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Old 10-29-2011, 11:04 AM   #1026
Byrd Man
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Kicking open the door as they approach, I go in fast with an immediate charge. The first one tries to fire his semi-automatic, but I cut off his efforts with a well placed precision kick to the chest, following it up with a heel kick to the knee. He buckles under the pressure and I grab his weapon, slamming the base of it into the next one's chin, the only visible area to exploit under all the gear. She goes down, misfiring a few bullets into the ceiling. Only the subsequent dust seperates us as I leap in with a thrusting scissor kick, knocking the next into the wall. But I'm caught off guard as two of them rush me, slamming me headfirst into the wall and driving hard kicks and punches into my body as I try to recover.

"Take him! Rush him down, now!"

With the adrenaline in my system being the only source of energy left, it feels like hell, but it doesn't matter. I take it all, every single blow that they can manage, until I see the first availible opening to me for a counter strike. It comes to me just as the unit's captain pushes them all aside to make a strike of his own, as retaliation for his wounded knee. Grabbing it as it comes, I muster as much strength as I can and twist, snapping it to a successful result. He drops to the ground screaming as I leap up to my feet and grab the first two by their helmets, slamming them together hard enough to crack the visors. Growling at the others, I begin to work into them aswell, just as Nygma's unit makes it to the scene.

If they want me. They're gonna have to do better than that.
"We got a situation on the fifth floor! Ah-"

The officer is cut off as the sounds of struggling and yelling come in through the radio.

I look at Branden and scowl. "Get in touch with the tech people. Tell them to prep that EMP thing."I walk away from the SWAT leader and put my radio up to my mouth.

"Inspector Nygma to anyone on the fifth floor, respond...RESPOND, DAMMIT!"

I'm greeted with nothing but silence. There were eight men up there...and...he.

"I know you're up there, I know you can hear me. If you surrender now, I promise you we will take you in alive. You keep on with this fighting bull****, and we will kill you."

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Old 10-31-2011, 05:40 AM   #1027
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My fist nearly collapses against the visor. Can already feel myself strain under the pressure of keeping up with their attacks. I'm winning the fight, but only barely. All the while, I can feel a combination of symptoms striking out on my nervous system, leaving me exhausted, fatigued, and unfocused throughout. Heart's even racing a mile a minute. The adrenaline, it has to be. My body's reliance on it to make up for the lack of energy is beginning to take it's toll. Alfred's worries were well founded, I had actually been warned many times to only use the shots in the event of an emergency situation. In my mind, perhaps this fit my definition of an emergency. Or perhaps the simple truth is that I wasn't thinking. With a well-timed strike to my head by the bottom of one of their weapons, my focus momentarily improves, allowing me to effectively counteract the next kick. All things considered, I've still manage to maintain control over the situation. But by the time that thought crosses my mind, I can already feel it slipping from my grasp.

"What the hell are you idiots doing?! Shoot him! Shoot him now!"

With the cowl's ultrasensitive microphone, I can hear the simultaneous shift of artillery echo out from behind me as a line of them assemble at the end of the hall, all armed and ready to fire. Even though I'm still engaged with about half of the unit in a struggle, the Captain with the broken knee is seeing red and isn't allowing logic to dictate his orders anymore. I've angered him and he's out for the kill, no matter how many of his own men have to die with me. I have to stop him before he makes the situation worse. Producing a handful of mini-mines from my belt, I grab an arm just as it goes in for the swing, outstretch the limb, and slam down my elbow hard enough to snap it. As the officer screams out, I throw out my other arm and pitch the mines towards the ceiling above the heads of the firing squad. One by one, they give off a shockwave of small explosions that ripple through the roof and rip out chunks of debris, raining them down on the officers as they ready to aim.

Spinning around, I grab the last two that directly oppose me by the throat and push forward, slamming them both into the wall as hard as I possibly can. I know that with the helmets, it won't even work to knock them unconscious, but it's enough to cause serious disorientation until I can improvise something better. One of them grabs at my wrist while the other one kicks at my thigh. Thrusting myself ahead, I slam the brunt of my forearm into the first's throat, then knock him into the opposite wall. He goes down immediately, leaving me with one more in my grasp. He begins to visibly panic, trying to fight back, but I put a stop to his efforts immediately by wrapping both arms around his head and neck. Sleeper hold has him struggling for just a few moments before he eventually calms. I release and allow him to collapse onto the floor.

"I know you're up there, I know you can hear me."

Midway through catching my breath, knowing that more possibly await me at any moment, I glance down at the floor and notice that one of the radios strapped to an unconcious officer still has an open line. Leaning down to retrieve it, I rip it off of his lapel and listen in, knowing the voice that's coming in from the other end. Nygma's still here, despite suffering that broken nose. He’s determined to see this through. I could almost find that commendable.

"If you surrender now, I promise you we will take you in alive. You keep on with this fighting bull****, and we will kill you."

For a moment, I almost want to. It'd be so much easier.

But he's wrong to assume that I'm worried about death. Quite the contrary, infact. I'm much more worried about what would happen to me if I were taken in alive. Spending the rest of my nights behind the walls at Arkham, made to live with knowing that corrupt, even broken men like Nygma and his predescessors are still running the streets. Watching as Gotham collapses under the weight of it all. It's a fate worse than death, which is now nothing more to me than an alternative that I'd readily accept in place of that reality. Nygma probably doesn't think I'm sane enough to take his offer. The truth is just that I'm just not yet willing.

"You’re the only one that’s ever discovered the truth about John Grayson. You’ve been privy to information and resources that could help contradict every single murder I’ve ever been accused of. And yet you've lead this charge for months. So there’s something that I want to know..."

Raising the radio even closer to my face, I shift my eyes towards the now open door to roof access. Need to take the chance and run for it now, before it's too late to turn back.

"What do you really want out of this? Another promotion? Some sort of compensation?"

I almost growl into the radio as I speak.

"Or do you just enjoy the thought of gunning down an innocent man?"

Before he's given the chance to answer, I drop the reciever to the ground and crush it under my heel. All that's left is static as I race for the stairs that lead me out to the rooftop. Made it. Just need Oracle to contact the car.

The sensors in my cowl indicate that The Batmobile has almost reached my coordinates, flying in high from above the clouds. Seconds later and it descends, ready to end the fight with a calculated escape and take me back home. But just as it's altitude begins to reach the city, and I can see it beginning to lower itself towards my viscinity, something... unexpected happens. A shortage of electricity bursts out from it's engines, and it’s afterburners begin to smoke. Alarms can be heard coming from the cockpit as it’s streamlined descent turns into a circling drop, causing me to drop as it narrowly avoids beheading me by tumbling past the roof. I can only watch with helplessness as the car collides headon with a nearby skyscraper and explodes on impact, causing little more than burning scraps of metal to fall towards the streets below.

I don't even know how to react, as I slowly begin to stand. As unbelieveable as the wreckage before me seems, I've lost The Batmobile. My primary means of transportation has been ripped away from me in one of the most compromising moments imaginable. It takes a moment for me to be able to process the severity of the situation. But a moment is all that I'm given, as I feel the heat of an intense brightness drape over me in the form of a helicopter’s spotlight.

"BATMAN! THIS IS THE POLICE! WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED! DROP TO YOUR KNEES AND PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD, OR WE WILL BE FORCED TO SHOOT!"

And all at once, I begin to realize that I was wrong.



Death isn't the best alternative.

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Old 10-31-2011, 01:01 PM   #1028
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I rush up the stairs towards the rooftop with my gun out. Branden is right behind me with his assault rifle at the ready. We're both huffing and puffing as we come out on the roof and spot Batman, who's is temporarily blinded by the spotlight.

"Take him out."

Branden levels his rifle and fires, shooting the vigilante in the chest with a three round burst of rubber bullets. We both rush over to the crumpled mask crime fighter and I put the barrel of my gun against his temple.

"What was that you said about gunning down an innocent man? There are no innocent people. Hands behind your head right now."

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Old 10-31-2011, 09:56 PM   #1029
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I rush up the stairs towards the rooftop with my gun out. Branden is right behind me with his assault rifle at the ready. We're both huffing and puffing as we come out on the roof and spot Batman, who's is temporarily blinded by the spotlight.

"Take him out."

Branden levels his rifle and fires, shooting the vigilante in the chest with a three round burst of rubber bullets. We both rush over to the crumpled mask crime fighter and I put the barrel of my gun against his temple.

"What was that you said about gunning down an innocent man? There are no innocent people. Hands behind your head right now."
Damn.

Chest begins to ache once again as I try and crawl back from Captain Branden's blast, but my body instantaneously freezes as Nygma's sidearm locks against my cowl. Even what little common sense I have left can dictate that there's no way in hell for me to survive a shot like that. Not at close range. If I try to move and retaliate, I have three potential killshot scenearios staring down at me. The first is that Nygma panics and puts a bullet in my brain, scattering the remains of my skull all across the concrete roof. The second, provided I manage to disarm Nygma, is that Branden fires off another round to slow me down. Then another SWAT unit rushes in and makes my arrest come all the more easily. The third goes without saying, with the intensity of it's spotlight still leaving me disoriented as it hovers over the building with an automated machine gun aimed, ready to tear me apart at a moment's notice.

For what seems like the third or fourth time tonight, I seem to be recalling the rock and a hard place metaphor. But if I were to see another option, I'd take it. It's just that my luck hasn't been going well ever since this disaster of Nygma's making began. Even with considerable preparation, he managed to outsmart me with his Dr. Death routine. Even as difficult as it is to admit, I walked right into their trap. Then he had the entire building covered to the brim with half of the police force creating a prescence. Weakened me until I had no choice but to flee. Used an EMP to disable The Batmobile and destroy it before I could escape. Their tactics are becoming much more efficient. Either I've pushed them this far or they've gotten too smart. Either way, this can't continue any longer. One of us has to back down, or the other's going to wind up killed.

And there's too much at stake for me to do that right now.

"****, Inspector! Quit holding out! He's just gonna get up and fight again! Shoot the bastard while he's down!"

