Chapter 7 - Deaths and Partnerships
- Later, Park Row -
Raven and Phobia casually strolled through Park Row, awaiting the arrival of their associates. Batman had told them that, when it reached 10:30PM, they were to gather in Park Row and wait for the Bat-Wing to pick them up. A group of inmates gathered around a fire gave them dirty glares, pathetically trying to scare the two of them as they entered the street with the Monarch Theater sitting at the end.
"What are you looking at?" Raven asked threateningly, putting fear into the inmates and making them turn back to the fire. Grinning with triumph, Raven turned back to the street as the two of them made their way past Finnigan's Bar.
"Hey, what're you kids doing down here?" a drunken voice called out, causing both teens to stop in their tracks. Standing outside the bar was a group of inmates, all holding some type of alcoholic beverage. Instantly, one of the group's members started stumbling towards them, his breath able to be smelt from a mile away. Approaching Raven, he started his rambling once more.
"Don't you know tonight's a school night? You never know what kind of freaks you can run into in here" he continued, his eyes eerily checking out Raven's body, disgusting her. As she tried to walk away, he grabbed her by the arm, stopping her from going any further.
"Freaks like me" he finished with a perverted grin, scaring Raven as she struggled in his grasp. On impulse, Phobia socked the inmate straight in the jaw, causing him to let go of Raven as he cried out in agony. Narrowing her eyes, Raven struck him in the chest, knocking him to the ground with a thud. The other inmates who'd been outside the bar watched in anger as the two vigilantes took him down.
"HEY YOU GUYS!!! GET OUT HERE!!!" one of them called inside, attracting both Raven's and Phobia's attention. Sure enough, a sea of inmates, both drunk and sober, poured out of the bar, each holding some form of weapon. Seeing that they were closing in, Phobia grabbed his scythe from his belt, preparing for seemed like an oncoming battle.
"Think we can take 'em?" he asked, turning to his sibling, her hands balled into fists and rose in defense.
"Here's hoping" she replied hopefully, trying to hold her nerve as the swarm closed in around them. Then, as if a guardian angel had been watching them, a voice called out from right at the back of the crowd.
"Stop. Let me through" he ordered, causing every inmate to stop and look back in the direction of the bar. Standing in the doorway was a man, somewhere in his mid-thirties, looking the vigilantes up and down, studying them. He wore a pair of black boots, an Arkham prisoner uniform with the jacket tied around his waist and a grey tank top. His black hair had been put up into a mohawk, but this wasn't the most interesting thing about him. Covering his visible skin were hundreds of tattoos, depicting skulls, crosses and anything remotely gothic. However, on his left cheek, a word had been tattooed: INK. No doubt it was his appointed nickname. As he made his way through the gap in the crowd, the sound of his boots hitting the ground echoed off of the walls. Stopping in front of Phobia, he stared into the visors, trying to glimpse of his eyes. But to no avail.
"What are you kids doing here?" he asked, tapping his boot impatiently.
"Look, we're not looking for trouble" Phobia tried negotiating, only for Ink to burst out laughing, soon joined by the other inmates.
"Sorry to disappoint you, kid. But you just came onto my turf. Therefore, you've found a whole heap of trouble" he explained, his once cheery voice becoming deep and serious. Narrowing his eyes behind his visors, Phobia's grip tightened around his scythe, resisting the urge to shove the blade straight through Ink's head.
"Just let us go. We haven't done anything to you" Phobia replied, putting on the same tone of voice as Ink had just done. Smirking, Ink nodded to a couple of inmates standing beside Raven. On order, the inmates grabbed Raven by the arms and held her in place. Seeing what they were doing, Phobia tried running at them, but three more prisoners grabbed held him back.
"LET HER GO, YOU ASSHOLES!!!" he ordered, struggling to get past the barricade formed in front of him. Feeling somebody grab his shoulder and spin him around, Phobia once again found himself face to face with Ink, a grin formed on his lips.
"Here me out. Let's say we have a little...challenge. If you win, we'll let both of you go" Ink suggested, getting Phobia to calm down slightly, his eyes still narrowed.
"And what happens if we lose?" he asked, worried about the wellbeing of him and his sibling.
"If you lose, we kill you. And...we'll keep her" Ink answered, causing Phobia's eyes to widen and look over at Raven as she continued to struggle against the might of the inmates.
"You bastard" Phobia growled, getting a chuckle from the ringleader of the inmates.
"Well, either you accept or we'll kill her right now" Ink proposed, nodding to the inmates holding Raven hostage. A third inmate headed over to her and brought a knife to her throat, causing her to gasp as she felt the cold metal pressed against her throat. Looking from Ink to Raven, Phobia knew he had no choice.
"Fine. What are we going to do?" he asked, lowering his head in weakness. Smirking, Ink turned back to the crowd of criminals and brought his hand to his mouth to amplify his words.
"Get the bikes! We're havin' a race!" he announced, getting a loud cheer from the crowd as a response.
- Later -
A white, chalk line scrawled across the street indicated both the start and finish line, surrounded by multiple inmates ready to watch the upcoming race. Every so often, they would place bets using whatever they thought of as valuable. Since it didn't seem that harmful, Gordon had accepted the suggestion and allowed the import of motorcycles to Arkham City. Sitting behind the white line was a cherry red, Victory Jackpot motorcycle with Ink sitting proudly upon it, revving the engine and getting multiple praises from his "followers". Standing on the other side of the line, Phobia and Raven stood with inmates at their backs, awaiting the arrival of Phobia's ride.
"Where is it? I can't race without a bike" Phobia reminded angrily, getting a death glare from inmate guarding him.
"Shut your trap. It'll be here soon" he replied gruffly, forcing Phobia to turn back to the road, crossing his arms worriedly. He'd been imagining the scenario in which he lost and the inmates had killed him. What would they do to Raven? Would Batman or Daredevil be able to save her? These thoughts were blocked out of his head as the sound of a second engine filled the street, catching the attention of both inmates and vigilantes. Slowly, an inmate led a black, Harley-Davidson Blackline out and stopped it beside Ink on the white line. Both Phobia and Raven stared at the motorcycle, making their way over to it as it continued to rumble, almost beckoning Phobia to ride it. Sitting down and placing his hands on the handlebars, Phobia had a go at revving the engine, a warmth spreading through him a loud roar echoed off the walls of the abandoned buildings.
