twist his ankle. As he moved his leg round to try and see it, the bats came, flying at him, circling but not attacking.

He cried out in a mixture of fear and pain before beginning to call for help. It was about ten minutes before Rachel found him and then another five before a rope ladder was thrown down. A moment later, his father descended down the ladder. He felt Bruce’s leg, checking for any kind of break or fracture. Then, he picked Bruce up and climbed back up the rope ladder, Bruce hanging onto his neck.

That was the day Bruce Wayne’s father also became his hero.

Four months later, on his mother’s 40th birthday, December 8th, they went to the theatre, to see a production of the Mark of Zorro, which Bruce knew was more for him than her. Despite it being one of his favourites, Bruce ended up falling asleep. That was when he had the nightmare.

He was running down a corridor of some kind of hospital. The walls all had crumbling paintwork and there were a number of cells with people with a number of different deformities; some had only one eye, others had terrible scarring and others had missing limbs.

He realised then by the sound of foot steps behind him that he was being chased. He turned his head to look back and saw the thing chasing him.

It was an almost Human figure, only things were wrong with it that made it not Human. In fact, it made it terrifying, especially to him.

The figure had pointed ears on top of it’s head and a leathery scalloped cloak, giving it the appearance of a humanoid bat. Bruce found himself screaming as he woke up.

“Bruce, what’s wrong?” His mother said.

“N-nothing.” Bruce said “Bad dream, that’s all.”

“Do you want to go home?” She asked him.

“No, I don’t want to ruin your birthday.” He replied.

“Don’t be silly.” She said “I’ve got my family and they’re healthy, that’s all I need. Come on Thomas, we’re going.”

“Okay.” Thomas replied “Come on Bruce.”

The three of them walked out of the theatre. They walked down a back alley, not paying attention to the tall, thin young man leant against the wall having a cigarette. He had a thin face and slicked back dark hair. He was wearing a black suit with white shirt and bowtie. There was a green flower on the jacket lapel.

As Bruce and his parents walked down the alleyway, he heard the sound of someone walking behind them. As he turned, he saw the young man was stood there. The man quickly moved around the three of them and stood in front of them, grinning maniacally.

“Why hello.” He said, his voice slightly higher than Bruce would have expected “I see you’re out enjoying this fine evening. How was the show?”

Before they could answer, he pulled a revolver out from inside his jacket, pointing it at the three of them.

“You all seem to be a little lost for words.” He said, noticing the look of fear on Bruce’s mother’s face “My dear, don’t worry. As long as you and your husband hand over your money, jewellery, watches and other valuables, this will all be over soon.”

“Okay, just take it easy.” Thomas said, pulling his wallet out from his inside pocket “There, now take it and go.”

“Okay, but first, I have a question.” The man said “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

“What?” Thomas said, right before the man shot him with a maniacal laugh.

“Thomas!” Bruce’s mother screamed before being shot as well.

The man pointed the gun at Bruce. As he did, there was the sound of sirens; the police had turned up. The man put the gun in his pocket and waved in a comedic manner.

“See you around, kid.” He said before running off down the alley.

Bruce crouched beside his parents, sobbing. He looked at his mother, who had stopped breathing, and at his father, whose eyes were wide open, his breathing shallow.

“Bruce…” He said “Don’t ever be afraid… of people like that…”

As he said that, his body fell limp. Bruce was left alone, beside his parent’s lifeless bodies, crying. When the man with the moustache and greying red hair came and tried helping him up, he didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to leave them.

But there was no one there to leave. Bruce Wayne’s parents were dead. And a part of him had died with them. That was the night that Bruce Wayne stopped being a kid in any sense other than biologically.

He spent the next 16 years being raised by his butler, Alfred, going to school, until he was 16, when he left Gotham on an eight year sabbatical.

He’d made himself a silent promise on the day of his parent’s funeral; he’d never let what had happened to him happen to anyone else. He would avenge his parent’s death. He’d never be scared like he had been the night his parents had died. He’d never tell anyone, aside from Alfred, about the nightmare he’d had on the night of his parent’s murder, the one that had caused them to get killed. He’d never tell anyone about the guilt he felt for his parent’s deaths.

Or about the laughter of his parent’s killer becoming a constant sound throughout his nightmare when it came back a month later. He’d lost something the night his parents died, and he’d never get it back. But he would spend his entire adult life trying to ensure no one else lost it.

Bruce stepped into the elevator he’d had restored. He pulled the lever and it descended rapidly. The elevator reached the cavern floor. He knew his ancestor had been involved with transporting freed slaves when slavery was still common place. He remembered his father telling him stories about it when he was a boy; until he’d fallen down the well and into one of the caves upper levels, he’d never believed it.

When he went travelling at age 16, he’d left instructions to find how his ancestor had gained access to the caves without harming himself or others and making sure it worked. When he returned six years later, Alfred had shown him what they’d found and what he’d had installed as per Bruce’s orders.

There was a large super computer against one of the cave walls, a turntable for vehicle deployment about 20 metres to the left of it beside a waterfall that came down over an entrance and exit to the cave and a forensics lab against the wall to the right of the computer. Further back, about 15 metres to the right of the forensics lab was what looked like a high tech armoury.

Bruce walked into the armoury, taking a look around. There was a dull grey body suit made out of some kind of metal. Bruce felt the material, finding it flexible and durable. There was also a pair of black boots made of the same material and a pair of black gauntlets made of the same material, with three small blades sticking out like the ones found on ninja outfits that were used to block blades. To the left of it was a bronze belt with a number of metal pouches attached to it and a pair of bearings in the centre of the buckle.

To the right of the bodysuit was some kind of black mask made of the same material with two small holes for him to breath through and a gap around the mouth, leaving the bottom half of the face open while covering the bottom of his jaw and his throat, ending at the bottom of the neck before the shoulders came into play. Of course, it also had eye holes, with some kind of reflective covering over each eye hole, giving it the appearance of having white eyes. He picked the mask up, turning it around and looking through the eye holes. The coverings didn’t do anything to hinder his vision, definitely a plus.

However, the main detail that grabbed the eye was the whole motif of the outfit. There was a long scalloped cape on the back of the body suit and a pair of long points, about eight inches each, on top of the head piece, pointing straight up and appearing similar to bat’s ears. The main point though was in the centre of the chest; a yellow oval with a black bat stencil in the centre, completing the motif.

He walked out of the armoury to find Alfred stood there holding a tray with a cup of coffee and a chicken sandwich.

“Sir, if you intend to continue down here, I must insist you at least have this.” Alfred said, holding out the tray which Bruce took in his left hand, picking up one half of the sandwich with his right and taking a bite “Master Bruce, I thought I taught you manners. Wait until seated before beginning the meal.”

“No time Alfred.” Bruce said, quickly polishing off the first half of the sandwich “Is the car ready to go?”

“Mr. Fox informs me that the car will be ready within the next two days.” Alfred replied as Bruce walked over to the chair by the computer, putting the tray on the edge of the unit the keyboard was incorporated into.

“Well then, looks like I’m taking the ZXR.” Bruce said, starting on the other half of the sandwich “The suit’s mesh, is it dense enough to be used without a helmet?”

“According to all projections, yes sir.” Alfred said “I can have the bike ready for you in ten minutes.”

“Best make it fifteen.” Bruce said, smirking slightly “I know you, Alfred. You might make out as if it’s okay for me to skip having at least a sandwich and a coffee, but you’d be really annoyed if I did skip out on food and drink entirely.”

“Very good sir.” Alfred said, walking out of the cave as Bruce finished the sandwich, gulping down a mouthful of his coffee before getting up and heading through to the armoury.

…..

Fifteen minutes later, Bruce walked out of the armoury in the outfit, minus the mask. Alfred was stood on the centre of the turntable beside a sporty black motorcycle. Bruce pulled on the mask before holding up a hand to catch the keys Alfred tossed him.

“Thanks.” Bruce said, putting on a gruffer, slightly gravelly tone “How is it?”

“It’s certainly intimidating, sir.” Alfred said “However, why that design?”

“It’s from the night my parents died.” Bruce said “It’s based on the thing from my nightmare. The one that got them killed.”

“I see.” Alfred said “Sir, when you started this, you promised me it wasn’t about revenge.”

“It’s not.” Bruce said “This is about someone needing to stand up to the scum this city has infesting it.”

“Very well, sir.” Alfred said “Just promise me one thing.”

“What?” Bruce said as he got on the bike.

“Promise me you’re not going to turn into a killer while trying to stop them.” Alfred said.

“That’s one promise I will make.” Bruce said, putting the key into the ignition and starting the engine “Don’t wait up.”

With that, Bruce revved the bike hard before shooting out of the cave through the waterfall at high speed to head into the city.

Jack Napier looked around the Ace chemicals processing plant, making sure to keep track of the guys with him. Just because he was fairly high up in the organisation didn’t mean these guys had any kind of loyalty to him. On the contrary, he knew how risky his position was, having killed the guy above him to get it.

He walked across the platform, his shoes causing small clanging sounds as he moved across the grate. As he reached the stairs leading to the upper level, he heard a noise. He turned but all he could see above him was blackness. Then the blackness moved off, revealing one of Jack’s men laying unconscious on the platform.

Bruce moved away from the thug he had just knocked out. That made three out of the four men in the plant he had taken down. As he reached the edge of the platform, he heard the sound of the man below beginning to walk up the stairs.

He pulled the grappling gun out of the compartment it was contained within on his belt, flipping the device open as he raised it above his head, firing it up. He then pressed the release on the gun, flipping it closed and putting it back inside his belt. He then took the line and attached it to his belt, pressing the control on his belt to pull himself to the ceiling as the man reached the top level.

Bruce watched from above as the man looked around. After a moment, the man stopped looking around, instead moving over to the body of the goon Bruce had recently beaten to a pulp. The man reached inside his black suit jacket, pulling out a revolver, pointing it at the unconscious man’s head and firing.

As the man did so, Bruce pressed the control on his belt to release the line from his belt, spreading his arms as he descended from the ceiling, giving the appearance of a giant bat descending down on the man, who barely turned in time to see Bruce kick him in the face.

