There’s a question that has been plaguing my mind for a long time now: Who would win a fight between Iron Man and Batman? Most people seem to lean towards Iron Man what with the heavily armoured and armed suit making him near invulnerable, but I mean, I think Frank Miller instilled the idea in everyone that read The Dark Knight Returns, by beating the living hell out of Superman, that Batman could beat the best of them, and with style too. So I guess this is my idea of how it would go down with somewhat of a mystery story going on in the background.
In my story there is no DC or Marvel Universe separately. They both belong to the same universe. They aren’t aware of each other until NOW.
So nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this story I’m throwing together, and you know, these characters are the property of DC and Marvel etc. this is just a work of fan fiction etc. etc. Enjoy!
The shivers that run down one’s spine when the name Arkham Asylum is mentioned, precedes its reputation. The infamy and the horror, the insane criminals, the experiments, the monsters are all that make up Gotham City’s primary institution for those mentally unfit for civilised society, and those criminally insane where they will only cause harm unless they are under strict observation. The asylum, dark, twisted, old, sits on its own island with a one-way link to the rest of Gotham City. It’s almost as if it takes on a persona of its own. Most people argue that when Arkham Asylum is finally full, full of all of its Two-Faces and Riddlers, its Mad Hatters and Scarecrows, its Jokers and Harley Quinns, then Arkham island should just be blown off the face of the Earth. But there are laws preventing that of course.
No one really knows how the explosives got in there. Whether someone smuggled them in, or they’d been hidden there all along. All anyone knew when the explosion rocked the island was that Arkham Asylum was no longer secure, and that the light ontop of the GCPD needed to be switched on.
Batman arrived at the scene in a matter of minutes, pulling up in his dark and sleek Batmobile, he saw anarchy and chaos. Security guards and ordelies, fighting with their very lives to try and maintain order as inmates and patients attempted to flee the Asylum. Batman, exiting his Batmobile, looked up and saw the Asylum with an inferno engulfing one half of it. An explosion had blown out an entire wall. Numbers were yet to be accounted for. Numbers of escaped inmates and numbers of deaths.
“Batman! Thank Christ you made it,” one of the few friendly voices on the island beckoned to Batman. Jim Gordon, standing over with two other uniformed police officers as they tackled the Ventriloquist to the ground.
“What happened here?” Batman said, his gritty and coarse voice.
“All we know now is that there’s been an explosion. Could’ve been anything, a bomb, a gas leak. We don’t know. Fire crews will be here any minute and I’ve got my men trying to establish a perimeter as soon as they get here. Fortunately, section C, where they keep all the serious and dangerous inmates, wasn’t affected in the explosion.”
“So that means-”
“Yes, The Joker is still incarcerated, along with Two-Face, The Riddler and all your other favorites,” Gordon said as he watched his two officers handcuff The Ventriloquist.
“Who’s our biggest concern right now?” Batman asked.
“We haven’t found Basil Karlo, Warren White, Julian Day and Victor Zsasz. They were all in the wing that was destroyed, however we haven’t found their bodies, and their cells have been blown wide open, our biggest concerns are Zsasz and Clayface,” Gordon exclaimed as he walked along the grounds of Arkham, side-by-side with Batman, “Karlo could’ve changed his appearance to look like any police officer or asylum staff member by now, and Zsasz, he’s attempted to break out four times in the last two months. He almost killed a janitor last week, cut him up pretty bad, he spent a day in critical condition. He’s still in hospital.”
“The Calender Man’s clumsy, he’ll slip up. If we don’t catch him now, we’ll know to be on our toes come the next holiday. White’s no threat, and he’s distinctive, not many people have pale white skin and resemble a shark, have your men search the grounds. As for Zsasz, he’s unpredictable, tell your men to be on close lookout, and Clayface,” Batman hesitated as he looked around at the dozens of men and women, struggling with the inmates, “he could be anyone or anywhere by now.”
Batman stayed on Arkham Asylum until daybreak, with Commissioner Gordon and most of the police force. The Calender Man was discovered quickly, trying to escape by swimming back to the mainland. Warren White attempted to steal a police car but was subdued in seconds by Batman. By the time the sun came up, the only inmates still unaccounted for were Victor Zsasz and Basil Karlo. As Bruce threw himself on his bed back at Wayne Manor at six thirty in the morning, all he could think about were the lives that will be lost over the next few weeks whilst Victor Zsasz is on the loose.
New York City…
It’s called ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ for a reason. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is or what part of the year it is, New York City is always awake. Alive with noise, life and energy. Never a dull moment. Not even at three o’clock in the morning at the edge of the city, one of the many Stark Laboratories still had people working late. Tony Stark paid his people well and gave them worthwhile projects, which is why scientists and testers stayed back working for him. Testing out new weapons, systems and upgrades. The facility had decent security, guards standing at the entry point, surveillance cameras all around the building and an emergency alarm system to warn the authorities and The Avengers in the event of an emergency.
But there was a figure in the night that was able to surpass these defenses. Sneaking passed the guards, neither heard nor seen. The figure entered the building through a ventilation duct and made his way into the corridors. After remaining hidden from all patrols, workers and even security cameras, he finally stepped out, looked up at a camera and smiled. The figure, tall, dark. It was cloaked with a dark cape and a mask that resembled a bat, with a similar emblem across its chest. Then, it smiled at the camera, almost like someone was asking him to say “cheese.”
At five past three in the morning, one of Stark Industries’ most important labs exploded, killing fourteen staff members and severely injuring and burning two guards, it caused twenty-two million dollars in damages.
Another thing New York was known for were its skyscrapers that seemed to pierce the sky and overshadow the entire state, amongst these buildings was Stark Tower.
Stark Tower acted as a lot of things, Stark Industries head office, Tony Stark’s home away from home and the headquarters for The Avengers. Many discrete meetings had been held there between the likes of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk. Sixty-two floors, always busy, everyone from accountants to receptionists, from janitors to scientists, from professors to weapons analysts all worked in Stark Tower. And on the very top floor was Tony’s office, which the elevator only took seconds to shoot up to.
His office was surrounded by walls of glass and windows, and it seemed to show the two different sides of Tony Stark. There was the hard work side, the side that had worked hard to maintain the Stark family name (and its billions of dollars) through thinking, planning and acquisition. A large desk sat adjacent to the backwall with a state of the art computer system as well as drawers full of files and documents locked away within the desk. Surrounding the desk in the corners of the room were tall filing cabinets, work stations, pin up boards with plans and diagrams. But the other side of Tony, the laid back, cut loose recreational side filled the room with heavy rock music from the 70’s to present day. Pinball machines with titles like “Great Balls of Fire,” and old arcade games made his office seem almost like a hangout for twelve year olds. There was also of course, a wide screen plasma television as well as furniture, including a foldout couch in the corner for the many nights that Tony just found himself too tired to bother going home, preferring just to roll his couch out and sleep at work. Although his laid back side also enjoyed rolling out the couch and having a sleep during business hours too.
The elevator reached the very top, its silver doors opened up as Tony Stark himself stepped out. He wasn’t looking as sharp as he normally would, he looked like a man who was moving on little to no sleep. His jacket wasn’t buttoned up, his shirt was untucked and his tie was still sitting draped over the doorknob of his bedroom door at home. He wore sunglasses indoors to cover up his bloodshot eyes, although that couldn’t hide the fact that he’d obviously had a pretty wild night out, as he stepped into his oversized office that boasted both his ego and his wealth. He saw, behind his desk, was his assistant, leaning back in his office chair with a clipboard in her hands.
“Good morning Pepper, I see you’re working hard,” Tony said in his dry charactered voice.
“Tony,” she said as she frantically jumped out of his seat, walking briskly from around the desk, “where the hell were you all night last night? I spent hours trying to call you at home, on your cell, I tried paging you, I had Jarvis send out messages to your suit’s on board intelligence!”
Tony cringed as he saw Pepper marching up to him, his headache pounding away as Pepper yelled at him, “Well Pepper, you know the kind of guy I am, if you want to spend the night with me you have to get in line, I’m normally booked most nights.”
“Oh that’s real cute, unfortunately it wasn’t a personal call,” Pepper shoved the clipboard that she was reading into Tony’s chest.
“What’s this?” Tony asked, reading down the pages of the clipboard.
“The police report from last night. One of Stark Lab Facilities was attacked and destroyed, fourteen people killed,” Pepper walked back over to Tony’s desk and picked up a long black remote control.
“Who did it?” Was Tony’s first reaction, flipping through the paperwork on the clipboard in front of him.
Pepper aimed the remote control, seemingly at nothing, before pushing a button. A panel on the ceiling folded out and a television set lowered in front of them.
“I’ll show you who,” she pressed play as the television switched on and began playing.
The footage on the monitor seemed to show the Stark Facility from the night before, it was in black and white and seemed to flip from one camera to another. Mostly all that could be seen were scientists and guards wandering from room to room, as well as a janitor sweeping up throughout a corridor.
“Here’s the guy that did it,” Pepper said moments before hitting pause. A dark figure had snuck from a dark corner, then gave the most sadistic grin to the camera that Tony had ever seen. He wore tights, a cape, a utility belt and resembled a bat.
“Who the hell is that?” Tony asked stepped around his desk and sitting down in his office chair, still watching the screen, the paused image of the man that destroyed his laboratory.
Pepper took the clipboard back, flicking through pages, “In a lot of ways, he’s like you,” Tony had a bewildered look on his face as he took his glasses off, “I guess you could call him a super hero as well. Except he’s not from around here. He comes from Gotham City where the people over there know him as The Batman.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Tony asked trying to hide his amusement.
“I don’t really know, even the NYPD don’t have much information on him. He’s meant to be some kind of guy that dresses like a bat and beats up criminals in Gotham City, god knows what he’s doing out here. And by the way, the NYPD are at your house right now,” Pepper stated, throwing the clipboard back down on the desk in front of Tony.
“They’re what?” Tony asked.
“This is being treated as a terrorist attack, they’re afraid that this Batman character might be wanting to make an attempt on your life,” Pepper responded, “so if you’d actually check your cell phone or your pager for once, it might actually do you some good.”
“I’m not worried about this guy Pepper. I’ve been rich and famous since I was born, I’m used to death threats, stalkers and people not liking me,” Tony shrugged off the situation.
Pepper leaned over across the table, “Mr. Stark… Tony… Fourteen of your employees were killed by this guy, he attacked one of your branches, and it looks like he’s not even afraid to reveal himself to you. Who knows what he’s capable of?”
“You’re right… Send flowers to the families of those killed last night and set up some kind of remuneration package for them, and ah, where did you say this Batguy comes from? Boston? Chicago?”
“Gotham City, that’s right, just have the police there deal with it. I’m sure they can handle this nutjob. And until then, have security at all Stark Industries Facilities tightened. Hire as many guys as it takes,” Tony said as he stood back up from his chair and turned around, looking out of the window as the metropolis below him.
“Well that’s a start… even so, I know the press thinks that Iron Man is your bodyguard, but it couldn’t hurt to hire an actual legitimate one could it?” Pepper said, with a hint of worry in her voice.
Tony smiled, “Don’t worry about me Pepper. I have a feeling this was more of just a publicity stunt. Some masked freak wanting some attention, you saw his clothes, those grey tights. He looked horrible and cheap. I don’t think we’ll be hearing from him again.”