"Do you even know how to ride one of these things?" Raven asked nervously, making sure that Phobia had thought this plan through.
"I've played a lot of Grand Theft Auto. How different can it be?" he asked in response, watching as an inmate stood between the two bikes on the white line.
"You'll be racing from here to the Church, you will then turn back and head back here. The first one back wins. Remember, this is a free-for-all. No rules" he began, preparing Ink and Phobia for their duel. Exchanging determined glances, the two competitors turned back to the main road, readying themselves.
"On your marks..." the inmate began, holding his hand above his head. Revving his engine, Phobia took a second to glance at his sister, mentally wishing him luck with a nod. Fearing that he wouldn't be so lucky, Phobia nodded back, trying to keep his cool.
"...get set..." the inmate continued, his hand still rose, glancing at the two of them as they continuously revved their engines. Unpredictably, Phobia felt a tap on his shoulder and, on impulse turned to face Ink.
"Like he said, no rules" he recapped, right before bringing back his fist and hitting Phobia straight in the face, his mask blocking out some of the pain. As you'd expect, every inmate cheered, angering Phobia as he clutched his face.
"...GO!" the inmate announced, catching Phobia off guard. Immediately, Ink flew out of the starting position, leaving Phobia behind. Quickly, Phobia gave chase, turning round the corner and disappearing after his opponent. Passing the Courthouse, they headed up the street and turned left as the Church came into view. Looking back, Ink narrowed his eyes to see Phobia catching up fast. Looking up the street, they saw a stack of tires which had been made into a makeshift turning post. As the two of them skidded around the post, they started riding in the other direction, heading back the way they'd came.
"Eddie, are you there?" Oracle's voice suddenly echoed over his earpiece, surprising him.
"Not a good time, Oracle. I'm in the middle of a race" Phobia replied, trying to keep his focus on the road.
"I know. I hacked into the security cameras. Up ahead's an old fence leading to Crime Alley. Should be easy to break down with enough speed" she explained, getting a smile to appear across Phobia's hidden face as he drove straight towards the fence, closing his eyes as he made contact.
Ink drove past the Courthouse and stopped at the start of the home stretch. Looking back, he laughed to see that Phobia was gone.
"Little bastard must've gotten lost" he thought as he looked down the street, multiple inmates cheering his name at the finish line. However, as he revved up his motorbike, he heard a roar above his head as Phobia flew over the metal fence of the Monarch Theater, landing in front of him as he sped over the finish line. Skidding to a halt, every inmate stood in shock at what had just happened. Raven let out a cheer of joy as she ran over to her half-brother, flinging her arms round his neck as he dismounted from his bike. Driving over the finish line, Ink did the same and headed over to Phobia, every inmate at his back.
"That's not fair. You cheated" Ink accused, pointing his finger straight at Phobia's face.
"You said it yourself, no rules. I won, now beat it" Phobia replied, pushing Ink's finger away and crossing his arms triumphantly. Angered, Ink grabbed Phobia around the neck and pulled him away towards the group of inmates.
"I never lose, kid. GRAB THE GIRL!!!" he ordered, causing a whole group of inmates to run over to Raven and pull her away from Phobia as he struggled in Ink's headlock.
"STAY...AWAY...FROM HER!!!" he choked out as he lost his air, trying to get out of it the best he could. Raven tried to do the same, but the inmates were too strong for her.
Everybody froze as a bright, orange light filled the end of the street, disappearing soon after. Standing a few feet away, a flamethrower in his grasp, was Red Hood, staring emotionlessly at the crowd.
"You heard those kids. Now get out of here before I go Krakatoa on your asses!" he ordered, pulling the trigger once more and launching another ball of fire into the air.
"SHIT, IT'S THAT RED HOOD GUY!!! RUN!!!" Ink warned before him and his fellow prisoners ran, leaving Phobia and Raven as the last ones there. As Red Hood made his way over, they couldn't help but study him, wondering who the hell he was.
"Red Hood?" Phobia asked, turning to Raven who just shrugged. Redirecting his gaze to the street, he was surprised to see that Red Hood was already in front of them.
"You kids okay?" he asked, looking at each of them, his face hidden behind the motorcycle helmet. Not sure how to react, Phobia paused, studying this new adversary with caution. For all he knew, he could be a criminal.
"Umm...yeah. We're fine" Phobia answered, still on edge.
"Thanks for showing up" Raven seconded, trying her best to put on a smile. Unlike Phobia, she was more trustworthy. A kind yet simple-minded trait.
"Heh, no problem. But you really shouldn't be in here. It's....what are you doing in here anyway? And what's with the outfits?" Red Hood asked, gesturing to their choice of attire.
"Oh, I'm Phobia. This is Raven. We're part of a team called Satan's Army back in New York" Phobia explained, seeming to intrigue the strange savior.
"Satan's Army. Yeah, I've heard of you guys. What are you doing in Arkham City? Or Gotham for that matter" Red Hood asked, still concerned about their presence in the super-prison.
"Batman asked us to help him with a case. These two killers called Stainless and Steel are planning something. We still don't know what it is though" Raven remarked, continuing the story. Immediately, at the very mention of Batman's name, Red Hood froze, his eyes unnoticeably widening behind the black-tinted face-shield. Noticing his sudden stillness, Phobia and Raven both exchanged concerned expressions.
"Do you know Batman?" Phobia asked, causing Red Hood to come back to reality, completely unaware of how long he'd been zoning out.
"Kind of. I...never mind. Just try and stay out of trouble. I don't want to have to come and rescue you again" he warned before heading off, slowed down due to the extra weight of the flamethrower.
"Okay. What was that all about?" Raven questioned as Red Hood disappeared out of sight, the only trace of him being the sound of his footsteps. But even they faded away as the scream of the Bat-Wing's turbo-powered engines filled the air. Looking up, the two of them covered their ears as it flew overhead, slowing down as it began to lower down to the street, just a couple of feet away from where they were standing.
"You two ready to go?" a deep voice called out. Turning around, they saw Batman standing behind them, his cape flailing in the wind, blown back by the tremendous force of the engines.
