Chapter Twelve – Dawn of a New Beginning

"Good Morning Gotham City! This Is GNN with the top stories of the day." The virtual female report announces as she appears with the sound of some background music.

As the woman's blue silhouetted image moves to the right of the screen, a video appears beside her of the police slapping on the cuffs of the remaining Jokerz at the hospital and in some of the streets as they try to run from the law.

"Gotham City was nearly over run by the Jokerz gang last night, as they destroyed numerous buildings including the Gotham Police Station. But that was soon thwarted by the authorities as they made their biggest move against the violent gang in what was said to be an 'all out war on crime'. Commissioner Maxine Gibson lead the police on the takedown and was not available for comment on how many gang members have been rounded up."

The virtual woman soon came off the screen and a male reporter now took her place as he switched to the left side with still image of Batman beside him.

"But this operation could not have been a success without the help of the returning defender of this city, Batman. Yes, it looks like the dark vigilante has decided to make a return to Gotham as he battles this uprising from the Jokerz. Where has he been for so long? Why is he cracking down on this violent gang now and not before he took an extended break? No one seems to have an answer to this riddle, but many of the police seem to welcome the explosive return of this hero."

The male reporter switches to the other side again, and shows a live shot of Jason Smythe heading down the stairs of the Powers building.

"In other news, Jason Smythe, President and C.E.O. of Powers Industries, has been keeping close to his hospitalized Fiancé, Dana Tan. They too were victims of the Jokerz wild attacks as their engagement party was disrupted and had many wounded. This statement was made just minutes ago from the concerned Powers employer."

The shot of Smythe now becomes full screen as the man steps up to the microphones and hovering cameras all pointing at him as he tries to speak.

"First off, I'd like to say that this horrible act of cowardess will not go unpunished. I will make it my mission to end this gang by any means necessary with whatever resources I have at my disposal. Secondly, I want to assure you that everyone is doing well and was treated, even my beautiful and lovely wife to be, Dana Tan. She is resting comfortably at Gotham General and I hope to have her home as soon as she is well enough."

In the crowd interviewing him, hundreds of voices all try to speak at him at once as they attempt to get their questions answered by him. One female voice rises above the others as she clearly gets his attention from her inquiry.

"What of Batman mister Symthe? It seems very timely for him to show up just after your party was attacked. Are you in league with the dark knight? Or in some way connected to his return?"

Jason becomes angry with the woman for suggesting it and quickly gives his answer back to her.

"I have no idea what you're talking about! I have no connection with that dangerous twit whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned this is his entire fault in the first place. If he hadn't been taking a vacation and leaving us all at the mercy of these criminals he helped to create…this city would be a lot better then it is now! He's a much a menace to this city as those responsible for nearly killing my Dana!"

He storms out beyond the cameras and is soon replaced with his personal assistant, Mr. Winters.

"Thank you all for your concern. This interview is now over, please direct your questions to the main office if you need any further information."

As the throng of reports tried to force him to say more, the image of it happening switches off and Terry McGinnis's face now sits in the reflection of what was obviously the television screen. As he steps away from the set, we now see that he is in a very large penthouse flat that looks very impressive and full of boxes he's been trying to unload. Flopping down on the dark blue, plush looking couch, he gives a sigh and stares of into the distance as he tries to relax. As he lies there, a soft yet familiar voice calls to him.

"Knock, Knock…"

Glancing over, he notices Max standing in the entrance doorway.

"Sorry to intrude, your door was still open. Mind if I come in?"

Terry stands up and walks over to her. The two smile and give each other a hug.

"Good to see you've got a clean bill of health." McGinnis says. "Wasn't sure if that Joker anti-toxin was still working at full strength."

Max pulls away and walks deeper into his new home. "Well, I'm fully checked out, so I guess it did. Wow! Is this your new digs?"

Terry nods and rubs the back of his neck. "Yep…Wayne never seems to do anything small scale. But I guess it's all in the life for this guy now…"

Max gazes around at the place and then focuses back on Terry.

"And what about Wayne Enterprises? You going to finish the merger or what?"

Terry puts his hands into his pockets and shrugs his shoulders.

