The Once and Future Bat

a Batman Beyond fanfic
by
Mike Yamiolkoski




PART SEVEN

Terry dodged the beam as it cut across the floor toward him, past him, slicing through the Batcomputer in a shower of sparks. Bruce had fired a batline across the cave and swung out of its way, but as the ceiling shook and stalactites fell, the security of the line came into question.

One that we didn't see, one that we did, Terry thought. One more, then -

The third beam stabbed through another section of the roof and swept across the length of the cave. A huge chunk of the ceiling dropped away, falling onto the Batmobile's platform and crushing the car like tin foil. The beam continued its destructive path through equipment storage, through the stairs to the mansion, and into what would later become the trophy room. The lights failed as the main power feed was cut, but now a shaft of yellowish daylight through the enlarging hole in the roof illuminated the cave's interior.

"Bruce!" Terry shouted. He received no answer. The dust obscured his view, even the infrared scanners on his cowl did nothing. At least he didn't have to worry about Kruger taking another shot for a few minutes.

His relief was short-lived. A fourth beam stroked through a formerly intact section of ceiling and cut away the floor upon which Terry stood. He activated his rockets and leaped away from the landslide, flying upwards and away from the beam toward the sky. Apparently, Kruger was no longer terribly concerned with overheating his cannon. That was bad news in more ways than one - it indicated that he might soon be prepared to abandon his equipment, and return to the future. But if he overtaxed the gun too far, it would explode.

As Terry emerged from the ruined Batcave and into the open air, he realized that that might be his only hope. If he could keep Kruger busy, make him take more shots, make him angry or frustrated enough not to heed his power consumption, perhaps the mad scientist would destroy himself. It was a workable plan - the only problem was that it made Terry the target of a very, very deadly weapon.

On the other hand, it didn't look like he would be given a choice. Kruger's hovercraft swept down upon Terry over the smoking rubble of what had once been the grand Wayne Manor, much faster than Terry himself could fly, and the gun was charging for another shot.

Terry applied full power to his rockets and darted away from the deadly beam, shooting straight up and then banking toward the city. Only open ocean lay in any other direction, and Terry knew that without any sort of cover he would be picked off like a clay pigeon. He only hoped that Kruger would overload his cannon before they got to Gotham.

He snapped back and forth in as convoluted a path as he could, dodging Kruger's short blasts that set the forest below aflame wherever it touched. Terry cursed inwardly - Kruger wasn't losing his head. His short blasts might take hours to overload the cannon, and Terry's fuel wouldn't last that long. The batsuit wasn't designed to run for days on end without being refueled and repowered. The jets would go first, then the exoskeletal performance enhancements, and finally the electronic sensor aids. Already, the power-low icon was flashing at the edge of Terry's field of vision.

He felt the heat of the next blast across his back. Kruger was getting closer with each shot - Terry wondered if his helmet gave him the ability to fine-tune his aim. The city was getting closer - already they were flying over fairly densely populated areas. The laser beams hadn't struck ground since the attack on the Batcave, but it seemed only a matter of time.

Terry rolled away from the next blast, its bright, searing red blaze blinding him for a critical second. He dodged the next one without seeing it, but he saw where it went. The line of fire touched one of Gotham's skyscrapers and blasted five stories from its top. Terry cringed as he thought of the people who must have been there. Even from ten or twenty miles away, the laser's power was devastating.

"Terry! Drop!!"

The voice in his ears was one he had grown accustomed to obeying without hesitation, and doubtless that saved his life. The next beam cut inches above his head as he cut his rockets and plunged. Kruger's hovercraft streaked over him an instant later, followed by - what?

It was an aircraft Terry had only seen in a state of half-destruction, hung from the ceiling of the Batcave that was now itself destroyed. The Batwing. And only Bruce could be at its controls.

"Bruce?" Terry asked.

"I'm here," Bruce answered. "I discovered your suit's audio transmitter when I examined it. I assumed that it would use one of my standard frequencies."

"Thanks for the help. Can you catch him?"

"The Batwing has a top speed that's likely far greater than his, but that hovercraft is much more maneuverable. And I can't get a radar lock on it, he must have some kind of jamming device."

"What do you want me to do?" Terry asked.