There's a ten second window to act and I notice it immediately. Even with his weapon jammed in my face, his head tilts to the side to start an argument with the overeager Branden. The helicopter overlooks, but as I see the pilot I notice that his face is more visibly focused on what's transpiring between them than on anything I'm doing. For a moment, I feel relief wash over me, as I quietly thank the Captain for his ill-timed sense of bloodlust. He may have just saved my life.

"Nygma,"

Just as he turns back, I seize the opprotunity and jam my fingers into his palm, interlacing his trigger finger with two of mine. Before he can fire off the round that was meant to kill me in the event of this, I squeeze hard to numb his grip on the weapon and pull his arm back, sending his body flailing towards mine. Stop him with a coordinated knee to the sternum, which takes the wind out of him immediately. Then grab at his arm again, twisting it up and aiming his weapon towards Branden's thigh. His eyes go wide as I manipulate Nygma's finger to fire, catching him in the leg immediately as he tries to dodge. He screams out in pain and clutches the wound as I grab Nygma by the coat to finish him off.

The bastard wanted me. Here I am.

"You wouldn't know the first thing about innocence."

With that message given, I apply pressure to his neck to stop him from trying to fight me off. Then just as part of him goes momentarily limp, succumbing to the point, I'm left to do exactly what I've wanted to do since this entire mess began. Kick Nygma's leg out from under him, catch him as he falls, and place him in a compromising position that locks his shoulder underneath my leg. I grab his arm at it's socket and pull hard, listening as the bone pops. He screams, because the pain is undoubtedly immediate. And very severe at the moment of injury.

Leaving him to his pain, I begin to walk away. Only to be cut off by a trail of bullets in my path.

Helicopter pilot must have realized what was happening.

"Dammit, he's attacked Captain Branden! All units, put suspect down immediatelty!"



No choice left. Batmobile's totaled and the Batpod wouldn't make it here in time. I have to run my way to an escape. With a diving motion, I narrowly manage to close the gap between buildings and run into a direct sprint. Try to leap for the next just as the gunfire escalates, leaving me unbalanced and heading towards the streets. Only manage to grab out at the building's ledge, which does a number on my arm as I eventually stop falling.

"ARGH!"

Stitches. The stitches running across my torso, from the fight with Dick. They've been torn open. Only a matter of time before I start to bleed out. Have to keep going, have to ignore it. It's the least of my problems right now. Weakly managing to climb back up to the roof, I collapse onto my knees as the helicopter circles, trying to lock it's light onto me. Glance over at the next series of buildings. Won't take me anywhere that I can use to my advantage, it's suicide. But then I look to the right. And inspiration strikes.

Grabbing one of the last few of my grapnels on hand, I take it and fire towards a nearby construction site of an apartment complex, quite literally holding myself together as I manage to swing just out of view of the searchlight that's closing in. Swoop in low, manage to land ontop of a wooden panelling with a roll. Won't take but a minute for more of them to come charging at me, I'm sure there's already a series of squad cars on their way. But at this point, I couldn't give a damn anymore. I'm just determined to survive.

Even if I have to tear through all of them.

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Old 10-31-2011, 10:22 PM   #1030
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"Oh, God," I moan as I lay on the rooftop. The helicopter roars overhead and I pick myself up off the ground with my good arm. My dislocated arm swings limply by my side and throbs so bad it's all I can do to not pass out.

The dark figure of Batman glides over buildings before suddenly veering into a construction site. Reaching down for my radio, my injured arm slaps against my side and white hot pain shoots up and down my arm. I force the bile in my throat back down and swallow hard.

"Inspector Nygma to Aerial Six, have all ground units drop back to the end of the block. Get your charges prepped and ready to drop."

"On the construction site?"

"Yes!"

"But, Inspector-"

"It's a construction site, goddammit! They can rebuild it."

"Yes, sir. Aerial Six, out."

The chopper begins to circle over the construction site as the SWAT vans and patrol cars retreat back as the helicopter hovers in place a few hundred feet above the site.

Every police helicopter is outfitted with a variety of weapons. Both violent and non-violent. The most powerful of those is the bunker buster. A packed keg of high-power dynamite, it's only used in dire situations. It's only been used once before, when a drug dealer's armored compound needed to be assaulted.

To use it on one man would be overkill.

"Aerial Six, bunker buster is charged...bunker buster is away."

The keg drops from the chopper and twirls towards the ground. There's a second pause as it disappears from site before the area lights up in a brilliant flash and an explosion of fire.

BOOOOOOOM!

Like I said, it'd be overkill...but **** it. The deal is off, and now overkill is exactly what I need.

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Old 11-01-2011, 12:20 AM   #1031
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The world around me seems to burn away, as I feel myself knocked back into the air by at least a hundred feet. My body goes numb under the strain of the aftershock and I'm left to only anticipate what comes next. I can barely see past the flames, as my vision begins to blur. My entire body regains feeling all at once, and it feels like I've been hit by a set of cars racing at me under maximum velocity while some of the armor under the suit crumbles, telling me the feeling is partially correct. Can feel my ears popping and bleeding out from under the cowl, couldn't even hear the explosion whenever it hit. The only thing I remember from the seconds before, when the copter circled, and the mine dropped... was that I managed to see it in time. Leaped out of the construction site, grabbed onto a flagpole and braced for impact. If I hadn't seen it, and if I didn't know what was coming immediately, I'd be nothing but a smoldering corpse right now. Maybe at least then, I'd know it was over. Instead of wondering to myself just where the hell I'm going to land.

The answer comes almost immediately as I feel my back collide with something. Then watch as glass flies past me going in the opposite direction. Must've hit a window to one of the nearby complex buildings. Nygma, that damned idiot. If he gave the order on this, then he's the one that could have potentially killed everyone around me with that mine. He's only lucky that he didn't. Lucky that the only thing I can see as I fly into the building is a tower of metal rafters and wood start to collapse to the street, replaced with a massive ball of fire.

Finally, pain hits me at the base of my spine as my body collides with a brick wall. Then I fall again, realizing at once that I've hit a deserted area of the complex. All of the floors have been ripped out and each apartment has been emptied, probably due to be demolished. It only flashes past me as I fall at least four floors down, my body flailing rapidly as I'm in too much agony to try and save myself. In a matter of seconds, my fall stops and I'm laying ontop of a pile of scrapped, rotted wood and sand. Breaks my fall and still hurts like hell, but I haven't broken anything major. Not yet, anyway.

"Hhhh. Hhhh. Hhhh."



Practically out of breath. No need to exert myself yet. I just lay there, in the darkness, knowing that nobody's around to keep me moving. I can't even comprehend the level of pain I'm going through. So I can't be sure of the extent of my injuries, but I know it's enough to keep me winded, even as I try to move. Oracle's not responding to any of the motion commands. EMP must have disabled my link to the Batcave aswell. Almost positive that the content of my belt have taken some damage from the blast, as I feel things begin to shift in the pouch in ways they shouldn't. I'm... I'm on my own. No technology to rely on. No backup. No support. It's just me... and them. And contrary to anything I might have thought before, they're the ones that are winning. At this rate they'll be able to carry me to prison.

Can't give up. Everything's gone, but it doesn't mean there's nothing left. Try to think of Iraq, Bruce. War zone, foreign environment. Barely anything on your person that you can trust. Yet you survived. You can make it through this. Just keep moving. Just keep trying. Can't give up. Never give up.

I can barely remember how, but I manage to push the debris off of me and stumble out of the wreckage. Sirens in the distance. Keep to the shadows, don't want them to see me now. I know we're in the East End. That means it's anywhere from five to twenty blocks to the Gotham Bay area. If I can make it there. I have a chance. Just a chance.

Limp out of the building. Barely alive. Hardly coherent. Pushing myself far more than I can stand to endure. It's around this time that I feel the myself once again basking in a light. My head slowly tilts up to the skies as one of the GCPD copters circles, realizing that what they're looking at was their target. And that the target isn't yet dead.

"Damn it. Ju... just go..."

Squad cars pull up to the entrance of the site. Smash open the wire gate to get in. Twenty, thirty officers at most pile out of the front and passenger seats. All aiming their weapons at me. No longer willing to arrest. Perfectly willing to all gun me down at the sight of movement. One grabs a megaphone, like it makes any difference, and all eyes fall on me as he tries to make a final appeal.

"THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE, BATMAN! SURRENDER NOW, OR WE WILL BE FORCED TO SHOOT!"

Just let this night end.

God. Just let it end.

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Old 11-01-2011, 04:38 PM   #1032
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I feel like absolute s***. I got a broken nose and one of my arms is dangling limply by my side. But still, I haven't felt this great in some time.

I'm on top of the ****ing world.

From my rooftop vantage point, I have the perfect view to the scene below. Uniformed police officers, plain clothes detectives, and SWAT officers all form a neat little circle around the Batman.

Take that, you ****ing ****sucker.

"Nygma to all units, move in. Secure him and remove his mask. Now!"

Slowly, the circle tightens around Batman and the officers approach him, each one with their weapons raised.

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Old 11-01-2011, 08:05 PM   #1033
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Can hardly even breathe at this point. Feel like I've ran the gauntlet. Seconds of tension pass and they approach on command, weapons trained at me from all sides. I could fight them like the others. But even I know that it'd be suicidal. Weapons in my belt are likely to be running scarce, my agility's not going to be up to par. Every single method of attack that runs through my head only ends with me being riddled with bullets and dropped on the spot. I'm down to my last few tricks, and if they fail me, it's over. I'm either dead or I'm caught, depending on how I want to play it. My breaths turn into a silent gasp as the officers tighten their circle, and I give them all a glare. Even they can tell that I've been put through hell. They're not worried and they're definitely not intimidated. As far as they're concerned, they've got me. And the most worrying thing is, they could very well be right. Tapping one last resort at the back of my belt, hoping... praying that it still works, my eyes narrow on one lone officer that approaches armed with a semi-automatic that pokes into my chest.

"C'mon, pal! Let's go! Hands behind your head!"

