batman : cadmus
A shadow looms over Gotham City tonight. A shadow forboding of the disasters that await Gotham's sole protector. In the years leading up to this event, Bruce Wayne-the Batman-has suffered more tragedy than William Shakespeare could ever fathom. The loss of his parents, the falling out with his adopted ward Dick Grayson-the original Robin. The paralysis of Barbara Gordon-whom studied under the Batman's wing as Batgirl-and the death of Jason Todd-the second person to use the name Robin-all weigh heavy on the mind of the Dark Knight.
Sadly for him. The tragedies have only begun.
Project Cadmus is a genetics division created by the United States Government. Their job is to keep tabs on our heroes-and create weapons and new tools in a theoretical war against Justice League-should the need ever arise.
Amanda Waller-the head of Project Cadmus-has had her eye on The Batman for quite some time-considering him one of the most "dangerous" of all the Justice League members. Despite having no superhuman abilities-The Batman is still seen as a viable threat to Project Cadmus. He is seen as one of the most lethal adversaries-because he-unlike other League members-uses his mind when he's cornered. There's nothing more dangerous than a cornered fox.
Or in this case-a cornered bat.
I've always believed that while physical pain and agony will be deciding factors in the end, psychcological trauma is always dealt with more severly. The Joker thought this when he waged war on Comissioner Gordon in Alan Moore's 1988 one shot- "The Killing Joke". Cadmus-and more specifically-Amanda Waller-believes this same way-which is why they have build a new weapon to combat the Dark Knight-and tear his very soul apart.
That new weapon?
CHAPTER ONE of THREE : THE DARK KNIGHTS LAST DANCE
A darkness looms on the horizons. Gotham Historical Museum-usually quite the sight during the day-now stands a lonely shadow in Gotham City's historical district. This building-with centuries of knowledge and artifacts behind its stone and steel walls-is of particular interest now-as they are holding an exhibit on ancient weapons. Swords and weapons used by Kings and Gods alike. Swords like Excalibur-the fabled sword that King Arthur used in conquest. Swords like the one in question tonight. Le Sabre de Ange de la Mort. The Sword of the Angel of Death.
The sword sits in its glass case-untouched by man for years. Here its rested for the last month or so-waiting to be packaged up, put on a plane and sent to Metropolis-where the next showing will be.
"Such a simple object," a voice says-disturbing the silence around. "but such a simple object that holds such power." it repeats-as we see a man stand over the glass case. He has long-blond hair, and a fire in his eyes that few people can muster up. After a few moments of picking the lock-a smile stretches across his face, from ear to ear. "Much to easy, I don't see why the old hag was worried." he exclaims as he takes the sword out of its case-and encases it in its protective sheath. "The power of Gods and Angels alike are within this sword, and now..they're mine" he says as he begins to run for the main doors-just a few yards away. Upon exiting the doors-and getting about halfway down the steps-he stops to catch his breath. A larger smile crosses his face-as he begins to chuckle. The laughter gets louder-as he holds up the sword in excitement. His joy however is disparaged-as a flying shard of metal comes-and knocks the sword out of his hands.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think The Joker took up an interest in Ancient History." a voice says-as our thief turns around-only to be met by a swooping caped crusader.
"The Batman!" he exclaims as Batman swoops in-delivering a kick to the thiefs stomach-knocking him down the remainding stairs.
"But I know better. The Joker at least tries to fight me." the Batman adds-as our thief composes himself-and pulls out a gun. Before he can pull the trigger though-the gun is taken from his hands-by what appears to be a whip.
"Naughty naughty. You should know better than to play with guns." another voice is heard saying-as we look over to see the veloptuous vixen, Catwoman standing nearby. She throws the gun away as the thief gets back up. He smiles-and charges at the Batman-as the two engage in a fist fight. Batman is knocked down by our thief-but continues to get back up. That is until-he gets thrown into a stone lion adorning the staircase leading up the main doors. Catwoman tries to lasso the thief with her whip-but to no avail as he looks at her and smiles.
"Here kitty kitty." he says-pulling on the whip-bringing Catwoman toward him with suprising strength. Upon arrival-Catwoman is knocked down violently by our daring thief. He smiles as he picks up his sword, and a stray batarang-before ripping off her mask. Wallowing in the horrified look on her face-he grabs her by the hair-and unsheaths the sword-as Gotham's dark protector begins to crawl to his feet.
"What...the hell...was......" he turns around-only for a glazed look of horror to emblazen his face-as our thief takes his sword-and swiftly rakes it across the neck of Catwoman-throwing her on the ground-left for dead. "Selina...." the Batman mutters-as our thief takes the stray batarang-and wipes Catwoman's blood on the edge of it. He sheaths the sword-and smiles as Batman makes no attempt on him. He smiles as police sirens are heard.
"Until next time..bats." he says before running off. Batman looks down the road-and see's Police cars speeding toward him-and decides to make a rather timely exit. As the cars arrive on the scene, Police Commisioner James Gordon steps out-and see's the body of Selina Kyle, Catwoman, lay motionless, cold and dead. He walks over-and picks up the batarang that lays next to her body.
"Batman?" he asks aloud as he looks up toward the sky-where we see Batman-shrouded in shadows-gazing down on the scene below with a grimm look of despair etched on his face.
Stately Wayne Manor, an extravagant showing of wealth and power. Tonight? A lonely gaze into the eyes of despair and sorrow.
"Selina Kyle-better known to Gothamites as the notorious Catwoman was found dead last night at the scene of the Gotham Museum Robbery. Gotham PD have their prime suspect-and it's Gotham's supposed "savior"-The Batman" a news reporter is heard saying on the television-before it's abruptly turned and interupted by a phone call.
The phone continues to ring-and Bruce Wayne just remains dormant in his chair, Alfred Pennyworth picks the call up from the next room.
"Wayne Manor" he opens, greeting whomever may be on the other line. "Yes sir, I'll be awaiting your arrival." he says as he hangs up the phone-and enters the room. "Master Bruce?" he inquires. "Master Grayson will be visiting for awhile."