"Yeah, but where's Matt?" Phobia asked, trying to outmatch the Bat-Wing's cries. On cue, a crimson-clad figure dropped down into the street and headed over to Batman, cringing as his sensitive hearing felt like somebody had stuck a power-drill in his ears.
"Ready when you are" Daredevil announced, allowing the four of them to make their way over to the Bat-Wing. Walking up alongside him, Phobia leaned in to Daredevil's ear.
"You had sex with Catwoman, didn't you?" he asked, causing Daredevil's eyebrows to rise suddenly. But before he could even ask how he knew that, Phobia answered it promptly.
"You have your 'I just had sex' face on. Plus, one of your boot buckles is still undone" he explained, nodding down to Daredevil's boot, its strap blowing behind him. His cheeks turned red as he tried to hide it from Phobia's gaze, rolling his eyes in embarrassment.
- Later that night, Wayne Manor -
Oracle, or Barbara Gordon as she known by her friends, typed away absentmindedly at the Bat-Computer, studying the screen as multiple security camera feeds popped up in several different windows. Each one showed either an empty street or a few inmates trying to pass the time they had left in their sentence. Hearing footsteps from behind her, she quickly spun her wheelchair around and observed the teenagers standing behind her. Eddie wore a pair of black pajama bottoms with a black and grey flannel shirt. Charlotte wore a pair of grey sweats and a white tank top. Smiling, Oracle turned back to the Bat-Computer and continued typing away. As soon as Batman and the others had arrived back at the manor, Oracle had the pleasure of being introduced to them. She was still surprised to find out that Scarecrow had two kids. Eddie and Charlotte headed over to her, standing on either side of her wheelchair.
"Anything good?" Eddie asked, watching as the multiple feeds popped up at random time, causing his eyes to dart around the screen.
"Nein. Whoever these two are, they haven't shown up on any cameras" Oracle asked in response, turning look at each of them.
"Do you remember what they look like?" Eddie asked, getting a 'seriously?' look from the red-headed hacker.
"Of course. I'm using the Bat-Computer to scan the face patterns of anybody who passes a camera. Then, it'll run a comparison scan for both Stainless and Steel and diagnose a match" she explained, getting wide-eyed expressions from the two onlookers.
"Sounds impressive" Eddie commented whilst nodding his head, trying to look like he knew what she was talking about.
"Sure is. But that's enough about my day. How was Arkham City? Any problems?" Oracle asked, craning her neck around to look and the two of them.
"Nah, nothing. It wasn't as bad as we'd expected" Charlotte lied, giving Eddie a nod. To which he nodded back understandingly.
"Didn't that big tower blow up a while ago?" he asked, referring to the events of Joker's last night.
"Yeah, Batman was lucky to get out of there alive" Oracle answered, surprising Charlotte.
"Batman was up there when it exploded? What the hell happened?" she asked, getting a smile from Oracle.
"I figured you might ask" she replied, opening a folder on the computer and selecting a video file. When the window opened, it revealed a camera shot of Batman holding someone's head against a window. He was an elderly man with a beard, a bald head and glasses. He wore a white doctor's coat with the Arkham City logo imprinted on it. As he was held against the glass, Batman spoke.
"Look at what you've done" he ordered, orange light shining and smoke rising from far below.
"It's glorious, isn't it?" the man replied darkly, just before Batman pulled his head away and shoved him to the ground. A beeping suddenly filled the room they were in, ceasing as the words 'PROTOCOL 10 DEACTIVATED' appeared on a computer screen in bright letters.
"You're finished, Strange" Batman announced, walking over to observe the message on the computer. However, Strange stood back up, glaring at him.
"I have powerful friends, Batman. This is just the beginning. You cannot stop me. Soon I will command forces beyond your comprehension. I have achieved what the great Batman could never do. Gotham will forever thank Hugo Str-ANGE!" he cried out as a sword was shoved through his back, emerging from the other side and staining his coat a deep crimson. As the sword was pulled back out, he fell to the ground, revealing the man standing behind him. He had graying black hair, pale skin and wore a strange armor-like ensemble.
"Your part of this is over, Professor Strange" the man informed, placing the sword back in its sheath.
"Why? I did everything you wanted" Strange gasped, his life slipping away by the second.
"Indeed. You clearly demonstrated that Batman is better than you. Let him die, detective" the man insisted as he gazed out of the window. Quickly, Batman rushed to Strange's aid, looking from him to the man.
"He was your puppet, Ra's. Why?" Batman ordered, holding Strange's head up as he started becoming pale.
"You said I could replace you. This was OUR vision" Strange reminded, his voice becoming slower and more breathless.
"And you failed to see it through" Ra's replied, turning around to face the slowly dying doctor.
"When you came to me with Batman's identity, I gave you this chance to prove your worth. Providing you with limitless resources for your plan. You came...close. But you have failed me" Ra's continued, cutting off his pleas and turning back to the window.
"He's going to die, Ra's. He needs medical attention now!" Batman growled, narrowing his eyebrows at the aged man.
"Do as you wish, detective. He's already dead to me" Ra's replied, not showing a hint of emotion.
"I'm so close. Just...give me more time" Strange begged, his life slipping out of reach.
"Too late. I don't give second chances. This is a good day, detective" Ra's denied, turning back to face the Dark Knight.
"Good? People are dying" Batman reminded angrily, almost completely unaware of the dying man beside him.
"The world will not miss them. Why should you? Look at my work. You may have defeated Strange, but this...this is just the beginning. Come with me. We will wipe this world clean" Ra's insisted, gazing out over the super-prison with pride, content at how well his plan was going.
"Never. You're wrong, Ra's. You've become what you've always fought against. And I WILL stop you" Batman replied, emphasizing the last sentence. Laughing, Ra's turned back to the window and looked out into the night
"I doubt it" he replied simply, not giving a damn about what he had to say. He had won. He was in control. And there was nothing anybody could say to stop him. Well...
"Computer:...Activate...Protocol...eleven..." Strange forced out, knowing he didn't have much time left. Surprised, Ra's turned to face his former ally, the sounds of cybernetic beeping coming from the computer.
"What are you doing?" he ordered, ignored by the dying man as his last command left his throat.