"Up in the air for the time being. The next meeting of the shareholders has been pushed up to a few months from now. The whole fiasco with the Jokerz has got them a bit on edge and Jason Smythe as well, in fact he wants to hold it off until Dana is better."

"How is she by the way?" Max asks with sympathy. "Did you go see her?"

"No." Terry bluntly states. "I'm…I'm not the one she wants to see. She's got a new life now, a new man to take care of her…I'm just the guy she once dated, that's all."

"Aw, Terr…I'm sorry." Maxine says with compassion. "I know you guys had plans a long time ago, marriage, kids and the whole thing…something that everyone wants in their lives."

Terry walks over to one of wide steel blue cylindrical pillars built into the wall. The room has many such pillars, as they are all part of the inner design of this fancy penthouse he now lives in. He places his hand on the pillar and gives a command in his raspy Batman voice.

"Open…"

The cylinder swivels around and opens up to reveal a secret elevator with a white-lit floor and the black Bat symbol sitting over it. Max was amazed to see this and gawked at him with wonder.

"Yeah, well…she's taken that path with another guy, for me…this is where it all begins again. Wanna see what else the old man got me?"

Max nods and grins with delight. The two enter into the elevator and stand side by side as the column swings back to close. As the door clicks shut, the white light turns deep red and suddenly sends them down as it activates. Max gives a slight yelp from the feel of her gut being left up at the top, but soon manages to hold on to Terry's arm and giggles at the sensation.

"COOL!" She shouts. "How long will it take to get down?"

"Not long." Terry smiles.

The elevator slows down and quickly comes to a halt as the light inside turns white again, the black door in front of them swivels open to reveal Batman's new underground home.

"Welcome…to the Batcave." Terry voices again in his alternate persona.

Max ventures out of the two-person lift and marvels at the sheer size of the new cave. It is twice the size of the previous one, and has areas all around linked up with joining metal bridges and walkways. Sitting on a few shelved platforms built into the cavern walls was the Batmobile, an armored mecha-suit, the crime lab, medic center and a large super computer work area that houses a large flat screen. There was so much in this place that Maxine wasn't sure of where to look next, it housed so many areas that she thought she had entered an amusement park.

"Where did Wayne find this place?" She said inquisitively.

"He found it after the great Gotham earthquake, it's just below the city and has several points to come out or in from. Since Bruce was part of the rebuilding of Gotham, he managed to acquire this area and developed it as his possible secondary location."

"And he never used it?"

"Nope." Terry steps ahead of her and folds his arms as he too gazes at the new surroundings. "This was before his heart problems…once he ditched his costumed life he had no need for it anymore. So now it's mine, not too shabby huh?"

Max swats him on the back and chuckles. "You dreg! This is totally unbelievable! I mean just look at it…wow!"

Terry rubs his shoulder from her hit and giggles back.

"I knew you'd like it. That's why I brought you down here…"

Max loses her smile and now gives him a questionable look.

"Max…" Terry continues. "I don't want you to worry about me anymore. You're the police commissioner now and I think it's time we both take in the reality of what that means. My life will be filled with danger and loneliness now…I don't want to drag you down with me as I step into the darkness, I need you to be safe from all of this and the enemies that come with it. I need you to stay out of here and do what you have to do out there."

Max walks over to him and holds his face tenderly with both hands.

"Terr…I've got to say this. I'll always be safe with you around and no matter what comes….you know I can kick ass just as hard as you. But most of all Terry…I love you."

McGinnis's eyes flash with surprise and his face is frozen in awe, Max continues to study his face and strokes his cheek with affection.

"I've always loved you. We've been good friends for such a long time, we've shared one another's secrets and we've even put through hell together. I want you to know that I'm here for you….I'll always be here for you. The darkness that cosumed Bruce won't consume you…do you know why? Because I won't let it."

The two draw in closer to one anothers face and their lips almost come within contact, but Terry suddenly pulls away and steps back.

"No…no I can't Max."

"No? Why No?" She says to him with disappointment.

"I can't share that feeling you have…not yet. It's too soon after losing Dana…I'm not ready to love again, but I still need a friend…."

Max's eyes dim. "A friend."

Terry grips her shoulders tenderly and tips her head up to look at him again.