"I don't care Alfred." he says-getting up from his chair and looking out the window. "Selina is dead, and It's because I didn't react. Selina Kyle is dead because of me. I may not of pulled the sword on her-but I'm the reason she died. I'm just as guilty as whoever that man at the museum was...." he says-before hitting the glass window-and staring out into the rainy night.
Project Cadmus is designed as a genetic research lab commisioned by the United States Government. It's sole task is to keep tabs on superhumans like The Justice League, and find ways to stop them-should they ever go rogue. The current curator in the museum of madness is Amanda Waller-who sits behind her desk of power, oblivious to what she is about to unleash on Gotham.
"Ms Waller" a voice on the desktop intercom says.
"Yes?" Waller replies with distain in her voice.
"A Mr. Valley is here to see you. He says he has an appointment" the woman on the intercom says.
"Send him in." Waller adds before sighing. A moment of silence looms before the doors to her office swing open-and the same blond haired miscreant that murdered Catwoman walks in. "You didn't get the job done Jean Paul." she says-as he comes in and sits down infront of her.
"I obtained the sword, no. I didn't kill the Batman-but I killed his little pet cat-and left him for dead at the hands of the Police" he rebutts-hoping to save himself.
"Gotham PD won't touch the Batman, they can't. That's why I have the job I have..and that's why you had the job you had Jean Paul. I'm bringing in outside help...."
"But, I promise I'll get the job done next time."
"Killing the Catwoman gives Batman one less thing to live for Jean Paul, and that makes the Batman even more dangerous. I'm calling in a specialist." she says as she turns on the intercom. "Bonnie, get me Andrea Beaumont."
Even in the cold and rainy night-Wayne Manor is still a sight to be seen. The main doors are open-as a young Dick Grayson is seen walking into the building.
"Master Dick. It's so good to see you." Alfred says as he takes his coat and hangs it up. "Please sir, let me take your bags to your room. Master Bruce is in the den." Alfred says-as Dick Grayson heads toward the den.
"Thank you Alfred." he says-as he meets Bruce inside. "Rough couple of nights?" he adds-as Bruce glares at him. "Look Bruce, I'm sorry about what happened to Selina. No matter what you think-it wasn't your fault." he adds-as Bruce snaps back at him.
"How wasn't it Dick?" he replies. "You ran away from your obligations here. You gave up your mantle as Robin-and what did it get you? A job in Bludhaven? A job you can barely handle without the help of The Outsiders?" he adds.
"What's gotten into you Bruce?" he replies-cutting his mentor off. "You used to be cold, not letting things get to you. Now you're just become an asshole about it. Selina Kyle is dead Bruce-and nothing you can do will bring her back!" he adds.
"Dick..." he says solomnly. "I want you to retire from crime fighting. It's time to let it go."
"What? What the hell are you talking about Bruce?" he says-looking out the window as a Bat signal is seen in the sky. "See that Bruce? There's no retiring. This city needs you Bruce."
"No it doesn't...." he says-walking away.
"Fine then, I'll take this one. Maybe you can do some good once you gets your head out of your ass!" he exclaims-before heading for the batcave.
The Bat signal, a beacon of hope for Gotham City. Commisioner Gordon awaits on the rooftop of police headquarters-waiting for the Dark Knight to show up.
"Commisioner?" Nightwing says from the shadows-as Gordon turns around.
"Oh. Nightwing, I was hoping to speak to the Batman..." Gordon replies.
"Batman is..taking an..indefinate vacation." he says.
"I believe he's innocent you know. I don't think he killed Selina Kyle."
"We'll see Jim. We'll see" Nightwing says.
"We got a tip that The Riddler is robbing Gotham Bank-he has hostages." Gordon relays.
"I'm on it." Nightwing says-as he dives off the roof-only to fire his grappling hook an swing away to battle.
Guns blaze as The Riddler and his henchmen fight their way through police and riot gaurds.
"This is all too easy!" The Riddler exclaims. "That poor sap must of really done a number on old Batsy!" he adds.
"Not quite..." Nightwing says-as he swings in-delivering a swift kick to the ribs of the Riddler, knocking him down. One of his henchmen run at Nightwing-but Nightwing uses his own momentum to lift him up and drive him through the glass window to the bank. A second henchman comes at him with a knife-but Nightwing ducks and grabs his attacker-throwing him on his head. A third henchmen comes running-but is lifted up by Nightwing with ease-before Nightwing rolls down a few steps with him. Nightwing-ever the acrobat-lands on his feet-and out of the corner of his eye see's a fourth and final attacker. He waits and delivers a backflip kick to the attacker-knocking him down.
"Insigificant punk!" Riddler exclaims as he gets up and charges at Nightwing-using one of his henchmen as a springboard-only to recieve a kick to the stomach for his troubles. Police come in-and aprehend the Riddler and his henchmen, as Nightwing smiles and swings away to solace.
Amanda Waller is a devious person, just because you don't want to do something-is irrelevant to her.
"Andrea, I've called you here because I have a job for you." She says with a sinister smirk. "You are still Cadmus' top assassian, the best of the best. I have a target for you." she adds-sliding a picture of Batman across the desk.
"You want me to kill Bru....Batman? Why?" Andrea says.
"Because he is a menace. He's a vigilante, and we can't have vigilantism on our streets Andrea. Now, I realize you two had a...relationship years past-but you're going to have to push that to the back of your mind and kill the Batman." Amanda says with impact.
"No, I couldn't. I...part of me still loves him." she responds.
"Either you kill Batman..." she says as he pulls a gun from her desk-and aim's it at Andrea's head. "Or I kill you." she says and Andrea sighs-and nods before leaving the room. Jean Paul Valley steps out of the shadows. "See to it she does her job-if you want to earn your rightful place Valley."
"Consider it done."
"A robbery attempt by the notorious Riddler was foiled last night by none other than Bludhaven's own Nightwing. Where was The Batman in all of this? Could he be in hiding after the murder of Selina Kyle? Only time will tell."
The TV is turned off once more-as Dick Grayson walks into the room with a smug and arrogant look on his face. "See Bruce? To think, you said I should retire from crime fighting. Looks like I did a pretty nice job there with the Riddler." he says as the phone rings.