"Head for downtown Gotham. I think he's going to try and lose me in the city, see if you can get there before he does. He's flying a zigzag course to try and shake me - if you fly straight, you might be able to beat him."

"Roger, Boss." Pointedly ignoring his suit's low-power warnings, Terry streaked like a guided missile toward Gotham.

* * * * *

Kruger's hovercraft was indeed far more maneuverable than Batman's plane, a mismatch almost as great as that between the craft and Terry McGinnis. Bruce cut down on Kruger's advantage by doing his best to maintain a higher altitude, all the while seeking a means to bring it down. He couldn't risk opening fire without a radar lock - there was no telling who he might kill with a missed shot. All he could do was keep Kruger as busy as possible in the hopes that it might prevent him from turning his laser on more innocent people, or worse, activating his temporal transport.

It was all the Batwing could do to keep tabs on the flitting hovercraft, which dodged back and forth like an insect, seemingly in defiance of any laws of physics. Bruce had silenced alarms that would tell him of undue stress being placed on the plane. It didn't matter if the Batwing never flew again once this was over - with his secret out to the world, Batman himself was likely through. His final desperation plan, if necessary, would be to ram the Batwing into Kruger's hovercraft and destroy both of them. Indeed, Bruce wondered what he might have left to live for. Dick Grayson was dead, his home was gone, the Batcave lay buried, and it was unlikely at best that Alfred had gotten out of the mansion alive. Bruce had barely had time to board the Batwing and launch, and there wouldn't have been time even for that if he hadn't thought ahead to prepare the plane for flight.

Lights appeared in the sky ahead, approaching from the city. Bruce switched on the police band to have his suspicions confirmed - Commissioner Gordon had sent out helicopters. What they could do to help, Bruce didn't know, but whatever kept Kruger at the controls of his craft instead of the controls for his time portal was a plus. Unfortunately, he had already shown that he was fully capable of firing his gun while flying.

The laser flashed once in a brief, deadly burst, and one of the helicopters became an expanding orange fireball. Its power barely diminished by contact with the helicopter, the beam cut through downtown Gotham and struck one of the taller buildings. Bruce didn't have time to watch the resulting destruction in the city - he rolled the Batwing over and dove at Kruger, hoping to knock him off course with his jetwash.

The nimble hovercraft leaped out of the way, and Bruce pulled up on the controls to dodge another beam fired at him. The blast went wide of his plane, but tore into the ground in the middle of a crowded subdivision, obliterating at least five homes in a fraction of a second. Two of the police helicopters broke off the pursuit and banked down toward the fire.

Knowing it would do no good for him to join the rescue efforts, Bruce brought the Batwing back up to a position at Kruger's rear and prepared to fire his missiles. If they missed, he could disarm them remotely before they hit anything, and the resulting property damage would be minimal. However, he had only one shot. The Batwing wasn't an F-16; it could carry only so much ordnance. In any event, Bruce had never intended to use his weapons to kill.

But if that were the only way to stop this madman, then so be it.

* * * * *

Terry met the roof of the WayneTech building at full speed, the force of the impact knocking the wind out of him. He had been unwilling to use what was left of his scant fuel supply to brake his descent. When he had caught his breath, he turned to watch the battle in the sky just outside the city. Kruger's laser flashed twice as he watched, the first beam streaking harmlessly into the sky, the second slicing into a building a couple of miles away. Steel and masonry rained down from the wounded structure into the street.

The street. Terry looked down. Even from a height of eighty stories, he could sense the pandemonium that had gripped Gotham. People were running wildly through the city, panicking, rioting, looting, tearing their own city apart at ground level even as Kruger decimated it from the sky. Terry shook his head, wondering how things could have gotten so far out of control so quickly, all due to one man's misguided thirst for revenge. Even if they succeeded, if Kruger were killed or brought to justice, there would be such chaos to overcome that Terry wondered if he and Bruce, with both their lives shattered, could possibly take on the task.

"Terry!"

Bruce's shout in his ears broke Terry out of his reverie. He inwardly cursed himself for losing focus, and responded. "I'm at WayneTech, Bruce. If you can swing him by here, I can make a jump for him."

"Right now, Kruger's calling the shots. I can't lead him anywhere without getting burned out of the sky."

"Maybe he'll come by here anyway, and try to demolish the building. You know, as another shot at you."