"Passcode:...Wayne..." Strange finished with his last breath, shutting his eyes as his life was taken from him, the only thing left being his corpse. Immediately, a static siren sounded over the computer speakers and a countdown appeared on the screen.
"NO!" Ra's protested as the countdown continued, his plan ruined by a dead man.
"GET OUT OF THERE!" Oracle's voice warned over the speaker system, causing Batman to run at Ra's.
Just as the two of them made contact with the window, a bright flash filled the screen for a split second. Then everything went static.
Charlotte and Eddie could only blink as they took in what they'd just saw. Closing the video window, Oracle turned to the two of them.
"That was all the footage I could retrieve from the internal severs before they got fried" she explained awaiting a response.
"What happened when they rebuilt Wonder Tower? What did they do with all that equipment and stuff?" Eddie asked, more concerned about its reconstruction rather than the fate of the man Batman had propelled out of the window.
"Nothing. They're all still there. All it took was a quick wipe of Strange's old files and they were free to use for the security systems" Oracle explained, intriguing Eddie as he observed the Bat-Computer's immense screen.
"Has a guy in a red helmet showed up on any of these cameras?" Charlotte asked, immediately catching Oracle's attention.
"Why do you ask?" she asked, already knowing who she was talking about.
"Back in Arkham City, we were caught by these crazy bikers. But he saved us. Do you know him?" Charlotte asked in response. However, instead of just answering, Oracle opened up another window on the screen which showed multiple photographs of criminals. Each one wore a red helmet, mask or sack over their head.
"There have been many people donning the persona of 'Red Hood' ever since it was first used by Joker" Oracle explained, making Eddie's blood run cold.
"You don't think its Joker, do you?" he asked worriedly, turning to look at Oracle who looked back reassuringly.
"Impossible. Joker's body was cremated. It can't be him" she explained, calming him down. As another window popped up, Charlotte recognized it instantly.
"There. That's the one we saw" she said, pointing at the screen. Closing the other windows, Oracle zoomed in on the image, showing a low quality shot of Red Hood on a roof in Arkham City.
"I was able to catch this shot of him a couple of nights ago. Batman was on the look-out for him before he heard about Stainless and Steel" Oracle explained, concerning Eddie as he looked from the screen to her.
"Why was Batman looking for him?" he asked, raising an eyebrow curiously.
"He arrived out of nowhere a year and a half ago. At first we thought he was just another 'Red Hood' wannabe. But then, after Joker died, Arkham City became his base of operations" she continued, bringing up multiple screenshots of Red Hood in Arkham City. In each one, he was either just making his way down the streets, leaping onto roofs or in a fight. One image showed him beating the crap out of two inmates in an alleyway. One of them was slumped back against the wall with a bullet hole in his head and the other was getting his face beaten in.
"What was he doing in Arkham City?" Charlotte asked, carefully studying each of the pictures and grimacing at the sight of the dead inmate.
"When Batman interrogated a few inmates, they just said he went to the bar and played a few card games. That and he got into a few fights. All of them won by him" Oracle explained, spinning her wheelchair around to look at them.
"And that's all you know?" Eddie asked, awkwardly having to look down at her.
"Pretty much. You kids should get some sleep. You have a busy day tomorrow" Oracle insisted, crossing her arms sternly.
"Sure thing. You coming, Char'?" Eddie asked as he headed away to the exit, but Charlotte just stood still, looking from Oracle to Eddie.
"Uh...yeah. I'll be there in a second" she called after him, turning back to face Oracle.
"Barbara? You've been here for a while, right?" she asked, getting a quizzical expression from the former Bat-Girl.
"If its history you want to know about, I think you should talk to Alfred" she suggested, turning back to the Bat-Computer's screen.
"No, you don't understand. Has Bruce ever flipped out before? Like...gone full psycho?" Charlotte asked, concerning Oracle enough to get her to stop typing.
"Not that I can think of. He didn't do that to you did he?" she asked with trepidation, spinning around to face her.
"Well, I accidentally went into his room and picked up a photo by his bed..." she trailed off, noticing Oracle remove her glasses and rub her eyes.
"Was it a photo of a guy? Brown hair? Good looking?" she asked, letting Charlotte know that she understood.
"Who was he?" she asked in response, causing Oracle to turn back to the Bat-Computer and bring up a photograph of the same man. Except he was dressed in a different version of Robin's costume. This one had a more red and black color scheme than the current Robin's green and black ensemble.
"His name was Jason Todd, the second Robin" Oracle explained, surprising Charlotte immensely.
"Wait, there have been THREE Robins?" she asked, her eyes widened with shock.
"Yeah, Dick Grayson was the first. But then he went on to be Nightwing. Jason arrived a few months later to become the second. Then, Tim Drake became the third. If you're lucky, you may meet him tomorrow" Oracle continued, still concerning Charlotte.
"How did Jason become the second Robin?" she asked, wanting to hear the whole story.
"A few years ago, Batman had just foiled a hold-up at Gotham Bank. But when he was going to head home, he found this homeless kid in a red hoodie trying to steal the BatMobile's tires. Being the kind guy he is, Batman took him in and revealed his secret. After that, Batman went on to train him. Soon enough, me and Batman had a second Robin at our sides. I'd never seen him happier" she explained happily, getting a smile to spread across Charlotte's lips.
"What happened to him?" she asked, accidentally causing the smile to disappear from Oracle's face.
"A couple of years later, Joker had broken out of Arkham and was held up in a meat-packing plant near the docks..."
- 5 Years Earlier -
The sounds of police sirens and bright red and blue lights filled the area as the multiple police cars converged on the, cops flooding out of the side doors and gathering around the building. People from the press had gathered behind the human barricade of squad members, trying their best to get a shot of the dilemma unfolding. Standing by his car, Gordon rolled his eyes in irritation as a voice replied from the other end of his radio feed.
"Are you even listening to me? Joker's holding all the workers in that place as hostages; he's threatening to kill them all. Until Batman gets here, I need every available squad member here at once. Understand?" he argued before placing his radio back on his belt. Suddenly, a roar filled the air as the sleek, black car pulled over beside the sea of police cars. As the top opened, Batman climbed out followed by Bat-Girl and Robin as they tried to get out of the small space behind the driver's seat.
"You really need to install another seat" Robin insisted, leaning back and letting out a sigh of relief as he heard his spine crack.