"Hello?" Alfred says. "Yes, he's right here." he adds-turning around. "Master Bruce, there's a phone call for you."
"Not now Alfred....." he says.
"But sir, it's a Ms Beaumont on hold."
"Andrea?" he says as he takes the phone. "Yes? Hello. Andrea? What? Kidnapped. Two Face? Gotham Cemetary? I'll be right there." he says as he hangs up the phone. "I have to go. Andrea's been kidnapped by Two Face!" he exclaims as Dick quirks his eye brow.
"Um, Bruce. How would she call you if she was kidnap----"
"Not now Dick!" he says as he heads toward the Batcave.
"Oh no...." Dick says
Gotham Cemetary. Cold, barren, foggy, desolate. Finding Andrea would be a problem through this fog. Finishing off Two Face would be even harder.
"Andrea!?" he exclaims-searching for his lost love.
"Batman.....Your Angel of Death awaits."
"What?" Batman replies-as he turns around-only to see the shadowy Phantasm. "Andrea?"
"I'm sorry Bruce...but I must...." she says before being interuppted.
"Sorry If I'm spoiling the reunion babes." is heard as Jean Paul Valley stands atop a large crucifix tombstone. He leaps down-and smiles. "Waller didn't think you'd get the job done, so she sent me to watch you."
"Waller? Amanda Waller? So Cadmus is behind this?!" Batman exclaims.
"Bruce..I'm sorry." she says as Valley runs at her-only to get back thrown to the ground by Andrea. He gets up and smiles.
"Fiesty, I like that." he says-as he again charges at her-this time knocking her down with great force.
"Andrea!" Batman yells-as he throws a batarang at Valley-who slices it in half with his sword.
"Not this time Bats." he says as Andrea gets up. Batman fires his grappling hook at him-catching his leg-but Valley cuts the cord and back drops Andrea again-ripping off her cowl in the process. Batman charges at him-as he throws his sword into the air and catches Batman-throwing him into a stone statue. He catches the sword and smirks-before grabbing Andrea by the hair. "Soon the world will turn against you...Wayne. Soon enough-everyone will hate you." he says as he slits the throat of Andrea Beaumont.
"ANDREA!!!" Batman yells before crawling over to her-holding her with visible tears coming from his eyes. Valley steps back and laughs maniaclly before disapearing into the fog. An array of Police Sirens are heard-as Commissioner Gordon arrives on the scene.
"Batman.....no....." he says in shock-as Batman gets up and flee's into the fog.
Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne have a very love/hate relationship. They both care about each other like Father and Son, sadly for Gotham-they also fight like Father and Son.
"Damn it Bruce, I told you it was a trap. I told you before you even left!" Dick yells.
"It's my fault....first Selina, now Andrea. Everyone I care about is slowly being taken away from me." Bruce mutters-gazing out the window.
"You need to listen Bruce-stop beating yourself up. Get your head out of your ass and realize we've got a serial killer on the loose in Gotham now! A serial killer that according to you, is being backed by Project Cadmus!" Dick rebutts-hoping to get a reaction out of him. "Fuck You Bruce, I'm leaving!" he says as he heads out the front door. After walking down the drive way abit-he gets into his car. After a second of reflection-his cell phone rings-and he puts it on speaker phone. "What?" he answers.
"I'm speaking to Gotham's new defender, yes?" the voice says.
"Who is this?!?" Dick asks.
"If you want to prove your...mentor's innocence in those murders. Meet me at the Gotham Docks...boy wonder. Come alone." the voice adds before hanging up. Dick sighs and punches his steering wheel-before leaving.
Gotham Docks. A vessel for drug and arms trafficking. Tonight-a rendezvous point as Nightwing swoops in from the shadows. He tries to see through the thick fog, when a voice is heard.
"Dick Grayson..Shadow of the Bat..your angel of death..awaits." is heard as Nightwing turns around-and out of the smoke a man steps out-wearing a black suit with a red cloak. A red mask covers his face as well.
"Who the hell...?"
"You know me as Jean Paul Valley, the man who...murdred...the Catwoman and Ms. Beaumont. Now, you may call me Azrael...your Angel of Death..." he says before charging at Nightwing-knocking him into a crate.
"How...how did you know who I was?" he asks-pulling himself from the wreckage.
"Cadmus knows all, and see's all." he says-lifting Nightwing up by the throat. "There is nothing about you we don't know." He says-before Nightwing delivers a pair of quick kicks to the stomach-forcing Azrael to let him go. Nightwing begins to mount some offense. He pulls out his bo staffs, and begins to use them to his advantage. Azrael pulls out his sword-and slices the bo's in two. He goes for another shot-but Nightwing ducks and kicks Azrael in the back of the head. "You're good kid." he says, "but I'm better..." he adds, standing up as The Batman swoops in the from shadows-delivering a kick to the back of Azrael-allowing Nightwing to flip him over.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Nightwing asks.
"Saving your ass." Batman responds. "You can't handle him by yourself."
"Well, well, well...The Dynamic Duo reunited..and me without my camera. Darn, I guess...this will have to do." Azrael says as he throws a flash grenade at Nightwing.
"NIGHTWING!" Batman shouts-as the grenade goes off. Batman charges at Azrael-who throws Batman into a crate. He laughs and then dissapears into the fog-and his laughter can be heard in the distance. Batman gets to his feet-and rushes over to Nightwing. "Dick. Are you okay?"
"My eyes. I ..I can't see...My eyes."
"Hold on Dick...hold on."
Inside the darkened office of Amanda Waller sits Jean Paul Valley, the man responsible for the death of Selina Kyle, the death of Andrea Beaumont, and injuring the heir to the Batman mantle.
"This is your time Valley. This is what we created you for."
"From this moment forth, Jean Paul Valley is dead. Azrael, the Angel of Death-Cadmus' new chief assassian-shall live in his sted." she adds with a smile-as a large smirk crosses Valley's face.
"To the death of Batman." he says, as he shakes Waller's hand
A steady heartbeat is always a good sign that somebody is going to live. Such is the case with Dick Grayson-who lays dormant in Gotham Hospital.