"We can't stake this on a maybe," Bruce said. "I'm going to try and take him down."

* * * * *

Bruce cut off communication with Terry and brought the Batwing into a steep climb to shed some speed. In order for his shot to have a hope of connecting, he would have to be practically on top of Kruger when he fired. The only advantage he had was the Batwing's superior acceleration. He would have to go into a full power dive directly over the top of Kruger's craft, leaving him no time to dodge the missiles. Such a maneuver also meant that, in the advent of a miss, Bruce would have that much less time to deactivate his missiles and pull out of the dive, but he gave himself one chance in three of surviving it. Not the odds he would have preferred, but better than any alternative.

He checked that his missiles were armed, banked the Batwing sharply around in a post-stall maneuver, and plunged.

The roar of the afterburners shook his seat as he dove at frightening speed toward Kruger's hovercraft and the ground. Bruce lined up his crosshairs by eye, still unable to get a radar lock. Kruger had already begun to bank his hovercraft away, and Bruce tried to anticipate where he might be when the missiles intersected his position.

A heartbeat later, he squeezed the firing trigger.

The missiles darted away from the Batwing, and Bruce immediately threw all he had into a twisting bank away from his target. It was entirely possible that, even if he hit, he would be caught in the blast and killed. Out of the corner of one eye, he watched for the explosion.

A full second went by. He had missed.

Bruce vital attention away from his controls to hit the switch that disarmed the errant missiles, then pulled at the stick with all his strength, feeling the pain from his previously fractured wrist burn up the length of his arm. The plane's superstructure groaned around him from the strain of the hard maneuver, but held together. The ground approached less quickly, then finally tilted wildly away as the Batwing caught the air and leveled off meters above a suburban street. Windows shattered in houses up the street as the Batwing passed, then pulled up and away. Bruce expected to be hit by Kruger's laser at any moment, but miraculously, he was not. As he wrenched the plane back up into the sky, he discovered why.

Several of the police helicopters had managed to get close enough to buzz the hovercraft, and Kruger was making a straight run for it. His craft easily outpaced the helicopters, but not so the Batwing. Batman readied his machine guns.

The distance between the Batwing and the hovercraft closed rapidly. In seconds, they were close enough for Bruce to shoot. He squeezed his triggers just as the hovercraft banked away. Tracer bullets cut ribbons of red light through the darkening sky, missing the craft by inches. Then he Batwing roared through the same spot, and re-assumed its position above Kruger's craft.

Bruce took a moment to listen to the police band. Another helicopter had gone down, and Commissioner Gordon spoke of military units that were on their way, ordering his men to back off. Bruce cursed to himself - there was no way to impress upon the Commissioner the need to keep Kruger busy no matter what the cost. The moment they left him alone might be the moment he needed to activate the time displacement. But they were close to the city now, almost in the thick of downtown.

"McGinnis?"

"Here."

"I'm going to pull in front of Kruger and try to lead him toward you. I don't know how long I can dodge his shots - I might not be able to do it at all. We're only going to have one chance at this. You have to catch him, and stop him."

"I'm not sure I can. My suit is getting low on power -"

"McGinnis, we don't have time to argue!" Bruce checked Kruger's position, and prepared to pull ahead. "I'm going to lead him past you in the next few seconds. I will then most likely be killed. I'm entrusting you to do what needs to be done."

Bruce kicked the afterburners in for a brief moment, and the Batwing swooped directly down into Kruger's sights.

* * * * *

Terry heard the roar of the approaching jet, and prepared to spring. He had no idea if he had sufficient fuel left to make a leap to the hovercraft as it passed, and no way of knowing if there was enough power left to drive his exoskeletal enhancers to give him the strength to disable the craft.

The Batwing swept around a nearby skyscraper and tore past the WayneTech Building. Terry pushed off the rooftop dome and gave his jets full power as Kruger's hovercraft approached.

Then, with no help at all from whatever time-warping device Kruger might have had aboard his craft, everything seemed to slow to a crawl. Fractions of seconds slowed to minutes as Terry spent the last of his rocket fuel in a desperate dive toward the hovercraft's roof.