Tony’s eyes opened wide as he looked directly out the office window, he saw something that shocked him. Across the road, on the roof of an opposite skyscraper. He saw what was paused on the monitor behind him. That same sadistic smile. Those same cheap dark tights. It was that Batman guy. Standing on the top of a neighbouring roof with a sniper rifle. Before Tony could even react, he pulled the trigger, firing a bullet straight into Tony Stark’s office. It missed Tony by an inch, cracking a hole through the window. He reached around a slammed a button underneath his desk, sounding an alarm before throwing himself the floor. He shouted for Pepper to take cover, but she was already on the floor. In an ever growing pool of blood.
“Pepper?” Tony whispered, expecting more sniper fire, but all he heard was the alarm he just raised, “Pepper!”
He crawled over to Pepper Potts, laying on the floor face up. Blood was pouring out of her collar, just below her neck. It looked as though she took the bullet in her collarbone.
“Somebody help me!” Tony shouted.
Tony was no longer a hungover, tired and careless man. He was scared and determined. Angry and frustrated. He tore his jacket off and pressed it against Pepper’s bullet wound, trying to slow the blood loss. Pepper tried to talk, but instead she just coughed up more blood.
Security arrived, and moments later, so did the paramedics. Tony looked at the opposite building where Batman was standing only moments ago. He no longer found this cheap costumed guy from Gotham to be a laughing stock, he no longer found him amusing. The Batman was not a joke to Tony Stark any more.
Wayne Manor seemed to have a persona of its own, much like it’s native city, Gotham. It sat amongst the hills and woods about fifteen miles away from the city. Isolated and quiet. It seemed to have very few visitors, surrounded by a high fence. There was the odd groundskeeper that would be hired to keep the massive gardens of Wayne Manor in line, but most of the house work was done by the Wayne family butler Alfred. Another character that had a similar isolated and quiet persona to Wayne Manor was Bruce Wayne himself. Seen in the public as a billionaire playboy, the type of person that the public roll their eyes at and use words like “bad influence,” and “spoilt brat” to describe. He would always be seen in public with a different woman, and his public appearances seldomly seemed favorable. Usually because he had created some kind of a scene or was stealing the attention from situations that legitimately necessitated media attention.
Bruce Wayne was seen as living proof that the apple can fall extremely far from the tree, with Thomas and Martha Wayne being two of the most respected members of Gotham City’s society.
But, away from the cameras and the judgement of the public eye, Bruce had his own personality. He was haunted, disturbed, isolated and driven. His only ally seemed to be Alfred, whom was also the only person to know his secret. Bruce Wayne was Batman.
Bruce opened his eyes at god only knows what hour of the afternoon as Alfred stepped into his room with a platter. He placed the platter down on his bedside table and proceeded to open all the blinds in Bruce’s master bedroom, letting the sunlight pour into the room as Bruce squinted. Bruce like bats, was not accustomed to sunlight.
“What’s this?” Bruce said, leaning over to his bedside table and looking at his platter. On top it was a plate with french toast, fried eggs and tea. But next to the plate was a newspaper.
“A relevant piece of news that I thought you may need to read Master Bruce,” Alfred said as Bruce opened the folded newspaper.
He read out the headline, “Batman attacks New York City.”
“Indeed Master Bruce, it seems that some people have seen you doing some rather dubious things over in New York City,” Alfred stated.
“Yesterday, in the span of nine hours, Batman was sighted at a Stark Industries Laboratory that was working on advanced weapons technology. Moments after his sighting, the Laboratory was destroyed in an explosion, killing fourteen people and injuring two,” Bruce began to stir from his drowsiness as he sat up, reading more intently, “then at approximately nine fifteen AM, attempted to assassinate Stark Industries owner, Tony Stark, using a high calibre sniper rifle, but however missed and hit his personal assistant instead. The New York Police have put an arrest warrant out for The Batman, however some people, including Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, are skeptical of Batman’s involvement in these crimes despite overwhelming evidence.”
“It seems you may have an admirer in New York,” Alfred said in a deadpan expression.
“Or a copycat looking to cause trouble. I’m not sure what this means Alfred, but I may not be able to consider the police as allies until this blows over,” Bruce said as he threw the newspaper back down, heaving himself out of bed.
“With all due respect Master Bruce, don’t you think you should take these allegations against you more lightly?” asked Alfred.
“On the contrary Alfred, I’m taking them very seriously. But my duties and responsibilities lie in Gotham, not New York. If there’s someone with a vendetta against Stark Industries then that’s for the New York City Police Department to deal with, regardless of if the culprit is dressed up like Batman or not,” Bruce dropped to the floor and began doing his morning pushups in front of Alfred, “but nevertheless Alfred, keep an eye on it. If this copycat does anything else, let me know. Hopefully if I make an impact in the news tonight, that should absolve me of any more crimes this copycat in New York might have in store for this evening.”
“And just how do you plan on doing that?” Alfred asked.
“Bring me the files on Victor Zsasz, I’ve been close to catching him since the Arkham break out, I plan to catch him tonight,” Bruce told Alfred.
“Very well sir.”
New York City…
From the corridor, Tony Stark was able to peer into Pepper’s operating room. She was still alive, laying unconscious on a bed in the center of the room whilst surgeons and nurses washed their tools. It didn’t matter whether it was a surgery room, a torture chamber or a dentist’s office, there was just something about that sight, a bed next to a set of tools, that just made you cringe. Tony, with his arm rested on the window looking on in the room. He had just watched a team of nurses and surgeons extract a 7mm bullet out of her chest. Everyone tried (poorly) to comfort Tony.
“A few inches higher and it would’ve hit her jugular, a few inches to the left and it would’ve hit her heart,” they would tell him to relax him. But it didn’t. He was relieved beyond words that she had survived. But Tony had not felt fear like that in a long time. Not since before he made the Iron Man suit.
“Close call,” a familiar voice said walking down the corridor behind Tony. He instantly recognized the voice as Jim Rhodes, “I heard if it were a few inches –”
“It could’ve hit her jugular or her heart. I know Rhodey,” Tony said in a monotonous voice, not breaking away his gaze on the motionless Pepper Potts.
“But it didn’t, she took a bad hit but she’s going to make it,” Jim said as he stepped to the window, standing side by side with Tony as he too peered in on Pepper, “have the police told you much?”
Tony let out a noise, it sounded like a laugh crossed with a sigh, grunting at the idea of the NYPD being good for anything that didn’t involve taking bribes or some kind of donut eating contest.
“No. They asked me a bunch of pointless questions then told me that they would be sending the case file over the Gotham City Police Department,” Tony took a slight step back, exhaling heavily as he tried to grasp the gravity of the situation, “It should have been me Rhodes.”
“What?” Jim asked, turning his head away from the window to look at Tony. Tony, meanwhile, kept his eyes glued to the window.
“This Batman guy, he was gunning for me. Pepper’s innocent. She shouldn’t be in there, she doesn’t deserve to be in there. He must’ve been a lousy shot or had a lousy gun, but that bullet was meant for me.”
“Neither of you deserve that. I don’t know who this Batman is, hell I’ve never even been to Gotham City before. But I know that he’ll be caught. We’ve tightened security and everyone in New York is after him. If he’s already back in Gotham City, then the cops over there will nail him too,” Jim tried to ease Tony’s worries.
For the first time in what seemed like hours, Tony turned his head away from the window, but instead faced the floor as he began to pace back and forth, “That guy broke into a Stark Industries Lab then blew it up without even being detected. Then he nearly killed Pepper. The police won’t get anything done… I have to take matters into my own hands.”
“I knew you’d say that. Don’t you think you’re being a little rash, Tony? You’ve got your company here, you’ve got Pepper here. You’ve got obligations. Why don’t you just leave this all up to the police? You can’t just take this into your own hands.”
Tony turned away from Jim and headed for the exit, “just watch me,” he said sternly as he left the hospital.
“Look, I understand that Commissioner Anderson, I really do, I’m not ignorant to the evidence. So you have my word that I’ll put out a warrant for his arrest” Jim Gordon belted out an argument into the telephone in his office. On the other end was Commissioner Anderson of the New York City Police Department, “but you shouldn’t ignore the facts either. Batman is stationed in Gotham City, he has never been sighted in New York City, and prior to this whole fiasco with Tony Stark, he has only been of aid to the police force and has never harmed a civilian. On top of that, no one has ever reported seeing him with a firearm of any kind, let alone a sniper rifle.”
Jim gordon stood in his office, his jacket draped over the back of his office chair, his suspenders holding up his pants and his shirt sleeves rolled up. He had the exact appearance that any hard working family man would have, especially one that’s had just a bit too much pressure put on him.
In the corner stood one of his detectives, Renee Montoya, whom had entered the room midway through her commissioner’s phone conversation. His office door had been left half opened, and Gordon has always encouraged an open door policy in his station, inciting all of his officers from traffic cops to Lieutenants to freely approach him in his office. But even Renee, who had known Jim for years, felt awkward as she could hear the shouting over the other end of the phone wailing in Gordon’s ear.
“Fine, Anderson, fine! All I’m saying is that there is a very high chance that this is a copycat or someone looking to frame Batman. You might not be too familiar with him over there, but here in Gotham he’s seen as something of a hero,” Gordon sighed as he brushed the sweat from his forehead, “I said that already! I’m issuing a warrant for Batman’s arrest here, but I’m just warning you to be on the lookout over there in case Batman, or whoever it is dressing up like him, is still in New Y-”
Gordon slammed the phone back down on its hook and slumped back in his chair, “damn bastard hung up on me.”
“Um, sir?” Montoya spoke up, wondering if Jim had even realised she was in the room, “I had a question about Batman.”
Jim looked up and looked at Renee with one eyebrow cocked, “so do I and the entire population of New York and Gotham City, Montoya. What is it?”
“Well, me and the guys were all wondering what with all this New York and Tony Stark business, what do we do if we see Batman?” Renee asked anxiously.
“Good question,” Jim sighed again, then straightened himself up in his chair letting out a groan. He’d have thought he’d be used to fourteen hour days by this point, but he wasn’t, “my hands are tied, I have to put out an APB on Batman. I know in my gut that he’s innocent. But there are eye witnesses and video evidence of him attacking Stark Industries in New York, so the official word is that if you see him, then you’ve gotta bring him in.”
Montoya creased her brow at the situation, “but Commissioner, that could have been anyone in New York. We both know he’s innocent. And besides, there’s no cop in their right mind that would try and take down Batman.”
“I know, I know. That’s why, er- unofficially, if you or anyone else does happen to stumble across him, then you won’t be punished for looking the other way and neglecting to make a report of it. At least until there’s hard evidence that it is the Batman that was responsible for fourteen deaths over in New York.”
Commissioner Gordon stood out of his chair and walked over to his window, pulled the blinds apart, peering out onto Gotham City as he saw the sun make its last appearance for the day before setting on the horizon.
“Off the record Montoya: as far as I’m concerned, we don’t need to take any action against Batman unless he walks into the station and confesses himself.”
Somewhere between New York City and Gotham City…
Twenty thousand feet above the ground flew the Stark Jet. Tony Stark’s Private Airplane, which was more luxurious than first class seating on a commercial airliner. It had a few seats, all of which being massage recliners equipped with a television and inbuilt headphones and radio. There was also a couch at the back of the cabin, in front of a wide screen television with a coffee table next to it. Tony Stark, of course, hiring the most attractive flight attendants he could find, all brought him everything he wanted. From the more fancy martinis to the simple American hot dog. He sat back on his couch while his flight crew flew directly to Gotham City.
“Excuse me Mr. Stark,” a young blonde attendant said with a voice as if she were addressing a really attractive young student teacher in high school, “but there’s a Mr. Rhodes on the phone wanting to speak with you.”
Tony rolled his eyes and took the plane phone from the flight attendant, “Rhodey, what’s the score?”