My eyes drift around the scene as I comply with the officer's command. That building that they demolished, the chaos at the scene. They were reallly willing to destroy everything in their path in order to get to me. For a moment, I wonder to myself if my little crusade was even worth that. But all it does is make me realize how bad things have gotten. Cops so bent that they'd render a city into rubble just to capture one man. I used to think my enemy was the mob. Tonight's taught me different. Evil in Gotham, not just corruption, lurks within the agendas of Gotham's officials. And even if they capture me tonight, it won't end with their vendetta against Batman. What happens when their guns turn towards ordinary citizens?

"Alright. He's out of commission. You heard the Inspector, let's get his mask off."

The moment of truth comes to me as two officers come forward and push down on my shoulders, forcing me down to my knees. A third comes from behind and lowers his weapon to the base of my spine, while laser scopes illuminate sections of my chest. I've given them every reason to kill me on sight, and yet Nygma wants me alive. I know why he and the Commissioner both would want that. To make an example of me, to show Gotham that anyone that stands up to power would end up just like I have. What they don't see, what they're likely not even paying attention to, is what I can hear seconds before some of their heads begin to turn towards the skies.

The one that reaches for my cowl stops as soon as the noise begins to build to a louder pitch. Some of them turn around completely, evidently confused as to the origin as they wildly begin to aim their weapons into the air. Even in my weakened state, with no energy left to waste, I manage to breathe a small sigh of relief. Just as the entire squadron notices what's coming their way. Just as I prepare for them to hit, the echolaction drowns out the noises of the officers' screams.

"What the hell is... OH MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT?!?!"



They come all at once in immediate thousands. Some of the police try to fire their weapons at them, but even if some do fall, it's barely noticeable amongst the cloud of them that builds all across the skies. It's odd to think that back when the patent for low frequency sonic pulsators was pitched to Waynetech's board of directors, I nearly declined it on the basis of failing to see it's specific use. But I kept the prototype for myself anyway, upon suggestion from Alfred. I didn't know why, or to what purpose, but he explained to me that such technology could be utilized in a variety of ways. Such as chartering a rescue vechile with an equipped sonar beacon. Or simply calling out to a flock of rabid bats whenever I need them.

As they begin to bite back and attack at the officers that try and wave them off, I thrust my elbow hard into the back of the nearest one's neck and make a run for it. At first, I don't even know where I'm going. But as I drift further into the cloud of bats, who all avoid me to avoid the pulse, I begin to realize my nightvision has been deactivated by the EMP from earlier. I'm practically blind, but I have a plan. And in a moment's time, I see them in the distance. The squar cars that the police vacated to apprehend me. Without intention, they've actually given me the perfect method of escape right here. I just had to make them come to me.

Sprinting into a slow run as grown men crumble beside me in their horror of the attack, I eventually make it to the first car and leap inside of the driver's seat. Stick shift slams into my knee and I lower my hands into the dash, ripping out as many wires as I can manage. Haven't hotwired a car since that "invasion" in Metropolis. But I'm quickly reminded as some of the officers become aware of my actions, drifting through the flock of bats themselves in order to stop me from escaping.

Start, dammit. Start!

As if on cue, the car's engine hums and the lights of the dashboard flicker to life. Slamming the driver's side door shut, I jam my foot onto the acceleration and pump it for all it's worth, sending the car hurtling at the police, who scatter upon seeing the illumination of the headlights. They all try and give chase on foot, but I swerve the car to the side and immediately bank for riverside. Gotham Bay isn't far from here, so I know I can hit a body of water. If I can make it, there's still a chance...

There.

Just as I spot the glow of the moonlight hitting the surface of the O'Neil river, my elbow strikes out and smashes open the side window. Bits of glass trail behind me as I raise my foot, then kick down on the accelleration to give me enough momentum. I want to land flat, to make this as swift as possible. The car vaults off of the concrete surface of the bay sidewalk, hurtling me towards water. Then after a brief moment of airbourne flight, I feel the car shift as it breaks surface. With the window smashed open, water immediately begins to fill the car. I jam my fingers into the left side of my belt and pull out a rebreather, checking it in the spare seconds that I have to make sure it hasn't been damaged. Then, with little more than a prayer, I bite down on it and lift my head, becoming fully submerged.

This is going to be difficult. If I were stronger, I'd be optimistic. But I could have just killed myself even quicker than the police. Still, the chance is worth the risk. As soon as the entire car is filled from top to bottom, I grab the door handle and force it open with my shoulder, swimming out of the car just as it begins to sink to the bottom. Then I keep swimming, knowing that the entrance to the sewer lines is anywhere between a few feet and a few miles away.

Almost had me. They almost had me.

But they didn't succeed. And that's what matters.

I live to fight another day.

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Old 11-01-2011, 08:44 PM   #1034
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"God****ingdammit! Are you ****ing kidding me?!"

My arm throbs as I pace around the rooftop, watching as that goddamn flock of bats disappear...and Batman is nowhere to be seen.

"That son of a *****! That ****ing son of a *****!"

I sigh and look down at the scene below. A bunch of ****ing idiots afraid of some goddamn bats. Jesus Christ.

Bzzzzzzt

Sighing, I pull my vibrating phone from my pocket and answer it.

"Well done," the voice on the other end of the line says. "You have done your job well...almost too well, actually."

"You wanted me to make it look real, right?" I grumble. Truth of the matter is, I could give a damn about my deal. I wanted that ****er for myself...and now he's gone.

"For your service tonight, you debt is erased. But be mindful, Inspector Nygma, we have people everywhere. We will be watching."

I close the phone, my good hand shaking due to equal parts excitement and fear.

"Inspector, Batman's gone," an officer squawks on the radio. "What are your orders?"

"Spread out and look for him. Get some people down here to take care of this mess. I'm going to the hospital."

I lost the battle tonight, but you can be goddamn sure the war will end tonight. After my "buddy" is done with him, Batman will be a ****ing greasy spot on the ground.

I can promise you that.

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Old 11-02-2011, 01:56 AM   #1035
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"Hhhhh. Hhhhh. Hhhhh."



It wasn't supposed to be like this. Beaten, bloodied, and crawling my way home through a sewer. An entire city whose protection is entrusted to hired guns and cops who take bribes to look the other way. Gotham is a city I've known my entire life. Yet I feel like every night, with every new injury or failure that comes to knock me down, I'm starting to lose my grasp on what I believe the city really is. I remember it all so vividly. The first time I went out there on the rooftops, getting a feel for what I would eventually make my entire life. The first moment I took a look at the skyline through new eyes, endued with a new purpose. That night, I told myself that things would be better. That I'd be the one to make them better. And I tried, god knows I tried. I took memories with me and carried them all across the world using them to drive me towards making myself stronger. Making myself better. But after tonight, I don't even know what to think anymore. Police nearly killed me and it isn't even the first time. I tried to tell myself differently, but I can't seem to lie to myself anymore. Things in Gotham aren't improving. They're just getting worse.

Wearied, I stumble through the darkness for as long as I can. Then my legs eventually give out and I collapse, unwilling to move for minutes at a time. These tunnels used to be an underground subway system. They were sealed off to make room for Gotham's modern transportation, even going as far as to line the outer walls with cement and metal. Makes it all virtually sound proof and impenetrable to breach. So even though I know that I'm safe down here, I can't help but feel as if I'm looking over my shoulder the entire time. It just doesn't leave me, even after the nights are over. It never does. There has to be a better life. One that's too good for me.

Finally muster up the strength to pick myself back up and continue. Feels like I've been walking for hours, but I know it's not the case. Even from here, I can see the lights that illuminate the hatch panel that leads into the Batcave. Haven't used it since the night I was nearly killed by that mob of protestors. With the Batpod and Batmobile both created since, the need hasn't arose --- until tonight, of course. I slowly walk myself over to the panel and grasp the handle, unsure if I can even open it remotely. Suit's inner-wiring is still too damaged for me to call upon Oracle for a remote release. Bite my lip and grab the latch with both hands, pulling back as hard as I can possibly can. It takes twice as long, but the air-locked door begins to hiss back at me.

"Oracle..."

Voice recognition activated. Scanning...



I'm home.

At this point, it's where I need to be. Always mistook his concerns for doting, but maybe Alfred has been right the entire time. Maybe I just need a rest. Put everything on hold and reassess my situation. Seal up the cave and figure out where to go from here. If the police are hunting Batman, there's no better way to keep them occupied than to let them chase a ghost. To some extent, it worked the first time. Maybe the second requires a bit more intricacy. Just need to get myself fixed up and sleep on it now.

Voice recognition verified. Welcome home, Mr. Wayne.

Slowly begin to make my way through the inner sanction of the armory. Eyes momentarily shift over to the glass cases that I pass. Guess I've been beaten so badly that it's only now that I notice how bizarre some of this stuff really is. The gavel of the judge that sentenced Jack Ruby. An original copy of the film reel to Casablanca. Then I look past and see the large tarp in the distance. Shake my head as I advance. Never even understood the giant penny.

"Give me... live feed. Upstairs. Alfred."

After a moment of process, Oracle obeys my command and begins to set up the secure line upstairs. Push past the armory door and walk out to the main junction of the cave. The Batcomputer's practically untouched since earlier this evening, Alfred must have left me to my own devices. Odd that he'd do that, it isn't like him at all. Though I can understand the futility of trying to communicate with someone who's feed has been severed by an electric pulse.

Call cancelled. Recepient has failed to respond. Try again?

Hh. Maybe he didn't hear it. I weakly manage to set myself down on the computer terminal as I nod back to the A.I.

"Keep trying. Should answer eventually."

Need to get this suit off. Can't without the help. Barely even manage to move my fingers as I seize the waiting bottle of water and down it in an instant. It's warm, but it does wonders for the moment. Don't even feel like I could die anymore. Just gladly settling for somewhere close to it.

Call cancelled. Recepient has failed to respond. Try again?

My head snaps up. Two calls and Alfred hasn't replied. Either he's busy, or...

"Try it again."

A moment passes and I get the same message, this time on the computer screen. This isn't right. Alfred would never go to bed this early, and he's hardly one to avoid a phonecall. The only other possibilty that runs through my mind is that we have a guest, but that wouldn't be likely either. I've rigged the systems so that I get a special alarm for whenever we have a recognized party upstairs, to avoid letting anything slip. What the hell is keeping him?