The first thing Terry realized was that Bruce's plan was doomed to inevitable failure. Kruger was a man who could see in all directions - he couldn't be caught unaware. He would see Terry's approach from the side as easily as directly in front of him.

The laser emitter glowed...

The second thing was that the Batwing had suddenly slowed as it rounded the tower, and angled its nose almost vertical. It was an insane maneuver, providing Kruger with a perfect spread-eagled target that looked curiously like the batsignal itself.

...pulsed...

The third thing, and this was more of a shock than either of the first two, was that this was exactly what Bruce had intended. He was deliberately sacrificing his life to draw Kruger's full attention, to keep him from seeing the threat that Terry himself posed.

...fired!

The beam struck the Batwing dead-center, and the plane was instantly consumed in a bursting fireball. At the same moment, Terry landed heavily on the hovercraft's roof. He barely had time to dig in with the suit's claws and hide his face in his arms as the craft passed through the burning cloud of glowing fragments that was once the Batwing. Then they were through, and the hovercraft sped on into the night.

* * * * *

Kruger's mission was complete. Terry's had just begun.

As the craft tore out of the city like an arrow in flight, Terry flipped an explosive Batarang from his wrist and jammed it down hard into the hovercraft's roof. Then he retracted his claws just long enough to slide back to the tail of the ship, where he had only a second to re-establish his grip before the batarang exploded.

The blast nearly shook him loose - Terry realized that his magnetic grips had failed. He felt a sudden jerk backwards as the suit's tensing exoskeleton lost power and, consequently, Terry lost his enhanced strength. The craft's great speed whipped it clear of its own debris in seconds, and Terry could see that his explosive had done its work. The roof of the hovercraft had been ripped away.

Terry himself was close to suffering the same fate, as the wind buffeted him and threatened to tear him loose. Then it slowed, suddenly, and Terry tumbled forward into the hole his batarang had created. He landed hard inside the craft -

- and found himself face-to-face with Gene Kruger.

Kruger wasted no time with greetings. He swung a heavy club around and connected with the side of Terry's head. Terry felt his cheekbone crack with the impact, and tumbled across the floorboards to the hatch, which had swung open.

"One more Bat to exterminate," Kruger hissed.

Terry dodged the next blow, though barely. He caught a brief glimpse of a large, complex machine that took up the passenger seat and most of the rear seats at the front of the craft. At its center was a spinning circle, only three feet across, but similar to the one he had seen at the fusion plant days ago - or fifty years to come. Bruce had been right - Kruger had his escape route ready, and was even now powering it up.

"It's already over, you pathetic child," Kruger said with a scowl. "The Batman has fallen. I have my vengeance, and with my machine, I will create for myself a new life in any era I choose." Kruger brought his club down on Terry again, striking his right arm just above the elbow and shattering the bone. Terry bit back a cry of pain.

"Can you fly with your wings broken, boy?" Kruger brought the next blow down on Terry's left arm. This time, Terry moved at the last minute, and the club glanced his ribs instead, tearing the wing of the suit. Terry took the opportunity to grab the club, and wrench it from Kruger's grasp. He saw Kruger wind up to kick him in the side, and instead of moving to defend himself, whipped the club up into Kruger's face.

The metal bar cracked against Kruger's helmet even as the kick landed on Terry's already broken arm. This time he couldn't hold back his scream, but in his haze of agony he knew that he'd inflicted some damage on his opponent as well.

Another kick landed in his midsection, pushing him through the open hatch. Terry reached out with his good arm and wrapped his fingers around the single rung of the egress ladder, holding on but dangling helplessly, with no way to pull himself up and no way to save himself if he fell.

He looked up. Kruger's loomed above him, his helmet smashed on the right side, but apparently still functioning. He reached down and grabbed the cowl with one hand, yanking it free of Terry's face. The pain that lanced through his broken cheek almost made him lose his grip, but still he clung.

"Now," Kruger said, "Do I simply kill you, or let you watch as I escape to the future, where if by some miracle you do survive I can take my pleasure in destroying you yet again?"

Terry tried desperately to make his right hand work, to pull a batarang, but it was futile.

"I suppose I prefer not to have any loose ends," Kruger said with a smile. "Farewell, Once and Future Bat..."

His foot came down on Terry's head with stunning force.