“What’s the score?” Rhodes said back through the phone, “what’s the matter with you? When you walked out of that hospital I just knew you were going to do something stupid, but I can’t believe I actually put it past you to fly to Gotham City.”
“Yeah? So? What’s the big deal? Tony Stark’s not allowed to leave New York City for a few days all of a sudden?” Tony replied as he stretched himself out on the couch, relaxing.
“Well sure he is, but I’m sure the press are all going to question why Tony Stark is travelling to Gotham City, only days after nearly being shot by some psycho from Gotham City,” Jim argued over the phone.
“What? Oh that old thing. I completely forgot, no you see Tony Stark’s just going to Gotham City on a business venture with Wayne Enterprises over there.”
“You’re, huh, what? Wayne Enterprises?”
“Yeah, think of them like a trashy, grittier Stark Industries in a more poverty ridden city. I figure I go over there, talk about deals, joint partnership, make some big speech to whoever the hell runs that joint. Good publicity don’t you think Rhodey?”
“I don’t think anyone’s going to care. What about Iron Man? Will he be making an appearance during your trip in Gotham City? What’s his agenda Tony?”
Tony sighed, sitting up straight, then looked around to make sure no flight attendants were nearby to overhear him, “Look. A case like this isn’t going to be sold by the cops, NYPD is trying to work with the GCPD long distance, it’ll take months before anything develops, that’s if anything develops. This needs a more hands on approach. The whole Wayne Enterprises thing is just a cover. You want to know what Iron Man’s agenda is? Iron Man’s agenda is simple. Flush out Batman, beat the living hell out of him for killing fourteen of my employees and putting Pepper in hospital, and then I’m going to drop him off nicely outside the nearest police station. Happy?”
“No. You’re letting all this go to your head Tony, that guy will get his come uppens for doing that to Pepper, and I know you’re mad. I’m mad too, but you have to remain calm. You can’t just go flying to Gotham City to exact revenge,” Jim paused for a minute, observing a slight awkward pause in conversation, “but, since I’ve never succeeded in talking sense into you before, I guess I’ll have to help you.”
“That a boy Rhodey,” Tony grinned.
“Listen, I did some snooping through some files and old press reports about this Batman guy. Apparently he really is, or was, a hero. In Gotham City anyway. He only comes out at night though, he’s rarely seen during the day. There’s very little in the way of photographic or video evidence of his existence, which would make your surveillance footage from the Stark Labs kinda rare,” Tony could hear Jim shuffling through papers on the other side of the phone, “but anyway, moving on. I found a few police files, he’s apparently very resourceful and very dangerous, well versed in a lot of different martial arts forms. But get this, here’s the kicker, he’s apparently got an excellent repoire with the police over there, some people have even said that he’s friends with the Commissioner. And it doesn’t end there, but they even call on him for help with tougher cases that normally police can’t crack. They’ve apparently got a big floodlight on the top of the police station that shines a bat symbol in the air when they need his help.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. This is the twenty-first century, Gotham’s that behind that they can’t email this guy or send him a text, they need to shine a torch in the air?” Tony sniggered to himself, “well… I guess it’s a step above smoke signals.”
A voice crackled over the plane’s PA systems, “Attention Mr. Stark, we are now preparing our descent into Gotham City, if you’d like to buckle up and prepare for our arrival, we’ll be touching down in a few minutes.”
Tony said his goodbyes to Jim Rhodes over the phone as he prepared to enter Gotham City. He looked out the window of the plane as he sat in one of the recliners, locking in his seatbelt. The plane lowered from the clouds, and he could see Gotham. A dense and decaying metropolis. It seemed filthy, even from the air. The architecture and design of the city seemed jumbled and confusing with the general appearance looking almost gothic and somewhat haunting. He felt as though he wasn’t even in the same country as New York before. It was as if he’d stepped into some dark, evil fairytale where nothing looked right and everything seemed foreign to him. For a second, it made him uncomfortable. But then he thought of his iron suit in the store compartment of the plane. He thought of his vengeance. He thought of finding Batman. He thought of making him pay. He thought of how near to death Pepper was as he saw her bleeding out on his office floor. He thought of the rage he felt then. He no longer felt uncomfortable, but just plain angry. He’d rather be angry than uncomfortable. And uncomfortable Iron Man can’t beat Batman, but an angry one will.
She’s beautiful, talented, smart. Everything a man could want. Victor Zsasz stands in a closet in apartment 4B, where swimsuit model Kerry Beck lives. Upper scale and expensive, filled with space, expensive furniture and antique ornaments. But a model can afford such things.
Zsasz, standing in her closet, wearing only black trousers and a white singlet was surrounded by thousands of dollars of clothing. He wasn’t interested in material goods though, she was interested in Miss Beck herself, as he peered through the crack in the closet door. He could see her, walking in from another hard day’s work and a short night’s socializing. Zsasz smirked, seeing her race through her front door with a smile that almost seemed to light up the entire condo. Her high heels smacking against wooden floorboards as she switched all the lights on. Her short white skirt twirled around her as she raced into the kitchen, leaning over his marble countertops, she pulled out her iPhone and began texting like she was some fourteen-year-old girl distracting herself from maths homework. A call came in over the phone as the latest Gwen Stefani song echoed through the apartment. Much to Zsasz’s delight, it ended as soon as she picked it up.
“Oh my God, Kate! I was just texting you!” Kerry walked around her apartment, seemingly without a purpose, like she was almost doing it for the exercise, “oh my God! I know! I know! No way! No!”
Zsasz stood watching, his eyes fixated on Kerry without her even knowing he was there. And when Kerry disappeared, his eyes still remained fixated on her shadow until she came back.
“I know! Brian’s been flirting with me all week! I figure I’m going to reject him like three or four more times before I finally jump his bones,” Kerry said before bursting out laughing, “No way! Because Toby cheated on me, now I want him to be jealous, duh!”
Zsasz stood, peering through the small crack at the young woman pacing around her apartment, almost as if her phone were glued to the side of her head. He saw her, beauty, personality, potential, everything all in one. But she could be so much more. She had so much more intelligence and ability than she would ever need to use. She was perfectly content living this lifestyle. Having sex with a new guy every week, getting photographed wearing next to nothing and living like a queen. She was trapped. And Zsasz had to set her free. He felt the scars on his chest, his arms, his back, his neck. The tallies reminded him of all the lives he had ended and all of the souls he had cleansed. His hand felt around his hip bone as he found a nice empty space for another tally mark. Another victim.
Kerry Beck, twenty-six-year-old model. She could’ve been more, she could have been a doctor, she could have been a lawyer, but she chose to compromise her body and her integrity for mere money. She had to be set free from her life. She would thank Victor Zsasz in Heaven after his mission was complete, whenever that would be. Probably when there was no more room on his body for any more scars.
“Oh damn it, Kate, can I call you back in a few? My phone’s going flat, I need to charge it,” Kerry said as she wandered over to a nearby powerpoint in her living area, “Coolies! I’ll call you back soon, loves and kisses!”
Zsasz left the closet, subtlety swinging the door open as he began walking slowly, and quietly towards his soon to be victim. She was bent over, plugging her phone into the wall. He stood behind Kerry, reaching his hand behind his back. He pulled out from his belt, a long, sharp hunter’s knife that had been stained with the blood of dozens, possibly even hundreds before Kerry.
The model stood up, her phone charging. She had one pleasant thought left in her head, of her phone charging, of calling her friend soon and of sleeping with Brian, before terror overcame her. She looked in the mirror and caught a glimpse of herself, behind her, a man, older than her, darker than her, cheaper than her, with a knife. Covered with scars, he had a blood thirsty look in his eye. She screamed. They all scream.
“Don’t be afraid Kerry, you’re about to discover your true potential,” Zsasz said in the manner a parent would try to boost a child’s confidence before riding a bike without training wheels for the first time.
“Who are you? H-h-how do you know my name?” Kerry screamed, backing herself against the wall.
“I’ve been watching you for a few days now,” Zsasz inched closer, playing with his knife, “you see, you’re not supposed to be here. This Earth, this planet, it’s dirty, it’s filthy and it has tainted your soul. You being here is a mistake, you were supposed to remain up there, with God,” Zsasz pointed up at the ceiling.
“P-please don’t hurt me, p-please,” Kerry began crying uncontrollably as Zsasz was now only inches away from her, his free hand grasping her shoulder tightly, his right hand raised with his knife ready in a stabbing motion.
“It only hurts for a second. My scars have all hurt me, but they have all been worth it, and your scar will be worth it too. Goodbye sweet child,” Zsasz said.
At that moment, the window next to Zsasz and Kerry shattered. A black figure came rolling through it. The figure stood tall in the living room, surrounded by shards of glass. It was The Batman, whom had finally tracked down Victor Zsasz.
“Put the knife down, Zsasz,” Batman demanded with a commanding voice.
“You! Why do you continue to interrupt my work! Can’t you see that it is just and right?” Zsasz shouted as he pulled Kerry in front of him as a human shield.
“You’re delusional, psychotic and obsessed. There’s nothing right in what you do,” Batman replied as he stepped cautiously towards Zsasz and Kerry, Zsasz’s knife only inches away from Kerry’s throat, “what do you expect to do. If you kill her you won’t make it out of this room alive. How will you fulfill your mission then? There’s only two ways you are leaving this building Zsasz. That’s in handcuffs or a body bag.”
Zsasz, clearly unnerved by this, looked around nervously, realising that Batman was right. He would have to let this one go.
“I believe I’ll take the third option,” Zsasz said, before shoving Kerry hard into Batman’s arms, distracting him for a few seconds. Those few seconds gave him enough time to make a break for the outside fire exit.
Batman spent a few valuable seconds making sure that the model was not hurt before following Zsasz through the fire escape. He chased him up the stairs, the rickety steel fire exit hardly seemed safe even though it was there in case of an emergency. Zsasz was already at the roof, he would’ve outrun most men by now. But Batman always had a trick or several in his belt, pulling out his grappling hook, he fired the cable up the roof before pulling himself up the line. He found himself on the roof at nearly the same time as Zsasz.
Zsasz was making a break for the edge of the roof as Batman pulled out a batarang from his belt, hoping to knock Zsasz off his feet before he could make it off the rooftop. But all of a sudden a large explosion only a few feet in front of him forced Batman to dive for cover.
Smoke covered the rooftop, Zsasz was now nowhere to be seen. Batman heaved himself back to his feet, counting his blessings that the blast didn’t hurl him off the top of the building. But he still had no idea what caused the explosion.
He could hear something. It sounded like a high powered engine, or even a small rocket. He braced himself for impact once again, but instead, he saw it. He didn’t know what it was, but it was descending on the rooftop before him. Gold and red. Like a hot rod. It looked like a man, but it was all metal and heavily armoured. Covered in plate and shields, it looked as though it could get shot at with a bazooka and still stands its ground. Batman didn’t know whether it was a man or a machine. It looked like both.
“Who-what…” Batman began a sentence, trying to initiate contact. Instead, the machine just stepped forward and delivered the most painful punch that Batman had ever felt, and Batman had fought with the likes of Bane and Killer Croc.
He went down like a sack of bricks, hitting the floor as he clutched his midsection, fearing he had a broken rib or two.
“The name you’re looking for is Iron Man,” it replied as he delivered a second blow, this time to Batman’s face.
It was definitely a person, it’s a calculating as a machine, as brutal as one at least, but there was a certain emotion in its voice that no robot could emulate. Rage.
Batman was trying to pull himself back up again, blood ran down his face, seeping from his mask. But before he could get up, Iron Man gave him a kick that would score a goal in a soccer game, sending Batman off the edge of the building. He tumbled back down the fire escape before free falling down five stories and landing on the top of a moving cargo truck, making a loud thud, and somewhat of a dent in the truck.