Bruce rolled as he hit the grate, hearing the man scrambling to get up behind him. He spun in time to see the man grabbing his revolver.

As the man turned around, Bruce reached inside the compartment in his belt with the bat stencil throwing weapons, pulling one out and throwing it at the man. The sharp edge of the weapon scratched across the man’s hand, causing him to drop the gun, a shot firing off as it hit the grate, the bullet hitting the rail behind Bruce.

The man looked up, leaving Bruce shocked. The man he was staring into the face of was the man who had killed his parents. The man took advantage of Bruce’s pause, going for his gun again. As he did, Bruce dived at the man, taking him to the floor and rolling again.

Bruce got up, taking the gun and tossing it over the edge of the platform, watching it fall into the vat of creamy green liquid below. As he did, he felt an impact behind him as he was tackled over the edge of the platform, narrowly grabbing onto the handrail as he flipped over it, turning his head to look behind him just in time to see his Parents’ killer fall into the vat.

Bruce slowly pulled himself up over the rail, letting himself fall onto his back on the platform. As he did, he heard the sound of police sirens approaching. He sighed to himself as he got up, beginning to run out of the plant. He didn’t have time to notice the milk white hand bursting from the vat his parents’ killer had fallen into and grabbing the edge of the vat.

About an hour later, Bruce pulled back into the cave, dismounting the bike as he stopped on the turntable. He began to walk over to the computer, removing the headpiece of the costume as he did and setting it down on the edge of the computer as he sat down.

As he began to remove the gloves, he heard Alfred coming up behind him. He stood up and turned to face the older man, tossing the gloves down beside the headpiece as he did. After a brief pause he sighed to himself.

“I managed to stop the goons at Ace chemicals.” He said “But the suit’s too heavy, the weight on my back slows me down, keeps me from taking on multiple goons. I can pick them off one at a time, but I doubt that will always be an option.”

“Very true sir.” Alfred replied “So, what do you plan to do about this issue?”

“Short of removing half of the armour inlays, not a lot I can do about it Alfred.” Bruce said “I’ll give Fox a call in the morning. Maybe he can come up with some kind of solution to the problem. In the meantime, I suppose the best option is to remove the armour inlays on the areas where they’ve been doubled up. Do you mind taking care of that in the morning?”

“Of course not sir.” Alfred replied “Though, if you could avoid being shot, I would appreciate that, sir.”

“Don’t want to go job hunting?” Bruce said, raising an eyebrow with a small grin.

“On the contrary Master Bruce, it is far from fear for myself.” Alfred said “Just because you don’t worry about your own life doesn’t mean there aren’t those of us who do.”

“Still not given up on me, huh Old man?” Bruce replied, still grinning slightly.

“Not now, not ever, sir.” Alfred replied “Now, go and get some rest. You need your sleep.”

Bruce began to move towards the changing room before turning back to Alfred with a quizzical look on his face.

“Why do I need my sleep right now Alfred?” He asked, not sure of what was scheduled for the next day.

“You have an interview, sir.” Alfred replied “With a young lady, a miss. Vale, I believe.”

“No way to get out of it?” Bruce said “I hate reporters”

“None, sir. Not without drawing considerable suspicion as to just what you are doing with your time and money.” Alfred replied “Now, go to bed.”

“Yes sir.” Bruce said, doing a mock military voice and saluting before walking into the changing room to get changed so he could go up to bed.

Bruce walked into Lucius Fox’s office, removing the long coat he wore over his suit and hanging it on a coat hook as he came in. As he did, the African American man whose office he stood in walked over, shaking him by the hand.

Lucius Fox was a relatively short man, standing at around five foot nine as opposed to Bruce’s six foot two. He was fifty three, with his dark hair slowly greying. He wore a light grey business suit with a blue shirt and black tie.

“Mr. Wayne, what can I do for you?” He said, gesturing to a suit on the door side of the desk before walking round the desk to sit opposite Bruce.

“Well Lucius, I came to talk about the item.” Bruce said, taking his own seat “The one you’ve already given me, not the one in development.”

“What about it?” Lucius said “Been having problems?”

“Sort of.” Bruce said “It’s a little heavy. I mean, the wearer can move but the weight tires him out quickly.”

“So you need something more lightweight?” Lucius asked, getting a nod from Bruce “That’s a tall order Mr. Wayne. That suit is the lightest we can come up with without compromising the armour capability.”

“It doesn’t need to be totally bullet proof.” Bruce said.

“Move more, get hit less?” Fox said “Not exactly what I’d recommend for what you said it’s for but it works.”

“Good.” Bruce said “By your statement, I’m guessing you have something for me, at least in theory?”

Lucius quickly typed in a few commands on his computer. After a moment of typing, he turned the screen so Bruce could see it as well.

“If we replace the armour plating with the new mesh we’ve been working on, it won’t afford you as much protection against high calibre weapons, but the kind of guns the thugs in this city use? It should do just fine.” Lucius said “That said, I’m going to need to add additional armour around the groin area. You won’t have the hit protection you’ve had before otherwise.”

“Underwear on the outside?” Bruce said “Isn’t that a little bit big blue boy scout?”

“I never said on the outside Mr. Wayne.” Lucius said with a smirk “You did.”

“Okay, well, could I ask you to rush production, get it all made up and sent to the location I gave you before by eight PM?”

“I’ll get right on it.” Lucius said, standing up and shaking Bruce’s hand as the younger man did the same “You got somewhere else to be?”

“Interview.” Bruce said as he moved over to the coat hook he’d hung his coat on, putting the long coat on “I’ll see you later Lucius.”

“Good bye Mr. Wayne.” Lucius said as Bruce walked out, leaving the older man to his work.

Vicki Vale sat in Bruce Wayne’s office, her left leg crossed over her right as she waited for the young billionaire to arrive. No doubt he was off with some super model as all these wealthy types did. She found it a very annoying thing that all these girls let themselves be seen as objects like that.

She flicked her right hand through her long blonde hair as she pulled a pen out of her left trouser pocket, picking the note pad she had on her lap up with her right hand and beginning to jot a few personal notes down.

As she did, she heard the door behind her open. Walking in was a young man in a black suit with a grey shirt and black tie. He was good looking, looked to be around his early to mid twenties, had short, jet black hair and piercing blue eyes. He had a long black coat draped over his left arm.

“Sorry I’m late.” He said, hanging the coat up on a coat hook by the door before walking over to her and holding out his hand with a smile “You must be Vicki Vale. I’m Bruce Wayne.”

“I know that.” She said, standing up and shaking his hand “Hell, you can’t live in this city and not know who you are. Gotham’s most eligible bachelor, owner of Wayne Enterprises and Wayne Tech, second richest man in the world, after Lex Luthor, and international playboy, of course. That about sum it up?”

“Almost. Except I overtook Lex in the ‘world’s richest man’ criteria last week.” Bruce said “So, what can I do for you, Miss. Vale?”

“I’m a reporter, you know that Mr. Wayne.” She replied “I’m here because I want an interview. Now, I know you never give them, and I know it’s silly of me to expect you to break that rule, but-”

Before she could finish, she was cut off by his phone ringing.

“Excuse me for a moment Miss. Vale.” Bruce said, walking to the other side of his desk and picking up the phone “Hello, Bruce Wayne.”

“Hello Sir.” Alfred’s voice came from the other end of the call “I just thought I’d call and tell you that there is an event occurring downtown at 147 Third street. I thought that you may want to go down there to give your new car a test drive.”

Bruce got the message immediately, simply replying “Thank you. I’ll be there. Please be sure to apologise to the organisers of the charity gala for the homeless shelter downtown for my tardiness, but I need to deal with something else first. If my other engagement over runs, please donate ten million dollars to the charity on my behalf and tell them I wish to continue supporting their endeavours in helping the homeless and reformed criminals in whatever way I can, and that if any of their visitors are looking for jobs, to contact my office, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Very good sir.” Alfred said “Shall I still prepare your fillet mignon for 8 PM?”

“No, thank you. I’ll probably still be dealing with the engagement you just reminded me of.” Bruce replied “I’ll see you later.”

“Of course sir, enjoy your evening.” Alfred said before the line cut off.

Bruce turned back to Vicki, smiling.

“I’m sorry, but something’s come up, I have a prior engagement.” He said, making sure to make himself look busy by tidying the papers on his desk “However, if you still want that interview, I have a slot free in my schedule tomorrow, 1 PM, does that work for you?”

“Yes, it does.” She said, smiling “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Bruce said “So, tomorrow, 1 PM, Gotham Steakhouse, 27th Street.”

“Good luck with that one.” She said as he moved to get his coat back on “They’ll be full and you need to book months in advance.”

“I always have a table booked.” Bruce said, opening the door and gesturing to it “I own it. Pleasure meeting you miss. Vale.”

“And you.” She said, walking to the door and shaking his hand before walking out.

Bruce waited for her to enter the lift before going to the one beside it, opening the call button and keying in his code for his private elevator. As the doors opened, he stepped inside and pressed the button for Fox’s lab. It looked like the new gear would be getting tested sooner than expected.

Bruce pulled up to the address Alfred had given him earlier at around six PM, two hours after Alfred had told him about it, noting the destroyed Police cars outside. He’d had to wait on the new costume. It was predominantly similar. However, it had what appeared to be black underwear on the outside, actually additional armour to compensate for the thinner material his new armour was made of, with the entire armour requiring additional plates within the suit to provide protection from more than blunt force attacks. However, it fit the bill; it was lighter, so he’d be able to move more freely in it.

He got off of the motorcycle, moving inside the building Alfred had specified. The interior had been graffitied heavily, mostly in green. The word ‘hahaha’ featured prominently, as did the image of a giant clown ginning maniacally. Whoever was behind it had as much of a thing for the theatrical as Bruce.

Bruce walked through the building, keeping an eye out for anything that looked like something anyone could hide behind. Gotham criminals tended not to abandon a place they had a foothold in. There wasn’t any logical reason to assume the methodology would have changed this quickly.

As Bruce walked through into the central hall, a bright green spotlight began to shine down from the ceiling. As it did, Bruce heard maniacal laughter from the rafters.