"How is he doing Leslie?" Bruce Wayne asks, as Dr. Leslie Thompkins-friend of the Wayne Family and one of the few who know Bruce's dark secret-looks at her clipboard and sighs.
"He has temporary blindless. It will go in and out for the next few days, but he should recover quickly and he should be fine within the week." she says-much to Bruce's dismay.
"Dick?" he says. "How are you feeling?" he adds as Dr. Thompkins leaves the room.
"You know what ....It's all your fault Bruce. It's your fault I'm here. It's your fault my parents are dead. If you were half the savior you claim to be-you would of stopped Tony Zucco before he killed my family. You wouldn't endager children like Barbara or Tim. What about Jason? Huh Bruce? What about him. What kind of fucking father figure were you to him? You basically handed him to the Joker. You handed Barbara to the Joker. When is it going to be Tim's turn then? You're a sick, demented sociopath-and no better than the crooks you throw in Arkham! If It wasn't for you-Cadmus wouldn't of had to bring in Azrael, and none of this bullshit would of ever happened!"
"Cadmus." he says. "So it is true, Amanda Waller is behind this nightmare." Bruce adds before getting up. "I have to go." he says-and leaves the room-holding his back.
The Batcave. A technological marvel. Bruce Wayne stands-mostly suited up for battle.
"Sir." Alfred asks. "May I Inquire as to what is happening sir?"
"Cadmus is behind Azrael Alfred, I have to stop Amanda Waller before she creates a monster that not even Project Cadmus can stop." he says as he puts on his mask and gets in the batmobile. "I'll be back soon Alfred." he says as he speeds off into the night.
"Godspeed sir, Godspeed"
"I know you're there richboy." Amanda Waller says-as she sits behind her desk-windows open. The Dark Knight steps out of the shadows and gazes into the dark eyes of Amanda Waller.
"How do you know..." he asks....
"How many masked Vigilante's have access to the technology like you do?" she replies with a sarcastic tone. "What company makes most of the stuff you use? WayneTech. It wasn't hard to figure it out Bruce."
"Tell me about Azrael" he says-moving on.
"Jean Paul Valley was created by Cadmus, yes."
"He was a test tube baby, bred in a labrotory by our top genetics engineers. He's a super soldier, created, and trained to do one thing. Kill. He was the first to partake in what has been referred to as "The System". A violent and psychcological training regiment set forth by the Order of St Duma."
"Yes. A cult. Their training practices proved useful-look how effective he's been thus far." she adds with a smile.
"I promise you this Waller," he says-before heading to the window. "The next time Azrael and I meet-you won't like the outcome." he adds-before diving out the window. Waller smiles as Azrael steps out from the shadows.
"Kill Bruce Wayne." she says-as a sadistic grin crosses her face.
Music is heard throughout Wayne Manor-as Bruce Wayne sits at his chair-staring at a picture of his parents.
"I've failed you. I've failed Gotham. Because of me, two people are dead-and another is in the hospital blind. IT's all my fault."
"Yes Bruce, you did fail them..."
"What?" he gets up and turns around-and see's Azrael step out from the shadows.
"Bruce Wayne..your angel of death awaits. You have failed your family and your city, and now it's time to pay the price. Everyone you love will perish-all because of you!" he says-as Bruce lunges at him. The two exchange blows-before Azrael throws Bruce down. He fights to his feet-and lunges at his attacker once more-but Azrael lifts him up-and drops him back first across his knee-breaking Bruce's back in two.
"AHHHHHHH" he screams-holding his back in pain.
"Now....you are as good as dead. I'd rather the notion of being useless eat away at your soul than kill you Bruce. The Bat...has been Broken." he adds-before disapearing into the shadows as Alfred comes in.
"My Word!" he says-rushing to the aid of his friend.
"In Local News..." the TV reporter says, "Billionaire CEO of Wayne Enterprises-Bruce Wayne was rushed to Gotham Hospital late last night. Tests reveal that Mr. Wayne broken two discs in back. The cause of the injury is not known at this time."
"It's not quite what I wanted Valley, but it will do. Even with all his resources-it will take Bruce Wayne too long to recover. We finally have the Bat out of our hair, and now-the Justice League will crumble!" she says, as the two celebrate. Little to they know what symbol is etched across the night sky-as out their window, a Bat signal looms over the darkness-giving Gotham a beacon of hope.
CHAPTER TWO of THREE : ON THE WINGS OF THE NIGHT
Four Months Later.
Amanda Waller sits at her desk-content that over the last four months, she has not had to deal with the Batman. She looks up at her TV, just in time to witness what could be modern medicines biggest breakthrough.
"In technology news today. WayneTech has unveiled the first prototype of their new biomechanical exo-armor. This suit-which runs on isolized electron isotopes is said to have the ability to stimulate paralyzed nerves-so those with crucial nerve damage could walk again."
"Yes Ms. Waller?"
"Get me Valley. NOW!"
The morning coffee. The daily awakening for millions of people worldwide. In this simple element-Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are no different than anybody else.
"How has your therapy been going Bruce?" he asks.
"Pretty good I'd say, within the month I'll be back in shape." he says-smirking. "With the advancements on Wayne Tech's new bio suit, it will only be a few days before I'm back on the streets, hunting down Azrael and Cadmus." he adds slyly.
"What?" Dick exclaims. "Hunting down Azrael? Are you nuts Bruce? You're crippled. You need to rest. Just because you financed some crazy robocop suit-doesn't mean you're ready to go out on the streets again! Do you want to end up like Barbara? Even worse, do you want to end up like Jason?" he adds. His words though-fall on deaf ears-as Bruce looks up into the window-and see's a Bat signal crossing the sky. "Don't even think about it Bruce, I'll handle this." he adds one last time-before heading down to the Batcave
"Azrael has broken into Wayne Tech labs Nightwing," Commisioner Gordon says via phone link in the Batmobile. "He looks like he's after that new bio suit they've been developing." he adds-with fear in his voice.