“A-alfred,” Batman spoke into his communicator as the truck kept driving at a high speed down the main road as if nothing had happened, “I need a pickup, ugh.”
“Is everything alright sir?” a posh British accent asked over the other end, “you sound a little bit worse for wear.”
“Something attacked me, I’m in transit and I need you to home in on my location.”
Batman laid back on the truck, clutching his ribs. He took two punches and a kick and he felt like he’d been through ten rounds with Mike Tyson with his hands tied behind his back. But nevertheless, he felt somewhat safe for a few moments, thinking that he had escaped near certain death. That thing called itself Iron Man. Or himself rather. And it seemed to have something against Batman. All he knew was that it was powerful, strong, and there wasn’t much in Batman’s utility belt prepared to deal with something like Iron Man.
It was then that his heart sank. He saw, not so far away, a spark in the air following them. The spark grew larger and larger as it drew nearer to the truck. Soon it was right above them. Iron Man. His feet seemed to propel him with rocket boosters allowing him to fly. The machine-like-man landed on the truck, only a few feet in front of Batman.
“I don’t know who you are or-” Batman was once again cut off by another one of Iron Man’s attacks, but this time, Batman saw it coming as he ducked a vicious right hand that could have taken his head off.
Iron Man’s suit seemed powerful, strong and resilient, but it’s flaw seemed to be that it wasn’t very flexible, or fast in close quarters. Batman took the opening that was left for him, lashing out with a kick to Iron Man’s midsection. The same kick that would break ribs and bruise organs. But it barely made Iron Man flinch. In the few seconds that followed, Batman could’ve sworn that Iron Man must be smiling beneath his mask, right before thrusting Batman back with his palm, shoving him further up the truck’s carriage. Batman tried to regain his composure quickly, knowing the dangerous environment they were on. One slip and Batman could become roadkill.
Iron Man raised both his hands and opened them, exposing the palms. What seemed to be flares blasted out of his hands, nearly hitting Batman, who had to roll out of the way. The roll sent him over the edge of the truck, but fortunately he was able to grasp ahold of the edge of the truck as it rolled down the road at forty miles an hour.
Batman was hanging on for dear life, if he let go he’d be crushed under the truck. But he looked up, and saw Iron Man standing over him, his hands poised in front of Batman’s face. His palms began glowing again, about to blast Batman again, this time he wouldn’t miss. One shot from those cannons that lay inside Iron Man’s palms would mean certain death. Batman didn’t have anything as deadly or dangerous on him as cannons or firearms, instead, he had a gas propelled grappling hook that he withdrew, for a second time tonight, from his belt. He fired it blindly into the air, hoping, praying it would catch something. And it did. It latched onto an overpassing bridge, pulling Batman from the side of the truck and out of harm’s way. Out of Iron Man’s aim.
Iron Man cursed for a moment, surprised at Batman’s slipperiness. But he knew that Batman was running, that he was no match was him one-on-one. He had Batman, Gotham City’s proudest hero, running scared.
Batman pulled himself on top of the bridge, finding it hard to breathe, hurting everytime he inhaled. He looked back over the bridge, looking for the truck to see if Iron Man had tried following him any further. He was nowhere in sight. But then he was pulled off his feet, as Batman found himself being pulled into the sky at high speeds. He looked up and saw that Iron Man had swept him up, pulling him into the sky. Batman began struggling until he felt Iron Man’s steel hand grasp his throat.
He looked down, seeing Gotham City as only a blur of distant lights. Iron Man held him up face-to-face by his throat.
“You don’t feel good now do you?” Iron Man said as Batman tried to pry Iron Man’s fingers from his neck, “you’ve been killing innocent people, now finally things aren’t looking your way. It doesn’t feel good right?”
“I haven’t k-killed anyone,” Batman was barely able to choke out any words as he thrashed around in Iron Man’s grip.
“You’re twelve thousand feet in the air, at this level oxygen is getting thin and you’ll be struggling to breathe. Also a fall from this level would break every bone in your body on impact with the ground,” Iron Man said, tighten his grip around Batman’s throat.
“I’ll take my chances with the fall,” Batman wheezed. He reached into his utility belt, pulling out a capsule of thermite before shoving it in Iron Man’s face causing a flash, blinding Iron Man, causing him to let go.
Batman fell, soaring through the air as Iron Man struggled to see and regain his vision. Twelve thousand feet. Batman could feel them all go by in mere seconds. He attempted to use his cape as a parachute of sorts as it began catching wind, but it wasn’t affective enough. His only chance was once again, his grappling hook.
He fired his hook towards a concrete gargoyle on the side of a skyscraper, his hopes were raised for a moment as the hook latched on, but the weight and force of his fall, broke the hook, sending Batman tumbling further down the side of the building. His midsection landed onto a flagpole. Despite the pain, he tried desperately to grab ahold, but he had too much momentum, sending him further downward.
Iron Man had to return to the ground, unable to see from the fire in his eyes, he had lost Batman.
Batman, still hurling downward landed through two wooden balconies on a construction site before landing on a stack of cardboard boxes and rubbish in an alleyway. He had three broken ribs, two broken fingers, a dislocated shoulder and a dislocated knee. He lay in the alleyway, motionless, lifeless, but he was still able to mumble words into his communicator to Alfred before blacking out after his first encounter with Iron Man.
Whilst being a billionaire trust fund baby does have its perks, Bruce Wayne was still required to come into work every so often to look over reports, finalize business deals and at least make it look like he cares about the company his father founded. But he didn’t necessarily like it. He preferred to leave the real serious work up to men like Lucius Fox as Bruce spent most of his day in his office, twirling a pen through his fingers and staring blankly at the sky, thinking of his previous night’s endeavors.
The previous night’s endeavors, to most men as rich and handsome as him, usually meant fine wine and an attractive woman, but to Bruce, it meant the activities of his second life as Batman. All Bruce could do today was think about Iron Man. Think about how he had faced so many violent, destructive and powerful criminals whom have nearly beaten him within an inch of his life, yet none of those criminals seemed to hold a candle to the way Iron Man made Bruce feel inferior and vulnerable. Even when Bane had broken his back, Bruce still held confidence in himself. But this Iron Man character, he was strong, powerful and deadly, and he had a serious grudge against Batman. Bruce let his hand wander down to his abdomen, he could feel the bandages that covered his ribs, through his button-up shirt. He winced at the pain. Iron Man had said that Batman had killed innocent people, the only thing that Bruce could think of was that Batman impostor’s attack in New York.
“Excuse me, Mr. Wayne?” a young woman’s voice crackled over the speaker on Bruce’s desk in front of him.
“Yes?” Bruce hesitated, lost in thought.
“There is a Mr. Stark here to see you, he doesn’t have an appointment but he is very insistent that he speaks with you, shall I send him in?” the receptionist asked.
Bruce said yes, as he sat back in his chair, a thousand thoughts running through his head. A man dressed like Batman attacked Stark Industries a number of days ago, killing fourteen people and then attempted to assassinate Tony Stark himself. Then an Iron Man character appeared just last night and attacked Batman, accusing him of murdering innocent people, it’s too much of a coincidence for these two occurrences to not be linked. The question that was on Bruce’s mind was, who was Iron Man and why was he pursuing a murder that took place in New York. An even bigger question was, why was Tony Stark in Gotham City, and why was he walking through the door to Bruce Wayne’s office.
“Hey, Bruce Wayne!” Tony Stark shouted out, almost as if he were a game host calling out a contestant. Tony walked in, covered from shoulder to ankle in Armani and wearing a pair of three hundred dollar sunglasses. He smiled as Bruce stood up and shook his hand.
“Tony Stark I presume?” Bruce said wearily as he shook his hand over his desk, “it’s a pleasure to meet you, have a seat?”
“Oh so you’ve heard of me, that’s good,” Tony said as he lowered himself back into a seat in front of Bruce’s desk, getting himself comfortable, “this place feels like the twilight zone. In the rest of the world everyone knows my face, but here in Gotham City, it seems like the only name worth knowing is Bruce Wayne.”
Bruce grinned and laughed, “I’m sure that’s not true Tony, I have heard of you but mostly recently what I’ve heard has only been uh, troubling things.”
Tony nodded, “uh-huh, I’m assuming that you’re referring to that whole Batman fiasco over in my city right? I’m not surprised you heard about that over here, what with The Batman being kind of a local legend and all. Sorta like the boogeyman am I right?”
“Uhh, I guess you could say so. But a lot of Gothamites here don’t believe Batman was the one that attacked your company though, a lot of people consider him a hero around here Tony,” Bruce said as his office door swung open quietly and a tall slender woman wearing a white button-up blouse with a formal skirt on, black stockings and high heels walked into Bruce’s office with a tray full of mugs, dishes and sachets, “would you like a drink Mr. Stark?”
Tony looked at Bruce’s assistant whom had just walked in the room and smiled to her, that certain smile that seemed to say that he always got what he wanted, and he wanted her.
“I’ll have a bourbon on the rocks thanks,” Tony said.
“It’s ten thirty in the morning,” Bruce replied.
“Oh well, then, I’ll pass, but thanks.”
Bruce’s assistant rolled her eyes at Tony, but then she was accustomed to bizarre requests from billionaires, as she sat a cup of coffee down in front of Bruce.
“What do you think he is Bruce?”
“What?” Bruce said, completely distracted by his thoughts.
“Batman, is he a hero or a terrorist?” Tony took off his sunglasses, looking Bruce in the eye, “look, let’s say if, hmm… Captain America were to attack a Wayne Enterprises office, killed a dozen members of your staff and make an attempt on your life, would you see him as a hero or a terrorist?”
“I’d have to ask who is Captain America?” Bruce said laughingly, “But, uh, I get your drift. Batman is still controversial around here too. He’s done a lot of good but a lot of people still don’t trust him.”
“You haven’t answered my question Bruce,” Tony said with half a smirk on his face, “what do you think of him?”
“I’ve never met the guy but when you’re the head of the most well known company in town and the most famous, or infamous celebrity in town, depending on how you want to look at it, then you’d do best not to associate yourself with weird urban legends in tights. You want my opinion Tony Stark, the Batman’s a myth, conjured up by the police or just some kids on the street, and the word has spread. Guys like you and me, who are at the top of the food chain, we don’t need to worry ourselves with things like Batman or Captain U.S.A.” Bruce said as he took a sip of his coffee.
“Captain America. And I guess you’re right Bruce, you’d have to be pretty deluded to think there’s actually a whacko out there waging a one man war on crime, dressed up as a bat,” Tony laughed as Bruce stared at Tony blankly, still with a smile on his face.
“Why are you here Tony?” Bruce asked bluntly. They had been sitting there the whole time, talking as if they had known each other for years when in fact, this is the first time either of them had conversed with one another.
Tony stopped laughing, but maintained his smile, “Isn’t it obvious? Look, Stark Industries is the world’s number one weapons and military technology manufacturer. The only other company that can touch the heights that my company can, and does, is Wayne Enterprises. I typed in the phrase “most profitable companies in the world” on Google the other day, and the top two results were Stark Industries, and Wayne Enterprises.”
Bruce furrowed his brow, “What, you want to buy out my company Tony?” he said with a laugh in his voice, almost challenging him to make an offer high enough.
“No, God no, far from it. What I’m talking about is a business deal. I’ve looked at some of WayneTech’s portfolios, and your guys have some great ideas Bruce. You’ve got some of the most cutting edge state of the art stuff I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff in my day. I’m saying, we join together, become bigger than either of us ever even dreamed our companies could be,” Tony went on into his sales pitch, almost as if he had been rehearsing it all morning when in fact he was just pulling it out on the spot.
