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Chapter 1

He screamed-a primal roar of mindless rage and hatred...

...He was himself at last. The rage had ebbed away in a final paroxysm.

Standing up, Ra's al Gul surveyed the cold austere room, completely empty except for himself. For the past few weeks none of his remaining followers had dared disturb him-a most wise precaution, since he would kill anyone and anything that came near him while he was recovering. But the Pit had performed its function as it had so many times in the past, and now he was whole.

Wrapping his cloak around him, his thoughts drifted inexorably back to the City, and his struggles with.. him. Gritting his teeth, he could not speak his name as a new wave of cold anger filled him. "My greatest pupil... my long-hoped for protégé..." The words dribbled out like poisoned drops

He had betrayed him. Betrayed the cause of justice. Inflicted upon the League a defeat such as it had not suffered in centuries. For all this, he had to die. Slowly, and painfully.

Wait. He paused to reconsider. Vengeance, no matter how sweet at first, was no substitute for justice. For righteousness. Killing him would not save the planet from the suicidal ravages of man. The only proper course of action was to regroup and rebuild, and look for the next opportunity to bring humanity back to harmony-or at least, whoever would remain after the inevitable purging. Still, he could not just ignore what had just happened. I will kill him with my bare hands... No! Antediluvian thoughts still lingered, but he forced himself to fully reassert his rational faculties

A small smile crossed his face. Yes, he was going about it all wrong. There was no need for him to exert any effort to defeat him, for his defeat was already inevitable. He seeks to save the people of Gotham, but he cannot save them from themselves. Indeed, the more he succeeds in his quixotic quest, the more the mindless masses will hate him for it. They will rise up and destroy him, and he will go down knowing that he failed not of his own accord, but of those he tries to protect.

That was the sorry lot of the policeman... of a "Detective." His smile became even broader. Yes, 'Detective', run along and waste your life solving meaningless little puzzles. You could have taken my place, saved humanity... instead, you will live out your life as a measly Detective, risking your life to save the worthless, even as they inevitably die, even as they will hate you...

Despite the swelling sense of schadenfreude, a tinge of regret still filled him. Perhaps when the Detective realizes his quest is futile, he will come back to me and take his place at my side... at Talia's side... Yes, despite all that had happened, he could not completely destroy his affections for him. All the positive aspects of his character remained-his strength and resiliency, his intelligence, his unshakeable will. Only his defective conscience stood in the way, and he was sure that as the years passed, the Detective would finally learn to see things his way.

Breathing deeply, he felt a deep sense of satisfaction. I win either way. In the unlikely event the Detective somehow brings them back from the precipice, that will be a victory for the League. And if not...

...It was decided. He would give the Detective a chance to prove him wrong, to lead the masses away from the path of self-destruction.

But his patience was not unlimited. Work hard, Detective, for your time is running out. And when it is gone, you will have to deal with me once again...