"I never expected to have more than one person in the car" Batman replied almost jokingly, rolling his eyes at the two of them.
"Surely it must have crossed your mind at some point" Bat-Girl seconded with Robin, ignored by the Dark Knight as he made his way over to Gordon.
"It's about time you got here" he said gruffly, almost like he'd lost all his kindness.
"The traffic's terrible. I heard about Joker's breakout. What's he doing?" Batman asked, looking towards the meat-packing plant with a grimace. Out of all the places Joker could hold a standoff, it had to be at a place with dead meat hanging in every room. Sick.
"He's got five hostages in there. All of them workers. He says he only wants you to enter. And that he doesn't want your...pets following you. No offence" Gordon apologized, looking to Robin and Bat-Girl considerately.
"None taken" Robin replied calmly, taking no abuse to the criminal's comment.
"We're not letting you go alone" Bat-Girl insisted, clenching her hand into a fist and narrowing her eyes at the Caped Crusader.
"I never said you had to. I've got a plan" he replied, a partial grin forming on his lips.
"Of course you do" Bat-Girl replied with a smile of her own.
- Inside the meat-packing plant -
Batman's footsteps echoed all around the room as he made his way past all the hooks and conveyer belts, the scent of raw meat wafting up his nostrils and making him feel queasy. He froze as he heard something from behind him. Spinning around, a Batarang in his grasp, Batman lowered it to see that nobody was there. However, his blood ran cold as he heard the Joker's trademark cackle fill the room. Freezing in place, Batman's eyes glanced around the room, his eyebrows narrowed into a deathly glare.
"Stop this, Joker. Just come on out" he ordered, waiting for any sign of movement.
"Oh come on, Bats. What happened to you? You used to love our little games of hide and seek" Joker announced mockingly, causing Batman to spin around to face him. Joker stood on a conveyer belt, a pistol in his grasp and aimed straight at Batman's face. Gritting his teeth, Batman started heading over to Joker, cracking his knuckles eagerly.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Bats. Not if you want those hostages to stay safe" Joker threatened, forcing Batman to stand down, raising his hands defensively.
"That's more like it. Now, I bet you're wondering: Why would he break out so randomly? What would he gain from kidnapping some lowly meat-packers and threatening their lives?" Joker contemplated, walking back and forth on the conveyer belt whilst waving the gun around. Luckily, he wasn't able to notice Bat-Girl and Robin as they made their way to the door which led to the lower part of the building. As they opened the door, they looked towards Batman with concern, to which he responded with a sneaky wink. Grinning, the two of them headed through the door, quietly closing it behind.
"Well, don't you want an answer?" Joker asked again, noticing Batman's long pause. Quickly coming back to reality, Batman redirected his gaze back at Joker, narrowing his eyes angrily.
"Cause its fun" Joker finally answered, angering Batman even further.
"You're insane. And you're going to pay for what you've done tonight" he retaliated, getting Joker to release another hearty laugh.
"Oh, Bats. I'm just getting started" he replied, his voice dropping to a darker tone.
- With the others -
Bat-Girl and Robin headed through the maze of corridors beneath the plant, the cold air from the assorted freezers chilling them to the bone. Using the detective mode in her cowl, Bat-Girl was able to track the life signs of the hostages, leading her and Robin to their location. Reaching a door, Bat-Girl amplified the sensors, making sure that this was the right room. Hearing multiple heartbeats coming from the others side, she nodded definitely.
"This one" she informed, stepping out of the way and allowing Robin to stand in front of the door. Bringing his boot back, he launched straight at the door, breaking it off its hinges and causing it to fall to the floor. Looking inside, they saw five men, all wearing blue jumpsuits, tied together with rope and sitting down on the floor.
"Who the hell is that?" one of the men asked, unable to see the door due to the direction he was sitting in.
"Calm down, man. It's Robin and Bat-Girl" the man facing the door asked reassuringly, a look of relief coating his face. Heading over to them, both sidekicks retrieved their Batarangs and used them to cut the ropes holding the workers in place.
"Thank you so much. I thought we were going to die in here" the man continued thankfully as regained his footing. Bat-Girl and Robin watched as one of the workers needed assistance to stand back up, gasping in pain whenever pressure was applied to his left leg.
"What happened to him?" Robin asked with apprehension, looking back at the worker they'd been talking to.
"Joker tried to scare us by jamming a meat hook in Don's leg. We need to get him out of here" the worker persevered, getting Robin and Bat-Girl to exchange nods.
"Batman's distracting Joker, but he won't have much time left. You need to be as quick and quiet as possible. Okay?" Bat-Girl required, getting responses of agreement from the other workers.
"Will you be okay on that leg?" Robin asked, directing his gaze at Don.
"Don't worry, I can still walk" he replied confidently, trying not to look weak in front of the two heroes.
"Good. Now come on" Bat-Girl instructed, leading them all out of the store room and back down the corridor.
- With Batman -
"C'mon, Bats. Can't you at least try to put on a smile? After all, I save all my best zingers for you" Joker explained, making Batman's blood boil.
"They're not the type of comedy I enjoy" he replied deeply, his eyes still narrowed seriously.
"Then what kind of comedy are you into? There are all sorts of comedy. Stand-up, insult, stop me if that's the kind you enjoy" Joker rambled, completely unaware that Bat-Girl and Robin were escorting the workers towards the entrance, Batman watching happily. Because he knew that as soon as they were safely outside, he could finally put his fist in Joker's jaw. Suddenly, Don fell to the ground, letting out a cry of pain as he made contact with the solid floor. Spinning around, Joker's smile contorted into a frown as he realized Batman's plan.
"You little pests!" he cried out as he aimed his gun at the man on the floor. But as he pulled the trigger, Batman lunged at him, causing him to lose his aim and shoot at one of the meat hooks, causing the large, chunk of meat to drop to the floor with a large squish. Pulling the gun out of Joker's grasp, Batman brought back his fist and launched it straight into Joker's face, causing a trickle of blood to roll down his lips. Standing up, he rolled Joker onto his back, reached into his utility belt and retrieved a pair of handcuffs. Kneeling down, he quickly placed them on Joker's wrist, leaving him temporarily incapacitated.