“So glad you could make it, Bats!” The voice said, shrill and high pitched yet somehow familiar “Boys, our guest of honour has arrived. Go get him!”

As the voice finished talking, a number of large goons came out of the shadows. They all wore make up or masks on their faces, looking like clowns, and all held knives, baseball bats or crowbars.

Bruce shaped up into a relatively neutral fighting stance, one he knew was a good idea for defence. As the first goon charges at Bruce and swung his baseball bat at him, Bruce caught the end and rammed it into the man’s gut before upper cutting the man, flooring him. Next, two more men charged, both with crowbars. Bruce caught the first bar, moving it to block then knock back the second goon before kicking the first in the gut, taking him to the floor.

After that, Bruce was left facing just the final goon, who held a pair of knives. He slowly circled Bruce, apparently wary after seeing the display seconds before. Bruce reached into his belt, pulling out a batarang and throwing it up at the spotlight, the light going out as it shattered.

Bruce slowly skulked out of the remaining light and into the shadows. As he did, he fired a grapple line up, stopping on a scaffold above the goon. He reached into his belt, pulling out a line with a batarang attached, throwing it down, waiting for it to catch on the goon’s leg before pulling it, tripping the man up then knocking his head against the floor.

As Bruce dropped down, a second spotlight came on from above him, dazing him slightly. It only lasted a second, but was enough for him to be caught off guard by a fifth man’s attack with a crowbar, knocking him down.

Bruce slowly turned over, shaking his head, looking up at his attacker and barely gasping an ‘oh my god’.

Stood in front of him was Jack Napier. However, he looked different. His skin had been bleached and his hair had turned green, obviously due to the chemicals from before. He was wearing a purple suit and a yellow shirt with a purple tie and a green flower on the lapel of the shirt. However, the truly shocking bit was his face; he’d cut the edges of his mouth into what looked like a giant grin, apparently having had it stitched back together shortly after. On top if that, he was wearing what looked like red lipstick.

It was war paint.

“Napier.” Bruce said, picking himself up “What happened to you?”

“Oh, Napier’s gone, Bats. He died in that chemical plant.” Napier replied, grinning and making the cuts at the side of his mouth look even more disconcerting and revealing the voice from before had been him “You can call me… Joker!”

“Joker.” Bruce said, narrowing his eyes before realising that wasn’t visible due to the lenses in the cowl “What happened to you?”

“Well, you saw me fall. I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t. Instead, I was reborn.” Joker replied “I found myself with barely any feeling. These cuts? They’re to make me feel, and that’s the joke!”

“You’re sick.” Bruce said coldly “Give up now and I’ll take you to Arkham, let them help-”

“Oh, I don’t need help, Bats.” Joker said, starting to cackle again “But you will. Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you, not yet. I’m only getting started.”

Bruce began to slowly pace around the Joker. The accident had apparently broken his already warped mind. Even given their past, Bruce felt a pang of guilt over it; if he’d been a little faster, he could’ve saved Napier from becoming this.

“What are you planning?” Bruce said, Joker following Bruce’s pace around with his eyes.

“Wait and see Bats, wait and see. I’ll see you at the circus tomorrow.” Joker said, his cackle becoming a maniacal laugh “It’s going to be a gas!”

Before Bruce could say any more, the Joker threw something on the ground, a bright flash going off, once again dazzling Bruce. When Bruce’s vision returned to normal, the Joker was gone, leaving his battered and bruised thugs on the floor, with a note beside them.

Bruce bent down and picked the note up, removing the joker playing card from it, reading the note.

Hope you get out of there fast, Bats. I would just hate to see the cops I called put bullet holes in that lovely suit of yours. J.’

As Bruce finished reading, he heard sirens from outside. He pulled his grappling gun out of his belt, firing a line up and ascending to the rafters to make his escape.

After his encounter with the Joker, Bruce found himself re-arranging appointments. The Joker was planning on doing something at a circus. The only one in town was Haly’s Circus, and the only show was at 9PM, so that had to be where and when the Joker planned to strike.

Bruce had found himself re-arranging his interview to be a trip to the circus. There had to be a good reason for Bruce Wayne to be there, and a date at the circus was as good an excuse as any. Of course, Alfred had instructions to store the suit in a secret compartment in the back of the car. That way, Bruce could get ready on the scene.

Later that evening, upon arriving at the circus with Vicki, Bruce was shocked to, for once, not have the press swarming him. Instead, they seemed to be swarming someone else about 20 metres away. Bruce quickly got on tip toes to see who it was, clocking Jim Gordon and his family. Since the last time they’d seen one another, Jim had finished going grey and put on slightly more of a gut. Then again, the man was in his mid fifties.

With him was his wife, a woman in her mid fifties with greying brown hair, and his daughter, Barbara, an 18 year old with red hair who Bruce remembered as a toddler, albeit only vaguely. After his parent’s death, Gordon had often stopped by to make sure Bruce was coping well, something he was still grateful for.

Obviously, Jim’s promotion to Commissioner the day before had the press clambering for a piece of him.

“Excuse me.” Bruce said, gesturing for Vicki to stay put “I just spotted an old friend.”

He moved away from her, cutting through the press to get to Gordon, holding out his hand, which Gordon shook.

“Commissioner, so nice to see you again.” Bruce said, withdrawing his hand “How’ve you been?”

“Fine thanks Bruce.” Jim replied “I heard you were back in town. Sorry for not stopping by, but-”

“No need to apologise.” Bruce said, slapping an arm round the Commissioner for the press, saying quietly “Relax, Jim. I know what I’m doing.”

After a second, he led Gordon and his family away. They didn’t need the stress. They stopped about 40 metres away, where Vicki was stood waiting for Bruce.

“Thanks Bruce.” Jim said “I owe you one.”

“Just knock it off the ones I owe you.” Bruce replied “So, what were they asking?”

“They wanted to know my take on that ‘Batman’.” Gordon said, before adding quietly “Between you and me, he stopped Napier and his goons from finishing that raid at Ace Chemicals, so he can’t be all bad. I’ll see you later Bruce.”

“Yeah, see you later.” Bruce said, only half paying attention as Vicki walked over and began talking.

That had been why Napier had been at Ace, trying to get something. And he’d been left there after Bruce assumed he was dead. Bruce had a feeling that would factor into what Napier… The Joker, had planned.

Half an hour later, in the middle of the show, during some aerobatic act by a family of three, a man and his wife with their 15 year old son, calling themselves ‘the flying Graysons’. They weren’t bad, though Bruce found himself clocking issues with each of their performances without intending to.

As they performed, the net having been dropped from the act for additional thrills, what appeared to be a second ringmaster stepped out. A second ringmaster in a purple suit with matching hat.

Bruce watched as the new man pulled something out of his jacket before apparently stabbing the original ringmaster with it.

As the ringmaster slumped to the ground, he grabbed the other man’s shoulders, his arm knocking the hat off revealing the green hair and white face of the Joker.

“Excuse me.” Bruce said to Vicki as he stood up and began to make his way through the crowd before running out the back door.

Dick Grayson watched from his position above the stadium. He saw the man in the audience get up and leave as the man below in the purple suit with the bad makeup job stabbed the ring master, Harry. Some people were either really smart or idiots, running away at that.

“Attention citizens of Gotham.” The man below said into the microphone he took from Harry, his voice sort of high and very shrill, as he began laughing “I am The Joker, and tonight, my dear people, this circus has been commandeered by me and my buddies. All we ask is for the Batman to show himself, and none of you will be hurt. I think that’s fair, don’t you?”

As if answering the Joker’s question, the glass of the skylight in the arena shattered, with a caped figure that appeared to look almost like a bat descending through it, landing on the podium across from Dick, where his parents were stood, saying something quietly to them, before jumping down from the podium, his arms spread, the cape appearing like bat’s wings once again.

As he landed, he stood up straight, shrugging the cape back and saying in a rough, gravelly tone “This ends here, Joker.”

2 minutes earlier

Bruce stepped out of the car, having just finished changing into the costume. He reached into his belt, pulling out the grappling gun and firing a line up to the top of the arena building before attaching the line to his belt and rapidly ascending, stopping once he was close enough to climb up onto the top of the roof.

He moved across the roof, stopping at the octagonal skylight. He could see the Joker talking. He could also see two thirds of the flying Grayson’s, the man and his wife, stood on one of the podiums not even 20 feet below the ceiling of the auditorium. Their dark haired son was stood on the podium directly opposite from them. Their red spandex vest tops with green tights would definitely not protect them if the Joker decided he wanted to start shooting the place up.

Bruce spread his arms before jumping onto the skylight, descending through it with the cape spread wide, landing on the podium with the parents.

“Wha… What?” Was all the man got out before Bruce cut him off.

“No time for that.” Bruce said “I can deal with the Joker, but I need you to evacuate the building. Get everyone out, and tell Commissioner Gordon I’ll meet him on the roof.”

“Okay, but promise you’ll make sure Dick’s okay?” The woman said.

“I’ll keep your son safe.” Bruce said, before jumping off the podium, spreading his arms and the cape once again, landing barely 10 feet from the Joker before standing up, stating “This ends here, Joker.”

The Joker just looked at him before starting to laugh and snapping his fingers, at which point around a dozen of his goons, all in the same state of dress and make up as the goons Bruce had taken down before, came out from all sides of the arena, all brandishing crowbars, knives and guns.

Bruce looked around the auditorium. He could see the man and his wife slowly evacuating the place. Their son, however, had disappeared entirely, no longer being up on the platform by the ceiling.

Bruce didn’t have time to focus on that, however, as the two largest, burliest of Joker’s goons charged him with crowbars, while three more of Joker’s goons with uzi’s took aim at him. Bruce pulled three batarangs out of his belt, throwing them to knock the guns out of the goons hands.

As the guns hit the ground, they fired a spray of bullets, hitting the Joker’s other goons hands and feet with bullets. As those goons clutched their wounds in pain, the remaining two reached Bruce, swinging both high and low, the high strike missing, but the low hit with the crowbar knocking him to the floor.