Terry took the first blow, but the second ripped his grip away. With a scream of rage and pain, he dropped away from the hovercraft. He tried desperately to ignite his rockets, useless though they were without the wings, but his fuel was spent. Down he tumbled -

And a giant Bat soared across the face of the full moon.

* * * * *

From his remaining optical sensors, Kruger caught the movement as well, but too late. He turned only in time to catch a brutal kick from the Batman's boot as Bruce Wayne swept down from the sky, gliding on silent wings that he dropped and let fall as he touched the deck of the hovercraft. Without waiting another instant, Batman dove for the rail and fired a batline.

Terry felt a sudden grip on his ankle, as if he had been grabbed by a mechanical hand. Looking back up at the hovercraft, he saw a long line snaking upwards from his leg, terminating in the sky somewhere above him. The line drew tight as he fell, and suddenly arrested his descent with a jerk that might have torn his leg from its socket if not for the strong fibers of the batsuit. Fighting the urge to lose consciousness, Terry reached up with his left hand and grasped the batline as it slowly wound his battered body upwards toward the hovercraft.

* * * * *

Batman anchored his line to one of the hovercraft seats and turned to face Gene Kruger, who stared up at him wide wide, unseeing eyes. His helmet had been ripped away from Bruce's initial blow.

"NO!!" Kruger screamed. "I killed you! You're dead! You're DEAD!!"

Batman grabbed Kruger by the shirt and pulled him up to look him in the face. "No," he whispered. "You're dead."

He lifted Kruger's twisting, screeching form clear of the floorboards, took him to the side of the craft, and flung him over the side -

But held on.

Bruce stared into the blind eyes of the man whose life he held in his fist. The man who had come to take his revenge for an act Bruce hadn't even committed yet, the man who destroyed his home, decimated his city, murdered countless innocents - among them Dick Grayson, and perhaps Alfred as well. If anyone deserved execution at Bruce Wayne's hands, this man was the one.

And yet... it would be futile. The damage was done.

And Gene Kruger suddenly looked pathetic, pitiful, helpless.

Bruce pulled him back aboard and snapped cuffs on his wrists.

* * * * *

When Terry reached the side of the craft, Bruce's hand was there to grab him. In another moment, he was aboard the craft.

"Bruce," he said. "How... I saw the Batwing explode..."

"I ejected before Kruger fired," Bruce said. "Out the underside of the plane. He couldn't see me."

"That's why you banked upwards?"

"And to give him a better target. I hoped it would distract him so you could get aboard." Bruce waved down Terry's next question. "We have a problem."

As if to lend force to his words, the laser cannon blasted apart midway along its barrel and blew open the front canopy of the craft, showering them with sparks and glass. Bruce held up his cape to protect them for the moment.

"The laser is overloading!" he shouted over a wind that swept through the cabin. "We only have a few seconds! I need you in the pilot's seat - keep us from crashing!"

Terry pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the wave of dizziness that swept over him, and tumbled into the right-side seat. "I won't be much of a pilot with one arm!" he called.

"Just hold it steady for a few seconds!" Bruce shouted. He reached over Terry to a second console, and touched several switches.

"What are you doing?" Terry asked. His voice was lost in the wind, but he got his answer soon enough. The time displacement portal, which had been spinning in what seemed to be an idle mode, suddenly seemed to gear up and spin faster. The field within the circle brightened to a dazzling white.

"Terry!" Bruce shouted. "If this doesn't work, it's all going to be up to you. Find Alfred, if you can. Find Commissioner Gordon. Do what you can to get this city back together!"

"What are you going to do?" Terry shouted.

"I've set the device to its last programmed coordinates. It should take me back to the same time and place where the hovercraft first arrived!"

"Wait a minute - the same time and place? Bruce, if you appear in exactly the same place and time as the hovercraft, it'll probably kill you!"

Bruce didn't answer.

"That's what you're trying to do!" Terry screamed.

Bruce turned to him. "I can't do anything else," she said, barely loud enough to be heard. "There's nothing I can do in the here and now. But if I can stop this before it started..."

A blast of flaming heat erupted from the laser cannon's power cell.

"BRUCE!!"

"No time," Bruce said. He locked the controls for the time displacement device in place, and slid back around to the rear of the craft to face the spinning circle, timing its motions to throw himself through at the right moment. Then he looked back at Terry for the last time.