"Oracle, prepare the elevator. I'm heading upstairs."

Grab a robe from one of the side consoles and throw it atop visage of my costume. I know it's not likely that we have a guest, but as the saying goes, you can never be too careful. Barely even manage to get myself inside of it as the A.I. activates the lift automatically. Lights are practically blinding as the elevator passes the upstairs sectors. With my luck, it'll be Mrs. Cooper come to tell me something about Dick's grades. Though I can't imagine that she'd be up and around this late. It's barely three.

Finally, the lift stops. And I squint as the doors open.

"Alfred?"

The sight that greets me is almost too surreal to process.

Alfred is lying on the floor, just beyond my feet. Unconscious and bleeding from his temple. His suit is ravaged and torn and he's barely even breathing. My pulse accellerates almost immediately as I rush to his side, trying to discern what's going on. What in the hell happened to him?!

"ALFRED?!"

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Old 11-02-2011, 02:17 AM   #1036
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"The old man will live, Mr. Wayne."

Springing to his feet, away from the side of his friend, Batman spins around at the sound of my voice in the room. The lights are off in the penthouse and it is a dark night, filling the large open room with shadows.

Lightning strikes, and in the instant of the flash is when his eyes finally land on me.



"I believe that you have more pressing concerns at the moment."

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Old 11-02-2011, 02:49 AM   #1037
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"The old man will live, Mr. Wayne."

Springing to his feet, away from the side of his friend, Batman spins around at the sound of my voice in the room. The lights are off in the penthouse and it is a dark night, filling the large open room with shadows.

Lightning strikes, and in the instant of the flash is when his eyes finally land on me.

"I believe that you have more pressing concerns at the moment."
No.



Three months of agonizing wait. The torture of feeling his prescence everywhere that I went. Knowing that countless deaths were on my conscience because of the vendetta he'd taken against me. It all helped to prepare me for a moment that I was waiting for ever since that revealation came wrecking it's way into my life. He is the only enemy I've ever faced to somehow know the truth of my identity. And ever since he laid it out for me to digest, I've known that some form of this day was coming. Because by trade, sooner or later a hunter isn't satisfied with merely stalking his prey. He has to meditate and plan his actions. Then, when the time is right, he has to strike.

Not here...

But I could have never anticipated this in a million years. Selling my identity to the black market. Trading it in for lenience into the ganglands. Publically exposing it to Gotham in order to gain leverage over my actions by forcing the hand of the police to bring me down. Those are all the logical first steps that one would take with discovering such a secret. I know that because I've imagined what I would do in every single one of those scenearios.

Coming here, right onto my doorstep, and waging hell itself... was something that never even crossed my mind.

Not now.

My eyes never leave him as we circle eachother in the room. I don't know how he managed to achieve access to the penthouse, and I don't care. He's hurt Alfred. Broken into my home. Violated the sanctity of everything I prize most in the world. And he's a killer.

Yet I'm too weak to even speak at first. But the words eventually escape as I realize that this could very well be the last night that I live on this Earth. Escaping death, only to find myself back in it's jaws. It's almost too perfect for him.

"Bane."

He doesn't react to my recollection of his name. Doesn't even register anything in his body language. All that I can notice is that his muscles are tense, yet willfully drawn back in a method of careful meditation. Alfred must have given him hell.

"You're here. In my home..."

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Old 11-02-2011, 08:02 AM   #1038
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"And a lovely home it is. My sincerest compliments." Seeing the look in his eyes and the way that he carries himself, I cannot help but smile beneath my mask. "Did you have an enjoyable evening?"

Wayne has to know by now that everything that has transpired tonight has done so only according to my will. "I hope so." Nygma may be a backstabbing worm, but he did his job quite nicely. He has proven himself to be a man worth keeping an eye on, even though his debt to me has been paid. He may still have value.

"As I understand it, there is a boy living with you. Building a surrogate family, are you?" Part of me wishes that the boy were here now to see this, instead of out with the Cooper woman. My eyes drift to a photograph of Thomas and Martha Wayne resting on a table in the room. "Your parents may have died, but even having a true father in your life for as brief a period as you did must have been the most extraordinary feeling in the world," I say, turning back to Wayne.



"The closest thing that I ever had to that as a child was the harsh discipline and teachings of murderers," I step closer to my enemy. He tries to keep his distance with sluggish and awkward movements. "I was a teenager when I met Ra's Al Ghul, who rescued me from that hellhole after I rose above the other inmates. To this day, I don't know why the Demon's Head chose me, but I became as a son to him. Before you came to him and the League of Shadows in a period of my absence."

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Old 11-02-2011, 04:27 PM   #1039
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"The closest thing that I ever had to that as a child was the harsh discipline and teachings of murderers," I step closer to my enemy. He tries to keep his distance with sluggish and awkward movements. "I was a teenager when I met Ra's Al Ghul, who rescued me from that hellhole after I rose above the other inmates. To this day, I don't know why the Demon's Head chose me, but I became as a son to him. Before you came to him and the League of Shadows in a period of my absence."
My blood runs cold at the mention of Dick. But I try to save face and keep focused, lingering on his every word while trying to figure out how I could isolate him from the penthouse. I'm too weak for a fight, and I know this. But to know that Bane walks the very floors of the people I know - the people I care about - is a feeling so unsettling that I can't ignore.

"And that's what lead you to Gotham?", I ask. "A prodigal son who's jealousy drove him to revenge? I don't believe that. You've murdered alot of people to get this far, Bane. Even going as far to implicate me in your crimes. That isn't something you would have done out of simple loyalty to Ra's Al Ghul."

My head tilts in uncertainty as the behemoth casually crosses his arms across his chest. He's entirely too calm for me to get a read on his thoughts. It's almost inhuman.

"This was more personal than that."

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Old 11-02-2011, 08:24 PM   #1040
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"And that's what lead you to Gotham?", I ask. "A prodigal son who's jealousy drove him to revenge? I don't believe that. You've murdered alot of people to get this far, Bane. Even going as far to implicate me in your crimes. That isn't something you would have done out of simple loyalty to Ra's Al Ghul."

My head tilts in uncertainty as the behemoth casually crosses his arms across his chest. He's entirely too calm for me to get a read on his thoughts. It's almost inhuman.

"This was more personal than that."
"Indeed. Far more personal."

It occurs to me now, not for the first time, that Wayne has no idea whose face is behind my mask. As if it makes a difference, as he would not recognize me regardless, and I think that I actually prefer it this way. I am as anonymous to him now as he was to me when he stole my beloved from me.

"I was away on an assignment for the League of Shadows when you joined them. It was a long term mission and I was deep undercover for years. After my successful completion, I returned home only to find the life that I had left was gone." My fist lashes out like lightning and catches the monster square in his chest. His armor has already been cracked by bullets earlier, allowing my hand to strike straight to his core. "And the woman that I was to marry had been killed."


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Old 11-02-2011, 08:54 PM   #1041
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"Indeed. Far more personal."

It occurs to me now, not for the first time, that Wayne has no idea whose face is behind my mask. As if it makes a difference, as he would not recognize me regardless, and I think that I actually prefer it this way. I am as anonymous to him now as he was to me when he stole my beloved from me.

"I was away on an assignment for the League of Shadows when you joined them. It was a long term mission and I was deep undercover for years. After my successful completion, I returned home only to find the life that I had left was gone." My fist lashes out like lightning and catches the monster square in his chest. His armor has already been cracked by bullets earlier, allowing my hand to strike straight to his core. "And the woman that I was to marry had been killed."
Bane's sudden punch hits me harder than anything the police bothered to throw at me. My entire ribcage feels like it's about to burst as I fall back and hit the wall, further damaging the armor plates that line my back. But it's my chest that hurts the most, as I fight to get up, struggling for any air that my lungs refuse to give me. His words, they ring with a combination of passion and rage that I've never encountered in my life. And it comes so effortlessly to him. Almost like he's been running on the strength that such a painful memory gives him.

What he doesn't know is that it runs through me, aswell. I know exactly who's he talking about. It's the only casualty that brought true meaning into the scope of Ra's Al Ghul's life. And the third to bring any true meaning into mine. I just didn't realize the extent of it. Knowing that she was going to marry him. In our time together, I never even suspected...

"Wait,"

Fighting back the pain, knowing I can't retaliate in my state, I weakly manage to pull myself back to my feet.

"You want revenge... for that? I'm the person you blame for her death?!"

I don't even need to see his facial recognition behind that mask. The way he tenses himself says it all.

"Then you've wasted your efforts on the wrong person. The only man to blame for Talia's murder was her father. He's the one that sent her out into battle beside the rest of us. He's the one that gave her a reason to prove herself, whenever he rejected her as his heir. And all because she was his daughter, and never his son. That was the only reason he ever accepted me into the League."

My heart's pounding with pain as I slowly approach a man that would sooner kill me than listen to anything I have to say. But with all other options lost to me, I have to try and reason with him. He's gone out of his way to cause so much chaos and so much death, and yet it's all been for the wrong reasons. I have to make him realize that.

"I... I loved her. Probably more than I've ever loved anyone. And I would have never allowed her to die."

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Old 11-02-2011, 09:37 PM   #1042
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"Wait,"

Fighting back the pain, knowing I can't retaliate in my state, I weakly manage to pull myself back to my feet.

"You want revenge... for that? I'm the person you blame for her death?!"

I don't even need to see his facial recognition behind that mask. The way he tenses himself says it all.

"Then you've wasted your efforts on the wrong person. The only man to blame for Talia's murder was her father. He's the one that sent her out into battle beside the rest of us. He's the one that gave her a reason to prove herself, whenever he rejected her as his heir. And all because she was his daughter, and never his son. That was the only reason he ever accepted me into the League."

My heart's pounding with pain as I slowly approach a man that would sooner kill me than listen to anything I have to say. But with all other options lost to me, I have to try and reason with him. He's gone out of his way to cause so much chaos and so much death, and yet it's all been for the wrong reasons. I have to make him realize that.

