Justa Lotta Animals:

The Batmouse – Cry of the Hentress

By: Christopher W. Blaine

e-mail: darth_yoshi@yahoo.com

DISCLAIMER: The characters and situations contained in this story are ©2003 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for fan-related non-profit purposes only. This original story is ©2003 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.

I watched in horror as my parents were slaughtered before me, killed for the change in their pockets. I remember the face of their killer, the small eyes and pale beak. The weapon still smoking, held in a black-feathered hand.

That night, Bruce Waynermaus died a horrible, slow death from drowning. He drowned in the tears of a child.

When the last one had dropped from his whisker, he realized then and there that he would forever be changed and he accepted it. He accepted it with a cry and shaking fist.

That night I died and I was reborn, rising from the pools of blood that surrounded my parent's sprawled forms. On that night, I became something more than myself.

I became Batmouse.

"New partner?" Jim Gordon Crowe asked, pushing his spectacles up his beak before pulling out a large cigar. He used it as a pointer, directing the Batmouse to the yellow and orange costumed teenager behind him.

"This is Robin," Batmouse replied, his eyes getting smaller. "Batmouse must always have a Robin," he replied with a small smile. It was the only time he would do so, except in situations that required the embarrassment of Super-Squirrel. Making the Rodent of Steel squirm brought him great pleasure.

"A duck this time I see," Jim said, noting the bill on the teenager. The last Robin had been a bear both in form and attitude. He wanted to ask what happened to him, but he felt it was better left unsaid. Bears had it rough in Gotham City as he remembered the death of Jason Toddly Bear, the ward of Bruce Waynermaus. Terrorists had killed the poor boy while he had been on vacation, or so the story went.

Little did the police commissioner know that behind the mask of Robin, Timothy Drake was well aware of what had happened to his predecessor. Striking out to find his mother, the second Robin, the deceased Jason, had traveled to the Middle East where the Jackass, the arch-nemesis of the Batmouse, murdered him. "You're called sounded important, Commissioner," Robin said, wanting to change the subject.

Jim gave a harrumph and lit the cigar. "An informant has told us that there's someone new in town, but we don't know if she's friend or fowl, pardon the pun."

Batmouse nodded. "The Hentress," he said coolly. "Word is that she may be an operative for the Black Spider."

"You need to find out since costumed nuts are your specialty," Jim said. He flapped his arms, shaking some dust from his feathers. "Damn city air."

Batmouse waved the cigar smoke away from his sensitive nose. "No kidding."

Jim paid him no heed and continued on. "The Black Spider is on the move, consolidating his power. I understand the Penguin has agreed to merge his group into his."

Batmouse took the information in stride, betraying no emotion. His only movement was to reach down to his utility belt and open the special cheese compartment. Mild cheddar always helped him think things through. The Black Spider was a mysterious figure that was slowly making his way to the top of the Gotham underworld food chain. Who he was exactly was the big mystery; as of yet, Batmouse still had not confronted the criminal face-to-face.

"He already has the Bronze Tiger and Catmouse on his payroll; he's forming an army," Batmouse thought out loud, popping a couple of chunks into his mouth. He chewed on them and then turned to regard Robin. The teenager was busting at the bill to go into action and prove himself. "Maybe I need an army as well."

"What was that?" Jim asked.

Batmouse shook his head and threw his cape back. "Nothing, Jim; don't worry, I'll find the Hentress."

"I was never worried," the crow said with a big smile.

"Two years and now you need my help," Night Owl said in a hooting tone. Hooter "Dick" Grayson had been the first Robin until he and Batmouse had separated after a philosophical argument. Night Owl now operated solo, having recently broken up with his girlfriend, Star Firefox.

"Things are getting bad in Gotham," Batmouse said, his visage interrupted occasionally by static. Night Owl's internet connection was bad, as was everything else in his hideout/apartment. Though he had his own money, he chose to life frugally. "I need you to come home."

"I like New York."

"You liked New York when you had some warm mammal to snuggle up to on long, cold winter nights," Batmouse said. Night Owl was about to respond, but the Dark Rat beat him to the punch. "I do keep tabs on my interests. Your woman is gone, the Zoo Titans have disbanded…again…"

"I'm not some little chick that you can order around, Batmouse; I've made my own nest, I can fly without being pushed," Night Owl responded. "You might need me, but I don't need you. I can stretch my wings here."