Bruce got up into a low crouch, sweeping his left leg under the two larger men, taking them to the floor. As they fell, Bruce caught their two weapons and stood up, hitting both men round the back of the necks with the blunt sides of the weapons as he did, knocking the men out cold.

Bruce dropped the two crowbars and began to slowly advance on the Joker. As he did, he caught a shadow of movement from above. The Joker clearly caught it too, because he pulled a revolver from his jacket and fired two shots.

Dick watched from the perch he had found himself, in the shadows in the top leftmost corner of the arena. From there, he watched as the man who had identified himself as ‘the Joker’ pulled a handgun and fired two shots upwards.

Dick looked across and gasped in horror at what, or rather, who, the Joker had shot. Stood on one of the podiums across from him, were his parents, both with gunshot wounds.

His mother fell first, hitting the ground with a deafening thud and crack that would haunt Dick for years to come. His father looked down, then looked over, seemingly at Dick, put a finger to his lips and then fell, hitting the ground in the same manner as Dick’s mother, leaving Dick helpless in a dark, dusty corner, completely alone.

Bruce looked at the bodies of the two acrobats on the floor, blood slowly leaving their bodies. As Bruce looked up, the Joker began to laugh manically. He dropped the revolver and turned to Bruce grinning.

“Far too impersonal, don’t you think, Bats?” He said, a sadistic grin on his face.

“That’s your second mistake.” Bruce said, sombrely “You won’t get a third. No matter what happens now, you’re going away, Joker. For a very long time.”

Before the Joker had any chance to pull a weapon, Bruce charged him, knocking him to the floor before picking him up and punching him in the face. As Bruce continued his brutal attack on the Joker, images flooded his mind; the images of the circus performers lying dead, the image of the ringmaster, the thugs the Joker had left behind to get punished back in the building they met in the night before, Bruce’s own parents’ broken bodies…

As he threw what must have been the fifteenth punch to the Joker’s chest, feeling ribs crack beneath the impact, there was a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Jim Gordon stood there, before looking at the Joker. He was bloodied, bruised, and unconscious, but breathing.

Bruce dropped the Joker, letting him slowly slump to the floor, before turning to Jim and wordlessly holding out both wrists, expecting his own arrest. An arrest which never came. Jim simply pushed Bruce’s arms down before smiling at him.

“It’s okay.” Jim said “You got him. Now, get out here before my guys arrive. I’m not going to arrest you, but they will sure as hell try.”

“Thank you.” Bruce said before firing a grapple line up to the ceiling and climbing out of the broken skylight, looking down to see Jim putting handcuffs on the Joker as a number of police officers came running in, guns drawn. That was one less psychopath Gotham had to deal with.

Ten minutes later, Bruce came walking back in, back in his civilian suit, walking onto the arena floor. The boy was sat with a blanket wrapped around him, with Jim sat on one side of him and a paramedic on the other. After a second, Jim noticed Bruce and got up, walking over to him.

“What happened?” Bruce asked, feigning ignorance as best he could while also showing some genuine concern over the boy.

“Well, Batman brought the Joker in.” Jim said, shaking Bruce’s hand “But there was one hell of a price with it. The boy, Richard Grayson, his parents were shot by the Joker and fell from the podium. They were dead before they hit the ground. Looks like he got another one.”

“Excuse me?” Bruce said, once again working to feign his ignorance, this time over the Joker’s identity.

“The Joker, going by physical resemblance, we’re working on the assumption that he’s Jack Napier.” Jim said, pausing for a second before asking awkwardly “Listen, Bruce, this kid just had his parents shot down in cold blood in front of him by this psycho. Now, I know we could ask therapists, and you probably don’t want to go through it, but do you think you could maybe sit down with him for 10 minutes? Talk him through it.”

“Sure, Jim.” Bruce said, Gordon turning and leading Bruce to where the boy was sat.

Dick sat on the bench that was in the centre of the arena. The paramedic had said something to the old cop about him being in shock. Could they really blame him for it? He’d just watched his parents gunned down in cold blood, and all he’d been able to do was hide. There was no way in hell anyone else could relate to that.

Dick looked up, seeing the old cop leading a dark haired man in his early to mid twenties wearing a black suit with a grey shirt and black tie over to him. They stopped in front of Dick, who just sat there, looking at them.

“Richard, there’s someone here who I think it could help you to talk to.” The cop said, doing his best to put on a warm smile.

“It’s Dick.” Dick replied “And I doubt it. Who else is going to get this whole screwed up situation?”

“Just hear him out.” The cop replied “Dick Grayson, meet Bruce Wayne.”

Dick looked at the man, who was holding out a hand for a moment before dropping it to by his side. The cop looked between the two of them before gesturing for the paramedic to give some room, with the brunette woman complying, getting up and walking off with the cop, talking about something. As they went, the man took a seat next to Dick on the bench, loosening his tie slightly.

“Hello Dick.” The man said “I’m Bruce Wayne. Well, Jim pretty much covered that, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, he did.” Dick said “Look, Mr. Wayne, I get that you want to help, and that’s great, but I seriously doubt you can relate to this.”

“Actually, I can. And please, call me Bruce.” The man replied “You see, that man tonight, he had another name before he was ‘the Joker’, and he and I have some… history.

“Like what?” Dick said “Seriously, what could he have done that makes you think you could possibly relate to me?”

“I met that man when I was eight years old. I was leaving the theatre with my parents. We left because of imagery that I was afraid of. That man was waiting.” Bruce said, his mood instantly sombre “He mugged them then shot both of them down in cold blood, right in front of me. I only got away because he heard police sirens so ran scared. So I can definitely relate.”

“Oh. Sorry.” Dick said, slightly taken aback “So, how’d you deal with it.”

“Focusing on other things.” Bruce said “You need an outlet, something you can channel your energy into. The circus might not be the best idea, too many memories, but have you got any other hobbies?”

Dick paused. He had other hobbies, sure, but all of them seemed pretty pointless at that moment in time. There wasn’t really anything for him to channel the anger he was feeling into. He could try using it with his gaming, maybe try getting angry and upping his kill to death ratio on CoD, or maybe focusing it into the kick boxing he’d been taking since he was a kid, but they were both pretty pointless. He had nothing.

“No.” Dick answered, finally “Nothing.”

“Okay, then you need to find something.” Bruce said “Have you got somewhere to stay? Any family? Any close family friends that would take you in? The circus won’t be the best environment for you for a while.”

“No.” Dick said “No where.”

“Then let’s work on that one.” Bruce said “Look, if you want, if Jim’s okay with it, you can come home with me. It’s a big house and, simply put, you’re going to need someone you can talk to on tap.”

Dick paused. Why was this guy sticking his neck out for him like that? What was his angle? Did he even have an angle?

“Why are you even bothered?” Dick finally asked “What do you get out of this?”

“Nothing. This is just one of those things; us orphans have to stick together, right?” Bruce said, seeing Dick’s hesitance, finally saying “Fine, having you around, helping you through this, it’ll help keep me grounded.”

“Why wouldn’t you be grounded?” Dick asked “What are you hiding?”

“Hiding? Nothing.” Bruce said “It’s just one of those things. You’re a billionaire playboy, you always risk losing touch.”

“Okay, sure.” Dick said “You can ask.”

Bruce said nothing more, instead getting up and walking over to the cop. They had a conversation which lasted around five minutes, with Bruce apparently explaining how he thought he could take care of a 15 year old, at the end of which Bruce walked back over.

“Okay, get your things.” He said “We leave in an hour. I’ll meet you outside, by the black Mercedes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a call, tell Alfred to set an extra place for dinner.”

“Alfred?” Dick questioned as Bruce began to walk away.

“My butler, practically raised me.” Bruce tossed back before calling “One hour.”

Half an hour later, across town, in a dark, gritty apartment, the man with red hair sat in his old, torn armchair. He was wearing a green suit with a black shirt and green tie, a question mark tie pin on the tie while a green bowler hat and gold cane with a question mark for a handle were placed neatly on the old pine coffee table beside the armchair.

On the bulky black 28 inch television in the corner, the news was on. The text at the bottom read ‘Bat-man stops psychotic clown at circus’. The man watched, listening intently to the report.

When asked for a comment on this ‘Bat-man’, Commissioner James Gordon refrained to comment. Eye witness accounts have reported that the two were seen talking after the Bat-man had fought and defeated the criminal calling himself ‘ the Joker’. In other news-“

The man switched off the television using the black remote on the arm of the chair, standing up and walking over to the window of the apartment. He grinned subtly to himself.

“Batman. Fascinating.” He said to himself “Riddle me this, riddle me that, who on Earth is the big bad bat?”

Over the next few weeks, Bruce found himself juggling trying to make sure that Dick was slowly getting over his parents’ death and his own being Batman, with the latter seemingly taking precedence many times. He’d taken to using a signal bounced cell phone, with the signal bounced so many times that the combined resources of all the law enforcement agencies on the planet couldn’t track it, to keep in contact with Gordon. He’d phone and give Bruce a location where the two could meet, at which point he would then give Bruce the info he needed to get the criminals. In the last few weeks, Bruce had taken down three mob bosses as well as putting on hell of a dent in the Falcone family’s operations.

Bruce understood the need for secrecy at that point; officially, Batman was a vigilante, and, by proxy, a criminal. As the Commissioner, Jim couldn’t be seen to be actively associating with him, or tipping him off. That’s why that night, five weeks after the incident at the circus, Bruce was shocked.

Jim called the phone number he had for Batman, and told him to look out the window at the sky, wherever he was. Bruce went to the window and looked up, being shocked by the image.

In the sky, was a large circle with a bat outline in the centre, much like the symbol on the chest of the bat suit. Gordon quickly told him it was on top of the Gotham special crimes’ unit building, and that he needed him there fast.

“Okay, I’ll be right there.” Bruce said before hanging up the phone, saying to Alfred “I’m going to need that suit ready to go out tonight after all.”

“Of course, sir.” Alfred said.

“Where are you off to?” Dick said, from his seat on the couch, watching Terminator 2.

“Urgent appointment, can’t be delayed.” Bruce said “You going to be okay stuck here?”

“Sure, I’m used to your disappearing out.” Dick replied “Alfred going with you or what?”