"Right, I'm on it." he says-as the Batmobile speeds through the city-eventually arriving to a maelstrom of gunfire-as a group of unmarked Cadmus soldiers provide cover fire for their leader in black-Azrael-who has unmasked-and is piecing together the new biosuit. "Not tonight Valley" Nightwing quips before swooping down.
"Haha, the little bird that could." Azrael says-putting his mask back on and pressing a button on the belt buckle. "Admit it kid, It's over!" he says as Nightwing comes charging-only to be thrown into a nearby pillar with ease. "Nothing boy wonder. Not you, not the Titans, not the Outsiders, not even The Justice League can stop Cadmus now." he adds-before delivering another kick-sending Nightwing against a wall again. He chuckles a sinister chuckle before heading off. Nightwing chases after him-and grabs his shoulder-only for smoke to rise-and Azrael to disapear. He turns around-and takes another shot to the head. "You don't realize this now child..but you will soon enough." he says-staring at a fallen foe. "This sword? This suit? They together make me more than a Death Angel...." he says-grabbing Nightwing by the hair and getting face to face with the dark avenger. "It makes me..God." he adds-kicking Nightwing sternly in the face.
"Vision. No. Not again..." Nightwing mutters-before fighting to his feet. "Must..fight it..." he adds-getting up and charging at Azrael-only to take a blunt and impactful forearm to the face.
"You don't learn kid. You're stubborn..just like The Bat." he says-before driving his leg into Nightwings face-leaving him lay in a pool of his blood. "Blind as a bat. Poetic justice, how nice." he adds-holding up his sword-and using its magic to set the building on fire. "Au revoire, boy wonder. Give the Bat a message, 'thanks for the new suit'" he says-disapearing into the smoke.
"Life is a dream, lost in reality. Life is a dream. False made insanity" - Systematic Hate, 2001.
"AHHHH NO! DON'T!" a bandaged Dick Grayson yells-sitting up in bed-as if he'd awaken from a nightmare forged in the very bowls of hell.
"Master Dick!" Alfred exclaims. "Please sir, you need your rest. You were almost killed....."
"In that inferno..." Commisioner Gordon says-walking into the room. "...left by that maniac." he finishes.
"Commissioner." Dick exclaims, "I...uh...what do you mean sir?" he adds.
"Son, I've know the secret for years now ever since my sweet Barbara was left a shell of herself by The Joker."
"Oh...." he replies softly...
"Don't worry son." Gordon replies softly, "Your secret is safe."
"How did I end up here?" he askes
"Azrael left you for dead. Luckilly-they were able to get you out before the building collapsed." he replies.
"Commissioner Gordon personally escorted you here." Alfred quips, injecting himself into the conversation.
"Thanks..." he says.
"Bruce told us about Cadmus' involvement with Azrael." Gordon replies-moving the discussion on. "Gotham PD has been trying for years to bring Cadmus down. Amanda Waller's government connections run too deep though.."
"So has the Justice League, Outsiders, and Teen Titans." Dick responds.
"Thankfully, Barbara was able to get into Cadmus' data center. She was able to find out more about Valley."
"Apparently-"Azrael" is the name Valley took upon himself-after being appointed Cadmus' chief assassian. After the death of Andrea Beaumont-who was Cadmus' lead prior."
"According to mythology, Azrael was the name of the Greek Angel of Death." Alfred adds
"That explains what he said to me." Dick adds,
"Something about the sword, and the suit he stole-the WayneTech biosuit-would make him Godlike."
"Master Dick, If I may interject myself again." Alfred says, "The Sword of Azrael is a mythical artifact. People believed it granted the wielder great powers."
"The WayneTech suit-was part of their top secret project. He called it 'Project Beyond'. Bruce knew as he aged-the battles would wear and tear on his body more. He created the suit to counter act that. He believes in the 'mission' and that Gotham will always need a Batman to defend it. The 'Beyond' suit-per se-enhances strength, speed, durability-and in the cases of the terminally injured-it stimulates the nerves and allows the crippled to walk again." Gordon replies.
"If what Alfred said about the sword is remotely true-then with that suit..."
Commisioner Gordon cuts him off, "I don't even want to think about it kid..."
"Let's just hope Master Bruce's therapy goes well...Gotham may need The Batman to help with this after all......." Alfred says, as the three look out the window.
Rock music is heard through out the gym-as Bruce Wayne continues his training and rehabilitation. Ever disciplinned-he lets no outside interference sway him from his ultimate task. Minutes fly by-until he ultimately tires of the game, and stops. He turns off the stereo and gets up-grabbing a cane in the process. He hobbles off-down the hall until he reaches a bedroom. Walking in-he see's Dick Grayson sitting on the edge of the bed-staring into the window beside him.
"How are you doing?" he asks.
"Better." Dick replies, "How's your therapy coming along?"
"Good. It should only be another couple of weeks before I'm close to 100% and get rid of this stupid cane." he adds.
"Who'd ever think....the great Batman turning down a gizmo." he says chuckling-warding off a strong glare from his mentor."Sorry. Say. Where's Alfred at?" he askes
"He went to the market. Why do you ask Dick?" Bruce responds with curiosity.
"He's gone?" Dick asks.
"Is..there a problem with that?"
"He could be in danger!" he exclaims-before getting up and stumbling a bit. "Damn it. My sight keeps going in and out!" he adds-holding onto the wall for moment-composing himself before carrying on.
"You have to rest!" Bruce exclaims.
"Azrael said everyone we care about would perish. He knows our secret Bruce. Alfred might be in danger" he says running past him as Bruce looks out the window.
"That will be $32.50 sir." The store clerk says-as Alfred hands her a few dollars. "Thank you sir, have a good day."
"You too madam." Alfred responds-ever the gentlemen-as he takes his bag of groceries-and begins his trek home. "My word the price of bread has gone up lately." he says-walking down the street-cutting through a back alley.
"Alfred Pennyworth..care taker of the bat...your Angel of Death..awaits." a voice is heard saying as Alfred turns around-only to see the red demon eyes of Azrael through a cloud of smoke.
"My word..." he exclaims-dropping the groceries.