"I... I loved her. Probably more than I've ever loved anyone. And I would have never allowed her to die."
"It was not your place to love her, Wayne!" With more rage than skill behind it, my fist connects with his jaw and sends him to the floor. "The blood of conquerors runs through my veins, making me the perfect heir to the Demon's Head, and the soul mate to his daughter. You were the intruding flaw in that equation!"

I bend down and clamp my hand around the Batman's neck and lift him off of the floor and into the air.

"Your role as usurper alone would be cause enough for this." His eyes begin glossing over, but a sharp backhand across his face brings him back to me. You will not black out for this! "The fact that she died is..." For the first time in front of Wayne, I find myself searching for words.

Grabbing him with my second hand, I twist and flip him over my shoulder, slamming him through a glass coffee table and onto the floor again.

"You claim to have loved her more than you've loved anyone, but she remains the only woman that I have ever loved! Am I supposed to let that theft go unpunished? And then you have the sheer gall to say that you would never have allowed her to die?" I regain some semblance of composure over my barely contained rage as I stand over him. "But she did die!" I could shoot him here and now, splattering his blood on his own expensive floor. "You failed!" I could break his neck right now, or stomp on his back to shatter his spine. So many possibilities. "You unworthily steal the throne that was to be mine, you make a cuckold of me by stealing my Talia, and you finally prove yourself incapable of protecting the life of your supposed beloved? Do you still claim not to have done me wrong, Batman?"

I see his hand going for his belt and I find myself actually growling as I slam my foot down onto it and hear his bones crack. "Ra's Al Ghul was not without blame either, but that does not make you innocent."

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Old 11-02-2011, 10:01 PM   #1043
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Gotham Central
4 Days Later


Four days after my run in with Batman, and I still look like a huge pile of s***. My arm's in a sling and I have a bandage on my nose, not to mention both my eyes are black.

"Nygma," Essen announces as she comes into my office, today's paper in her hands.

"Sarah," I say as I stand to greet her.

"We've got to talk."

"Well, have a seat and we'll talk."

I sit back down and she takes one of the seats across the desk.

"It's finally happening, Eddie..."

"What are you talking about?"

Essen unfolds the paper and holds it up for me to see. The words hit me like a blow to the gut from a heavyweight.

US Attorney, FBI Launch Probe Into GCPD/DA's Office

"Oh, God...but why?"

"I think what went down the other night, the raid against Batman and all the damage...that was the straw that broke the camel's back."

My heart's beating a mile a minute and I can feel my stomach churning, threatening to puke my breakfast back up on to the desk.

"Eddie...I don't...I don't know what to do."

For the first time, I notice she's on the verge of tears. I can sympathize. This isn't some two-bit crusading IA ****head or a State's Attorney who can be taught a lesson..This is the the goddamn FBI and US Attorney. They're not after the mob or a podunk city councilman with his hand in the till. No, they're after the big game in town. They're after us.

"I don't know what to do either."

I stand up and walk across my desk to her, wrapping my good arm around her shoulder. She leans into my body and sighs heavily, her whole body shaking in fright.

"No matter what happens, I do know that all we can rely on is each other. The rest of the sons of *****es will sell us out in a heartbeat. There's just you and I. Solidarity."

The phone in Sarah's pocket chirps and she pulls away from my embrace and reaches for her cellphone with shaky fingers.

"Hello," she answers, wiping tears from her eyes. "This is she...Are you serious? When?...Oh, my God. I'm on my way."

She closes her phone and looks up at me, delivering a second lightning bolt in as many minutes.

"That was the hopsital...Jim is awake...he's talking."

The color drains from my face and I step away from Sarah.

"Go," I say in a feeble voice. "Be with him. He needs you. I can handle things from here."

She nods and quickly leaves my office. I flop down in my chair and look out the window at Gotham skyline. Gears are already turning in my head. Essen, Gordon, the FBI, Bullock, Batman...Selina.

It won't be easy...but then again, survival is never easy.

And surviving is what I do best.



*****



Epilogue

IC: Vic Sage



"And then, Charlie came up on the whore while she was in mid BJ and slapped the cuffs on her! She bit down on her john's pecker so hard, we had to actually take him to the hospital! "


The fat man in the suit roars out laughter and slaps the bar. Stan Merkel, my old Homicide Sergeant five beers into the evening, ladies and gents.

"Hahahaha. Oh, man. I forgot about that."

Merkel and I chuckle for a few moments before I finish off my beer and turn to Stan.

"So, now that you got me liquored up, mind telling me why you decided to call out the blue?"

"Yeah, yeah...so...I wanted to talk to you about picking up a case."

"Ahh, another customer for Victor Sage Investigations. Want me to make sure your wife isn't running around on you?"

"Naah. I know my wife is ****ing another guy. I don't care. Considering what I do behind her back, I've ot it coming. No, this is something else."

"What exactly?"

"It's a murder, Vic. I seem to recall you were pretty good at solving those."

"95% clearance rate in my six years in homicide. I did alright. What is it? Some cold case you want some advice on?"

"Well, it's more room temperature. Happened a few months ago. A cop was murdered."

"Who?"

"You remember Marcus Driver?"

"The big mother****er who worked in the MCU, shadowed Gordon day and night."

"Yep. Well, he got his throat slit in some rundown building. Case is still unsolved. Wanted you to take a crack at it."

"Hmm...I don't come cheap."

"Solve it, I'll buy every beer you drink for a whole month."

"That could work. Anything else?"

"His last case he was working on? It was the investigation into who murdered that rich Kane girl. Case is still unsolved, but here's the best part...his partner on the case? Nygma. So, you solve his murder and you get a chance to rub that ***holes face in some s***."

"Stan...you got a deal."

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Old 11-02-2011, 11:53 PM   #1044
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"You claim to have loved her more than you've loved anyone, but she remains the only woman that I have ever loved! Am I supposed to let that theft go unpunished? And then you have the sheer gall to say that you would never have allowed her to die?" I regain some semblance of composure over my barely contained rage as I stand over him. "But she did die!" I could shoot him here and now, splattering his blood on his own expensive floor. "You failed!" I could break his neck right now, or stomp on his back to shatter his spine. So many possibilities. "You unworthily steal the throne that was to be mine, you make a cuckold of me by stealing my Talia, and you finally prove yourself incapable of protecting the life of your supposed beloved? Do you still claim not to have done me wrong, Batman?"

I see his hand going for his belt and I find myself actually growling as I slam my foot down onto it and hear his bones crack. "Ra's Al Ghul was not without blame either, but that does not make you innocent."
"ARGH!"

I roll backwards across the floor, clutching my now broken hand admist shattered glass. The pain is only immediate before it goes entirely numb. Nevertheless, the realization dawns on me that I can't rely on it anymore if I'm to survive this. Bane's tactics are merciless, and his rage alone is too much for me to fight against. His words to me are meaningless at this point, because I know that I can't reach behind such unbridled fury. Now I've been given no other choice. I have to fight back - but play it smart, all the same. Difficult to accomplish when I can barely even stand, let alone defeat someone of this size and this well-trained using nothing but the limited tactics I have left.

"So... that's... your excuse,"

With hateful eyes, I stare back up at him. I don't think he expects it, judging from his reaction. He may think he's justified in all of the wrongs he's inflicted on Gotham - on my city. That he's serving some higher purpose by doing this. But he's mistaken if he thinks he's ever going to convince me that I'm responsible for anything he's done. Bane, even in his name, is nothing more than a monster. A killer who's done nothing but destroy everything in his path. And no matter how I manage to pull myself together, no matter what the outcome of tonight even is, I'm going to make him regret what he's done to the people of Gotham.

Starting now.

"That I stole from you? That's really what you're going to say to justify all of that death. All of that madness. People have been dying ever since you stepped foot into Gotham, and it doesn't end with me! You may have fooled yourself into believing it was all for Talia, or for Ra's, or for your own pathetic sense of pride,", I growl, reaching up for the cowl still slung behind my neck. "But the truth is, you're nothing but an animal. A killer in the guise of man. Ra's was right to offer Talia to someone else. You would have never been his rightful heir. As insane as he's become, you've become even worse. You've become the real evil of this world, Bane."



"And for that... I will end you."

Before he lunge out and attack, I push myself to the brink of the energy I have left and throw myself at him, striking out with a hard knee to his face. Then with my good hand shielding the broken one, slam down a wild haymaker while keeping myself locked onto his chest. The wind leaves me immediately and I have to fall back, but I decide to keep going, punching hard at his ribcage with all of my strength. He barely even flinches at it. The brewing confidence is soon replaced with a strong sense of desperation. I almost feel like need to bring him down.

But what the hell will it take?!

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Old 11-03-2011, 03:17 PM   #1045
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"Ra's was right to offer Talia to someone else. You would have never been his rightful heir. As insane as he's become, you've become even worse. You've become the real evil of this world, Bane."



"And for that... I will end you."

Before he lunge out and attack, I push myself to the brink of the energy I have left and throw myself at him, striking out with a hard knee to his face. Then with my good hand shielding the broken one, slam down a wild haymaker while keeping myself locked onto his chest. The wind leaves me immediately and I have to fall back, but I decide to keep going, punching hard at his ribcage with all of my strength. He barely even flinches at it. The brewing confidence is soon replaced with a strong sense of desperation. I almost feel like need to bring him down.

But what the hell will it take?!
"You would fight to the death, worm?"



Letting loose another punch, he surprisingly manages to summon enough strength to block it with his good hand, but leaves his center mass wide open to attack and unable to protect it with his remaining crippled hand. Planting my boot hard in his stomach, the fool is sent backward through the air and smashing into a bookshelf.

"If it is madness to reclaim my rightful place in this world and enact vengeance on my wrongdoer, then sanity is the last thing I would ever want or need."

Something about what he said stands out to me. The words that he used to refer to Ra's Al Ghul: "as insane as he's become"? I was led to believe he had perished, yet Wayne speaks as if the Demon were still alive. But, if he were alive now, why would he not find me and let me know? Could there be an element of truth in the usurper's words?