“No, so you don’t have to just order pizza.” Bruce said, smirking at him “See you later. And do your homework!”

“Yes sir!” Dick said, doing a mock salute before turning back to the film.

Bruce turned and walked out, going through to his study, moving over to the old grandfather clock in between 2 bookcases. He opened the clock, reaching inside and pulling a lever hidden at the back of it. As he did, the bookcase to the left of it rotated, revealing a passage behind it, as well as an identically shelved bookcase on the reverse of the one that opened.

Bruce closed the clock then walked through the passage, the bookcase finishing it’s rotation as he did. He walked forward, to the elevator in the stone area there that led to the cave. He stepped inside, pulling the lever, causing the elevator to descend rapidly with a groan.

He stepped out of the lift as it reached the main level of the cave. Compared to the entrance level, the high-tech facilities of the cave looked out of place. He walked over to the computer, punching in a few commands. As he did, the cover for the vehicle turntable slowly slid open, the turntable slowly rotating upwards, the car sat on it.

It was a long black vehicle, with smooth curves to it, with a metal grill on the front of the long bonnet. It had a black cockpit with a wide windscreen with a single piece in the centre of it, the cockpit sliding open as the turntable finished rotating and raising into position. The back end had raised, curved points above each wheel arch, with them going to the very back of the car with a bat-wing like appearance. The final element of the car was a rocket booster at the back.

Bruce half smirked at the vehicle before walking through into the armoury. He had somewhere to be.

Jim Gordon stood on top the SCU building. He’d told Batman to be there twenty minutes ago. Twenty minutes, a nip of scotch from the hip flask in his jacket and three cigarettes ago. Both the scotch and the cigarettes were habits he’d been trying to kick for years, though, tonight, the scotch had been more for the purpose of warming him in the cold, October, night air.

As he pulled a fourth cigarette from his jacket pocket and turned to light it away from the wind, he saw Batman stood on the edge of the building, cape billowing in the breeze.

Bruce slowly moved from his perch on the edge of the building, stepping down onto Jim’s level and beginning to move around the rooftop towards the obviously altered piece on the building.

“Nice.” Bruce said, walking by the floodlight with the metal bat stencil on it.

“Finally got the D.A. to sign off on working with you officially. The Mayor went along with it as soon as the D.A. did.” Jim replied “Bringing in Maroni like you did seemed to convince them.”

Bruce didn’t say anything. The whole reason why the District Attorney, Harvey Dent, hadn’t signed off on Batman before had been due to Bruce’s own criticism of him. Harvey was someone Bruce knew from college, whom Bruce had been on the basketball team with. Bruce had been criticising Batman as a vigilante as a way to separate himself from his alter ego, and it had been working. Apparently, his self-criticisms to his friend only went so far.

“He did have a catch though.” Jim said “Not sure you’re going to like it.”

“What?” Bruce said simply.

“He wants to meet you.” Jim replied “It was his one and only condition, and he is not budging on it.”

Bruce paused. So far, Jim hadn’t made the connection between Bruce Wayne and Batman, despite being a good cop and the only person to have seen and spoken to both of them.

“Get him up here.” Bruce finally said “Guessing that’s why you called me up here?”

“Yes, it is.” A voice came from behind him “Well, in part.”

Bruce turned on his heel, the cape swirling as he did. Stood there, his light brown hair neatly slicked back, black suit with blue shirt and black tie on and apparently still with a face that used to make the girls swoon, was Harvey Dent.

“I don’t appreciate the subterfuge, Commissioner.” Bruce said, keeping his stare locked on Harvey “I would have contacted Mr. Dent if and when I saw fit.”

“When would that be?” Harvey interjected “The next time a killer clown shows up?”

“No.” Bruce replied, turning to Jim “Commissioner, you said there was something you wanted to talk to me about. What is it?”

“Don’t tell him anything, Gordon!” Harvey said, cutting Jim off.

Jim stood there, looking between the two men for a moment before reaching inside his beige trench coat. From within the coat, he withdrew three green envelopes. On each envelope was a black question mark.

“There have been a number of break-ins around the city recently.” Jim said “These have been left behind at each crime scene. No prints, the letters within all typed up using a very general computer which could be any of a million different ones in the city.”

Jim handed Bruce the envelopes, much to Harvey’s apparent chagrin. Bruce pulled the first of the letters out, taking a look at it. Jim was right, the font was consistent with the majority of word processing programmes. The letters could have been written at Bruce’s company, at Wayne Manor, at the GCPD building, anywhere with a computer. However, it was the content that Bruce found interesting.

No matter what artefact it is you seek, you’ll find it all here any day of the week.’

“It’s a riddle.” Bruce said “The answer is the Gotham Museum.”

“We figured that out, in retrospect.” Jim said “That was the next place hit, where the next riddle was left.”

Bruce looked at the next riddle. After taking a second to think about it, he flipped to the third and final riddle.

“The answer to the second riddle was the second national bank.” Bruce said, beginning to read the third “I’m assuming that was the third place hit?”

“Yes.” Dent said “Seriously Gordon, this is a waste of time. We should have code breakers on this.”

“No need.” Bruce said, turning and walking to the edge of the roof “I know the next target.”

“Where is it?” Jim asked.

“Arkham.” Bruce said “Give me half an hour, I don’t want your men getting in my way.”

“In your way?” Dent said, angrily “How are we to know you’re not the one doing all this?”

Bruce said nothing, instead jumping off the roof, spreading his arms with the cape as he did, slowing his descent to a slow glide, landing beside the car. He pressed the control on his belt, causing the cockpit to slide open, before jumping into the car, starting the engine.

Jonathan Crane sat at his desk in his office in Arkham Asylum. He was busy with paper work, as always. All the crazies and criminals that were thrown in the Asylum made his job as one of the senior psychologists in the institution a big irritant in his life. Not much he could do about it though, besides keep up with his research.

The recent increase in security measures at the Asylum, following the criminal who went by the alias of ‘Joker’ being brought in, had also not helped. His work was becoming harder and harder to keep secret, especially with the so called specialist who had been brought in to study his case. Of course, the woman wasn’t; she was barely 21 years old, having apparently graduated from Metropolis University with a doctorate by the age of eighteen.

Regardless of her somewhat impressive reputation, however, Doctor Quinzel was a major annoyance to Crane. She showed no interest in any of the other inmates she was asked to look at, filling her days instead with attempting to psychoanalyze the Joker. He wouldn’t mind so much if she turned up results, but if anything, she was hindering the effort to find out what made the man tick. The Joker was clearly doing little more than playing games with the young woman as opposed to co-operating in her interviews. Crane had to respect the man’s ability to so clearly lead the young woman, however.

He paused for a moment, pondering the matter. As he did, there was a massive crashing sound coming from down the hall. Crane stood up, going to his door. He opened it before stepping outside. He couldn’t help but smirk at the ingenuity of his… colleague.

In the place of the wall at the end of the corridor was a large, gaping hole. In the centre of it was a large van with a makeshift battering ram on the front of it. Dotted across the black van was a number of fluorescent green question marks. Crane’s colleague had nothing if not a talent for creating interesting visuals.

As Crane marvelled at the construction, the front passenger door of the van opened. Out of it stepped a tall, thin man with red hair. He wore a green suit with a black shirt and green tie with a gold question mark tie pin. On his head, he wore a green bowler hat with a black question mark on it. Completing the ensemble was a gold cane with a question mark handle.

“Mr. Nygma, right on time.” Crane said “I do hope you plan on cleaning this mess up.”

“Not really, considering we’re to make more.” Nygma replied “And as you know, I prefer to go by my pseudonym.”

“Oh, of course, what was it? The Puzzler?” Crane said “The Question?”

“No, Riddler.” Nygma replied “I suppose the latter was an acceptably close guess, though. Do we know he’ll show up?”

“Yes, we do.” Crane said “The thing about the Bat-man is he displays a compulsion to try and stop any form of crime, possibly due to some form of innate personality disorder, most likely one he has genetic pre-dispositioned to. You’ve provided the bait and now we have the trap.”

“Yes, we have.” Riddler replied “I trust you have the key ingredient for the trap?”

Crane smirked. Riddler clearly thought that noone could be as intelligent as him. However, Crane wouldn’t let that get in the way of him being able to complete his work. He moved back into his office, grabbing a briefcase before walking back out to Riddler.

“I trust you brought the gasmasks, as I instructed you to?” Crane said “I would hate for you and your men to fall victim to my new project.

“We have the equipment, Doctor, don’t worry.” Riddler replied, snapping his fingers and being handed a gasmask by one of his men as they all put their own masks on “Don’t you want to wear one, Doctor?”

“Please, there’s no need to keep calling me that.” Crane said, opening the briefcase and removing what appeared to be a mask made of patchwork potato bags “Call me Scarecrow.”

Bruce pulled up to the gates of Arkham Asylum in the car. The gates of the Asylum were demolished, as if something big had crashed through them. There was a thin grey mist blanketing the island the old mansion that was used for the Asylum was situated on. It was odd to see an occurrence like that, given the absence of such conditions in Gotham, but not unheard of.

Bruce pressed a control on the dashboard in front of him, the cockpit of the car opening above him by sliding forward as he slowly stood before stepping out of the car. There was a bitter taste in the air, and the mist felt the same as when Bruce was in a small room with a number of people smoking cigars, making him cough.

After a second, Bruce composed himself and stepped through the gates before beginning to walk through the grounds. There was something eerie about the place, something he couldn’t put his finger on. It might have been the leafless trees or the abandoned moat house down by the docks. Whatever it was, Bruce couldn’t shake the feeling he was being watched.

Dick sat at the table, flipping through a chemistry textbook. It was one of the most boring things he had ever read. In actuality, he was fairly certain it was the most boring thing ever written. It wasn’t a case of he wasn’t good at chemistry. He just found written work to be tedious.

As he flipped the page over, he saw Alfred coming into the room, a tray with a plate and a glass of lemonade on it in his hand. He walked over to the table where Dick was sitting, setting the tray down before taking the seat opposite Dick.

“Thanks Al.” Dick said, grabbing the fork on the tray before looking down at what was on the plate.

