Debutante: Low Society
A Ranma ½/Batman Fan Fiction
Disclaimer – Ranma ½ is the property of Rumiko Takahashi. Batman is the creation of Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Both are used without permission.
"How do I look?" Akane asked, smiling brightly with excitement.
Alfred scrutinized her carefully, lips pursed, before nodding and giving her a proud, approving smile.
"It suits you very well, Miss Akane," he declared. "You look very formidable while projecting a style unique to you."
"Looking good, Tomboy," Ranma said. He was leaning back against a workbench, dressed in his Nightwing uniform sans domino mask. "Though your outfit still reminds me of a traffic light."
Akane stuck her tongue out at him.
All the members of the Wayne household were assembled in the Batcave, where they were preparing for Akane's first outing as a costumed vigilante. This was also the first time she had worn her finalized uniform, and she felt pleased by Alfred and her fiancé's responses. The costume consisted of a deep red kevlar breast and back plate, with green sleeves, leggings and a short skirt, all woven from more flexible bullet-proof material. Her gauntlets and tabi-style boots were colored a darker green, and metal bracers encased her forearms, the right one slightly bulkier than the left since it housed her gauntlet-portable computer. Her cape, shorter than Batman's, was also green, with a yellow inner lining. Like Batman's it was capable of snapping rigid, allowing limited gliding flight. A golden utility belt with multiple pouches was cinched around slim waist. The most visible items attached to it were a collapsible fighting staff, a grapnel, and a cable zipgun. It also contained a wide array of less visible crime-fighting and investigative equipment. A green domino mask with white, polarized lenses and a stylized golden 'R' on her right breast completed the outfit.
"How does it feel?" Bruce asked. He was in his own uniform, his cowl thrown back. "Is it comfortable?"
Akane nodded. "Yep! The fit's perfect," she answered, rocking slightly back and forth on her feet.
"It doesn't feel restrictive? Your mobility is not impaired?"
As an answer Akane back-flipped twice then launched herself into a backward somersault, landing smoothly into a split and rising swiftly back to her feet, her arms thrown out like a gymnast that just finished her routine. Alfred chuckled at her display and Ranma applauded. She bowed with a flourish and walked back over to the group.
Bruce allowed himself a half-smile before pulling up and securing his cowl. "Are you ready, Robin?"
Akane pulled up the hood of her cape. "More than ready, Batman." She gave him a quick bow. "Thank you for this opportunity, sensei."
"You're welcome. I know you'll do yourself and all of us proud. Now to reiterate, your role for tonight will primarily be to observe. If a perp manages to evade either Nightwing or myself you can engage, but otherwise stay back and shadow. Patrol will be short tonight – three or four hours at most. We'll stay out longer and allow you more active participation as you gain experience. Understood?"
"Excellent. You'll be riding with me in the Batmobile. Nightwing will be on his Nightcycle." Ranma had applied his domino mask at this point. Akane did not notice the frown that quickly flickered across his face, but both Bruce and Alfred did. "Get in the Batmobile now. I need to discuss something with Nightwing before we leave.
"Okay." Akane trotted off. Once she was out of earshot Ranma frowned again, directing it at Bruce.
"What gives?" he asked. "We modded the Batmobile to fit four comfortably. There's no need for me to play outrider tonight."
"Consider it training for yourself," Bruce answered. "Separation therapy. I need you to curb your protective instincts towards Akane. Tonight will be a good trial run, while the stakes are low." Ranma opened his mouth to protest. Bruce held up a hand to cut him off. "Don't deny it. Don't try to justify it. If you hover over her all the time while we're in the field you'll impede her growth and end up distracting both her and yourself. That will put her in danger, not protect her from it. Not to mention putting both you and me at risk, and jeopardizing a mission's success."
"You trust Miss Akane, don't you Master Ranma?" Alfred interjected.
"Of course I do!" Ranma said with some heat. He paused a moment, then blew out a breath and nodded. "You're right. I know you're right. I've known this since we started training her. I'll give her space."
"Good lad," said Bruce, slapping him affectionately on the shoulder. "Let's head out."
Akane watched the countryside speedily pass as Bruce drove to Gotham City, the thrilled smile on her face growing wider by the second. Despite all that had occurred – her leaving Tokyo for Gotham, living and training with Ranma and Bruce, having becoming friends with Wally and Garth and having Donna quickly become her best friend – part of her thought she was dreaming. She was riding in the Batmobile, and not just as a passenger, but as a superhero-in-training. She was the new partner of Batman and Nightwing. This could not possibly be real, and yet it was.
It was taking all her willpower not to squeal.
She looked in the rear-view mirror, catching sight of Ranma following them on the Nightcycle. She pursed her lips thoughtfully and glanced at Bruce.