“Tony, look,” Bruce started, trying to find the right words, “I appreciate the offer and you coming all the way down here to talk face to face, but uh, I don’t see it working out. My father built this company, and made it into a symbol of peace and hope for the rest of Gotham City when pretty much nobody had any hope, the streets were overrun with violence, crime and vice. You know, mobsters running the streets, hookers and drug dealers working every corner and there being hardly a single clean cop in the city. But Wayne Enterprises was made to be something brighter, to clean up the streets. Things are still a lot like the way they were, but I still wouldn’t compromise that image. You run a gun manufacturing company Tony, I don’t mean any offence by it when I say this, but it just wouldn’t be good business for Bruce Wayne to be shaking hands with a man who has been called a war profiteer. I’m sorry Tony.”
Tony nodded, putting his sunglasses back on, “Who needs a symbol of peace and hope when you’ve got a man running around in bat tights?” Tony said sarcastically.
“Are you quite sure that you should be going out tonight sir, what with that large robotic fellow doing quite the number on you the other night?” Alfred asked as he approached Bruce in the Batcave with a small dish with a sandwich on it, a light dinner.. Bruce sat in his chair in front of the glow of his computer, his tights on but his cape and cowl draped over the chair behind him.
“Alfred, if I took a night off every time Batman got attacked by some heavy then I’d never leave the house,” Bruce said punching keys as he looked up at his screen, “Tony Stark visited me at the office today.”
Alfred put the dish down on the table next to Bruce, “does he know your identity?”
“No, I don’t think so. But he was hiding something, it seemed like Tony was mostly in my office for appearance sakes,” Bruce said, keeping his eyes glued to his computer screen.
“Appearance sakes sir?” Alfred asked.
“Yeah. He’s here for other business, otherwise he would’ve made an appointment to begin with, and he would’ve put up more of a fight when I declined his business offer.”
Bruce sat at his chair, searching through various files. His computer was hooked up to every database from general internet pages to the Gotham City Police Department database, even higher up classified government info was accessible through his computer if needed. Alfred looked up at the screen and saw photographs of Iron Man, the character that had attacked Bruce the night beforehand.
“Hoping the information super highway will tell you this Iron Man’s weaknesses?” Alfred asked dryly.
“Yes Alfred, I’m looking for information on Iron Man. And I’ve discovered quite a lot. It seems that Iron Man is Tony Stark’s personal bodyguard.”
“That might explain Mister Stark’s presence in Gotham City, perhaps he has it in for Batman and is having his Iron Man do his dirty work for him?” Alfred suggested.
“Possibly. Something isn’t sitting right with me though,” Bruce scrolled down the screen, “it looks like whoever this Iron Man is began fighting enemies of Tony Stark’s a number of years ago and is generally seen as, well, I guess a superhero for New York City. He also does a lot of promotional work for Stark Industries, he even had a not-so-successful action movie made about him a few years ago starring Karl Lasibo.”
“Perhaps Batman could learn a thing or two about publicity from this Iron Man fellow?” Alfred mentioned with a smirk, looking down at Bruce.
Bruce ignored the kindhearted suggestion. Standing up from his seat as he pushed his sandwich aside, Alfred asked him where he was going. As Bruce pulled his mask and cape on, he replied simply with, “to work.”
New York City…
Pepper hated that hospital environment. Where everything is sterile, every room smells like vomit and the people are about as cheery as a pallbearer. Everytime she closed her eyes, she began dreaming and envisioning being at home, wrapped up in bed. The sun only just beginning to peak over the horizon and send those first rays of light of the day through her bedroom window. Her bed is big, warm and secure, just her tightly wrapped up without a care in the world. In the distance, a radio is playing something, quiet enough to not be a nuisance, but just loud enough to make out that it’s playing pop hits of the eighties. Cheesy but kind of nice to wake up to and begin your day. Then her bedroom swings open and a man comes in, all dressed up nicely in black dress pants, polished shoes and a tucked in white button up shirt, with the top three buttons undone, exposing his chest. Kind of like someone that would appear on the cover of a Mills and Boone novel. His hands are full, in his right one is a plate with a cup of hot coffee, white with one sugar, just like Pepper liked it. In the other hand was a newspaper. Dirty, cheap and full of jargon but kind of humble at the same time. The man sits down on Pepper’s bed, and leans in and gives her a kiss on the forehead. She can’t make out his face just yet, only that she’s more happy in this dream than she can ever remember being in real life. He says words, she can’t pay attention though, they sound like sweet things, words used like honey, sweetie, baby, I love you, marry me. Marry me. He puts the coffee down on her bedside table, then a small purple box slides out from inside the newspaper and into the man’s hand. He gets down on one knee and says the words again marry me. Pepper looks up, tears of joy streaming down her face, passed her smile. She sees him for who he is and has been the entire time.
“Tony,” Pepper whispers.
Her eyes open up reluctantly. She’s cold and alone in bed, all kinds of tubes and wires connected between her and machines. No sunlight is in this room, only the flickering lights in her room. Her bed is cold and small, with only one sheet covering her and god only knows how many sick people before her have slept in it, been sick in it, died in it. In the distance, there’s a child crying, screaming. Pepper can’t block out the sounds no matter how much she tried. Her door opens and a man walks in. He looks terrible, sad, depressed, dirty. His white jacket smells of body odor, he’s been working a twelve-hour shift all night without much more than ten minutes off for a midnight snack, and his pants have traces of vomit on them where a patient has been sick and he hasn’t had the time to change yet. Draped around his neck is a stethoscope covered in earwax, and in his hand is a clipboard that he reads from, almost word for word, unable to show a bit of improvised human emotion. The man stands next to Pepper’s bed without a smile, just reading off of his clipboard chart. He says words but Pepper doesn’t listen, but she does hear words like bullet, exit wound, surgery, extensive physical therapy. He plays with some buttons and functions on the machines that she’s attached to, then walks out without so much as proposing like the man in her dream did.
Outside of her room, looking through the window, is James Rhodes, looking in on his friend and his best friend’s assistant. Pepper falls back asleep, being awake hurts too much. He brings a phone up to his ear and starts talking.
“The doc just saw her Tony, she wakes up for maybe five minutes in total each day. She’s in bad shape,” he says, his eyes not moving from Pepper’s window. He listens more, then talks again.
“They think she’ll be fine. Eventually. But it’s going to take time for her to be back on her feet running errands and taking your crap again,” he says before ending the conversation and looking once again in at Pepper who’s back in her dream.
The Batcave was large and empty for the most part. Just a series of dark underground tunnels and caverns that ran under the palacades. The tunnels and openings ran for miles, a person could get lost in those caves and never find a way out. But in the heart of these caves was a single solitary man. Billionaire Bruce Wayne. He stood at one of his many workbenches, hammering and welding. His eyes bloodshot with dark circles beneath them. It had been sometime since he’d had a decent night’s sleep.
“You’re up early sir,” Alfred said, watching Bruce from a distance, “it’s two o’clock in the afternoon, you’re usually only just stirring at about this time.”
“I haven’t slept Alfred,” Bruce replied as he continued working, “Victor Zsasz and Clayface are still on the loose, and Iron Man is out for my blood.”
“Then, with all due respect sir, perhaps you should be sleeping so you are rested and rejuvenated for when the time comes to confront such people,” Alfred suggested, walking up to Bruce’s work bench and peering over his shoulder.
“If it were just Zsasz and Clayface, then maybe I’d take your advice, but Iron Man is new. And he’s strong. I haven’t had a fight with someone as powerful as him since, well… Superman,” Bruce replied, “I have to be prepared.”
“What is it that you’re making sir?” Alfred asked curiously.
“Weapons. Iron Man is simply that, a man. He’s not a robot or a machine, I’ve seen him move and I’ve heard him talk, he is definitely human. And we all have our weaknesses Alfred,” Bruce said as he peered up to the ceiling, looking at the dozens of bats hanging above them, “he relies on his armour, which must be powered through a CPU in his suit. His interface would be in his helmet.”
Bruce picked up a round metal disc, a little smaller than his palm, “this is a high powered magnet. This could disrupt his interface, probably make it a bit more difficult for him to see me. Hopefully it could disrupt his weapons too.”
“That would be a rather neat trick sir, but I have a feeling that Iron Man won’t be discouraged by a few magnets.”
“I don’t think so either, which is why I’ve modified one of my grappling hooks,” Bruce picked up one of his grappling guns and noted the new additions connected to it, “its tip has been equipped with a scrambler. With any luck it should completely scramble his targeting and tracking systems. But even so, I don’t believe that will stop him either. Which is why I’ve constructed an electro-magnetic pulse.”
“And where would that be sir?”
“It will be on the roof of the police station. I’m connecting it to the bat signal. As soon as Iron Man gets hit with it, it will shut down all of his systems, then he’ll just be a man with a three hundred pound suit weighing him down. But I’m hoping that’s a last resort. I’m hoping I can perhaps have a conversation with him first.”
“A noble idea sir, but one would wonder if such an act were truly effective, then perhaps politely asking The Joker to stop trying to kill you years ago would have worked,” Alfred added with that same dry wit that Bruce has come to tolerate.
“I know it’s probably pointless. But I still have to try Alfred. Iron Man might be the shoot first; ask questions later type, but I’m not.”
Another lousy night shift for Jim Gordon. Honest to God, the commissioner of the gotham city police department had to be up there as one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Gordon would get called away from his family almost on a daily basis because of some kind of terrible situation involving terrorism and hostages. Police departments from other cities would mock Jim Gordon as a commissioner for condoning such a freak as Batman to help him fight crime, but other cities didn’t have villains like The Joker, The Penguin, Two-Face or in this particular case, Victor Zsasz.
Gordon paced around the rooftop of the Gotham City Police Station, the bat-signal shining brightly in the sky. There was rarely a night where it wasn’t turned on. Even if there was nothing to report, it still made criminals on the street edgy when they saw it, the same way a drunk driver would begin to sweat when they saw flashing lights in their rear vision mirror.
“Gordon,” a flinty voice whispered from the darkness, behind the bat-signal.
“Batman? That you?”
Batman stepped out from behind the signal, “Risky using the bat-signal when I’m a wanted man. What is it?”
“A woman was found murdered backstage at a strip club tonight. Stabbed to death. We think that it might be Victor Zsasz, but his trail has gone cold since you last saw him. I was hoping maybe you could lend a hand,” Gordon said hopefully.
“Zsasz,” Batman murmured under his breath, he had almost forgotten about him after his run-ins with Iron Man and Tony Stark, “I’ll look into it.”
Gordon then asked something that he had never asked Batman before, “Is something wrong?”
Batman looked out from the rooftop and down on the city. His city. He thought about Iron Man.
“I’ve been distracted lately. Have you heard any reports of someone who calls himself Iron Man?”
Gordon cocked an eyebrow for a moment, “Iron Man? No,” he went silent, thinking, “isn’t he that bodyguard for Tony Stark?”
Batman turned, “Yes, you’ve heard of him.”
“Vaguely. I have heard of Tony Stark though. We had a visit from him recently,” Gordon started, looking out at the city. His city, “He came in yesterday morning wanting information on you. It was strange, he was very casual at first, he wanted to know if you had been captured or arrested yet. When we said no he became more frustrated with us, we of course gave him the usual speech, we’ve had our hands full with Victor Zsasz as well as a city wide search for Clayface, but that our official orders are to arrest you on sight.”
“What did he do then?” Batman asked, his curiosity piqued.