"What about Barbara, Dick?" Batmouse asked, playing his trump card. Barbara Gordon Crowe had been the Batchick, another junior partner to the Batmouse and the first serious love of Night Owl. Only a year before, the Jackass had shot her, putting her into a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Now she aided the Batmouse as the cyber-sleuth Oracrow. "She'd like to see you."

"She knows my number, Bruce," Night Owl replied. He turned his head completely around, a trait of his species, and blinked away the tears of regret. He had always blamed himself secretly for her condition. If he hadn't run away with Kory, perhaps they would have been together when the Jackass struck. Perhaps then he would still be able to fly with Barbara up high…

"I won't ask again," Batmouse said. He chewed on a slice of American cheese and Night Owl knew he was getting upset. He only pulled out the slices when the stress was getting to him.

Night Owl had to make a decision. Was he going to prove he was a grown owl by staying in New York, or was he going to prove he was a dutiful son by giving in to the Batmouse's demands? He turned his head back around and puffed out his chest. "I'm coming."

"I am a trained warrior, mate."

Batmouse nodded, his ears wiggling slightly. He sat in the lotus position, Swiss chunks in his left hand, and cheddar in the other. The Tasmanian devil in front of him breathed deeply before beginning to speak again. "We have nothing to discuss."

Batmouse nibbled the Swiss. "You are dangerous without training. You have the will, but lack the patience to escape the maze. Under my tutelage, you will become better."

"Crikey! Do you really believe that rubbish? I gots the System in me noggin'," the other mammal said, pointing to his skull. "No stupid muskrat…"

"Mouse."

"Whatever. Tazrael does not need to be trained by the Bat, mate…or Mouse," the devil said as he stood up. "I'll handle the Black Spider and that'll be that!"

Batmouse shook his head and stood up as well, putting the cheese into his utility belt. "Nobody does anything in Gotham without my approval."

Tazrael stepped closer and Batmouse noted the glint of light on his fangs. He was a powerful adversary who Batmouse was considering making his reserve. There was always the possibility that someone would build a better trap and a new Batmouse would be needed to protect Gotham City. "Fine, mate," the devil said, turning his back to the Dark Rat. "You take care of the problem yourself. Jus' don't be crawlin' back to old Taz when you get your bum handed to you!"

Batmouse spun around and left the room immediately. The monks of the Order of St. Bernard bowed as he walked by, a sign of respect for the warrior that he was. He had hoped to recruit Tazrael for his new "family", but the other mammal was simply too independent.

He would simply have to make do with what he had.

Oracrow tapped some keys and opened a channel. "Fried Chicken to Lady Bird," she said into the microphone. She tapped her long beak as she waited. Behind her, Robin played with his hand-held video game. Batmouse had sent him over to get a status report from Oracrow's Birds of Prey, a private investigating group.

Currently, she had Black Canary searching the warehouse district for any signs of the Hentress. The Fowl Fatale had been hanging out in that area for the past week or so and Batmouse was hoping to use the BoP group to cover more ground for him.

"Lady Bird here, flapping around in the fog," came the reply. Robin moved in a little closer to hear. It was recently revealed he had a large crush on the Canary (who was also a duck, secretly Dinah Drake Lance) and had volunteered to be here in the hopes of meeting her. "Have you seen the new cute partner Batmouse has?" she asked.

Barbara smiled. She had clued her partner in on Robin's crush earlier. Both thought it was cute but also realized that Robin wasn't all that young and one day he was going to be a striking mallard, firm in feet and long in bill.

Very long in bill it was hoped.

"Quiet, Dinah, he might hear you!"

There was a quacking chuckle on the other end that was soon interrupted by the deep baritone voice of the Batmouse. "Less chatter and more flying."

Batmouse put the binoculars down and peered across the pier to the other side. His eyes were not reliable in this fog, but his sense of smell was something different. He could detect the Canary fluttering around to the west in an area frequented by the Warf Rats, a local street gang. He suspected, however, that the Hentress, whom he believed he could smell across the way, was after bigger fish.

This part of the pier, these four warehouses, were owned by the Penguin. Actually, it was owned by a company that the Penguin owned through a henchman. Given that the Penguin was now allied with the Black Spider, that meant this was mobster territory.

Several toughs, bulldogs and weasels, were milling about and Batmouse could sense that something was about to happen. Most likely a major arms for drugs deal. The Black Spider was planning on taking control of Gotham the hard way with guns blazing.

A car pulled up and shut its lights off. An otter stepped out, smoothing back his slick hair with a hand and exchanging elaborate handshakes with the weasels. After a few minutes of that, the otter moved to the trunk and opened it. "Night vision," Batmouse whispered and the lenses in his cowl switched to an ultra-enhanced view. His vision was now twice as good as it would be in normal light and he zoomed in on the open trunk.