It was a steak on the plate, fairly bloody. Beside it was onions, fries and a couple of sausages. Finishing off the dish was a small bowl filled with tomato ketchup. Alfred knew exactly what kind of meal Dick liked. The same kind as any other teen; greasy.

“This looks great.” Dick said, picking up the knife from the other side of the tray and beginning to tuck into the steak “Oh god, Al, whatever Bruce is paying you, it’s not enough.”

“Thank you, sir.” Alfred said, nodding curtly “I’m sorry that Master Bruce isn’t around as much as would be ideal. He just has to work a lot. Being the head of a multibillion dollar corporation doesn’t leave him time for much of a home life.”

“It’s cool.” Dick replied “So, what’s he doing exactly?”

“This and that.” Alfred said “I believe he’s currently working on something with the local law enforcement.”

Local law enforcement? How could the GCPD afford to be buying stuff from a company like Wayne Enterprises? Dick was fairly certain that the GCPD wouldn’t have that much of a budget. Gotham was, well, not a place where that kind of money could be spared. In all honesty, Dick failed to see why Bruce stuck around in the crime ridden city.

Bruce walked through the Asylum grounds. The mist blanketing the island seemed to be thickening. As it did so, Bruce could feel himself becoming disoriented, groggy. There was something in the mist, something that was having some kind of effect on him.

He reached down to his belt, pressing the control to activate the communications system in his cowl. As he did, he put two fingers to his left ear, pressing the controls on his belt with the other hand to contact Alfred.

“Alfred,” He said, maintaining the rough, gravelly tone he used while in his costume “I’m on Arkham Island. There’s some kind of mist blanketing the island, thin enough that the cowl’s filters aren’t keeping it out, and it’s spreading. It seems to have some kind of effect on the brain, dulling certain senses. I’m calibrating the filters to take a sample and send the chemical composition back to the cave for analysis. Let me know what you turn up. In the meantime, I’m switching to the re-breather in my belt.”

Bruce lowered his hand, reaching into his belt and opening one of the pouches, pulling out a small re-breather and placing it over his mouth, the top attaching to the end of the nose on the cowl. As he did, he saw something in the distance.

He pressed a control on the belt as he closed the compartment, activating the cowl’s visual zoom function, going to ten times magnification. It looked like a figure slowly advancing through the mist, apparently male, clutching his stomach as if he was somehow injured. Bruce disengaged the zoom before beginning to walk towards the figure before breaking into a slight run.

As he neared the figure, the man collapsed. Bruce slowed to a halt as he reached the man and gasped at the sight before him as he sank to his knees, picking the man up in his arms.

There was blood slowly seeping from a bullet wound in the man’s stomach, slowly covering the ground and Bruce’s suit. The man’s skin was deathly white, his hair a greying black, with a matching moustache. Laying there, in Bruce’s arms, dying, was Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father.

“Dad?” Bruce said, his normal voice slipping through the ventilated mask he was wearing “But… it can’t be.”

“Why did you let him do it, Bruce?” His father said, his head slowly twisting up to look Bruce in the eye “Why did you let him kill your mother? Why did you let him kill me?”

“I… There wasn’t anything I…” Bruce said, his voice beginning to crack “I’m sorry…”

“You’re a disappointment, Bruce.” His father said “You’re an absolute disgrace.”

“No!” Bruce said “You’re not him! My father would never-”

Before he could finish the sentence, his father, and the blood covering Bruce, slowly began to evaporate away. Bruce tried tightening his grip, wanting to keep his father, or whoever it was, there.

“Wait, don’t go!” Bruce said, as his father finished evaporating “Don’t leave me alone. Not again…”

Alfred sat at the computer in the cave. After Bruce had sent the sample information through to him, he’d been going over the composition. In all virtual simulations, the chemical read as a toxin, with some rather nasty effects. First, was the basic disorientation with nausea, though knowing Bruce, the latter might not have even registered. Then came the psychological effect.

After a certain amount of exposure, the compound would begin to effect the perception centres of the brain, causing hallucinations. Specifically, ones around fears, angst and anger. That effect was troubling, especially since Bruce was in a populated environment, and in that condition, wouldn’t necessarily recognise friend from foe. However, it got worse.

Once the psychological effects took hold, there was around 12 hours to find some way to inoculate the victim. If no antidote was administered, then the trauma the body and mind went through due to the toxin would cause the central nervous system to shut down, with all major organs shutting down within five minutes of that occurring. Death by fear.

“Good god.” Alfred said as he pressed some commands on the computer keyboard, ordering it to search for and then synthesise an antidote “Master Bruce, what have you gotten yourself into?”

Dick sat in the living room, music blaring out of the macbook on his lap. Alfred had left him to his own devices twenty minutes ago, and Dick was okay with that, despite liking the old guy better than Bruce.

It wasn’t there was anything wrong with Bruce, he was just always so… broody. That was something that bothered Dick; the guy barely had a sense of humour, nothing Dick could banter with and bounce off of. At least Alfred did have something of a wit about him, even if he did seem a prude at times.

As Dick considered it, he pressed the pause button on itunes, lifting the mac up and putting it on the couch before standing and walking out of the living room. He was in desperate need of some kind of a laugh, so finding Alfred for a chat would have to do.

“Al?” He yelled, his voice echoing “Al, where are you?”

No reply. Dick began opening doors and peering through them, looking for the old butler. After a moment, he reached the room he knew was Bruce’s study. He opened the door and stepped inside. He couldn’t see Alfred, but he could hear the light sound of tapping away on the keyboard, coming from the direction of the grandfather clock in the corner.

Dick walked over to the clock, trying to figure out why it sounded like a keyboard, before noticing a faint beam of light coming from the side of it. He looked at the beam of light, trying to find it’s source as he felt along the edge of the clock, before the clock slid to one side, revealing a passageway.

The young man stepped through the passageway into the dull surroundings beyond, with what looked like a cave wall with stone steps descending into the darkness. At the end of the steps was what appeared to be a giant monitor with around a dozen smaller ones attached. Sat at the large computer set up below, was Alfred.

“What is this?” Dick wondered aloud as he slowly walked down the steps, looking around the cave he was walking into.

To one side of the cave was a large circular platform with what looked like a turntable on it. Against a wall, was a large circular chamber with a metal door on it. Through the one window in the door, there was something visible; an empty cowl. An empty cowl identical to the one Dick had seen Batman in on the night his parents were murdered.

“Alfred?” Dick said as he reached the bottom of the stairs, watching as the old man span around with a look of surprise on his face “What is this?”

“Ahh, master Richard.” Alfred said “I must say, I, uh, didn’t expect to see you down here.”

“Al, seriously, what’s going on here?” Dick asked again “What is this place?”

“This place is, well, I shouldn’t say.” Alfred said “It isn’t my place to tell you.”

“Is this why Bruce is always disappearing at night?” Dick asked “Is this where he goes.”

Alfred sighed, apparently giving up on trying to hide whatever was going on from Dick. The young man had a definite idea of what was going on, but he wanted to hear it from Alfred. He wanted to be told he was right.

“Yes sir, it is.” Alfred said “You see, as you know, Master Bruce’s parents were murdered when he was eight years old. When that happened, he made a vow on their graves, that as long as he lived, he’d do everything in his power to try and prevent it happening again. He went travelling, learned everything he could that might help him fight crime. Then he came back. That’s when it all began.”

“When what all began?” Dick asked, already knowing exactly where this was going.

“When Bruce Wayne became Batman.” Alfred said “And now, he’s out of contact. I’ve been trying to reach him, but he’s infected with some kind of neurotoxin and it’s impairing his mind. Right now, he’s on Arkham Island, and as long as he’s there, no one else on the island is safe.”

Dick was confused. He was being told that Bruce was Batman. An odd idea, but one that wasn’t entirely absurd, given how stoic Bruce could be. He was also being told that Bruce was somehow a threat to everyone on Arkham Island. Given what Dick knew about Batman, that didn’t make sense; Batman was the good guy.

“What do you mean?” Dick eventually said, voicing his confusion.

“The toxin will be causing him to hallucinate.” Alfred said.

“Okay then, what can we do?” Dick said, before the computer beeped.

Alfred moved over to the computer, with Dick following. The words ‘antidote synthesised’ were flashing on screen, and a set of four syringes were on a tray which popped out from the computer. Before Alfred could say a word, Dick grabbed one, quickly squirting out part of the liquid before injecting himself.

“Get the tunic from my acrobatics uniform.” Dick said “I’m suiting up and going to help Bruce, and you’re not talking me out of it.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir.” Alfred said “You’re like Master Bruce; once you’re mind is set on something, you won’t reconsider. I presume you don’t intend to go in the full batsuit? The cowl would be somewhat too big for you, though the main suit does adjust itself to fit the wearer.”

“No, not as Batman.” Dick said “You can call me… Robin.”

Dick pulled up to the Asylum on the motorcycle that had been in the cave, pulling off the motorcycle helmet and tossing it to the ground as he got off the bike. He was wearing the green tights and red tunic from his circus costume, the R on the chest in place of a left breast pocket. He wore one of Bruce’s spare utility belts on his waist, with the prototype for a more lightweight batsuit underneath the circus outfit.

Of course, he was wearing a domino mask with an earpiece and microphone attached in place of the cowl that Bruce wore, due to the size difference Alfred had mentioned, with lenses similar to those on the cowl. He wore the cape from the suit he had on over his shoulders and back, with a pair of metal sticks attached to the back of his belt. He had his own fighting tricks and wasn’t going to go unarmed against a load of thugs.

He walked through the Asylum’s grounds, glad that he’d taken the antidote to the chemical in the mist before leaving. It meant he didn’t have to wear some cumbersome gas mask. Didn’t make him feel any more at ease though.

As he walked through the grounds, he saw a figure moving towards him in the mist. As the figure seemed to clock him, it began to pick up it’s pace, before coming into view. It was a man in an orange jump suit, a number of scars visible, like tallies. In the man’s hands were a pair of knives.

Dick reached behind him, pulling out the two metal sticks. As the man reached him, Dick sidestepped before hitting the man in the back of the neck with one of the sticks, flowing the man. Dick crouched down, checking his pulse and breathing. All normal.