"What did you talk to Ranma about?" she asked.
"Our strategies for tonight," he answered. "In particular I went over the role I want him to play."
"Oh." She pondered that for a moment and smiled. "In other words you told him not to spend all of tonight's patrol in my back pocket, right?" She giggled at the look Bruce gave her. "Did you forget that you've not just been teaching me how to fight, but how to observe as well?"
Bruce chuckled softly. "Clever girl. Ten points for you. Yes, I had a quick discussion with him about giving you space. Now it's time to give you a similar talk."
"What do you mean? I'm just going to shadow, as you said."
"Yes, but I also know that Ranma's not the only one with over-developed protective instincts. Remember, you can do clean-up if someone slips by us, but otherwise you're not to engage in any fighting, even if it looks like Nightwing is in trouble."
Akane frowned. "But-"
"No 'buts' about this, Robin. Just as he has to learn to trust you on the field, you're going to have to do the same with Nightwing. If, say, you jump into the fray because you think someone is getting the drop on him, it's possible you'll only end up distracting him, and in doing so he may take a hit he otherwise could have avoided."
"But how am I going to be a good partner to him if I'm just a distraction?"
"You're not going to remain one. The two of you already have a strong friendship. You now have to create a professional relationship to supplement that. But I don't think it will take too long – you're both very fast learners."
Akane ducked her head slightly at the praise. "I'll try... No, I will." She pursed her lips again. "I remember something Ranma told me, after he chewed me out for attacking Hugo Strange in Setagaya. That being a hero means not only knowing when to act, but also when not to."
Bruce nodded. "Nightwing's smarter than he looks."
Akane arched an eyebrow. "Funny, he says the same thing about you, Batman."
He chuckled at that.
MacKay slammed through the backdoor of the warehouse, Shanks trailing so close behind him that the other man was almost stepping on his heels. The two ran pell-mell through the alleyway and raced across the street, nearly getting run over in the process by a late-night driver. They ducked into another alley, sprinting another couple blocks before sliding to a halt, both men doubling over in terror induced fatigue, their hearts beating furiously against their ribs as they tried to catch their breaths.
"He's real," gasped Shanks. He swallowed then spat, his eyes wide and rolling, his complexion fish-belly white from fear. "I didn't think he was real!"
"Of course Batman's real, you dumb-ass!" growled MacKay. He winced as he straightened up, pressing a hand against the stitch in his side, grimacing at the coppery taste in his mouth. He really needed to lay off the donuts and cigarettes.
"I thought he was an urban legend!" Shanks protested hysterically. "Him and Nightwing both!"
"Urban legends don't attend Justice League press conferences, moron! He was on TV just last week, standing next to Superman while the Big Blue Boy Scout was making a statement, big as life and twice as ugly. And that grinning brat of his is seen in New York all the time with those other freak kids."
"How did they know about the shipment?" Shanks was practically gibbering. "We only found out about it two days ago ourselves!"
MacKay shrugged. "He's the Bat. He knows all, sees all."
"He's gonna come after us, isn't he?"
"Probably, but like hell I'm gonna get caught by that big bastard. C'mom. We'll hotwire a car and be in Bludhaven by morning. Let's get moving."
"I don't think you jerks are going anywhere."
The voice was feminine and musical, spiced with a slight, lilting accent MacKay didn't have time to identify before a small, shadowy form flew by him and kicked Shanks in the side, sending him flying down the alley. MacKay swore and threw a punch, only to have his fist knocked painfully aside. Blows rained on his chest with machine-gun speed, making him stagger back against the alley wall, paralyzed with shock and pain. Through a static haze he saw Shanks stumble up to his feet and flee wailing, only to be cut down by a boomerang striking him square in the back of the skull. MacKay's vision cleared and resolved, and in the dim light he could now see in detail his assailant. It was a woman in a green hooded cape, dressed in red and green, her eyes concealed by a domino mask. She was looking back at him, head tilted slightly.
"Not another damn freak," he slurred out. "Who the hell are you?"
"Robin," the woman answered. "Are you going to be smart and give up now?"
He pushed himself off the wall, swinging a wild haymaker at the side of her head. Robin easily ducked beneath his arm, stepping behind him. The last thing MacKay heard was a metallic click before his vision exploded into a blast of stars and he fell headfirst into a painful oblivion.
Akane stood still for a moment, half crouched, fighting staff gripped in her right hand, then straightened up. She looked dispassionately down at the man at her feet. He groaned softly, shifting slightly before falling still. She then glanced at the other man, the one she had struck with her batarang. He also seemed disinclined to move. Akane collapsed her staff, hooking it to her utility belt, before breaking out in a huge grin. "Yatta!" she whispered to herself, pumping a fist.