Several weapons could be seen piled up ranging from simple handguns to advanced laser rifles. One of the thugs brought over a suitcase and handed it to the otter. More handshakes were exchanged and then all hell broke loose.

The scream was something between a rooster and a banshee, the leather clad Hentress roaring in rage from atop the other warehouse. She was a magnificent specimen of chicken, with a black crown and powerful wings. Her costume was tight against her plumage and it left no question about her figure.

Aiming a wicked-looking crossbow at the otter, the Hentress fired. Batmouse cried out "No!" and then let his batarang fly. His weapon deflected the crossbow quarrel and then returned to his outstretched hand. The thugs were already moving, pulling out guns and firing at both the Hentress and Batmouse.

"I need you," Batmouse said as he pulled his cape over, letting the Kevlar absorb several rounds before he made his move. Like his namesake, the hero literally flew through the air and came down hard into the crowd of criminals. The Hentress who was delivering chops and punches like a pro joined him.

Night Owl wasn't far behind, swooping down and grabbing a weasel with his feet. With a deft move, the weasel went flying into the water. "Who's the spicy chicken surprise?"

The Hentress took down two dogs with a surprise Kung Pow strike. "You don't belong here heroes!"

Batmouse ducked several swings with a pipe and took down the weasel. "This is my town! I won't let the Black Spider just come in and take it away from the good people of Gotham!"

By now the Black Canary had also joined them, using her sonic Canary Quack to shatter the eardrums of many of the thugs. Within a minute, the foursome had taken down a score of villains and nobody was dead. Batmouse, his breathing steady, turned to face the Hentress. "Who are you?"

She laughed. "I am vengeance! I am the night!"

Night Owl snickered as she parodied Batmouse's standard introduction. "Fine. I'll tell you who you are. You're name is Henlena Bertinelli…"

Black Canary gasped. The Bertinelli's had been an infamous mob family in Gotham some years before. The Hentress said nothing for a minute and then tapped her foot on the ground. "So? You're supposed to be the world's greatest detective, right? If that's true, then you know why I'm doing this."

"If you keep this pace up eventually they will find you in a bucket," Night Owl offered from behind her. She turned to him and gave him a wink.

"You're a lot cuter out of that Robin uniform," she said.

"You should see me out of this one," he teased.

Batmouse cleared his throat. "Can we get back to the situation at hand? Canary, secure the weapons and have Oracrow contact the authorities."

"The Black Spider arranged to have my parents murdered. I had to watch as my father was deep fried in front of me!" the Hentress cried out.

Batmouse nodded, remembering when Joe Chilly, a penguin down on his luck, had murdered his parents. Could he be judging her too harshly? "We both want the same thing…justice," Batmouse told her and he reached for his pouch of Colby chunks. "I'm offering you the chance to get that without killing."

She shook her head. "The Black Spider has to die! He's the worm in the apple and I intend to feast!" She pulled out her crossbow and reloaded it. Slipping it back into its holster, she turned to walk away. "I won't settle for less."

"You don't want me coming after you," was the warning.

"I'll keep that in mind, rodent," she relied. Night Owl moved to get in her way, but Batmouse motioned for his to move. "Don't get your feathers ruffled, handsome!"

They watched her disappear into the night. "Why did you let her go?"

Batmouse chewed on his cheese. "She'll be back."

"How can you be so sure?"

He sniffed the air before answering. "You came back, didn't you?"

"Batmouse took down all of our boys," Catmouse said. His orange costume looked similar to the Dark Rat's, but had a more feline touch to it. He was addressing the other members of the Black Spider's inner web. "It's going to cost us."

"This Hentress is not helping business either!" the Penguin added, tapping the table with his umbrella. "It's a conspiracy I say!"

"I say we break both of them, snap them into twigs," the Bronze Tiger remarked. He then roared in frustration. "I did not agree to this partnership to sit on the sidelines! I demand a chance to match my mettle against the Bat!"

In front of them, hidden by shadows, the Black Spider spoke. "Patience my friends. The Bat is a problem, as is this Hentress, but we must tread carefully. Do you want to bring the entire might of the Justa Lotta Animals down upon us? I'm not ready to tackle Super-Squirrel or Wonder Wabbit."

"Well, no," Catmouse started.

"We will achieve our goals, my friends," the Black Spider promised, "and I assure you that when we do, the blood of the Batmouse will serve as the wine we will toast our victory to!"