“He stormed out,” Gordon replied, “I can’t say I blame him, he’s must be the vengeful sort if he’s travelling all the way out to Gotham to see us catch you as opposed to being by his girlfriend’s side in hospital.”
“Girlfriend?” Batman asked, an eye brow raised behind his mask.
“Well, is assistant. But it’s my understanding, along with most of the people that have followed his exploits that his assistant, Pepper I think she’s called, and Tony are linked somewhat romantically.”
Batman turned back to the edge of the rooftop, “I’ve got work to do.”
“Be careful, you know I’m technically supposed to be trying to arrest you now.”
Batman cracked a small smile, but wouldn’t let Gordon see it, before leaping off the edge of the building, using his grappling hook to pull himself down to another rooftop.
The Gotham Embassy Hotel, it was the ritziest hotel in Gotham. That’s where all the celebrities, athletes, politicians and anyone with thousands of dollars to burn stayed. The foyer was beautiful, dark tiled with fountains in the middle. Gigantic and lush staircases leading to the upper flights with that old style elevator that’s opened by a golden cage. Hotel staff operated the elevator for all the guests. The facility had five star reviews in every magazine. It’s expensive penthouse rooms were huge, with expensive furniture and an amazing view from the balcony that looked out upon Gotham City. But the view was lost on Tony Stark, who just sat at the end of his bed. He sat back, his jacket and tie resting over a chair in the corner of his bedroom, his shirt untucked and his hair a mess. He looked tired and exhausted. Sitting on the bed next to him was a handgun that he had been playing around with. Tony could make the most advanced weapons system and armour in the world, but it’d never be quite as direct, cold and blunt as a simple handgun. He eyed two of his briefcases next to the wardrobe. One was a plain black one with business materials, paper work and his flight itinerary. The other case was a little less discrete. Red and yellow. His suit remained concealed as a part of the case. An instant Iron Man suit if he ever needed one in a hurry. Superman had a phonebooth and Tony Stark had a briefcase, it seemed to be more convenient.
A sudden cool breeze entered the room from the balcony, Tony looked up, the curtains and blinds swaying in the wind from a balcony that he was sure he had left shut. But it was open now. And standing perched on the balcony, staring into his bedroom was a large dark figure. It’s cape seemed to dance in the wind like the curtains in Tony’s hotel room. Tony knew who this intruder was.
“Aw shit,” Tony said, more frustrated than scared. He made a reach for his handgun, but Batman interrupted.
“Wait Tony,” Batman entered his hotel room, hoping that Tony would have the patience to hear him out before he attacked him once again, guns blazing.
“I know who you are. I know why you’re here. I know why you’re doing this,” Batman said, his hands stretched outward as both a sign of peace and to show that he wasn’t hostile, “I know you think that I tried to kill you, and that I tried to kill Pepper. But it wasn’t me. New York isn’t my jurisdiction. And I don’t kill.”
“Well you sure could’ve fooled me bats,” Tony pulled his gun into his hands, gripping the handle tightly and moving his finger over the trigger, aiming the barrel directly at Batman’s chest.
“Tony, put the gun down. I know you’re not a killer. You wouldn’t kill me as Iron Man, you won’t kill me now,” Batman said, his hands still in the air trying to negotiate the situation peacefully.
“How did you… How,” Tony was confused.
“Know you were Iron Man? We’re both men hidden behind masks Tony. We both have our own agendas, and we both have people close to us that we’d do anything to protect, even avenge,” Batman took a step forward, “We’re not so different Tony. When I look at you, I see myself. I see someone striving to help out, someone trying desperately to stand for something in this world. Someone struggling to change things and make things better. You’re that same person whether you’re Iron Man or you’re Tony Stark, you’re still trying to make things better, and make a difference in the world. It wasn’t hard for me to join the dots and put things together Tony.”
Tony stood still, his gun still pointed at Batman, but then he let out a small laugh, “I guess what they say is right, you really are the world’s greatest detective. But you’re wrong about something Batman.”
Tony pulled the trigger several times, squeezing and releasing it, firing shots straight into Batman’s. He dropped like a sack of bricks after the eighth bullet entered his chest.
“Iron Man might not have killed you, but I just did.”
An eerie silence fell upon the room. Batman laid motionless on the floor. Tony dropped the gun, still with smoke fuming from the barrel. Hotel staff would have undoubtedly called the police after hearing those shots. But he didn’t care, he had gotten what he had come to Gotham to get. Revenge. But what now. Would he call up New York, tell Pepper that he’d just shot Batman dead? Would he even tell anyone? For some reason, people in Gotham seemed to see Batman as a hero of sorts. Tony Stark would forever be known as the man who killed Batman. If Batman was really a killer, why didn’t he try killing Tony just now? Why did he instead try to talk? Was it all a mind game? Or maybe he was trying to explain something. What if Tony was wrong, what if Batman didn’t kill all those Stark employees? Tony had a lot of enemies… It could have been anyone.
Oh no… this could be bad, Tony thought to himself, trying not to panic as he realised the gravity of the situation.
Then, something even more shocking happened. Batman started to get up. His legs began moving and he began groaning. How the hell could he still be alive? That’s impossible. Batman had to lean himself against the wall to help himself to his feet as Tony looked on, shocked.
“B-body armour,” Batman said, coughing. He would feel the bruises from those slugs for weeks to come, “why else do you think I have a big yellow bat-signal as a target on my chest?”
Tony instinctively turned around, racing to his briefcase. Not the plain one, but the hotrod red one. He placed it in front of him and gripped it in the right place. Batman looked on as the case began unfolding before his eyes around Tony. Tony Stark was becoming Iron Man, and Batman didn’t care. In fact, he even smiled a little bit. He was expecting this. Within seconds, Iron Man was standing before him, more confident and powerful than Tony Stark and a handgun ever could be.
This is what Batman wanted. Fighting Tony, he’d have to take it easy, try and not kill him. But against Iron Man, he wouldn’t have to use any restraint at all. It was time to put his plan into effect. He reached into his utility belt, and withdrew his modified grappling hook with the scrambler tip on the end and aimed at Iron Man’s chest, much as he had aimed the pistol as Batman only moments ago. He fired the hook as it clasped itself onto Iron Man’s chestpiece. Iron Man looked down at the silver hook attached to a rope that Batman had attacked him with.
“Is that it?” Iron Man asked with somewhat of a laugh in his voice.
“No,” Batman said with a smirk. He pressed a button on the side of his grappling gun which sent a surge down the cable and into the hook. The surge zapped Iron Man sending signals into his CPU, almost like a virus. For a few moments, all Iron Man could see was static like an old black and white television set with no reception, and all he could hear was static. It had temporarily disabled his sensors.
Batman struck, hard furious kicks into all the right places. The places that would normally turn a strong fit man into a quadriplegic, but that only seemed to briefly stun Iron Man. He used all of his most fatal attacks and maneuvers on Iron Man, the type of techniques that he saved for a rainy day. A rainy day usually meant a kryptonite ring and an out of control Superman, but today it meant setting billionaire Tony Stark straight, and clearing Batman’s name.
But Iron Man’s sensors began to restore as he removed the hook from his chest. He caught Batman going for another stiff kick. Batman silently cursed himself for the mistake as he found himself in Iron Man’s grasp. They were then rocketed by his suit through the hotel room wall, sending bricks and glass everywhere.
“You should’ve laid low Batman, you shouldn’t have come looking for me,” Iron Man said as he held onto his victim by his shoulders and flew him further up into the air outside of the hotel, “this time, I’ll make sure I finish you off properly.”
Batman’s cape fluttered through the air as Iron Man’s fingers dug into his shoulders, not letting him go, now allowing him to escape like last time. But last time, The Dark Knight was unprepared. Last time he had no defense.
Batman reached into his utility belt as Iron Man lifted them higher into the air, above the skyscrapers on the Gotham City skyline. He pulled out three of the round steel magnetic discs that he had crafted in the Batcave. Breaking one arm free from Iron Man’s grip, he slapped the magnets onto Iron Man’s helmet and back. The magnets were even more effective than Batman expected as Tony’s suit began vibrating and sounding like an old run down Morris Minor. Inside of Tony’s helmet, his CPU made noises similar to that of a buzzsaw or a thousand bumblebees buzzing in his ear. His targeting system went all off as his visor began flashing different distorted colours, unable to make out anything. It was almost a complete system failure. Iron Man dropped Batman, sending him soaring once again. But this time, he was prepared once again as he fired his grappling hook onto a nearby ledge on top of a tall building. He reeled himself up from his free fall and steadied himself on the ledge as he watched Iron Man fly around frantically, his boosters in his feet cracking and sparking, his vision almost blind. He looked (and sounded) like a blowfly taking its last few seconds of flight after being sprayed with a can of fly spray. Batman couldn’t help but grin beneath his mask.
Inside his helmet, Tony tried to stablize himself, he didn’t expect this. But he’d faced worse before. It was difficult to make anything out through his helmet’s vision as his interface was being distorted by the magnets. But he caught a glimpse of his enemy on top of a nearby building. He didn’t want him capitalizing any more than he already had tonight. With what he had left, Tony fired his boosters in the direction of Batman, flying into him and tackling him into the roof of the building, leaving both men down on the rooftop.
Batman’s injured ribs began troubling him again, being tackled by a three-hundred pound metallic suit didn’t do his mid-section any favours as he tried to recuperate. He noticed, standing above him, was Iron Man. The three magnetic discs had been pulled from his helmet and bent in half. Iron Man threw them at Batman’s feet as his vision returned to him and his system restored itself. He lifted his hand and aimed it at Batman, his palm open, about ready to fire a blast into Batman’s head.
“This is what I should’ve done when I first saw you. You kill a group of my employees, you try to kill me, then you nearly kill Pepper, and now you know my identity,” Iron Man said with that low robotic yet eerily human voice, “I can’t let you live.”
His hand started to glow as it heated up, ready to explode at Batman, “Tony, do you think killing me is the thing to do? Maybe I did slaughter your employees, maybe I did try to kill you, maybe I did put Pepper in hospital, but then, maybe I didn’t. Maybe the real killer is still out there somewhere. Maybe we could work together, Batman and Iron Man, and find out who the killer is? Do what you want Tony, but killing me won’t bring you any peace, and you know it.”
Iron Man kept hit hand aimed at Batman for a second, but then began to lower it as the glowing subsided. His enemy looked up, wondering what was next.
“No… Killing you won’t bring me peace. It would bring justice and vengeance, but it wouldn’t bring me peace or happiness. It wouldn’t right any of the damage that’s already been done,” Iron Man grabbed Batman by the throat and lifted him off the ground again, as the two began soaring into the sky, “Instead, I’m going to take you to the police. They can book you for murder, unmask you and reveal you to the rest of the world and you can live the rest of your short pathetic life in prison with the very men you put in there.”
The police station was bustling with life, as usual. It was a hive for disgruntled cops who had better things to do with their night and petty thugs, all of them trying to wrestle with their handcuffs and making demands for their lawyer and their phonecall. It was an exhausting and constantly noisy place to work, which is why Jim Gordon found himself standing on the roof most nights, smoking a pipe as he observed the city. His city.
He would stand up there, looking out at the roads with the Bat Signal behind him, turning off, but still facing the sky as always. He stood at the edge of the roof, leaning against the ledge as he watched the sky. All of a sudden he saw something, two figures, flying towards the rooftop. Gordon put out his pipe and withdrew his revolver, knowing that trouble was coming.
Suddenly, a figure fell and landed hard on the roof, with the Commissioner having to jump out of the way to avoid it. He recognized him as Batman, his friend, his partner. Orders were to take him in. But he had already had the chance to arrest him before, and he didn’t take it. Then a second figure lowered himself calmly onto the rooftop.