"For years you have been a father to the fatherless. Hope to the hopeless. How far would the Batman fall-knowing he's lost his father...again." Azrael says-pulling out his sword. He chuckles as he assaults Alfred-eventually throwing Alfred into the wall. "The last strain of conscience in the soul of the Bat.....nothing can stop us now.."
"Azrael! Stop!" is heard as Nightwing drops down into the alley.
"Resiliancy..it must run in the family...." he says-as Nightwing charges him-before getting thrown into the side of the dumpster,"Poetic...Justice..." he adds-pulling out a small handgun-and shooting Alfred.
"ALFRED!" Nightwing exclaims-rushing to his aide.
"They all will fall-until the Bat has truely been broken....." Azrael quips before disappearing into the smoke. After only a moment or two-police sirens can be heard as Nightwing grabs Alfred.
"Oh no....." Commisioner Gordon says-stepping out of his car. "Oh no...."
"Welcome to Gotham Insider. I'm Vicki Vale. In addition to the great deal of loss Wayne Enterprises has suffered over the last half a year or so. Since the back injury to billionaire CEO Bruce Wayne some months ago & the theft of of the new WayneTech biosuit last week. The Wayne Family has lost another beloved member-as Alfred Pennyworth, family butler for generations was found dead last night in what appeared to be a random street mugging. Bludhaven's protector-Nightwing was at the scene-but was unable to aprehend the suspect. Funeral Services for Mr. Pennyworth will be held this Sunday at Gotham Memorial Cemetary at 2 PM." she says-shifting her attention to a male news anchor next to her.
"People all around Gotham are asking themselves this: Where's Batman?" he says with conviction. "The Dark Knight has seemingly disapeared since the death of Andrea Beaumont a few months back. His protege-Nightwing has been taking care of Gotham in his sted." He adds-his facial expression turning grim. "Between Bludhaven and Gotham-Nightwing's resources must be running dry-and I'm sure he's counting the days until The Batman makes his return to Gotham. But this reporter has been pondering a question: Has Batman turned his back on the City he spent so much time protecting? Commisioner James Gordon had this to say:" he adds-before the newscast switches to a shot of Gordon-following the murder of Alfred Pennyworth.
"I don't know what's happened to Batman." he says, cleaning off his glasses. "This Azrael business has gotten so out of hand though-I'm not even sure the entire Justice League could put an end to it to be quite honest." he adds, putting them back on. "As a close friend to Bruce Wayne though-I swear-on the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne, on the life of my own daughter-that I will see to it that the Wayne Family is avenged-and this Azrael is brought in-and whatever group that's responsible for him is brought to justice! I don't care if its terrorists, Cadmus, The Joker or some punk kids who got lucky. One way or another-Azrael will be taken out!" he promises with a strong conviction is his voice. His words might have fallen on the wrong ears though-as the TV screen shuts off and Amanda Waller sits at her desk-staring into the black screen.
"Like father like son, eh Richard?" she says-as Nightwing steps in from the shadows
"Why are you doing this to Bruce?" he asks
"The Justice League has too much power Richard, and Batman is the key to the league. He designed & commissioned that floating cannon of theirs in space. Did he not?" she responds-asking an inviting question of her own.
"You already have him broken Waller-why not move your focus to some other members of the league? What about Superman? He's an alien-isn't the government looking to control aliens? Or the Green Lantern? What about The Flash?" he says-hoping to extract some answers from Waller
"In due time child. In due time.." she replies solomnly.
"What are you trying to pull Waller?" he yells-grabbing her and shoving her into the wall.
"I haven't seen fire like that since The Batman....you two are exactly the same-cut from the same cloth almost." She says with a smile.
"I'm nothing like him..." he says-letting her go.
"Do you think I'm going to just going to reveal my plan like one of Stan Lee's comic book villians? This isn't some fan fiction written by some mark kid to be made into a low budget fan movie with some friends." she adds-as both her and Nightwing turn their heads to the right-staring at some imaginary camera. "Hmmph. " she begins-dusting her jacket off. "You know son, You claim to be so different from the Batman...and yet..you act the same as he does. I guess it's only fitting. You'll both suffer the same......" she turns around to face Nightwing-and see's that he's gone out the window. " ...fate." she finishes-grabbing her cell phone."Get me Valley! Tell him he has a funeral to attend..." she adds finally-slamming the phone down and smiling.
Funerals are always a sad part of life. Nobody wants to go to one-but everyone does. The cycle of life will continue again.
"Dearly beloved," as these things so often begin. "We are gathered here today in great sadness to mourn the passing of a friend, confidant, father figure, and standup citizen in one Alfred Pennyworth." the preacher commends-beginning the moving service. "I will now open the floor for the mourners to pay their final respects-before Mr. Wayne delivers the eulogy." he adds-before stepping down and allowing the line of mourners to pass by the casket. Faces are seen, faces like Dick Grayson, faces like Jim Gordon-pushing his crippled daughter Barbara along. Face likes Tim Drake and Dr. Leslie Thompkins all stroll by-but Bruce Wayne remains standing in front of the casket.
"It's my fault." he whispers. "It's my fault you're gone. The Batman retires...tonight." he adds-before stepping up to the podium. "I'm not much for speeches folks. Alfred was a father to me. After my parents death-he took me in and raised me as if I were his own. For that, I will be forever grateful and in his debt." he says-finishing off the short eulogy.
"Bruce Wayne.......your angel of death...awaits.."
"No..not here." Dick Grayson exclaims-standing up as Azrael appears from a cloud of smoke-adjacent to the casket where Bruce stands. "Tim, get Barbara and everyone else out of here. I'll handle this!" he says-as he runs off toward the tree's-ripping his shirt off.
"What do you want Azrael." Bruce yells
"I want you Bruce. My job, my purpose-is to destroy you and everything you hold dear!" he adds before firing a fireball at Bruce.
"Not today Valley!" Nightwing quips-swinging into the scene-grabbing Bruce as the podium gets set on fire. "I'll handle this."
"Did I say resilliancy before child? It looks like Stupidity runs in the family..." Azrael says-as he throws a grappling hook at Nightwing-grabbing his arm in the process.