"Yes…a friend. Someone whom I've always come to rely on. Maybe someday…it can be more…but for now, I need to spread my wings and finish what Wayne started."

Max gave a sigh and nodded in agreement. "I understand…really I do. Not the best of timing on my part…but don't think that my heart will change. I love you and I will wait for you Terry…when you're ready, come let me know huh?"

McGinnis nods at her and the two hug as friends once again. As they end the embrace, Max notices the damaged Batsuit laying on the metal table behind them.

"Tell me you have a few others like those…"

Terry gives a sigh and walks over to the table. Gripping the technologically advanced costume, he rubs the torn area of where the cowl should be.

"I don't. Thank goodness that the back up memory core isn't in the head but in the entire fabric itself. I can still download the bat computer into the new one…but I'm afraid the suit itself is pretty much offline. Looks like it will be awhile before I can repair it."

Max takes hold of the suit and rubs the damaged spot with her fingers.

"He really did do a number on this didn't he? Too bad Bruce didn't make a back up for ya…or at least saved one of the costumes from the other cave."

Terry smirks and looks over beyond her.

"Who says I didn't?"

Max now quickly looks up at him and spins her head around to see what he is staring at. There sitting in a lone spotlight, incased in a cylindrical glass case is Bruce Wayne's original Bat costume. Her eyes light up as the sight is like a beacon of hope shinning high above on solitary platform in the batcave.

"I thought you didn't want to live in the past?" She says sarcatically.

"Well…every hero has to keep something to remind him of what started it all."

Max faces him again and touches his cheek with a soft stroke.

"Then suit up Batman…save my damn city!"

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

In a very eerily dark room, with pictures of Terry, Batman and all the people he is connected with are pinned all along the wall. A break in the dark room reveals a door sliding open and a figure stepping through it. The sounds inside the shadowy place are that of bubbling liquids, electronic beeping noises and the low hum of power pulsating. Stepping inward to the soft glow of green light near the center of the room, the figure is revealed to be that of Mr. Smiley. As he continues to walk in, the faint light shows a line of other robotic replicas of himself hiding in the shadows. Deactivated dolls that stand there as he glances at them all for just a few seconds. Finally stopping near the base of some steps, he kneels down on one leg and bows at the base of it.

"Speak." A whispered voice booms out at him.

"Everything went as planned, sir. You were right…he is going to be quite the challenge." Smiley announces coldly from behind his mask.

"Excellent…" The voice booms out again. "I told you he would pick up where Wayne left off."

"Indeed. I look forward to tormenting Batman and all those around him."

"Oh no, no, no…." The voice suddenly rises. "The others are of no concern. Batman is the real fun…it will be our task to push him to the limits of his abilities and then crush him when he least expects it. Save the others for when he's at his weakest…and then…drive him to insanity!"

Smiley raises his head and looks up to the person that is beyond view.

"You know what is best…as always. I shall do you proud…father."

"This is going to be the greatest fun I've ever had!" The voice says getting louder.

As Smiley continues to kneel, the hidden voice soon begins to chuckle slowly growing higher and higher in pitch. Then bursting out into a great evil laugh, the voice becomes loud and familiar. A laugh that once haunted the Dark Knight of previous years and one Gotham was sure to never hear of again.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

As the laughter continues, it hangs in the air over the city of Gotham, almost like a shadow of things to come. There, standing on one of the tall buildings in the center of this overly lit gloomy metropolis is Terry McGinnis, fully decked out in his suit of black and the red symbol of the bat standing out proudly on his chest. With no cowl on the suit anymore, his head remains exposed…that is until he unfolds one in his hands. Placing it over him, we see that it is the original cowl from Bruce's old suit. The white eyes that now peer out reveal the Batman in his completed ensemble. Unlike Terry's suit, where the mask completely covered his face and the ears standing up long, this one shows his bottom half of his face and the cowl's ears not as tall.

"A new beginning…a new Batman." Terry says in his thoughts.

"Go get'm, kid." Bruce's voice echoes in his mind one last time.

Diving out into the air, he unfurls his costumes bat wings and glides down into the city as if he had never left being the costumed hero in all this time.

END