"Not bad." Akane turned swiftly toward the mouth of the alley. Ranma stood there, leaning a shoulder nonchalantly against a wall, arms folded and a smirk on his face. "Not bad at all. Pretty good, actually."
Akane frowned slightly. "I thought you were going to give me space."
"I am giving you space," he answered, pushing off the wall and holding up his hands. "When we spotted these two slip away Batman told me to follow but otherwise let you handle them. So I just observed but didn't interfere at all. Giving you space isn't the same thing as leaving you unsupervised, Robin."
Akane's frown sharpened briefly but then she smiled and nodded. "Fair point. Thank you for letting me take them down."
Ranma tugged his ponytail and looked away for a moment. "No need for thanks. You're not going to learn if we're holding your hand all the time." He watched as Akane zip-tied the two thugs. "We'll call in their location to the cops once we're done at the warehouse."
"Did you find the shipment?" she asked as they walked out of the alleyway.
"Yeah, they were in the middle of packing it when we dropped in on them. After we finish sweeping the place, Batman will call in an 'anonymous' tip about one of the warehouse doors being open and let the GCPD take over from there..." He trailed off as he glanced up at the sky, his eyes locking onto something. "Dammit," he muttered.
"What's wrong?" Akane followed his gaze. "Oh!"
A giant spotlight shone through the night, emblazoning the symbol of a bat against the moonlit clouds.
"Of course this would happen tonight of all nights," grumbled Ranma. "Oh well, can't be helped." He hit the communicator on his gauntlet. "Batman-"
"I know," Bruce responded. "Alfred informed me. You and Robin rendezvous with me at GCPD headquarters."
"Right. Ten minutes." He reached for his grapnel. "Come on – it's time to start teaching you about the real Gotham highway." He aimed and fired it, snagging onto the cornice of a building across the street.
Akane readied her own grapnel, smiling eagerly. "Right behind you, Nightwing."
"Hey Commissioner Gordon," Nightwing greeted cheerful.
Jim Gordon shut down the Bat Signal and turned to see the teen superhero emerge from the shadows, Batman a step behind him.
"Good to see you, Nightwing," said Gordon. "It's been a while." He nodded at the senior member of the Dynamic Duo. "Batman."
"Good evening, Commissioner."
Gordon then noticed the third, unexpected figure behind his two costumed friends. His brow furrowed in surprise. "Who's this?"
Batman gestured at the person to step forward. "Nightwing and I have taken on a new partner. Tonight is her first night out. Commissioner Gordon, this is Robin. She's new, but is talented and a fast learner. Both Nightwing and I vouch for her." Nightwing nodded his agreement. "Robin, allow me to introduce you to Commissioner James Gordon."
"Good evening, Commissioner," said Robin, dipping her head respectfully. Gordon did not immediately answer, taking a moment to look her over. She was small of statue, but held herself with the poise of a trained and confident fighter. Her uniform was colorful compared to her partners' – muted red, green and yellow, with her face concealed by a green domino mask and the hood of her cape. Her expression was carefully neutral, but Gordon's had been police commissioner for a long time. He knew how to read people, and his intuition informed him she was slightly nervous.
Gordon blew out a breath and looked at Batman. "Well, at least she's not ten years old." Nightwing snorted at that. A brief smile flickered across Batman's lips. Robin's eyes widened behind her mask, then she giggled musically, hiding her mouth behind a gloved hand. Gordon smiled. It was strange, he reflected, how something as simple as a laugh could cement a first impression for the better. "Welcome to the team, Robin."
"Thank you, Commissioner."
"So what's going on, Commissioner?" asked Nightwing.
Gordon assumed a serious demeanor. "About an hour ago there was a kidnapping near the Gotham University dorms." He produced a picture of a young woman, blond, green-eyed and pretty. "This is Alicia Wesker. She was walking back to her dorm room with her room mate Samantha Butler when a van, brown Chevrolet make, pulled up by them. Three men jumped out and grabbed Miss Wesker. Miss Butler tried to intervene, and actually managed to knock one of them down before one of the other assailants knocked her down in turn, breaking her arm in the process. They dragged Wesker into the van and drove off, surprisingly leaving behind the man Butler had attacked. According to Butler and two other witnesses, that man got up and ran off in the opposite direction. Supposedly he looked dazed, as if in a stupor, and I'm afraid I know why. We found this on the scene."
He produced another item. It was a stiff white slip of paper, the size of a playing card. On was side was printed the numbers 10/6.
Nightwing bared his teeth. "Mad Hatter."