"What?" he questions-as Azrael pulls on the cord-dragging Nightwing toward him. He laughs as he delivers a hard forearm to the face-sending him to the ground. Azrael kicks him a few times-before grabbing him by the throat and lifting him into the air.
"Let it be known." he exclaims, "Gotham's last scion has fallen. A new savior for Gotham is born-the last son of the Bat has been broken!" he adds-driving his knee into the back of Nightwing-breaking his back in two.
"NO!" Bruce yells-as Azrael laughs maniacally before disapearing in a cloud of fog-allowing the crowd gathered to help Nightwing.
"We're i in the middle of Batwatch 2007 folks." Vicki Vale says during a newscast for Gotham Insider. "During yesterday's funeral service for Mr. Alfred Pennyworth, the man known as Azrael broke the back of Gotham's interim protector Nightwing after a viscious battle. As Azrael continues to strike terror into the hearts of Gothamites everywhere-this Gotham Insider News reporter asks the question that everyone wants to know: 'What's happened to Batman?'" she adds-rustling through some papers. "As we continue Batwatch 2007, will the Dark Knight make a return to Gotham to avenge his protege's assault? Should Gotham look to Metropolis' boy in blue for salvation? These are questions that only The Batman has the answer to...."
The Batcave-as said-is a technological masterpiece. Even the most lucid inventors' knee's would grow weak at the sights that lay within it. Standing over a table-working on projects unknown to anyone else is Bruce Wayne.
"Everything was taken away from me. He took everything away from me." he says to himself-as images of his parents speed through his head." My father. My mother. Gone." he says-recollecting the murder in the back alley, "My love. Gone. Taken away by the exact cretins I swore to rid this city of" he says again-thinking of Selina Kyle and Andrea Beaumont. "The closest I've ever known to a son is laying half dead in some damned hospital bed!" he adds-dreaming about what Dick Grayson has gone through the last few months. "Alfred, the last thing keeping Bruce Wayne alive..My last strain of conscience, taken away from me." he adds, returning to the cemetary where Alfred lay-cold and dead in a box. A black suit with a yellow bat logo on it laying on the table. Something new is afoot as Bruce Wayne puts his cape on-followed by yellow belt-all while holding a mask in his hands with his back to Leslie Thompkins.
"Bruce...." Dr. Thompkins said-reaching her hand out-but then pulling back.
"Bruce Wayne is dead now......" he says-staring into the darkness before putting the mask on-to a shocked Leslie Thompkins' disapproval.
"Oh....my god...." she says as the yellow eyes glare at her. In the sky above them-a Bat signal looms in the nightlight. A beacon of hope for Gotham City-praying for a savior to return.
CHAPTER THREE of THREE : HONOR IN FLAMES
The stars are out tonight in Gotham-unfortuantly, not everybody is admiring this rare sight.
"We got it man!" a street punk yells-celebrating his crime with his confidant.
"Without the Bat here, This has become too easy----" he says-right before his legs are wrapped up and he's sent to the ground.
"What the hell?" the first punk askes-as the Batman swoops in. "Fuck Naw, It can't be. You ain't the bat!" he exclaims-firing shots at the shadowy figure-only to have his gun knocked out of his hand by the Batarang.
"Try again." Batman says-knocking the thug down to the ground.
"There's no way you're really ......." he says before stopping. A glimpse of the yellow firey eyes is enough to shut him up
"I'm...Batman!" he exclaims-throwing the punk to the ground "Tell your friends...the bat..is back...." he adds-before firing a grappling hook seemingly out of his arm-and swinging away as police sirens are heard arriving. Commisioner Gordon steps out of his car-and see's the slightly modified batarang laying on the ground.
"It can't be......"
"This is Vicki Vale with Gotham Insider. Two criminals were aprehended last night after breaking into Gotham University and stealing the funds from the nights basketball game. Sources close to the situation claim that The Batman is responsible for capturing these two. More on this story as it develops."
An interrogation is one of the most mentally draining parts of being a police officer. Sadly for this case-Amanda Waller is not a police officer. Jean Paul Valley sits alone-under a solitary spot light
"They're saying The Batman is back Valley." Waller says
"I know." he responds solomnly, fearful.
"Do you know what that means?" she askes.
"You failed!" she yells.
"I will be sure to finish the job this time. The Batman is not 100%. He couldn't be."
"Bruce Wayne is resourceful. Never underestimate him."
"The Batman shall fall...tonight." he responds-standing up and putting on his mask. He chuckles as he pushes a button on the biosuit's belt-and the belt's center lights up. "The Batman shall fall...." he repeats.
The batsignal was once thought to be obsolete by nearly everyone in Gotham City. Now-with the rumored return of the Batman, when the signal is flashed in the sky-Gotham breathes fresh hope-as Commisioner Gordon stands on the roof of police headquarters. Waiting.
"Commissioner." is heard as Gordon turns around and draws his gun-only to see Batman step out of the shadows
"Leslie told me about you Bruce. When I saw the news-I hoped it was really you." he says-holstering his gun and sighing in relief.
"We recieved this from an anonymous source." he says-handing Batman a note. "It says, 'everyone close to the Bat will fall. A savior. He is not'"
"What does this mean?" Batman asks.
"I don't know. The Riddler's work maybe?"
"I somehow doubt that...." a voice is heard-as Gordon looks up-and pulls out his gun. "It means...your next-commissioner." Azrael hops off a nearby ledge-and stares the two down. "Put the gun down gramps." he says with such distain in his voice. "Now Bruce, I like the new duds. It really is a shame-you dressed all nice..for your demise." he adds-chuckling as Gordon goes to fire his gun at Azrael-but he throws a star at him-knocking it out and cutting his hand at the same time. He chuckles again-before charging at Batman-and a fist fight breaks out. Batman delivers a pair of shin kicks-followed by a step up kick to the back of the head-which sends Azrael stumbling back a bit. He smirks and charges Azrael-who manages to use Batman's speed against him-and drags him over by the arm-sending him into the wall. "Haven't we done this enough Bruce?" he asks as Gordon comes running behind him. Azrael ducks though and locks Gordons arms in a hold-before unsheathing his sword-and stabbing him in the ribs.
