|Batman: A Shining New Age
Author: Qur'a 'Morhek PM
He is vengeance. He is the night. He is the Batman. And as Gotham City grows, rising up from the ground like a forest, as the world around him changes, this is a Batman who must adapt to a new age - the dawn of the 20th Century.Rated: Fiction K - English - Adventure/Crime - Bruce W./Batman - Words: 1,612 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Published: 12-08-11 - id: 7618512
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The night is cold. Steam rises from the man's mouth as his warm breath hits cold air. Anything less than what he is wearing, and he might be shivering. But he is prepared, his body well protected from the winter chill.
He sits atop the gargoyle, and watches.
The city is beautiful at night, even despite the cold. Smoke rises from chimneys, the smaller wood-burning fireplaces of homes, and the large industrial towers churning forth thicker black smog. The man wonders, idly, whether all this smoke is a disaster waiting to happen – where there is smoke, there is fire, they say. And Gotham City has seen its fair share of fires lately, natural, accidental and intentional. He has done what he could for many of them, but even he is powerless against most of nature's elemental forces.
His idle pondering is broken, as he expected it to be, by a scream – distant, but ringing through the still night air.
He finds grasp, not with fingers, but with a hook, well-thrown, catching another gargoyle. They say that Gotham has more gargoyles per square foot than it has people, and they are not far wrong – perhaps it is a reflection of the city itself? Dark, monstrous creatures that nevertheless watch over it, protecting it from the silent evil forces. For that is, after all, what a gargoyle is, what they were designed for – a remnant of an ancient pagan practice.
They suit his purpose, though. One hand grasps the rope as he swings, the other readying a second, aiming this time for a window ledge, allowing him to swing lower. If he can time the swing, get his momentum just right-
He hands, heavy boots cushioning the impact, rolls, and rises in one fluid motion, his black cape flowing around him rather than tangling. It took a long time to find the right material, but silk seems to work – light so that it didn't drag him down, and easily torn so it didn't become a weakness. The fact that it billowed out in even the slightest breeze was an unexpected bonus, but one that serves him well.
The men that he hunts are paranoid, and see symbols everywhere – and he has become a symbol of their fear.
He pinpoints the location where he heard the scream, and runs – making surprisingly little sound as he dashes through the space between two apartments, the walls rising up oppressively, their shadows blocking out even the light from the full moon. But he is used to the dark, and it, too, serves him well.
He hears the man before he sees him, an angry voice contrasting against the high, shrill noise of his victim, a young woman. She is backed against the wall, holding her handbag out, terrified – her umbrella lies on the alley floor, snapped in two, likely by her assailant. The man has both arms resting on the wall around her, leaning in, leering – he bats the handbag away, and moves closer, a hand grabbing his face and his lips puckered, the other hand going for her skirt-
All this is analysed and assessed in the span of a second. It takes much less time for his fist to connect with the man's back. He fliches, allowing the young girl to flee to the side as he turns, eyes widening, and then a smile spreading across his face.
"Just what the bloody 'ell are you supposed to be, then?"
Certainly this is not a usual sight – a man, clad in black, a long cape billowing behind him like a shadow, his face masked in a pointed cowl. The thug starts to laugh as his opponent settles into a ready stance, hands loose but not too loose, almost inviting. Gamely, he tries to take a swing-
The attack comes from the side, a spinning kick that sends him tumbling into a cluster of dustbins, raising a racket. But nobody pokes their head out of the windows above them, nobody yells in protest – they know full well what happens in this dark place, this Crime Alley, and they know the penalty for raising a fuss. They stay quiet, hoping that it ends quickly, and that some charitable soul will lead the victim away and call the constabulary. This is the story that plays out across the sprawling city – a city so gripped by the criminal that its people, cowed by decades of intolerable abuse, have practically opened themselves up to it. "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." Edmund Burke said that. More or less.
Somebody chose to do something.
The Batman does not stand by as crime overruns his city. His city.
The thug climbs to his feet, or tries to, but the Batman is upon him, delivering a single blow to the back of his head that knocks him out cold. The man slumps, unconsciousness taking him. The threat taken care of.
Now to attend to the victim.
The Batman has patrolled these streets many years. Few believe he is anything but an urban legend, some dark wish of the city's poor and downtrodden for a saviour that will never come. But such a man is here – he sits atop the highest buildings, watching, listening, waiting for what he knows will reach him eventually. He changes territories every few weeks – not even a man such as he can patrol an entire city in one night, or even one week. But to the prey he hunts, it feels as though he is omniscient, omnipresent, a terror of the darkness that can reach out of any shadow. It is a reputation he has thoroughly earned.
Still, for all his dedication to the task, for all his intensive training, there are still some things that seem strange to him.
The woman stares at him, eyes wide, mouth wider, a mingled look of horror and shock. But she doesn't scream. Does she know, on some instinctive level, that Batman means her no harm? He would like to think so. More likely, he thinks, that she is simply exhausted, her vocal chords aching, her screams used up trying to resist her assailant.
Slowly, unthreateningly, he extends a gauntleted hand.
Slowly, tentatively, she grasps is, and allows herself to be hauled to her feet.
He motions to a nearby stoop for her to sit as he sets about his work. He comes prepared – strong but light ropes, short enough to be unobtrusive, long enough to bind a mans wrists and ankles together, are drawn from his utility belt. The man is left trussed up like a pig. The gag was not his idea – the lady, fear now subsiding to vengeful anger, had suggested using something from the garbage to stuff into his mouth, and had eagerly selected the largest hunk of rotting meat, her gloves now discarded, ruined. But she seemed content – she nodded to Batman as he moved to leave, a nod that he returned. He swung a rope, catching the streetlamp, and swung himself up.
Tonight was a good night.
Batman mused to himself that the citizens, while downtrodden, were no longer quite as cowed as they were, as the city's criminal element thought they still remained. They were more assertive, less willing to be trampled over, to simply give in. The city has discovered its fighting spirit. How much of it came with the dawn of the new century, and how much of it were inspired by his own vigilantism? A question he would never know, that he didn't want to answer – either answer held good and bad.
Behind him, he heard the watchman's whistle. Clearly his handiwork was discovered – and another would-be victim lived to add to his legend, to whisper his name in hushed but awed tones to friends, neighbours, co-workers – spreading the legend of The Bat to a few new ears.
He swings up, catching another gargoyle, hauling himself up to another rooftop, where he settles again, quietening his breathing, slowing his heartbeat, closing his eyes to hear the telltale noises of those who needed him. And it was not long before he heard the sound of a terrified horse, the gunshots, and swung down to join the chase.
Focussed on the pursuit below, he doesn't notice the figure on the other rooftop, watching him, a wide smile spread across his face.
This is Gotham City; one of the East Coast's shining jewels of industry and commerce. The year is 1908. This is a tale of Gotham City, of "great" men of capital, of the people who suffer and the man who does all he can to stop it. This is a tale from another world, a world quite different – a time before horseless carriages, a time before wars brought nations together and split others apart, a time before another, more familiar, superhero will be born. But this is also a world that is familiar – where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the violent get ever more violent. Where the police of the city do what they can to save those they can, knowing all the while that the men responsible remain untouchable. And where one man walks in the dark where angels fear to tread, goes after those who assume themselves above the law, touches the untouchable.
This is a tale of a Batman. A tale at once strange and yet all too familiar.
This is a story of a bright new age, and the darkness it brings with it.
This is a story of Elseworlds.