Batman took the card gravely as Robin looked on pensively. "We found the van abandoned near the Narrows. Forensics are checking it out now. The plates on it were a set reported stolen from New York City. If we find anything else I'll forward it to you."
Nightwing frowned deeply. "This feels wrong."
"What do you mean?" asked Robin.
"Jervis Tetch is a lot more subtle than this," explained Batman. "Alicia Wesker physically fits his preferred targets, but such a blatant and open kidnapping does not fit his MO at all."
"I thought that too," said Gordon. "He could be calling you and Nightwing out."
"Possible." Batman mulled it over for a moment. "We'll contact you once we get something concrete, Jim."
Gordon nodded. "Good hunting." He watched the three crime-fighters vanish into the night.
"Do you think Tetch is setting a trap?" Ranma asked. The trio were waiting in an alley for the Batmobile and Nightcycle to arrive on autopilot. "It doesn't seem like him. He usually tries to stay off of our radar."
"Not always. My first encounter with Mad Hatter happened when he deliberately challenged me." Bruce briefly recalled that memorable Christmas eve two years into his career as Batman, the night when it seemed the crime lord Roman Sionis – Black Mask – had put a fifty-million dollar bounty on his head. "There have been a couple of other times as well, but those were before you became my partner."
"Unh," grunted Ranma. "Guess we'll find out soon enough."
Akane said nothing, feeling she had nothing to offer right now. She recalled what she knew about Jervis Tetch, having spent much of her training studying Batman and Nightwing's major adversaries, and had to repress a shudder of revulsion. His obsession with finding his 'Alice' and his other unsavory criminal enterprises, she considered him a pervert that made Kuno seem as pure as driven snow.
A few moments later their vehicles pulled up to the alleyway. Bruce turned to her. "Robin, you take the Nightcycle and head back to the Batcave. You're done for the night."
"What? But why?"
"This is only your first night out. It's too soon for you to be on the field against a super-villain, even in an observational capacity."
"No arguments, Robin."
"Wait," interjected Ranma, looking at Akane with a conflicted expression. The young man sighed deeply and rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand. "I think you should let her come."
"Really now? And why do you think that?"
"I'm being pragmatic," he answered, smiling wryly. "Knowing the Tomboy here, she'll drive five blocks then circle around and follow us."
"Hey!" Akane protested with the smallest bit of a whine.
"Besides, while as a civilian, at that fight at Mishima Theoreticals in Tokyo, she helped take down someone far more dangerous than Mad Hatter."
Bruce frowned. "Kid Flash was with her for that."
"Yeah, and she has us now, along with all the training we've put her through for the past several months. Let her come along."
Bruce said nothing, giving Akane a considering look. "Very well. You can come Robin. Your role has not changed, however. Observation only. Understood?"
Akane nodded eagerly. "Yes Batman!"
"Let's go." Bruce turned and strode to the waiting Batmobile. Akane looked after him for a moment, before turning to Ranma and glomping him ferociously.
"Thank you!" she said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
To his mortification Ranma blushed deeply, his arms flailing a bit in surprise. His mortification intensified when he heard a soft cough and saw Bruce watching by the Batmobile.
"Okay, okay!" Ranma said, gently prying his fiancée off of himself. "Just don't me regret this, alright?"
"Alright," she said. Grinning happily she ran to the Batmobile, passing Bruce and hopping into its open canopy. Only when his back was to her did Bruce indulge in a sly grin directed at his ward.
Ranma sighed, resigned to the inevitable teasing to come.
Author's Notes – I'm badly blocked on both School Daze and Feline-ious right now (it's especially frustrating with the latter story, since I haven't updated that one in almost a year). I decided to start a new story in an effort to break the block, and also finally reveal Akane's heroic identity. Why Robin instead of Batgirl? Well, I just like the idea of Akane in a Robin costume, I guess. Also, way back when, I liked the idea of a female Robin when Stephanie Brown took on the mantle, and felt it a wasted opportunity when she was forced to surrender it after only three issues (which was typical Bathole behavior from back in the late '90's/early Aughts. If I recall correctly Bruce only allowed Stephanie to be Robin in an effort to lure Tim Drake, who had temporarily quit being his sidekick, back into active service). Finally, it is possible I'll be using Barbara Gordon in the far future, but I don't want to use her as Oracle just yet – not that Oracle isn't awesome.
The fight at Mishima Theoreticals takes place in a story I haven't written yet called Trouble In Tokyo (yes, I know. I don't care). It takes place after School Daze, though God knows when or if I'll get to it. I'm not going to reveal who Akane helped take down, but trust me when I say that, yes, he is far more formidable that Mad Hatter or even Hugo Strange.
Thanks once again to the wondrous PurseMonger for taking time out of her busy Christmas schedule to beta this.