Dick stood back up, looking around and tucking the sticks back on his belt as he did. He began moving again, clocking another person moving towards him. A larger person, with a billowing cape flowing behind him, points on top of his head. After a moment, Bruce came into view.

Bruce staggered slightly through the mist. He could barely see anything, except the man in front of him. He was wearing a suit identical to Bruce’s, minus the cowl. Clearly an attempt at a psych tactic. The lack of the cowl meant Bruce could tell who it was, though the white skin, green hair and permanent smile carved into the face of the man approaching meant Bruce would’ve known anyway.

“Joker.” Bruce said, narrowing his eyes underneath the cowl “I should’ve known.”

“What?” Dick replied “Bruce, it’s me, Dick. I came to-”

“What, kill me?” Bruce said, picking up speed as he moved towards Dick “Why not attack me at the house, if you know it’s me under here? Rather than stage this elaborate plot?”

“Bruce, you’re hallucinating.” Dick said, before realising it was too late.

Bruce’s first hit connected with Dick’s jaw, knocking him to the floor, a thin trickle of blood beginning to run down his chin. Bruce was Convinced that Dick was the Joker. That wouldn’t change based upon anything Dick said. The Only option Dick had was to stall Bruce until he had a chance to inject him with the antidote.

Dick flipped himself back onto his feet with a kick, Bruce narrowly dodging the strike. Dick pulled one of his sticks out in his left hand while removing the syringe with the antidote in it from his belt with his right. He swung the metal stick low, striking Bruce in the gut.

Bruce staggered back slightly, apparently winded. Dick took the opportunity, charging at the larger man, ducking under the punch that was swung his way. He shot back up, countering with a punch of his own.

Dick was almost glad that Bruce was drugged. Under normal circumstances, Dick wouldn’t stand a chance against Bruce. While Bruce had this toxin in his system, though, Dick could atleast keep up with Bruce.

As Bruce made another attempt to punch Dick, Dick ducked underneath the attack once again. This time, he slid underneath Bruce, taking Bruce to the floor, face first. Before Bruce had a chance to pick himself back up, Dick stabbed the syringe into the back of Bruce’s neck, feeling some resistance from the cowl, but being thankful for the titanium needle.

He injected the fluid from the syringe into Bruce and pulled the needle out, seeing Bruce pass out as he did. Now he just had to wait and see if it had worked.

Bruce came too slowly, his head throbbing. He looked up, seeing the face of a young man with dark hair wearing a domino mask. There was something familiar about the young man, but Bruce couldn’t quite put his finger on it, not with the migraine he had.

“I suppose I have you to thank for the headache and the lack of hallucinations?” Bruce said, putting his darker, grittier tone on “And you are?”

“Bruce, it’s me, Dick.” The masked man said in a quiet tone “I found the cave and Alfred sent me to help you after he lost contact with you and found you were poisoned from that sample you sent him.”

“I knew I should’ve had a retinal scanner installed.” Bruce said “So, what do you go by in that costume then? The ‘R’ sort of limits it.”

“Robin.” Dick said, holding out a hand to help Bruce up “Now, come on. I’m guessing you still want to find out what’s going on here.”

“Yes, I do.” Bruce said, taking Dick’s hand and pulling himself up “We can talk about the fact that you should be studying later.”

Dick didn’t bother countering, knowing there was no point. Instead, he just gestured towards the doors to the Asylum building. Bruce almost smirked as he led the way in. It was time to find out who was behind all of this, and end it.

Bruce and Dick walked through the halls of the Arkham Mansion. The place had the same mist in it that had been outside, but nowhere near as dense, making it apparent that most of it had spread outside. The walls, with their paint chipped and falling off the walls, had a number of green question marks sprayed all over the place, with many of the cells having been forced open to let out the inmates they housed.

This wasn’t a break in. This was a break out.

“This doesn’t look very promising.” Dick spoke up after a moment “I mean, seriously, half of these cells look like they were physically ripped open. Is there anyone in here that could do that?”

“No one person.” Bruce replied “But a group of them? Easily. Whoever’s doing this has been planning it for a while, and they had to have had inside help.”

“Oh, bravo Dark Knight.” Came an arrogant voice over the intercom “Yes, I did have help, but then, I see you brought some of your own. Tell me, since when did you have your own squire?”

“Squire?” Dick questioned “Seriously, what the hell is that?”

“I’ll tell you later.” Bruce said simply, before speaking up so the microphones dotting the halls could pick him up “Who are you?”

“You may call me the Riddler, and I am not here alone Dark Knight, oh no.” The voice said “And my ally is as eager as I am to prove himself to be your intellectual superior. You may thank him for the toxin blanketing the island. Shame he ran out before there was enough for it to be able to carry over to Gotham. Still, this island will have to do as his… testingground.”

Bruce paused. Testing ground? That meant that there had to be more of the toxin somewhere on the island, or at least being produced there. No way would Riddler and his associate’ve started from Arkham otherwise.

“What are you planning?” Bruce growled, getting an almost startled look from Dick.

“Why, that’s for me to know and you to find out.” Riddler said “Goodbye for now. Oh, and so that we don’t meet too soon, I’ve let a mutual acquaintance out. If you remember rightly, he’s a bundle of laughs.”

There was the sound of the line going dead, but the message went across loud and clear. There was only one person on Arkham Island who could possibly fit the description Riddler had given.

“Joker’s out.” Bruce said “Okay, Robin, I want you to go and find Riddler and his associate. Right now, they’re secondary concerns. I’m going after Joker.”

“Got it.” Dick said before going running off down the hall, pressing a few controls on the pad on his left gauntlet.

Bruce turned and started off down the corridor to his left, pulling out the hacking device in his belt and bringing it online. He had to hack security feeds to try and find where Joker was. If Bruce could catch up to him, then Joker could be stopped before he made it off the island.

After a second, the device hacked into the security feeds, displaying them one after the other on the small screen on the device. Bruce pressed two fingers to his ear as he pressed a few controls on the device with his other thumb.

“Alfred, I’m sending you the codes for the Arkham security mainframe.” Bruce said “I need you to pull up the cameras on the computer and use them to guide me to Joker.”

“Yes sir.” Alfred replied “He’s in the psychiatrics ward, fourth door on your left.”

“He’s that close?” Bruce said, narrowing his eyes “He’s up to something.”

Dick ran down the hall, using the trace programme that was running to try and track Riddler. Luckily, it didn’t seem that Riddler had bothered to bounce his signal, which meant that he could only be in one of three places; the warden’s office, the head of psychiatrics’ office or the head surgeon’s office.

The signal was pointing Dick to the head of psychiatrics’ office, held by a Dr. Jonathan Crane. As Dick reached the door to the office, he paused. If Riddler wasn’t bothering to hide his location, then he had to have planned something. There was no way he’d just give himself up.

Dick put his hand on the door handle and turned it, slowly opening the door. As he did, he felt a hard object make contact with his nose, knocking him to the floor. He looked up to see a man in a suit with what looked like a patchwork scarecrow’s mask on his head, a metal pipe in his hand. The nametag on his lapel identified him as Dr. Crane.

“The Doctor will see you now.” Crane said, his voice mechanically distorted as he reached out and grabbed Dick by the head, his hand covering Dick’s eyes before Dick felt a second blow to the back of his neck, right before he lost consciousness.

Bruce walked into the psychiatrics ward, looking around. There was no sign of Joker. Alfred hadn’t said anything about Joker moving. So where was he?

Bruce slowly moved around the room, watching his step. After a second, he heard a clatter behind him.

He spun on his heel, pulling a batarang from his belt as he did, holding it ready to throw then lowering it slowly. It was just one of the doctor’s. She couldn’t have been much older than Comissioner Gordon’s daughter, maybe a couple of years older, at best. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, her hair tied into pigtails, making her look even younger. Her outfit was dishevelled, but she didn’t seem to be getting hit by the toxin. Apparently, she’d had some kind of antigen. Or no exposure to begin with.

“Batman, thank god!” She said, her voice quite high “The… The Joker was in here. He ran out when he saw your shadow in the glass and said he’d kill me if I told you where he went.”

“You’re safe.” Bruce replied “Now, where’s Joker?”

“Okay, okay.” She said, walking up to him “I’ll tell you.”

She walked toward Bruce slowly, keeping her left hand in her pocket. As she got closer, Bruce could’ve sworn he saw the slightest twitch of a smile at the edge of her lips. As she got level with him, she got up on tip toes to whisper something in his ear.

“He’s still here.” She whispered, before saying more loudly “Isn’t that right, Mr. J?”

“Mr. J?” Bruce said, not realising until it was too late he’d been set up, feeling the electrical charge being sent through the back of his neck, sending him to the floor.

Bruce rolled over so he was facing upwards. As he did, he saw Joker stood over him, putting his arm around the doctor and kissing her on the cheek before starting to laugh.

“How do you like Harley, Bats?” Joker asked.

“J… Joker, give yourself up.” Bruce said, groggily.

“Oh, you know I’d love to.” Joker replied “But then I couldn’t show Harley all the fun I have planned. See you around, Bats!”

Joker kicked Bruce in the gut, laughing like a maniac as he did, before walking out with Harley. Bruce tried to force himself to his feet, but it was no good. Even with the antidote in his system, his body was still recovering from the stresses of the toxin. After a second, he pressed two fingers to his ear, engaging the comm. System.

“Robin…” He said, leaning back against the floor “Robin, report!”

“I’m sorry Batman, but your little boy wonder can’t come to the phone right now.” The Riddler’s voice came through the line “He’s a little tied up. As is the District Attorney.”

“Dent?” Bruce said, shocked “What’s he doing here?”

“Well, he decided, once he had the vaccine your little partner delivered, that he wanted to see what was going on here for himself.” Riddler’s voice came through, chuckling slightly as he added “I think he’s got a little more than he bargained for.”

“Let them go Riddler.” Bruce growled as he began to force himself to his feet.

“No, but you can come and get them, if you can solve my riddle.” Riddler responded “When the men are dead and gone, they’re put in me to one last time burn on. What am I?”