Iron Man aimed his palms at Batman, ready to shoot when Gordon stood in front of him, protecting Batman.
“Wait!” Gordon shouted, “I don’t know where you come from, but here in Gotham we believe in fair trials.”
“That man is a mass murderer, and you’re protecting him?” Iron Man questioned the commissioner, as Batman tried to pull himself up from the impact of the fall.
“Yes, there’s an arrest warrant out for him Iron Man, but it isn’t dead or alive. We’ll take him downstairs to the holding cells, keep him locked up and sort this out, he’ll face trial like any other criminal,” Gordon said, trying to appease the metallic and blood thirsty warrior in front of him, until he aimed his revolver at Iron Man in a warning fashion, “but if you hurt this man any more than you already have, then I’ll be taking you downstairs with him. You can share a cell together.”
Iron Man, for a split second, realised what he was doing. He realised his rage, his anger, his desire to see Batman dead. He realised this wasn’t him. Tony Stark was not a man of particularly strong moral compass, but he was no killer. The thought of Pepper hospitalized had a horrible effect on him psychologically. But deep down, he wasn’t a killer, and Pepper wouldn’t want him on some revenge-driven quest for blood. He still nevertheless wanted Batman to face justice. He lowered his hands, not taking an offensive stance any more as Gordon pulled his revolver back, no longer aiming it at Iron Man.
Gordon breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t know what he would have done had Iron Man put on a fight, he didn’t think the slugs in his revolver would put more than a bit of a dent in his armour. But that didn’t matter now, what mattered is what would happen with Batman. He knew the procedure. What would happen as soon as more cops came rushing upstairs to the roof. They’d all take Batman downstairs, lock him up. Everyone would look to the commissioner for what to do next, and honestly, Gordon didn’t know. The most logical conclusion would be to take off Batman’s mask, but he knew that his long-time crime fighting partner would never allow that. He would never willingly let a cop take off his mask and expose him for who he really is. Whoever that may be. It was going to get very ugly.
Gordon turned with his revolver in one hand and his handcuffs in the other. Ready to do something that he was sure he would regret forever. But he should have known, never underestimate The Dark Knight. He saw Batman hiding behind the bat-signal, no longer weak and on the ground. Batman was recovered, at least to some extent.
Iron Man returned to his aggressive stance as he launched himself into the air, about ready to set the roof of the Gotham City Police Station on fire. Ready to stop Batman at any costs. But then, a flash of light came from the roof, from the bat-signal as Batman pulled the lever, activating the light. A light blue beam blast from the bat-signal, covering Iron Man.
“What the hell is that?” Gordon asked, falling back as he watched the light consume Iron Man.
“An EMP,” Batman replied bluntly, “to even the odds.”
Iron Man seemed to hover in the air for a moment, as the blue beam of light faded around him. He attempted to fire his weapons at the roof, but they wouldn’t work. Then, his systems cut out. His helmet showed a blank screen as his boosters and stabilizers cut out all at once. His entire system shut down. He fell, plummeting from the sky. He was now a man in a three hundred pound metal shell, falling twelve stories to the ground.
The impact from the fall could be heard several blocks away as the metal suit made an indent in the side street below. Fortunately at this late hour, the side street was deserted. Now was Batman’s time to strike as he glided down from the rooftop, almost hovering in the wind, before landing next to Iron Man.
“Give it up Tony, your suit is useless,” Batman said as he watched the pile of metal before him try to stand up.
The gold and red mask came off as Tony threw it aside and attempted to disarm himself of his armour. He pulled his chestpiece off, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be able to maneuver with the suit on.
Batman began to step forward, but then the doors to the police station flung open as hordes of police officers came running out. Gordon may have been hesitant in apprehending Batman, but the same probably couldn’t be said for the rest of the GCPD. Batman turned his back on Tony who was still getting to his feet, leaving the dented and battered armour on the ground as the caped crusader fired a shot from his grappling hook up to a nearby building. But before he did it, Tony flicked something at him. Something microscopic and barely visible. A tracking beacon, attached to Batman’s cape.
Batman eluded capture, escaping before the police arrived. As did Tony Stark, he managed to unclasp most of his armour except for his metal gauntlets. He kept those on.
He ran away, leaving the rest of his armour behind. He was fortunate enough to find a taxi conveniently parked one block down. Tony jumped in the back, ordering the driver to “get us the hell out of here” as he tampered with his gauntlets, the hands of Iron Man. Tony Stark always had a backup plan, he had rigged parts of his armour to still function without the power of his helmet. This included his hands, which could blast through brick walls and scorch cement.
Tony pulled a phone from his pocket, a small flip one. He clicked a button on the side of it. This definitely wasn’t the kind of phone one would find available on the mainstream market. A map popped up on the screen detailing all the streets and locations around Gotham City. A red beacon began flashing on the map and moving in a north western direction. The tracking beacon on Batman was working.
“Hey buddy, where am I ‘sposed to be driving to?” the driver asked.
“The palacades,” Tony said, paying a hundred dollar note up front, “you can keep the change if you can get me there fast.”
Deep within the caverns of the Batcave, Bruce Wayne sat, resting yet still contemplating and thinking over the night’s events. He still had his cape and tights on, but his mask was off. He didn’t need it in the confines of his lair. He would spend all night out in the open, taking in the air as he glided from rooftop to rooftop, but he never felt quite as safe or secure as he did in his cave. Full of gadgets and toys that never seemed to hold any purpose, in fact, the Batcave was less of a hideout and more of a strange museum serving as a tribute to Gotham City’s insanity. For starters, he had a robotic tyrannosarus rex looming over the cave. The Batman’s lair was also filled with all sorts of gadgets and things that were “confiscated” from his enemies. An over-sized Jack-In-The-Box that was originally filled to the brim with explosives and “happy gas” that had been taken from a fight with The Joker; one of Mr. Freeze’s infamous ice guns, one shot from it could turn a person into a popsicle; The Riddler’s staff that was made from solid gold and curved at the top into a question mark, the handle could be drawn into a sword in the event of close combat. These were just a small handful of things that file the Batcave.
Bruce felt his ribs, they were slowly healing, but he encounter with Iron Man definitely did no favours for him. He pressed a button on the intercom next to his computer.
“Alfred, could you bring me down some bandages,” Bruce asked, he waited and heard no reply, “… and some coffee too please Alfred, it’s a long night.”
Eventually after a long drawn out pause, Alfred’s voice came back over the intercom, “Certainly sir, I shall be down momentarily.”
Bruce leaned back, pondering what had happened to Tony. He felt sorry for him. In fact, had Bruce been in his shoes, he probably would have acted the same way. He pursued Batman relentlessly out of spite, angst and revenge. Not so different from the way that Bruce himself set out each night to stop crime. So ruthless, so angry, so driven. Driven. That’s the main word, driven by his parent’s death. Much like Tony was driven to catch the man who nearly killed the woman he loved. Bruce understood Tony, but at the same time, this was a war. A war on crime. And if Tony wasn’t with Bruce, he was against him. That’s why he had to leave him out there for the police to take care of.
“Alfred, is everything okay?” Bruce asked over the intercom with concern.
A voice broke the silence, but not through the intercom, it came from the darkness around him, “So hard to find good help these days, isn’t it Bruce?”
“Tony!” Bruce jumped out of his chair, turning around to see Tony Stark in front of him.
Tony stood, completely different. He didn’t have his helmet or his chest plate, he wasn’t gliding in front of him. He was wearing a plain white shirt and black track pants. He was definitely not the kind of threat that Iron Man would impose. But his determination couldn’t be questioned. And he did still have his gauntlets on, those could pose a threat.
“How did you…” Bruce couldn’t believe it, an intruder in the Batcave. How did Tony find him?
“You know, for the world’s greatest detective, you’re kind of disappointing,” Tony started. He pulled out his phone and showed it to Bruce, the map with bright flashing red beacons on the screen indicated Batman’s whereabouts. Bruce looked down at his cape and noticed a tiny but still noticeable tracking beacon. The secret he had been trying to hide for so many years had been found out, by someone who wanted to kill him no less.
“You know, when I met you, I knew there was something about you. I said to myself, this guy has some skeletons in his closet. I was thinking more along the lines of something more embarrassing and humiliating like maybe you come home and wear dresses and makeup and act like a lady or something,” Tony said as he wandered around the Batcave, looking at all the relics of Gotham’s madmen, “but I never actually thought that you were Batman. The guy that I was after. Honest to God, Bruce Wayne is Batman? Unbelievable. But then I guess, it was probably a shock when you found that Tony Stark is Iron Man, am I right?”
“Tony,” Bruce started, “I didn’t kill those people. I didn’t try to kill you, and I didn’t put your secretary in hospital.”
“Save your breath Wayne,” Tony said as he began stepping towards Bruce, “I’m not one for killing, but you’ve tried to kill me, you almost killed Pepper, and you kill a lot good people that worked for me. On top of that, you know who I really am, and I know who you really are. You and I both know that only one of us is going to leave this cave still alive. And it won’t be you.”
Tony fired a charge from his hands, trying to take out Bruce quickly. But he was fast enough to dodge rolling out of the way. Tony may have caught him off guard, but Batman certainly had the home field advantage.
Tony dived after Bruce, tackling him to the ground, he began throttling Bruce, grasping his throat with his metallic hands. He said nothing as he did it, no taunts, no threats, he just looked up and stared into blankness as his hands robbed his rival of oxygen.
But Bruce was able to get a second wind, managing to get a hand free, striking Tony Stark square in the face. Any photoshoots Tony had after that would have to have a great makeup job and some photoshopping to edit out the black eye, compliments of The Caped Crusader.
Bruce took the advantage, rolling Tony over onto his back, he reached into his utility belt and withdrew a razor sharp batarang, coiling back into an attack position. Like a snake ready to deliver a poisonous and fatal jab at an intruder, Batman was much the same. Ready to slice the batarang into Tony Stark’s throat and end this madness once and for all.
“Just do it,” Tony whispered, “finish me… But leave Pepper alone. If she survives, don’t hurt her, let her live.”
Bruce saw the desperation in Tony’s eyes. He didn’t deserve this. Neither of them did. They were being played. Bruce threw the batarang aside as it skid along the floor of the batcave. He let Tony up.
“I’m not going to kill you Tony, if I wanted to kill you I would have done it already,” Bruce stood up as Tony watched him from the floor, “It wasn’t me who attacked you. It wasn’t me who put Pepper in the hospital. I may not be the most kindhearted human being, but I’m not a murderer Tony. I don’t expect you to trust me, or even believe me, but if you’ll let me, I’ll help you find the killer that you’re really after.”
Bruce stretched out his hand, open. Tony grasped ahold of it, and let Bruce help him up. The two stood in silence, as Stark stared into his enemy’s eyes. He didn’t feel deceit or lies, all he saw was honesty.
“What’s going on?” a posh British voice pierced the silence as Bruce and Tony turned in unison to see Alfred standing at the bottom of a staircase with a revolver in his hand, seemingly ready to defend the batcave.
“Alfred, the gun won’t be necessary, although the effort is appreciated,” Bruce said with relief.
“I see… I take you and Mr. Stark have put your silliness and troubles aside?”
“Yes… Alfred, put down the gun won’t you?” Bruce repeated.
Alfred pulled back the hammer on the gun, pointing it at Bruce, “it was entertaining whilst it lasted Bruce. And Tony, I knew killing your employees and hospitalizing your beloved Pepper would have a bad effect on you, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that you would turn in the revenge-driven bloodthirsty maniac that you did.”
“Wait,” Tony exclaimed, “Bruce? Your butler is behind all of this?”