"GET UP!!!" Batman ordered, pulling Joker up onto his feet and leading him out of the building, followed by Bat-Girl, Robin and the remaining hostages. As Don and the other workers were escorted to the ambulance, Batman led Joker over to a police van, Gordon waiting for him.
"What's up, Commish? How's your kid?" Joker asked, getting Gordon's eyes to narrow.
"Get him in the van" he ordered, allowing Batman to shove him towards the open back doors.
"Okay, go ahead and arrest me. I really thought you'd want to know where the final hostage is. Tell me, how is that Nightwing friend of yours doing?" he asked, getting Batman to freeze in place and spin Joker around.
"What are you talking about? What have you done with Nightwing?" he ordered, getting another full-blooded laugh from the Clown Prince of crime.
"Oh, he's fine. For now. All you have to do is go back into there and find him" he explained, nodding towards the seemingly empty building.
"I'll go. Keep an eye on him" Robin implored as he made his way back over to the plant, disappearing into the dark as Bat-Girl turned and glowered at Joker angrily.
"One thing I don't understand: how did you kidnap Nightwing in the first place?" she asked curiously, a hint of hatred creeping in to her tone as she spoke. Joker whispered something in a deep tone. Unable to be heard.
"What did you say?" Batman ordered, hitting Joker in the face to try and get the point across. Spitting some blood onto the ground, Joker looked back up at Batman, the red of his blood mixing in with the blood of his lips.
"I didn't" he snarled, causing Batman to raise an eyebrow in confusion.
"What do you mean you didn't?" he ordered, pushing him backwards against the metal of the police van.
"I mean I didn't kidnap Nightwing" Joker explained, confusing Batman, Bat-Girl, even Gordon.
"Why would lie about that?" Bat-Girl asked, crossing her arms strictly like a school teacher.
"I have no idea, Bat-Girl. I mean, it's not as if I lied to try and get the three of you back in that building. But since the Boy Blunder's the only one who went in, I'll have to make an exception" Joker rambled on, confusing the others even further.
"An exception to what?" Batman demanded, the clown now really driving his patience.
"The body count" Joker answered darkly, blood now staining his lower face. Suddenly, a beeping noise filled the air, emanating from behind Joker. Spinning him around, Batman saw a small, hand-held tablet device in his hand. It must've been hidden up his sleeve. Literally. Pulling it out of his grasp, he shoved Joker face first into the van, causing him to cry out in pain as he fell to the ground. Looking at the tablet's screen, Batman saw a digital countdown clock, illuminated in blood red numbers. What was worse, the clock didn't have much time left.
"I hope you said goodbye to your ward, Bats" Joker advised, his grin looking creepier than ever. Instantly, Batman and Bat-Girl exchanged horrified expressions.
The countdown had nearly run out. Throwing the tablet to the ground, Batman ran towards the warehouse, his heart beating faster than ever before. Reaching up to his cowl, Batman pressed in the communication button.
"ROBIN, GET OUT OF THERE!!!" he ordered, desperate to get to him in time.
"Bruce, what are you talking abo-
The ground itself shook as the building blew apart, sending large chunks of concrete in all direction, some landing on the hoods of the squad cars. As for Batman, he'd been thrown back by the force of the explosion and had landed on his back. His costume slightly torn by random chunks of rubble, his exposed flesh now caked in dust. Pushing himself up, he looked towards the large pile of debris where the plant once stood, flames enveloping the edges of the blast zone.
"Robin..." Batman gasped, barely a whisper as he ran towards the rubble, lifting the larger masses out of the way to search for his ward, repeatedly praying that the worst had not happened.
"Robin!" Batman repeated, now shouting in anger as his voice became needier. Lifting a final layer of rubble out of the way, his heart stopped as he saw what was underneath. Jason had a huge fracture on his left-side temple, dried blood mixed with dust dried into his face from the head down to the cheek. His body was broken.
Placing his ear to his ward's chest, Batman nearly screamed.
Turning on detective mode, he scanned the body.
No life signs.
No vital scans.
Bringing a hand to his mouth, Batman held back tears as he brought Robin's body into a hug. Wishing that he'd hug back.
"Jason...I'm so sorry" he whispered, letting the walls down just to let a single tear roll down his cheek.
(Music playing: Jen Titus – Oh Death)
The police were barking over their radios, trying to hold back the press and call in the fire crews. However, nobody could predict what was about to happen. Every guard paused as they saw a figure emerging from the smoke and flames, a large object in his arms. Seeing who it was, everybody silenced, the only noises being the radios as the officers on the other end ordered responses. Slowly, Batman emerged from the mountain of crumbled debris, the corpse of his ward hanging limp as he was carried past the crowd of cops, all staring in disbelief at the scene. Bat-Girl gasped and covered her mouth at the sight of the Robin's unmoving body. She, unlike Batman, allowed an appropriate amount of tears to roll down her cheeks, accompanied by choked sobs.
"Oh my God...Jason..." she whispered, unheard by Gordon as Batman approached him, Robin's broken body still in his arms.
"WE NEED MEDICS!!!" Gordon ordered, forcing two paramedics to run over with a gurney, allowing Batman to place his ward down on it.
"Take care of him" Batman requested, getting nods of understanding from the two medics before they took Robin back over to the ambulance. As soon as he was placed in the back, the ambulance drove away, the top sirens blaring as it veered round a corner and out of sight. Slowly, Batman's heartbroken expression began to change. His eyebrows narrowed into a glare, he bared his clenched teeth and his breathing became fiercer. Turning back to the police van, he saw Joker smiling back at him, a sly grin still stuck on his lips. Heading over to him, Batman brought back his fist and hit him straight in the face again, knocking his head back against the police van and sending him back down to the ground. Grabbing him by the shoulder, Batman pulled him back up to his feet and shoved his head against the metal of the van. Retrieving a Batarang from his belt, Batman held the sharpened edge to Joker's neck, more than ready to slice it across and end his life. Letting out a muffled chuckle, Joker looked back at Batman cordially.
"Go ahead. I dare you" he challenged, getting an angry grunt from Batman as he shoved his head against the van. Finally knocking him unconscious.