Bruce paused for a second, cutting the line as he did. He didn’t need to tell Riddler what the answer was. He knew where Dick and Dent were being held. The island’s crematorium, specifically, in the oven within it.

Bruce slowly finished pulling himself to his feet. After a second, he walked to the door and opened it before beginning to run off in the direction of the crematorium.

Dick came around slowly, finding himself in a dark, enclosed area, a strong pressure on his chest. He looked down at his body, seeing chains wrapped around him. He began to try and struggle, to no avail, the chains weren’t budging.

“Who is that?” A voice came from outside, muffled as if the person talking were through a pair of walls.

“You first.” Dick said “And then, once you’ve told me that, you can let me out before I kick your ass.”

“How dare you talk to me like that, I’m the District Attorney!” The voice came through again “I demand that you release me right now or you will find yourself looking at a very long prison sentence.”

“Hate to burst your bubble, Dent,” Dick began “But I’m in the same predicament as you. With any luck, Batman will come for us.”

“And if he doesn’t?” Dent said after a moment’s pause “What do we do then?”

Dick stopped for a minute. He hadn’t thought of that. He couldn’t be sure Bruce was even still around. He could be locked up himself. Or worse.

“Then we hope for a miracle.” Dick said finally, starting to worry.

Bruce ran into the crematorium. There were a number of chairs, all filled with goons. At the front of the room stood a pair of men, one in a green suit with a black shirt and green tie, with a green bowler hat and a gold question mark tie pin, holding a gold cane with a question mark handle, while the other wore a simple black business suit with a nametag on it and a patchwork mask which made him look something like a scarecrow. At the front of the room was the oven used to cremate bodies.

“And the guest of honour arrives.” The man in the mask said “You know, Batman, you fascinate me. That’s why I asked Riddler to come here to begin with; we both share that fascination with you.”

Bruce stood there, saying nothing as the two dozen goons in the room all stood. He knew how this was going to go. The same way it always did.

“You could at least say you’re flattered, Dark Knight.” Riddler cut in “I mean, for both me and Scarecrow to be so interested, well, that’s saying something. Still, if you want to offend us, I suppose we can make this interesting. You have ninety seconds to defeat our men or we begin burning the coffins.”

“Head first.” Scarecrow added “I want to hear their screams of terror as you fail, Batman.”

Bruce didn’t respond, instead moving to the two nearest goons, grabbing their heads and smashing them together, knocking the two men out. As three men charged at him, he felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around him from behind, holding him in place. Bruce leant forward, flipping the man who was holding him onto the floor, seeing the man pass out as he hit the floor.

Bruce pulled a pair of Batarangs from his belt, throwing them at the three goons advancing, knocking the left and right one out before charging the centre one and punching him in the face, flooring the man. He proceeded to punch and kick the other 18 men into submission in under a minute, dodging chairs as they were thrown and ducking under blows directed at him.

When he was done, he began to advance on Riddler and Scarecrow. Riddler swung his cane at Bruce, missing as Bruce ducked under the attack and came back up with an uppercut to Riddler’s jaw, flooring him. He turned to face Scarecrow, looking at the nametag he wore.

Dr. Jonathan Crane. Head Psychologist.

“Crane?” Bruce said “Why?”

“I thought we’d covered this, Batman.” Scarecrow replied “I find you fascinating. The way you instil such fear into all of these criminals, it’s incredible. Now, tell me, has your little antidote started to fade yet?”

“What do you mean?” Bruce said, noticing the way the room seemed to be spinning “What’s happening…”

“I’ve been pumping more of my toxin out directly at you all through this conversation.” Scarecrow said, laughing slightly “Now, tell me, what do you see?”

Bruce blinked under his cowl. He had to bear in mind that whatever he saw, it wasn’t real. He watched as Scarecrow slowly faded away, replaced by his father.

“Bruce,” His father said “You’re a disappointment. You aren’t doing anything to avenge your mother and I.”

“No, I’m not a disappointment.” Bruce said, maintaining the tone he used for while he was in the costume “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!”

As he finished speaking, his father faded away, replaced once again by Scarecrow, the room around them stabilising as the antidote re-asserted itself. Bruce scowled at the man in front of him, grabbing him by the throat and lifting him up into the air.

“Tell me how to get them out of there!” He growled, pointing at the oven.

“The controls beside it.” Scarecrow said, clearly afraid “The big red button, it cancels the process. Brings the coffins back out.”

“Thanks.” Bruce said, smashing Scarecrow’s head against the ground, knocking him out.

He moved over to the controls, pressing the two large red buttons. As he did, he saw the lights above the ovens starting to flash, signalling they were active. Without thinking, he shoved his arms in one side of the oven, pulling one of the coffins out. As he did, he heard the sound of screams coming from within the oven.

He quickly grabbed the other coffin, pulling it out before ripping the lid off, gasping in horror at the sight before him.

Lying in the coffin, groaning in pain, one side of his face covered in burns, was Dent. Bruce picked Dent up out of the coffin, throwing a small explosive from his belt at the lid of the other coffin, Dick getting up out of the coffin a moment later.

“No time for talk.” Bruce said before Dick could get a word in, beginning to run out, tossing back “We need to get him to a hospital, fast!”

December 1st 2011

Bruce pulled up to the GCPD building in the Batmobile, as Dick had named it. A lot had changed in the 13 months. The majority of the criminals who had escaped Arkham had been caught and carted off to the new Blackgate prison. After his reconstructive surgery, Dent had helped a great deal with that, prosecuting like there was no tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the Joker and Harley Quinn, as she now called herself, weren’t among them, despite Bruce and Dick, now officially working together as Batman and Robin, having gone up against them a couple of times.

All he knew was the signal had been sent tonight. Dick was busy studying for his exams to make sure he got into a half decent university, and Bruce was perfectly fine going to see Gordon on his own. It meant none of Dick’s witticisms about whatever was going on while they were talking to Gordon.

As Bruce got out of the car, he pulled the grapple from his belt, firing a line up to the roof and ascending rapidly. He looked around. Gordon was nowhere to be found.

“Gordon?” Bruce said in his gravelly tone.

“The Commissioner didn’t send the signal.” A strong voice said from behind the structure with the roof access door “I did.”

Bruce turned around to face the person who had spoke. It was a muscular man, about Bruce’s height, maybe an inch or two taller. He wore a blue skin tight bodysuit with red trunks and a yellow belt with a stylised pentagonal buckle on. A red cape was draped over his shoulders. On the centre of his chest was an upside down yellow pentagon with a red outline and stylised red ‘s’ in the centre.

The man went by ‘Superman’, a name he’d been designated by Lois Lane of the Daily Planet. The article had given a long bit about how his real name was Kal-El, he was the sole survivor of a planet called Krypton, and some of the details about what he could do.

Of course, Bruce had figured out he had to have other abilities besides flight, super speed, super strength, invulnerability and heat vision. Some kind of wind or freeze ability, given the way in which he’d put out some fires, and obviously, some kind of enhanced senses that helped him find things faster.

There was also the detail of his so called ‘secret identity’. It had taken Bruce all of sixty seconds to figure out that little mystery. The fact that an image, albeit a much smaller one, of Clark Kent, one of the writers there, had been more or less adjacent to the picture of Superman on the front page of the publication with Lane’s interview with him. It was a simple matter of making his hair less stylised and adding glasses with a marker pen to see they were the same guy. Then again, not everyone had managed to, in under a year and a half, have themselves designated ‘the World’s Greatest Detective’.

“I wondered when you’d show up.” Bruce said simply “Surprised it took you six months to arrive on my doorstep.”

“Well, I hadn’t planned to.” Kent replied “Unfortunately, we need your help.”

“We?” Bruce said “I assume you mean you and that little team of yours. What was it, you, the speedster with an ego, that ‘Martian Manhunter’, the guy with wings, the woman who likes to scream and the guy in green with the ring limited by his imagination and nothing else. Or should I say Clark Kent, Bart Allen, J’onn J’onzz, or John Jones as he goes by in his civilian life, Carter Hall, Dinah Lance and Hal Jordan?”

“I should’ve known you’d have that figured out.” Kent said “After all, they do call you the World’s Greatest Detective.”

Bruce had to suppress a smirk. Kent was trying to feel him out, figure out what made him tick. There was no way in hell he’d ever manage it, but he was sure as hell trying.

“So, what did you want to talk to me about, Kent?” Bruce asked simply.

“As I said, we need your help.” Kent replied “What do you know about the Apokolips?”

“Which version? Virtually every religion in the world has its own prediction of it.” Bruce said “Are you referring to the end of days, ragnarok, I could stand here all night going through them.”

“No, not apocalypse, Apokolips.” Kent said “We’re not sure what it means yet, but it apparently involves some living embodiment of evil and the large mass that’s been slowly approaching the Earth for the last nine months.”

“That all you got on it?” Bruce asked “I could use some more information.”

“You and me both.” Kent sighed “Anyway, if you’re interested, meet me in Metropolis, on top of the STAR labs science tower, at sunset. They’re helping us with the observation side of things, for now, at least.”

“Fine.” Bruce said, turning and beginning to walk to the edge of the roof “Oh, and Kent?”

“Yes?” Kent asked.

“Next time you want to talk, find some other way of contacting me.” Bruce said “The bat-signal is not a beeper.”

Bruce didn’t wait for Kent to reply, instead, jumping off the building, spreading his arms, the cape catching the wind underneath him. He gently descended to the car, pressing a control on his belt to open the cockpit and getting in. He pressed a red control on the dashboard.

“Alfred, isn’t Bruce Wayne due in Metropolis for a business meeting?” Bruce said “Something about a project Lex wants our help on?”

“Yes sir.” Alfred’s voice came through the speaker as Bruce started to drive “Would you like me to cancel it.”

“No Alfred.” Bruce said “Just have my private jet ready to go in two hours, and pack the new suit. Batman has some business there too.”

…To Be Concluded in “Justice League United, Vol. 1: Apokolips”…

So the stage is set for an epic collision. Darkseid is coming. To tie up few loose ends I will making another origin story on Batman and Superman with same titles as REDUX. Stay tuned as we have barely scratched the surface of the story.

Advertisements