“This man is not my butler,” Bruce replied, deadpan.
“Very good Wayne,” Alfred dropped the revolver as his skin began to change. His appearance began changing drastically and it looked as though his skin had a texture that almost resembled play-doh layering over the top of his skin. It soon became apparent that this was not Alfred. Before they knew it, Bruce and Tony were standing in front of a large mammoth monster-like form made seemingly completely from clay.
“Clayface,” Bruce uttered.
“So… your butler is a pile of goo that you call Clayface?” Tony interjected.
“Shut up Stark!” Clayface shouted as he took a step forward, prompting the two heroes to take half a step back.
“I had a hunch you were behind this, it could have been anyone who impersonated me, Batman costumes are a dime-a-dozen these days,” Bruce spoke up, taking a step towards Clayface, “but no one is better at impersonation than you. Although I did think, or rather, hope that you would have kept away from crime, at least for a little while.”
Clayface stood there, neither man nor monster. Something else entirely. An accident, a mistake, misunderstood and feared. It was difficult not to feel sorry for him for those who knew of his history. He could hardly be called human now, but he lost the last of his humanity long ago.
“You know Batman, or perhaps I should call you Bruce,” Clayface said, smugly, “I did actually go off crime for a little while. Before my last stint in Arkham. I was tired of it. Tired of the constant running and hiding and pretending to be innocent. Tired of mugging people, stealing and thieving just to live. And I was tired of the murder and the killing.”
Clayface looked at a discarded batarang on the floor, that had been dropped during the scuffle between Tony and Bruce. He saw his reflection in it.
“I was tired of looking at myself and seeing a monster,” he turned away from the batarang and once again faced Tony and Bruce, “I went to Hollywood. Gave myself a new look, a new image, a new name. Called myself Karl Lasibo, even gave myself a new background and everything. I started auditioning for movies, got myself a few bit parts in a couple of indie movies, and a nice temporary spot on a soap opera.”
“You were on a soap opera?” Bruce asked, not sure whether to joke or not.
“Yes. And it was a living. I had respect. I had a reputation. I didn’t care about being the biggest box office draw, I just wanted to live my own life, and I liked the respect I had. The respect I had earned. That was until I made the worst decision of my life, or, Karl Lasibo’s life rather,” Clayface turned to Tony Stark, “I decided to sign on to play you in Iron Man: The Movie.”
“Wait a minute… you’re Karl Lasibo?” Tony butted in, “I think I might have met you once when I visited the set for that movie.”
“Of course you met me,” Clayface retorted with a grainy, frustrated tone, “I was playing you. As much as I was enjoying working the soap opera and the smaller independent hollywood projects that I was doing, they just weren’t paying the bills. It costs money to change identity, to start over fresh. Even for someone like me. And this horrible Iron Man flick was my get rich quick scheme.”
“So? Because you starred in Iron Man The Movie, you decided to go on a killing spree, framing me in the process?” Bruce questioned.
“There’s more to it than that. The contract I had signed was for a trilogy, and on top of that, I would only make a percentage of the profits. I didn’t get paid up front in advance. Bad mistake on my part. So when the movie hit at the box office, it did horribly. Word spread of the cheesy special effects, the hammy acting and poor production values. It only raked in a few thousand during the movie’s entire run, and the film company had spent millions on the budget. I didn’t earn a cent, and after the dusk had cleared and the movie had stopped playing at the cinema, I was a nobody again. I was a hack. No one wanted to hire me. To the independent people, the contacts I made in the indie film scene, I was a sellout. And to the mainstream fat cats making all the million dollar movie deals, I was a talentless nobody. I had no job, no money and no reputation.”
Bruce began inching slowly away as Clayface continued his story, his explanation. He couldn’t help but feel like he was in a typical James Bond film where the villain would spill all the information on his grand master plan to the protagonist before failing to kill him.
“I tried to go straight, go clean, honestly I did,” Clayface continued, “I thought I was out of the murder and robbing business. At least I had hoped. But then I found out that Hollywood was just as cutthroat and full of people who will stab you in the back just as soon as look at you, as much as Gotham City was. These are my roots, this city is where it all began. I was a failure in film, and I can accept that. It was my one and only passion, and I can’t make a living there. But here, in Gotham City, I can do something I’m good at. I’ve always been good at three things. Killing, stealing and lying. And I’ve gotta say, this has been the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I only could have guessed how far you’d go Tony, to get revenge on a man you never even met before. I never would have guessed you’d lead me straight into Batman’s headquarters. The fabled Bat-Cave. You know, a lot of us didn’t even believe this place even existed.
“How did you follow me?” Tony asked, “I was careful to make sure no police or anyone for that matter knew where I was going.”
“You idiot,” Clayface exclaimed, “who do you think was the taxi driver that drove you here? Don’t you think it’s a little convenient that an available taxi happened to be right where you needed it, just at the right time?”
Bruce had inched his way back to one of his workbenches, filled with all sorts of prototypes and weapons he had been working on.
“So you couldn’t cut it in Hollywood Basil? That’s why you’ve done all this? You killed fourteen Stark employees, and hospitalized a fifteenth, all so you could play Tony and myself against each other. For your own sick amusement,” Bruce said as he moved his hand around behind him, searching for something to use against Clayface.
“That would be the gist of it. And now, as much as I’d love to go back into Gotham and announce to all of the criminal underworld who Batman is and where his cave is located, I can’t pass up the chance to kill you myself.”
Clayface seemed to grow, already a hulking mass before them. One of his arms outstretched, it began to mold and transform into a clay-version of a hammer. He took a swing and instantly knocked Tony off of his feet. Bruce had no time to help Tony up, as he picked up a small round capsule from his workbench and hurled it directly at Clayface. It lodged inside of his sticky clay exterior. Seconds later, an explosion rocked the cave as Clayface seemed to be physically torn apart from the explosive capsule.
“Tony! Get ready, that only stunned him, this fight isn’t over yet,” Bruce shouted.
Tony scrambled to his feet, regaining his senses. He looked on as parts of Clayface’s body healed in front of him, as his body began to mold back into its original form again after the explosion. The two heroes searched the cave for any form of weapon they could use against their adversary, the man that had been plotting them against each other. But Clayface reformed himself too quickly as Tony fired blasts, almost instinctively, from his metal gloves. They put holes through the clay monster, but they soon sealed up by themselves.
Bruce was running short on ideas. Tony kept blowing holes into Clayface with his high tech gloves, but they only slowed him down slightly. Someone like Clayface was dangerous, violent, unpredictable. If Clayface were sighted on the street in public, they would call in all the able police officers, SWAT teams and even the National Guard to take him down. But unfortunately, they were alone in a cave with Clayface. No SWAT teams or National Guard to help them out.
But then, Bruce had an idea, sighting a certain souvenir from across the cave.
“Tony! Keep him busy!” Bruce shouted to a flustered Tony Stark, who was repeatedly firing at Clayface.
Bruce sprinted across the cave as his reluctant newfound ally fended off Clayface. Explosions blasted all behind him, but he had no time to turn around and look. Bruce grasped one of his villain’s weapons Mr. Freeze’s Ice Gun. The long cool steel canon was heavy, taking both hands for Bruce to hold and aim it at Clayface.
“Tony, move out of the way!” Bruce shouted, Tony turned and saw his former enemy standing with a large ice gun pointed in his direction, before diving at the ground out of the way. Bruce squeezed the trigger back as a beam of white and pale blue fired out of barrel at the man made of clay.
Clayface tried blocking the beam with his arms, but instead, the whole beam washed over him, freezing him, turning him to ice almost instantly. One of the most dangerous beings in the world turned into an instant freeze ice block. Bruce lowered the ice gun, breathing heavy, not taking his eyes off of Clayface. If there was one thing he had learnt from his years of battling Clayface, it was to expect the unexpected. But then, the block of ice exploded into thousands of little pieces, shards of ice on the ground, specks of dust. Tony was standing ten feet away with his hand pointed where Clayface was, smoke billowing from his glove. It was over. No action hero quip, no witty catchphrase. Just ending it. The pain and misery and confusion caused by this one jaded individual.
“It’s done,” Tony turned to Bruce, who had dropped the canon on the ground, glad for the small speck of sentimentality that tempted him to keep certain items and pieces of evidence of his enemies.
“Bruce, I want to apologize,” Tony said as he pulled his gloves off revealing his warm and sweaty hands that had been encased in metal for the last several hours, “I’m not the apologizing sort either. But, I know when I’m wrong. I haven’t been myself for the last few days.”
Tony was sounding awkward, he wasn’t used to admitting fault, “But you know, thanks for not killing me when you had the chance and, you know, sorry for, well, trying to kill you as well.”
Tony was rambling. Bruce wasn’t used to this either, but nevertheless, after all the drama and fighting, a smirk fell across his face. Bruce Wayne extended his hand to Tony Stark and Tony stopped rambling. They shook hands and nodded, and all of a sudden, everything was right in Gotham City.
After the battle in the batcave between Clayface, Iron Man and Batman, things began sorting themselves out. Bruce had found Alfred in one of the upstairs living rooms unconscious, but otherwise healthy.
Together, Bruce and Tony took the frozen scattered remains of Clayface into the GCPD, where it was determined that he was still alive. He was frozen but tiny broken part of Clayface still had life in it. Clayface was taken back to a secure wing at Arkham Asylum where he was able to recover under intense and secure supervision.
The arrest bulletin for Batman was lifted as press reports filled out, recognizing the culprit as Basil Karlo.
Before Tony left Gotham to return to New York, he discussed more with Bruce and the two promised to seriously consider a business relationship between Wayne Enterprises and Stark Industries.
As for Pepper…
The hospital room was still white and boring. The building still smelled sickly. But everything seemed a bit clear to Pepper. The last time the doctor spoke to her, he said that she was on her way to recovery and would be fine, he just suggested resting and not working for the next several weeks until her strength was back.
She sat up in bed, her legs hanging off of the side. She felt the bandaged area where the bullet had pierced her skin. It hurt still. But the pain was becoming manageable. She thought of how lucky she was. Now not many people who take a bullet would consider themselves lucky, but Pepper did. She was shot with a high calibre rifle by one of America’s most wanted villains, and she lived to tell the tale. There was still really only one thing on her mind though.
There was a knock at the door, startling her.
“Tony,” she said, almost looking like she had seen a ghost.
Tony walked in, sunglasses on, a well-worn suit on and a heavy five o’clock shadow. In his hands with a bouquet of bright red flowers. He smiled when he saw her, he couldn’t help it. He stood there in her hospital room for a second and the two kept looking at one another. Finally Tony spoke.
“You’re still in bed? I was expecting to come back to a home cooked meal and to have all of my filing done.”
Pepper threw one of her pillows at him, trying to hold back her laughter. They embraced in a hug. Something that Tony and Pepper hadn’t done much before, considering they had such a public employer/ employee relationship.
“I heard all of these things, apparently some Clayman from Gotham City shot me? And they were saying that Iron Man went on a rampage looking for him, and that he and that Batman character captured him. Please don’t tell me you went all the way to Gotham on some revenge trip,” Pepper said with Tony’s arms still around her. He didn’t answer. But she did notice something. Tears were leaking down Tony’s face.
“Tony… are you crying?”
He regained his composure quickly, “No, I’m just allergic to these flowers,” he wiped away the water from his cheeks and threw the flowers on the bed next to Pepper.
They spent the rest of the afternoon in the room together, talking about everything that happened. Things felt normal again for the both of them as they both stood at the hospital room window, hand in hand, looking out at the New York City skyline. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds. And on a rooftop in the distance, a figure with the silhouette of a bat looked on and smiled.