Wayne's grunting in pain brings me back to the moment and the task at hand. He rises onto his hands and knees, exactly where he should be while in my presence, but unfortunately struggles to continue and rise further to slowly get back onto his feet. "NO!"



After blasting his head against the floor, I can see a large dark smear of blood at the point of impact. "I came to Gotham to take it from you and rule the night in your place, in spite of my hatred for this city and everyone in it. I have felt it grate on my soul since the very beginning." I slam his head back down even harder. The floor tile shatters beneath his head this time. "Much soul searching had to be done to reaffirm myself to this goal, but I finally did it. I am the bane of your existence and I have conquered all that is yours, Wayne! Gotham is mine and now I will end our rivalry by claiming your wasted life!"

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Old 11-03-2011, 06:51 PM   #1046
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Wayne's grunting in pain brings me back to the moment and the task at hand. He rises onto his hands and knees, exactly where he should be while in my presence, but unfortunately struggles to continue and rise further to slowly get back onto his feet. "NO!"

After blasting his head against the floor, I can see a large dark smear of blood at the point of impact. "I came to Gotham to take it from you and rule the night in your place, in spite of my hatred for this city and everyone in it. I have felt it grate on my soul since the very beginning." I slam his head back down even harder. The floor tile shatters beneath his head this time. "Much soul searching had to be done to reaffirm myself to this goal, but I finally did it. I am the bane of your existence and I have conquered all that is yours, Wayne! Gotham is mine and now I will end our rivalry by claiming your wasted life!"
Have to... keep...



Barely even have time to react as I feel the cape begin to wring around my throat. He lifts me off of the ground and keeps pushing on the attack, beating me within an inch of my life just as I try and spin in place for a counter strike. Hand's already numb and fractured, it's useless to me. Felt my ribs cave in with the kick that sent me into the bookshelf, it's getting hard to breathe. I try and jab the batarang I managed to slide from my belt at him, but he merely seizes it from my grip and weighs it in his hand, tossing it aside. It's almost as if he's mocking my resolve, laughing in my face without having to actually stop to do it. Because he sure as hell isn't stopping. He just keeps laying into me. Kicking at my chest. Stomping into my head. Backhanding me across the face and throwing me about the penthouse like I'm nothing to him. It's absolute hell to endure, and I know for sure that I've never felt worse in my life.

But I also know that if I give in, I'm going to die tonight. Bane's been driven to the absolute breaking point of his rage, watching me become this wreck of a man over the last few months. Letting my insecurities get the best of me. Watching me gradually begin to let down my guard. It's as much my fault that I'm in this position as it is his, even if he had some hand in the events tonight. I wouldn't put it past him. Suspected from the beginning that neither Nygma or the GCPD had that plan of attack in them. It required skilled methodology to isolate my own tactics from the equation. Run me down by turning my weaknesses against me. Infact, the more I think about, the more I'm convinced. All of this was his plan. And unfortunately... it's working.

Get up, Bruce. Get...

Blood begins to fly across the room as I'm tossed through several antiques in the main hall. Bane casually walks towards me as I try and struggle to get up, but I'm not so blind as not to see that it's all a futile gesture. He grabs me by the back of my neck and hoists me up by the strap of my belt, turning back to increase the momentum and tossing me into the air. I feel myself gain a sense of vertigo that suddenly stops as I crashland directly into a wine cabinet, destroying the front immediately. Bits of glass and splintered wood stab into me as Bane rips me from it and slams his forehead into my jaw. Nearly shatters under the impact.

"Ra's... told me..."

He seems to stop at the name, taking a moment to pull me closer. I simply inhale, gather up a blotch of the blood pooling in my throat, and spit it back out at his face. Then smile back, caught up in the delirium of my state of shock. I've taken far too much of a beating to fight back anymore. This poorly constructed lie is all that I have left to keep myself alive for just a minute longer.

"He thinks you're a failure."



"And he's right."

That sends him over the edge. I can feel his demeanor twist and turn at the uncertainty of my words, refusing to believe the truth in it all. Ra's never once spoke of Bane in my presence, but I had to think of something. And since he's so reliant on his approval, it seemed like the right lie to make. But my smile leaves me as Bane exacts his retribution, dropping me onto my feet and allowing me to stand, before mercilessly digging into my sternum with a series of roundhouse strikes that leave me absolutely breathless in their wake. I can even feel myself starting to black out at first, but Bane doesn't allow it. He simply grabs at my head and encapsulates it in one hand, staring me down with nothing more than heavy breathing as a reaction.

He's beyond angry. And though I thought the rage would leave him distracted and allow me to attack, it has the opposite effect. He's only become stronger. My eyes drift over to the study, where this struggle began, to see if Alfred's okay. I can see him beginning to move, but his eyes still haven't opened. He's alive, thankfully - but he needs to get out of here. As long as Bane is still in the penthouse, everyone is still in danger. I can only hope Harriet and Dick don't decide to come home.

"Is... Is that..."

I can barely say the words. Body goes numb. Eyes beginning to roll back into my head. He violently shakes me while I'm still under his grip, just to get me to finish the words off.

"SAY IT, WAYNE!"

"Is that... all you've got?"

And then he angrily releases me. But rather than just let me crumple onto the floor, lifeless, what he does next takes me by complete surprise. Just as I'm still falling out of his grip, Bane lifts his knee and lunges his boot forward, connecting it as hard as he possibly can into my face. My entire body goes flying towards the glass doors leading out to the balcony. At first, I'm so disoriented that I don't even know if I've gone through. But a second later and I find myself rolling onto the concrete outside admist entire panes of shattered glass, with rain from the skies above dampening my open wounds. Lightning cracks across Gotham's skyline as he steps out onto the balcony with me, ready to end this for all that it's worth.

I...

I can't fight him anymore. There's nothing left for me to do. No attacks left, no weapons. Definitely no energy. I don't even know if I have the will anymore.

He's won. Bane is about to be the one to end my life.

And there's nothing I can do but watch.

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Old 11-03-2011, 09:21 PM   #1047
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"Silence, eh? Have you no more venomous lies to spew?!"

He is a ragdoll in my hands, a living corpse. Lifting him above my head with only the lights and sounds of this wretched city surrounding us, it is a moment of terrible beauty.

Hunting him down and tracking him across the farthest reaches of the globe, conquering the mobs of Gotham City, defiling the Batman's public reputation; the sum of all the rage and hate I feel has finally come to this. If my chest were a cannon, I would shoot my heart upon him.

My blood boils as I bring him close to me, the look in his eyes unfocused and I feel somewhere in the back of my mind as if he might not even know what is taking place any longer.

"Still you cling to life?!"



"DIE!"

My fist sinks into his abdomen again, but I feel that everything has already been pulverized. "Ra's Al Ghul was a fool! I am better, stronger, and smarter than you! If he were here now, I would feed him his own lying tongue!" I then break the Batman's nose and let him sink back to the ground. "Instead, I am forced to settle for you, pathetic excuse of a man."

My eye twitches under my mask and my knuckles bleed from the number of times I have laid my fists into Wayne.

No matter how badly I beat him, it will never be enough. I can kill him ten times over and it will still not be enough. I thought that I would be ecstatic when this moment came, but I simply find myself angry. Angry at myself. Angry at Wayne. Angry at Ra's Al Ghul. And angry at the world.

Picking him up one last time, I hold him up against the railing of his balcony and begin strangling him with one hand, the sounds of the streets below screaming at us. "This life of privilege you've led, the women, the cars, having the city look up and idolize you in your ivory tower..." His gasps for air finally begin to fade and the light starts to leave his eyes. "You sicken me, cretin! This world is fouler with you in it! Begone!"


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Old 11-04-2011, 03:51 AM   #1048
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I've failed.



With a twist in the air, the Batman's body goes steadily unconscious. Like his spirit, it is now broken, spent, and unable to retaliate. The last words on mind calling him a failure, as he plummets towards the city he's dedicated each minute of his life to saving since the crusade began. But now, as a silent defeat washes over him with an increasing windspeed that builds the momentum of his descent, he knows in the back of his mind - in whatever reaches of it that still remain cogniscent - that the crusade is now over. He tried to save the city and he failed. Bane had won the day. The Dark Knight had perished.

His eyes flutter into a close as he both mentally and physically drops down into complete darkness. He doesn't even feel it when his body smacks the pavement below with a loud, sickening crack. Instantaneously, blood that has not yet already spilled begins to pool behind the stilled body of the city's crusader... and yet even as he loses the last of his thoughts, he still feels the torture of defeat hurt him far worse than the city ever could.

For now, more than ever...

The Bat is broken.

.

.

.


TO BE CONTINUED... SEASON III

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Old 11-04-2011, 10:44 AM   #1049
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"You've all heard the reports from STAR Labs, which have been verified. The woman who has been identified as former LexCorp employee Jane Davidson performed an unspecified experiment on herself after her termination from the company, resulting in the gift of powerful telepathic abilities at the apparent expense of her sanity."
Leaving it at that regarding Destiny, Superman didn't want to linger on the fact that the woman hasn't yet been able to wake up after being sedated days ago. Brain scans conducted by STAR revealed that she's not comatose or otherwise suffering from any illness. She's simply asleep and can't -or won't- wake up. A very small part of Clark felt relieved at that after Dr. Destiny had been inside the League's minds and learned their real identities, but did she deserve to be deprived of her actual existence in the real world as punishment for her crimes?

Everyone at the press conference has heard this before, but the Man of Steel felt that it couldn't hurt to reestablish a few things before getting started. Seeing Lois Lane and Jim Olsen amongst the crowd in front of him, Superman tried not to hold their eye contact more than any other reporter here. "On behalf of myself and my teammates, I've already spoken to government officials after having them look over the evidence surrounding Ms. Davidson. It's since been determined that we were not responsible for our actions that night and no criminal charges will be laid against the Justice League." The crowd began murmuring loudly and camera flashes went off left and right.

"Superman!" Unable to help hearing Lois' voice above all the others, Clark acknowledges her as the other voices die down. "Based on journals and evidence gathered at Jane Davidson's apartment, it looks like it was the formation of the League that was a catalyst and gave her the idea of manipulating all of you in the first place. How do you respond to concerns that the Justice League will cause more problems than it solves?"