"Get him out of here, now!" Batman ordered, looking at Joker's body as it slumped to the ground. Instantly, two squad members grabbed Joker by the shoulders and threw him in the back of the van. And after they'd climbed inside, the van instantly drove away, leaving Batman, Bat-Girl and Gordon alone.
"I'm sorry, Batman. I...I can't imagine how you're feeling" Gordon comforted, placing a hand on Batman's shoulder as he watched the van until it was gone. Suddenly, a voice blared over Gordon's radio, causing him to bring his hand away.
"Attention, all units. Attention, all units. We've just had confirmed reports of Ra's al Ghul missing from his cell. I repeat, Ra's al Ghul has escaped. Requesting an instant search of the city, over" the voice explained, causing a worried expression to spread across Gordon's face as he looked up at Batman.
"Look, you and Bat-Girl could just go home. I can handle it from here" he insisted, waiting for Batman's response as he stared at the ground.
"No, Jim. I'm fine. Come on, Bat-Girl" he instructed before turning away and walking towards the Bat-Mobile. Pouting, Bat-Girl quickly caught up with him, trying to walk at the same pace.
"Batman, you don't have to this" she stated, expecting Batman to reply. But he just kept on walking, not even turning to look at her. Pressing a button on his wrist gauntlet, the door of the Bat-Mobile opened, allowing the two of them access.
"Batman, please liste-" Bat-Girl pleaded, cut off as Batman grabbed her by the wrist and forced her to stop moving.
"Just get in the car. Now" he ordered with narrowed eyes, no emotion in his voice whatsoever. Worried about what he'd do if she declined, Bat-Girl nodded, climbing into the space behind the driver's seat. As the two of them drove off into the night, Bat-Girl couldn't help but think. She couldn't explain it, but she almost missed that cramped feeling she had whenever Robin sat back there with her.
Charlotte covered her mouth in shock as Oracle finished the story, still frozen in disbelief. If she'd known how much pain Bruce had gone through, she wouldn't have gone anywhere near that photo. Removing her hands from her mouth, Charlotte redirected her gaze at the boy on the screen, a smile on his masked face.
"That's horrible. I had no idea" she said, looking back at Oracle with saddened eyes.
"Bruce doesn't like to tell people that much. Tim became the third Robin about two months later" Oracle told, giving a more accurate explanation before noticing the time in the bottom right corner of the screen.
"Like I said before, you should get some sleep before Bruce notices" she repeated, trying her best to put on a smile.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow" Charlotte replied, bidding farewell as she headed for the exit.
- Meanwhile, Arkham City -
Penguin paced back and forth outside the "operating room" he'd assigned in the museum, a place for his men to go if ever they were injured. Some of his crew had practiced with medical supplies, knowing just enough to patch somebody up if they were cut or shot. Suddenly, the sound of angry shouting came from beyond the door, a small and quiet voice answering worriedly. Then, a gunshot sounded, causing Penguin to jump back out of fear. The shouting continued as one of Penguin's men ran out of the door, Two-Face's angry ranting following him as he closed the door.
"...AND IF I EVER SEE YOU AGAIN, I'LL CUT OFF YOUR LEG AND SHOVE-" he was cut off as the inmate slammed the door, panting heavily as he tried to calm down.
"Well? How bad are his injuries?" Penguin asked, taking a puff of his cigar as he awaited the diagnosis.
"Umm...well...whoever shot him blew out both of his knees. And...he's now...p-paralyzed from the waist down" the inmate explained, backing away from his boss as ran his hand down his face.
"Just get out of here. I'm done with you" Penguin ordered, pointing down the hall leading out of the Iceberg Lounge. Obeying his orders, the inmates headed away, allowing Penguin to enter the operating room. Peeking inside, he groaned to see the other inmate lying dead on the ground, a bullet hole through his chest. Looking to the right, he saw Two-Face staring out of the window, sitting in a dusty, old wheelchair with a pistol in one hand and his unique coin in the other.
"Jeez, Dent. Did you really have to shoot 'im?" he asked, closing the door behind him with a small thud. Slowly, Two-Face placed his pistol in his lap and forced his wheelchair to turn around, still getting used to his new stance.
"What did you expect, Cobblepot? We're never going to walk again" he replied, referring to his split personality.
"C'mon, Harv'. You should be lucky my boys found you when they did. You could've died up on that roof" Penguin reminded, getting an irritable sigh from the former district attorney. As Penguin headed over, Two-Face noticed a limp in his step, concerning him.
"Who did this to you anyway?" Penguin asked, still surprised that somebody in this prison had the balls to try and kill Two-Face.
"Red Hood" he replied slowly, snarling at the end of each word. Obviously, his bad side was trying to get involved in the conversation.
"Why the hell would he try and kill you?" Penguin asked, tossing his old cigar into a metal wastebasket beside him and taking a new one out of his coat. Offering it to Two-Face, he fanned it away with his severely burnt hand. Shrugging, Penguin placed the cigar in his mouth and lit it up with the lighter in his pocket.
"I told my men to follow him back to his hideout and trash the place once he'd left. I guess he really holds a grudge. I only told them to do it because he'd killed most of them" Two-Face explained, getting looks of what looked like understanding from the arrogant mob-boss. Noticing Penguin's limp once more, Two-Face couldn't help but ask about it.
"What happened to your leg?" he asked, causing Penguin to look down at his aching appendage with a sigh.
"Batman sent one of his friends to come and rescue Catwoman. Some prick calling himself Daredevil" he answered, getting Two-Face's good eye to widen in surprise, also capturing Penguin's attention.
"Do you know 'im?" he asked, taking in a mouthful of smoke from his cigar.
"Unfortunately. A year ago, when Crane faked his death, Batman came over here and interrogated me for information about this guy using fear toxin in New York. He brought a guy called Daredevil along. Now he's part of Satan's Army" Two-Face explained angrily, recalling the events of the year before.
"Who's Satan's Army?" Penguin asked, bringing his cigar away from his mouth with interest.
"A group of vigilantes working in New York. If Daredevil's here, Satan's Army is with them" Two-Face explained, seconds before the door to the room opened. Turning their heads in the door's direction, the two of them were surprised to see a woman standing in the doorway.
"You couldn't be more right, Two-Face" she said as she kicked the door shut behind her, getting angry looks from her acquaintances.
