Worm's Finest: Darkness Rising
Prelude

My name is Brian Laborn, and I am a cape.

Becoming a cape sucks, and for me, it was no exception. But once you are one, once you actually have powers? It opens doors. Lots of doors. There's a lot of money to be made as a cape, no matter what kind of power you have. No one's ever had a useless power.

Mine lets me create darkness only I can see through. While I don't see much of a market for that as a rogue, there are plenty of other applications I can think of.

When I first got my power, I considered the Wards. It's the first thing anyone thinks of, really, at least here in the States. Join the Wards, be a hero. But no.

Family comes first. Dad taught me that. He taught me a lot: how to throw a punch, how to take a hit, how to fight through the pain. He taught me that life sucks. Tough love. That's Dad for you. Mom... I don't like to think about Mom. I wouldn't, if it weren't for Aisha.

I need to get Aisha away from Mom. For that, I needed a job. And I needed money, enough to get a good lawyer once I turn eighteen so I can sue for custody.

And the Wards? They're part of the system, the same system that gave Mom custody of Aisha after the divorce to begin with. They'd known what she was like. Why would it turn out any different if I joined the Wards?

That left the other side of the law. The Bay has plenty of criminal enterprises that could use my talents. Some days, it seemed like the gangs were in more control of the city than city hall. And the bigger gangs could easily find someone to forge up some good looking paperwork and some "reputable" character witnesses for a custody hearing. Or maybe just bribe the right judge.

There's just the tiny problem of being black in a town ruled mostly by a Nazi gang. And the Merchants represent everything I'm trying to get Aisha away from.

A couple of weeks after I got my power, I was on my way back to the apartment I shared with Dad, trying to figure out what to do, when I heard the scream. I honestly can't remember what went through my head, but instead of ignoring it or running away like any sane person would, I ran toward the scream, ducking into the alley.

It didn't take long to take in the scene. A couple and their son, probably taking an ill-advised shortcut through the alley. Probably out of towners. A mugger with a snub-nosed revolver, wearing Merchant colors and a drug-crazed look.

There was no time to think. The mugger had heard me and was already swinging the gun around. I used my power, flooding the alley in darkness, and moved to the side before lunging toward him. I ducked inside his reach even as he fired. Left jab, left jab, right cross, and he was down.

When I let the darkness vanish, the little boy stared at me, goggle-eyed. "Are you a hero?" he asked.

I didn't answer. I left.

Still, I didn't forget the boy's question. Was I a hero? Could I be? Maybe I could. Brockton Bay had maybe half a dozen independent heroes, after all. And if I did something really impressive, that might give me some extra leverage when it came to joining the Wards. Maybe enough to pull a few strings for Aisha.

I'd been mulling that over for a few days when we received a visitor.

"Brian?"

I looked up. "Yeah, Dad?" Ever since I triggered, we generally avoided each other.

"There's someone here to see you."

Puzzled, I got up and went to the door. It was the little boy's father.

"You," I said. "How did you find me?"

"I am a man of many resources, Mister Laborn," he said, holding out his hand. "You saved my life; you saved all our lives. I'd like to repay you, and maybe together, we can do more."

"You... seem to have me at an advantage," I answered, shaking his hand hesitantly.

"My apologies," he said. "My name is Wayne - Doctor Thomas Wayne - and I have a proposition for you."

That seems like so long ago now. It only took me a week to decide.

My name is Brian Laborn, and I am Batman.