Superman paused. It was essentially the same question that he had been going over himself until recently. "I believe in the Justice League. We can't stop how people feel about us or how they react to us. All we can do about that is to continue to protect anyone in danger and hope that we can inspire critics like Ms. Davidson to change their minds and maybe start believing in the League too," he replied. "As she controlled me, I very well might have proved unstoppable if it the Justice League hadn't stepped in to save the world again. While it may be true that the concept of our team was what originally gave Jane the idea to do what she did, it was ultimately the Justice League that stopped her before any lives were lost."

More camera flashes. "That's why we're here. We fight for those who can't fight for themselves."



Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?



It had been an hour since Rhiannon and her mom had said goodbye, and one simple exchange with Pete Ross sent her spirits soaring to the Heavens.

As her mom was leaving Pete embraced Rhiannon and whispered, "Be Patient."

She understood and fought to contain herself as Pete winked and smiled when he said, "Keep the faith. We're workin' on it."

For the first time in years Rhiannon Palmer finally felt pure joy and hope as she stared out at the Metropolis Skyline.

You're gonna make it after all. Now all I need is a knitted cap to throw in the air.



I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.



Dick Grayson prowled the halls of Bruce Wayne's penthouse, having been awoken by the sounds of a struggle, muffled though it was from Miss Cooper's apartment. The signs of a fight were everywhere: toppled furniture, shattered glass.....spatters of blood.

What worried him more was that there was no sign of Mr. Wayne. Someone had attacked Bruce Wayne, attacked Batman, and now......

"It can't be," Dick said to himself. "He's not.......oh my God....Alfred?!"

Dick ran to the old man who lay on the floor, severely beaten. He slapped Mr. Wayne's butler lightly across the face to try and rouse him, and was met with a pained groan.

"Master Wayne?" Alfred sputtered. "No....Master D-...Dick.....run."

"Alfred, what happened? Where's Mister Wayne?!"

"Call the police...." the butler wheezed painfully.

Dick's eyes darted back and forth for a phone, but stopped on something he hadn't seen before: an elevator, its still-open door completely flush with the wall. A secret passageway, then, probably to where Batman kept all of his weapons and equipment.

Seeing that, all of the panic and fear that gripped Dick was replaced by steely determination.

"Whoever it was, if Batman couldn't handle him, the cops don't stand a chance," Dick said, heading towards the elevator. "I'm going to call an ambulance for you.....and then I'm going to find Mister Wayne."

The elevator door slid shut behind Dick, and as it plunged downward through Wayne Tower towards the Cave, Dick Grayson clenched his fists.

For over a year, he hunted Batman, trying to kill him. For over a year, he resented Bruce Wayne, bucking against his authority. Now that man was missing and possibly dead, and Dick vowed to find him at any cost.

He thought of the nickname his classmate Rachel 'Raven' Roth had given him as the door slid open to Batman's headquarters.

Redbird had done everything in his power to kill Batman.

Now, it would be Robin who does everything in his power to save him.



Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?




In the dimly lit Nigerian prison cell, the only sound in the room was the gurgling noise. It continued on and on until the tormentors finally resented.

Pulling the white man's head out of the bucket of ice water, they barked at him in English to tell them all he knew. Why was in their country? Why had the Americans sent a black ops team to destroy a oil company's camp? What were they trying to accomplish?

The white man took a deep breath and coughed hard for a few seconds. His lungs were so desperate for air that he was coughing up blood.

Wheezing, Rick Flag shot a wad of bloody spit into one of his interrogator's face and told the man he could go procreate with himself.

The enraged Nigerian shoved Flag's head back into the water and the gurgling noise continued.



I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand takers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.




"Mr. Falcone! Mr. Falcone, how does it feel to be a free man?"

The Roman smiled as he was basked in the flashing lights of photographers' cameras, faced with a crowd of reporters that had been assembled after the stunning result of a very short retrial. Even though the Italian-born businessman had been sent to prison three years ago for countless charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, blackmail, and other crimes, the jury that had found him guilty became the target of a retrial suite filed by The Roman's lawyers. No one seemed to expect that this would ever be the result, because everyone in Gotham City knew exactly what Carmine Falcone was. He was the most dangerous man in the entire city.

"Mr. Falcone will issue a statement after he has been given plenty of rest and relaxation,", his lawyer boasted to the cameras, walking infront of the acquitted mobster as he quietly surveyed the city around him. "I'm sure he'll be willing to grant interviews after he's made that initial statement to the press. Mr. Falcone is a family man, and we only ask that his privacy be respected."

"Respected?!"

The cameras and recorders all turned towards the left of the courthouse steps, as District Attorney Harvey Dent, the prosecutor who wasn't able to charter the defense against Falcone despite his experience in criminal law, angrily took charge at Falcone and his attorney with a look that didn't help hide any of his bitterness.

"This entire case was rigged, and he knows it! How about the respect of the people he's stepped on?! The people he's hurt?! The people he's killed! This man is an absolute afront to every definition of law and order!"

"Mr. Dent, I'll remind you that this is technically considered harassment. My client was found innocent of his charges, now if you'll just calm down and..."

Instantly, Dent grabbed the attorney by the jacket and got right into his face - oblivious to the fact that every news station in Gotham was watching the feed of it, live.

"Don't you tell me to calm down, you sniveling worm! Your client is scum! Do you hear me?!"

Within moments, a security staff had wrestled Dent off of Falcone's attorney. But the message was made more than clear. As long as Carmine Falcone walked the streets again, Harvey Dent wasn't about to let him forget why he was imprisoned in the first place. Yet all that Falcone had to offer Dent in terms of a reaction was another smile. A different kind, but all too familiar. One of complete satisfaction.

It is good to be home.




And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?




In the sleeping quarters of the Justice League headquarters in Happy Harbor, Diana Prince tossed fitfully in her sleep. Her head was filled with images, places and people she had never seen.

In her vision, she saw the gods-- all of them, from every pantheon, from every culture, from every primitive man who put a name and face to why the sun came up in the morning. She saw their power fading from the world, their desperation to hold their place in the minds of mortals.

She saw the world ravaged by war, and the gods conferring to take advantage. They would be worshipped again, when their creation saved mankind from itself: the angel and servant of all deities, the Wonder Woman.

She saw men in jackboots and black uniforms, wearing the badges of the SS, casting a spell to stop her creation. She saw the perfect being shattered into pieces, her essence tossed through time and space.

Diana saw herself, the largest shard of the Wonder Woman, coming into the world decades too late.

And she saw others, other fragments of herself, other women with power, now lost and wandering in the world, with no knowledge of their gifts or the dangers that await them.

Diana saw a lithe red-haired woman in Chicago smashing a would-be mugger's face through a cinderblock wall.

In Utah, a tall stocky woman ran towards a horrific traffic accident, lifting a car off the ground by herself to free the victims pinned beneath the wreckage.

In San Francisco, a pale young woman with a silver stripe through her hair looked in horror at a tenement fire, realizing she had drawn that very image earlier that morning.

In Detroit, a black girl with her hair pulled into tight braids reached out and grabbed the knife from a drug addict's hand as he charged her, and, as if she had known the weapon her entire life, slashed across the attacker's chest without effort.

In the backwoods of Florida, a malnourished woman in ragged clothes came across a deer caught in a bear trap. The feral woman laid a hand upon the animal, and within an instant, its wounds were healed.

In Happy Harbor, only a few doors down from where Diana slept, Donna Troy lay wide awake in her bed, uncertain of herself or the world around her.

Diana saw them all, and knew at once their true names. Artemis. Io. Pythia. Philippus. Magala. Troia.

"The pieces of yourself must be found again," the thousands upon thousands of gods, revered or forgotten, said in one voice. "The world of Man will soon face times more evil than it has ever known. The Wonder Woman must be made whole, if the world is to be saved....."



I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin'
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin'
I heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.


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Old 11-04-2011, 10:46 AM   #1050
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Doris finished her assessment of the attempted break-in into Section 14
and sent her findings onto Lex. All the evidence all led her to one conclusion:

There is a mole in LexCorp. No way this person gets this far without help.

The Break-In would've worked perfectly accept for that Doris had implemented certain security protocols that only she and Lex knew about, and a hidden camera. A camera that clearly showed: Lois Lane.



Oh, who did you meet my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?



US Attorney Damon Matthews stood on the steps of the Gotham County Courthouse. Newspaper reporters, TV cameras, and radio microphones were all surrounding him as he announced his intention to launch an investigation into the Gotham City Police Department and the Gotham District Attorney's office. Matthews fixed a finger across the street at the GCPD building and promised he would shed the light of the law on the nest of vipers that thought they owned the town.

The focal point of his investigation would be corruption and graft. At his side, looking stern and indifferent, was FBI agent Kate Spencer. The two of them, Matthews said, would lead the charge and succeed where the cops, politicians, attorneys, and vigilantes had failed: The two of them would take back Gotham for the people.

Across the street, a beaten and bruised Edward Nygma watched from the entrance into the GCPD building. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. When he went to light it, he noticed that his hands were shaking.



I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded and hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Oswald Cobblepot watched the last shreds of Hugo's files on Bruce Wayne turn into ashes in a trash can.

Sorry Wayne you're not worth it anymore. I've got a flying rodent to kill.

His sources in the DA's office and Police Department all confirmed it: Batman was not a myth he was real. Oswald knew it would only be a matter of time before Batman and him would cross swords.

He hated getting involved directly, but he knew what had to be done as he sent out a coded e-mail to several associates within his network: 1 Billion to the one who kills the Bat!



And what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what'll you do now my darling young one?



Orin of Atlantis. Born a blight onto the seas themselves. Raised as a creature of the deep. Championed as a brave warrior to the people of Poseidonis. He had held alot of titles over the course of his comparatively short life, but he had since garnered a new one. He who murdered of the God of the Seas. It was not a well taken thought that raced across his mind as he slowly floated up to Poseidon's remains, knowing that no life was left within the massive body. He knew that if he tried to move it, it would only be considered further sacrilege.