"Farewell... Batman," he said.

The laser cannon blew apart as Bruce threw his body into the blinding field of the time machine -

- A blast of white-hot fire caught Terry McGinnis and threw his body through the air, burning through his suit, scorching his skin. Glass shattered around him as he hurtled out into the night, tumbling over and over as the shock wave of the explosion tossed his body like a feather in the wind. His brief, uncontrollable flight ended as he and the large chunks of debris surrounding him struck a wide, flat expanse of water. Terry shook his head, surprised to find himself still conscious, then kicked his way to the surface.

"McGinnis!"

Terry winced at the static that came over his comlink. "I'm here! I'm all right!"

"What happened?"

Terry turned around in the water to look back at the fusion plant. "I'm not sure," he said. "Kruger activated his machine and tried to fly a hovercraft into it. Then the whole thing blew. I'm a little surprised to be alive."

"The feeling is mutual. So, the machine is destroyed?"

"The whole building is gone," Terry said.

"I've got a lock on your position. I'm sending the Batmobile to pick you up. Hang on."

Terry found a piece of floating debris, and waited for his ride to arrive.

* * * * *

The canopy of the Batmobile lifted, and Terry stepped out, dripping wet and hurting all over.

"I hope you realize I just mopped," Bruce said, glaring at the puddle forming at Terry's feet.

"Oh, I'm fine. Just got blown up, but you know, that's how my day goes sometimes."

Bruce ignored the comment. "The fire's been contained. Kruger's machine is definitely destroyed. They found pieces of his hovercraft as well."

Terry nodded. "I guess he wasn't as smart as he thought."

"Perhaps. We'll never know, now. It's a pity, really - his kind of intelligence is rare, too rare to be wasted."

"You getting philosophical on me?"

"You should probably be getting home."

Terry smiled, and turned to leave. Bruce was left alone in the Batcave.

He reached to shut down the lights and other systems, then paused. For some strange reason, a feeling came over him like he hadn't had for a long time, a feeling that he, for some reason, couldn't ignore. He sat back down and activated the video phone, dialed a number from memory, and waited.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Dick," Bruce said to the face on the screen. "It's been a long time."


THE END






End Notes:

It is my sincere hope that my readers have enjoyed this, my second Batman Beyond fanfic. It was certainly a pleasure to write it, and I hope that my enthusiasm as its author came through in the work and caught on with the readers.

Ever since I first saw Batman Beyond, I wondered if they would ever do an episode wherein Terry McGinnis encountered his predecessor at his peak. Sadly, this was not to be the case (though there were times where they came close). And so this idea developed; starting with a "Terminator" style concept, in which Bruce Wayne is hunted by an assassin from the future, the rest of the story took shape.

Now, the necessary disclaimers and acknowledgements:

Batman, Bruce Wayne, Terry McGinnis, Nightwing, and other characters (with the significant exception of Gene Kruger) are not my creation. They are used in this story without permission. The existence of similar works of fanfiction on the internet, and the lack of action taken by the owners of these characters to remove such stories, is taken as implicit permission to use them as I have.

I have tried to be as consistent as possible with the recent Batman and Batman Beyond cartoons - however, I have not seen them all, and so there may be inconsistencies in this story that I am unaware of.

Thanks go out to:

Bob Kane, for creating the remarkable character of Batman.

DC comics, Warner Brothers, and AOL Time Warner for giving him a home.

All the people whose hard work has brought us the Batman and Batman Beyond animated shows.

All the webmasters who post this story.

All the kind people who have read and reviewed the story. Your comments mean a great deal to me and are much appreciated!

My lovely wife Rachel, for not minding that I spent so much time sitting in the basement writing it.

Adam West, for keeping the character of Batman alive through the previous generation (something he and the others who did the 60's TV show don't get enough credit for). Who else thinks that Adam West should portray Bruce Wayne in a live-action Batman Beyond movie? I'm all for it!

Dr. Emmet Brown, for creating the flux capacitor, which is what makes time travel possible.


I have other ideas for Batman Beyond fics, but they may not grow into stories. We shall see.


E-mail Mike Yamiolkoski at MikeYamiolkoski@msn.com.

This story may be distributed and posted only in its entirety with the above notice intact.