"JIM!" Batman yells as Azrael drops Gordon-and dives off the rooftop-Batman crawls to him as Azrael can be heard laughing.
Thomas and Martha Wayne were very prominent figures in Gotham City. Their son-Bruce, is equally prominent-if not more. Unfortuantly for him, he cannot see how proud his parents would be. Only the negatives.
"Bruce. Despite everything that has happened. They would still be proud. You made a vow, and kept it." Dr Thompkins says softly as Bruce looks at her-and then turns and walks away as she puts his arm on his shoulder. "You know I don't approve of what The Batman does. But you also know I can't stop you." she adds, hoping to salvage what humanity the Dark Knight has left in him.
"Hows Jim?" he asks with a certain coldness to his voice.
"He'll live. He's resting in the guest room as we speak." she replies with a sigh.
"Good. We'll need him to bring down Cadmus." he says-before heading down to the batcave.
As papers are filed-and contracts signed, Amanda Waller sits at her desk alone.
"I know you're there Bruce." she says while putting some files away.
"Where's Valley." he asks calmly.
"While I do admire your persistance. I question your brains. It's almost a shame I'm going to be responsible for your death." she says with a smirk-as Batman slams his fist onto the desk
"I'm NOT going to ask again Waller. Where is Valley!"
"He's waiting." she replies quickly-as if scripted to do so.
"For you to make your move." she adds as Batman grabs her by the throat
"People are dead and hurting Amanda. Cadmus is responsible for them. Now tell me, WHERE IS AZRAEL!" he says before shoving her back into her chair "Once I'm finished with him-I'm going to make sure you go down for everything that has happened." he says before swinging out the window.
"Consider your move made Bruce. Consider it made." she says-rubbing her throat.
"How are you doing?" Bruce says as he enters Dick Graysons hospital room. A moment of silence passes as Dick turns his head toward the doorway-and see's Bruce coming into the room.
"I've been better." he replies.
"You're not paralyzed. That has to be a good sign." he quips back
"Since when is the walking tragedy that is Bruce Wayne looking on the optimistic side?"
"It's..good to see you're feeling better." Bruce says. "Has Barbara come by?"
"She has, but she's had to work too. Her and Dr. Thompkins were the only ones to visit me until now." he replies. ""So how goes the hunt?"
"Waller wouldn't crack."
"Why doesn't that suprise me." he says
"It's been nearly a week, and no sign of Azrael." Bruce says-a sense of exasperation stretches through his voice.
"I heard about Gordon." Dick responds
"Leslie says he'll be fine."
"Don't worry Bruce." Dick begins, "You'll find Azrael." he adds-looking out the window."But I think you should go. You're..needed" he says as Bruce looks up-and see's a bat signal in the sky.
Atop Gotham PD-the Bat signal shines into the night sky. Illuminating the blackness with hope. The roof is empty as The Batman swoops in.
"At last..we are alone." a voice rains down from behind-as Batman turns around, and see's Azrael step from the shadows. "One final dance, Dark Knight."
"It's time we ended this." he says as Azrael unsheaths his sword and Batman unsheaths a Batarang from his suit. Azrael lunges at Batman-and Batman uses the batarang to block Azrael's attack. After a brief joust-Batman knocks the sword out of Azrael's hand. He then flips him over with a judo throw-and pulls his mask off. Azrael gets up-as Batman delivers a pair of knees to the stomach-before unsheathing an electric batarang-and stabbing the center of Azrael's suits belt with it. The electricity fries the suits-and Batman shoves Azrael into the wall. "I built that suit Valley. You didn't think I'd know the failsafe." he says with impact.
"Always the detective..even till death." Valley adds-before lunging at him again-only to get thrown into another wall. Batman drops the batarang-and takes off his cape and cowl.
"I was trained as a man of honor, and a man of honor, I remain. Now get up and fight." he says-staring at Valley-who is slow to his feet. "Get up!" he yells. Valley smirks and wipes some blood from his mouth-before lunging toward Batman again. After a few strikes are dealt-Batman lifts him up and drives him to the cement rooftop-back first. Batman takes the top mount-and begins to rain down straight punches to the face. "For Selina." he says-delivering a blow to the face. "For Andrea." he adds-delivering another shot. "For Alfred, For Dick." with each name the blows get harder and harder. He eventually gets up-and picks up Azraels sword. Valley see's a chance and charges at him-as Bruce turns around and impales him with his own sword. "For Bruce Wayne." he says-before throwing Valley off the edge of the roof-to the ground a few stories below. He stands over the ledge-staring down as lighting strikes in the background-and rain begins to pour.
"Jean Paul Valley-the man who terrorized Gotham for months as Azrael was found dead last night on the grounds infront of Police Headquarters. Commisioner Gordon had this to say." Vicki Vale says on her newscast.
"The terror of Azrael has been quelled for now. I personally would like to thank The Batman for all this. As far as I'm concerned-he's innocent in the deaths of Selina Kyle and Andrea Beaumont."
"In a related news item. Amanda Waller-head of the Governments genetics division-Cadmus-was arrested this morning in conjuction with Azrael." Vicki adds.
"Amanda Waller and Project Cadmus are responsible for the terror we've been under for months now. We have solid-conclusive evidence supporting this." Gordon adds.
"More on this story, as it develops." Vicki says with a smile as the TV is turned off.
Lighting strikes the night sky-and the rain continues to pour as The Dark Knight stands on a roof ledge-looking down on the city below.
"The story of The Batman is one of tragedy." Amanda Waller is heard saying. "I've seen his tragedies over my lifetime. Nothing has been as trying on his heart and soul as the past few months. Every night he watches over a city that refuses to accept nor reject him. An ungrateful city-led by degenerate crime lords. It's a thankless job-done by a man who I've come to respect. I don't know how he does it, and I'm not even sure why he does it, but there is one thing I know for sure...." she adds-as a batsignal is shown in the distance "Gotham will Always need a Batman. Yesterday, Tomorrow....and Beyond." she finishes-as Batman looks up and see's the bat signal.