All that was left to salvage was his trident, a symbol of the Sea God's power. Realizing that it could be of use, at least to offer in return to those who would demand retribution for this ultimate of crimes, Aquaman wrenched the weapon from Poseidon's dead hand and surveyed it in his own, noticing it had instantly become smaller. Looking upon the body in silence, Orin simply closed his eyes and swam away, leaving the late Poseidon to his subjects - the marine life that surrounded his body.

There is nothing more to do here.

Even as Aquaman swam off into the distance to rejoin the party of King Iquila's waiting soldiers, who were only just recuperating from Ocean Master's unforgiving attack, there was still someone that lurked at the scene of Poseidon's death. A young follower of the temple of Poseidonis who had been out and about when he knew he shouldn't have been. Kaldur'ahm swam up to the dead Sea God and gasped, unable to handle such a sight. Then turned to the visage of his killer in the far distance, his eyes running over with rage. Sacrilege!

He would have revenge for his fallen God.

He would make Aquaman suffer the blackness of the seas.




I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the deepths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty



"Please don't do this. I beg you."

In the span of several months, the influence of Oberon Sexton's church had been growing steadily into The Narrows. The congregation of several hundred was now reaching the thousand mark, and it seemed like almost half of Gotham had at least attended one service. Sexton's reputation as a victim of tragedy was also now making headlines as a story of triumph, commended for bringing back what seemed to previously be a lack of faith and religion in Gotham City. He was practically ontop of the world with his success. Until he realized that the peverbial rug was being pulled out from under him.

"I know this was always the plan, I know that. I know what you wanted from me, and I delivered. But I need more time to gather them. I need more control!"

"More control? Why my boy, you've had control over them from the very start! I've seen what the device can do, and it more than makes up for our pitiful situation."

"But you don't understand, I can give you even more! Every day that the church opens, it seems like there are twice as many in the congregation as the last. I can give you your army, I just need the time!"

"Oh, I think you've been given plenty of time. Or do I need to remind you of how long this operation has been under the table because of your... interests?"

Sexton began to eradically pace the hotel room that he was staying in, his hands beginning to sweat under the gloves of the outfit that helped to cover every inch of him.

"I know. I know. I've failed you before, and I know that you have every right. Every reason. But this is..."

"This is how it's got to be, 'Oberon'. The final gag has got to be put in place soon. Otherwise, we'll never get it up and running in time!"

"But..."

Suddenly, Sexton dropped the phone, feeling an incredible amount of pain hit his frontal lobe. Agonized, he stumbled onto his bed, feeling his mask dampen with the blood that seething out of his nose. Even as he tried to recover, he could still hear his employer's voice from the floor.

"If I have to hear another 'but' from you, I'm going to make you rip out your own eyes. Do you understand?"

"Y... Yes. Yes, I understand."

"Well, good! I'll be by tommorow night to give you the gameplan. Oh, and Sexton? Keep the faith. You're a priest, after all!"

Hearing a maddening cackle echo out from the other end of the line, Sexton buried his head in his hands as the call disconnected.



Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden



"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for agreeing to see me under such taxing circumstances."

The crowd of press had been gathered outside of Arkham Island in order to hear Dr. Johnathan Crane's first public statement since an incident that had been keeping Gotham's media in a frenzy for weeks. Crane gave them a friendly smile and a confident swagger. What the press expected was a relatively routine assurance that everything was fine, that despite The Batman's efforts to interfere with their daily operations, the Asylum would run the same. What they got was something else entirely.

"Now, I'm sure that most of you feel as if you have been left in the dark regarding the actual events that occurred two weeks prior. My initial statement regarded the incident as minor at best. That assessment was false."

Suddenly, eyes began to turn. Some heads shot forward. Crane cleared his throat and indicated members of his staff, who had been quietly standing behind him for the duration of the conference. Some stepped forward on cue.

"I am here to verify the rumors. Yes, the vigilante Batman was responsible for the attack on Arkham. While I did consider him to be a nuiscence that would be better left handled by the police, I have deliberated the incident and changed my outlook. Batman is perhaps the most infamous, but he is far from the first in a series of costumed schizophrenics that roam Gotham's streets. As a psychologist, I believe it is only a matter of time before the situation escalates. We as citizens cannot allow this to happen."

Crane leaned closer into the microphone in front of him, leaning on the podium as his words became noticeably more passionate in tone.

"That is why, in conjunction with the Mayor's office and Gotham City Police, I have pooled together my own resources to come up with a solution. To start with the many changes that are coming, I am now the permanent warden of the entire Island. And as my first act as warden, I am announcing the joint merge of Blackgate Penitentury and Arkham Asylum. The grounds will now largely serve as a prison island for the criminally insane, known now as Blackgate Island."

Several of the reporters looked at eachother with widened eyes, unable to comprehend whether or not Crane had the authority to assert himself to such a large degree. Particularly Alexander Knox, who stood up from the rest of the seated reporters as cameras began to flash on Crane.

"Not to state the obvious, Doc, but why would Arkham's board of directors allow this after happened? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I remember hearing that you're under investigation for the lapse in security that allowed the Bat into your nuthouse."

"First of all, Mr. Knox,", Crane sternly corrected. "It was never a 'nuthouse', as you put it. Arkham was designed to treat those deemed unfit for society. Rehabilitation, which we will still provide for patients who are a danger to themselves."

"Right, but..."

"And to answer your question proper, let me ask one back. If our security had lapsed so much, why have none of our staff or patients become a casualty in Batman's attack? I'll answer for you. Because I had taken the measures nessecary to prevent such danger."

Gazing out at the curious eyes that had befallen him, Dr. Crane realized that he was controlling the crowd with every word. He just needed to keep talking.

"My predecessor had never properly maintained a security detail that would ensure safety. But I made sure that, after applying enhancements to the outdated code of conduct, Arkham would be the most secure facility in the city."

Crane looked back to Knox, who still clearly wasn't quite as convinced - but unable to argue a counterpoint.

"That is progress, Mr. Knox. And that is what I intend to apply to Blackgate Island's future."



Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number



In a secluded cabin in the mountains far outside of Metropolis, Lex Luthor and the other members of the Society eyed the new arrival with equal parts astonishment and caution. The thing that addressed them now was not human, not even alive; an impossibly advanced artificial intelligence, calling itself 'Brainiac.' And according to its story, the entity was ancient....and alien.

"I am a collector of worlds," it explained. I gather all relevant and useful data from every planet I encounter, continually adding information into my database. I preserve what samples prove useful, and delete the rest."

"In other words, you're a threat to the entire planet," said Kobra. "We should destroy you before you kill us all."

"That will not be necessary," Brainiac responded. "This world is.....different. So many extremes, so many anomalies. When I first came here, my processors could not make sense of the input, and the resulting errors led to temporary insanity. However, once my bearings were regained, I saw that the errors were not with myself, but with this planet. Before any further action is taken towards its preservation or deletion, the errors experienced on this world must be corrected."

"Which means, gentlemen," said Luthor, stepping to Brainiac's side, "Is that he's in the same proverbial boat as we-- to make the world a better place, by force."

"Correct," Brainiac said simply. "I had no choice but to intervene during the execution of Luthor's plan, as it contained several flaws at the time. We have discussed those flaws at length, and now we have removed them."

"The Manhattan Project was small fish compared to what we have in store now," Luthor confirmed with a grin. "Brainiac has the technological concepts we need, I have the manufacturing capabilities to build them. Ra's and Kobra, you have the covert connections to spread our equipment to every corner of the globe undetected. Humanite and Faust, you'll be on point to guard from influences telepathic and supernatural."

"And where exactly do I fit into this new and improved scheme of yours?" asked Vandal Savage.

"Your task will be to gather a team of metahumans in order to directly engage the Justice League, to keep them distracted from our true goals....and to exterminate them, if at all possible."

"You've been looking for a good fight for centuries, Savage," Luthor added. "And you'll be an irresistible target: an immortal madman, leading a legion of doom to take over the world. Superman and his friends will be begging to fight you."

At that, Vandal Savage sneered.

"Now then, gentlemen, on to business. The business of global war, cataclysm, and finally, domination of the entire human race....."



And I'll tell and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it



Ra's Al Ghul was still alive. Through all of the blood and pain, Batman had confirmed it. The Demon's Head lived! But why would he continue to let Bane think otherwise? After five long years on assignment in Santa Prisca, Bane had returned to the temple of the League of Shadows, only to find ruin and the death of his betrothed. Reports of the Demon's own death, combined with word that the only known survivor of whatever disaster took place was named Wayne, had led Bane on a long and arduous journey across the world for vengeance. He had needed to dig deep into the darkest corners of his soul to find the resolve to stay on course, but the deed was now finally done.

With the Batman gone and Gotham under Bane's thumb, he couldn't help but wonder if Ra's Al Ghul were watching. If so, Bane would find him, as the Demon had much to explain.

Still, the question formed on the lips of the monstrous Bane as he stood on Wayne's balcony and overlooked his new kingdom, still freshly stolen from the grip of the Batman. "What now?"



Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my songs well before I start singin'



Edward Thawne stepped out of his car and surveyed the area with a worried glance. This was one of St. Louis' most rundown neighborhoods. It had taken him a week and a drive across Missouri to find it, but he had found what he was looking for.

Thawne climbed the steps of the former catholic church that had been converted into a homeless shelter and entered. He talked to the people in charge, and they pointed him to the boy.

He was resting on a cot when Thawne walked up, his long blonde hair was tangled and dirty. He was wearing old clothes that had been worn out years before. The young man shifted and looked up as he felt someone hovering over him.

"Thad Jones?"

"Who the hell are you?" The boy asked with a scowl.

The light caught the boy's face and Thawne had to stop himself from laughing out loud in delight. Despite his mangy blonde hair and facial hair stubble, his face was the spitting image of Bart Allen.

"My name's Ed," Thawne said with a kind smile. "I want to talk to you about your family..."



And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.





TO BE CONTINUED IN SEASON III OF THE ULTIMATE DC RPG!

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