"You? You're the bitch who stripped down one of my interference generators" Penguin remembered, having a good mind to blow her brains out there and then. But somehow, he knew she wanted something.
Confused, Two-Face turned to Penguin with a quizzical expression, half hidden behind his permanent burn.
"Oswald, who is she?" he ordered, still behind on the times.
"Just somebody who wants the same thing as you: To see Batman in a pool of his own blood" the woman replied, getting Penguin to raise his eyebrow curiously.
"We're listening" he allowed, watching her curiously as she headed over to the window Two-Face was "parked" in front of.
"I'm Stainless. Me and my brother Steel have a little plan for the people of Gotham. And when it's finally complete, we'll be in full control. Nothing will be able to stop us" she explained, glaring out at the city beyond the wall, hating every single person who dwelled there.
"And how do you know this plan will work?" Two-Face asked, tapping his fingers against the armrests of his wheelchair inquisitively. Rolling her eyes, Stainless turned back to face them, crossing her arms and leaning against the glass casually.
"Think, Hot Wheels. You run Park Row and Penguin runs the Bowery. If we team up, you'll be in charge of half the prison" she explained, getting Two-Face and Penguin to exchange surprised looks. They knew she was right.
"What about Quinn? Where does she stand in all of this?" Two-Face asked, curious about the former doctor's involvement in this venture.
"I figured you two could convince her. It'd save me a trip to the Industrial District" Stainless continued, flicking a strand of hair out of her eyes.
"You said you had a brother. Why isn't he here trying to sell this plan to us?" Penguin asked, taking yet another puff of his cigar nonchalantly.
"He had a previous engagement. Right now, he's getting a few more items to make sure our plan goes smoothly. All I need is for you two to agree and Gotham will be ours for the taking" Stainless replied, watching as Two-Face and Penguin considered this offer. It'd be what they'd always wanted: a chance to get back at the city that shunned them and locked them away. Not only that, but the chance to finally rid themselves of Batman.
"Screw it. I'm in" Penguin agreed, getting a small grin from Stainless as she looked over at Two-Face.
"What about you?" she asked, watching as he spun that coin around in his hand. Like most decisions, he always had to leave it to the coin.
"Let me check" he replied, flipping it up in the air and catching it on the back of his hand. Removing his other hand, he checked which side it had landed on. Heads.
"Count us in" Two-Face replied, making Stainless feel content. The pieces of her plan were falling into place.
"But there's one small problem I'll need you take care of" Two-Face continued, causing a look of curiosity to spread across Stainless' face.
"What kind of problem?" she asked, arching an eyebrow.
"There's this guy called Red Hood operating around Park Row. He's the bastard who put me in this wheelchair. Deal with him and you'll have my full attention" Two-Face discussed, getting a grin to reappear on Stainless' face.
"If its killing you require, I'm your girl. I'll deal with him soon" she replied as she headed back over to the door.
"So what do we do for the time being?" Penguin asked, wondering when they'd actually have to do some work.
"Just sit tight and be ready. You'll know when we've taken control" she replied, closing the door behind her with a slam, once again leaving Two-Face and Penguin alone in the operating room.
- The Steel Mill -
The sound of static suddenly filled the room as Harley carefully rocked the crib back and forth, ceasing the motion with a jolt. Quickly looking around, she noticed a dusty CB Radio on the other side of the room, sitting on the desk. Joker had placed it there when they had first arrived in Arkham City, his only means of communicating with people outside the safe confines of the Steel Mill. Every now and then, Harley would have walked in and seen him sitting by the desk, angrily shouting down the microphone at an unknown receiver. Harley had never asked who he had been talking to. She didn't want to risk another beating. Making sure her baby was asleep, she wondered over to the radio and started fiddling with the dials until a distorted voice started to fill the airwaves.
"...Qui...can yo...me?...uinn...are you there? Pick up, Quinn!" an angry voice ordered, slowly becoming clearer. Harley recognized this voice from back at the Asylum. The voice of Harvey Dent. Picking up the microphone, she pressed the button on the side and spoke into the mouthpiece.
"Two-Face? Is that you?" she asked, wondering how the hell he was talking to her. After a couple of seconds, the static returned and his response filled the room.
"Of course it is. I was hoping you'd answer" he replied casually, still confusing Harley.
"Where are you? How the hell are you talking to me?" she asked, taking quick glances around the room to make sure she wasn't being watched.
"Joker used to use this radio to talk to me. Mostly to make jokes and talk about how he was going to wring my neck like a sponge" Two-face replied gruffly, his tone spreading fear throughout Harley's body.
"Sorry to hear that. Why are trying to talk with me?" she asked, releasing the button on the microphone and crossing her arms peevishly.
"Me and Penguin were approached by this chick called Stainless. She says she's going to take control of Arkham City and Gotham. We're teaming up and giving her a hand. All we need is for you to join up and we'll be in control of the whole prison" Two-Face explained, causing Harley to pause. She'd made a deal with Phobia and Raven in return for them keeping their secret. If she joined up with Stainless and Steel, she'd be breaking her promise. Not only that, but they'd probably tell Batman about her baby . And she couldn't risk having her child taken away from her. Taking a deep breath, she held down the button on the microphone and spoke into the mouthpiece. "I'm sorry, Two-Face. But I can't" she replied slowly, dreading the response she'd receive.
"What?! You'll regret this, Quinn. Someday soon, you'll pay" Two-Face responded angrily, going silent as soon as he'd spoken his last word. Placing the microphone back on the holster, Harley slowly backed away from the desk, her mind racing with thoughts about what could happen. For all she knew, Penguin and Two-Face could've been sending men to come and get her right now. But this wasn't the only thing worrying her. She heard a loud thumping in her ears, going at the same pace as her heartbeat. Looking down, she saw that her hand movements were becoming blurred, her vision becoming cloudy around the edges. Harley gasped.
"Oh God. Not now" she thought as she became lightheaded, losing balance as she stumbled to the left.
"My pills. I've got to get to my pills" she said out loud as she turned around, gasping at the figure standing behind her. She backed away at the sight of the purple-clad man, his messy green hair, his pale, white skin and his blood red lips warped into a fiendish grin.
"What's wrong, Harley? You look like you've seen a ghost" Joker mocked, his head tilting back as he let out a blood-chilling cackle.