Standard disclaimers apply. Made for practice, not profit.

Something happened to you, and it wasn't just that you got old

Terry Mcginnis, Batman Beyond pilot "Rebirth"


More Bad News

Sunday, September 20th, 09:20

Bruce moaned awake at the sound of the intercom's broadcast ring.

­­Alfred will get -

A memory resurfaced as awareness returned. Bruce sighed dejected. Rolling over, he sat up rubbing sleep from his eyes. As he turned the bedroom TV on via remote, the live feed from the gate camera appeared on screen.

His brow frowned in confusion. Talia? On foot? What's going-?

Wayne's shoulders slump. He didn't really care, and he would find out soon enough. With a punch on the intercom, he opened the door, watching the brunette start her trek to the manor. Bruce sat on the bed and considered changing into decent clothes, but gave up on the idea. Instead he just shrugged a midnight blue robe over the scarred, topless form, grateful of his preference of dark colors.

Knotting the sash, he walked out into the hall. His adopted sons stepped out of their respective rooms, watching their surrogate father sleepily descend the large stairs. No sooner than he reached the front entrance, the doorbell rang.

Too fast. She ran uphill. His lips pressed in a thigh line. Something 's wrong.

Steeling himself for whatever may come, Bruce unlocked the door. Talia stormed inside the moment it swung open, a panicked expression on her face.

"Father 's gone mad." She mumbled, pacing around the lobby.

You don't say? His mind was sarcastic, but his face was dead serious.

"He's totally insane this time." Talia continued. "He's talking about Armageddon and martyrdom and…" She trailed off. "He's going to kill everyone. Even his followers, even himself, even-" Her voice caught. Hesitantly she turned to meet his eyes. "…us."

He swallowed. Ras is a megalomaniac with a messianic complex, but if he 's planning to kill his successors… Bruce shoved his hands in the robe's pockets in a rare gesture of tension. "Plan?"

Talia looked away again. "He's stolen a sample of hemorrhagic smallpox from the CDC."

"I would have known-"

"You wouldn't." She cut him off. "There was no break-in. He had an insider. The man just swapped samples with harmless chickenpox cultures. The virus is all but forgotten, nobody would notice it's missing until the pandemic."

Wayne's mind scampered for facts on the disease. What he recalled was vague but terrifying.

Huge mortality rate. Virtually exterminated for three decades. Vaccination stopped. Everyone under thirty is not immune.

Bruce looked up at his sons and felt his gut lurch. ­No. He grew determined. I'm not loosing you too.

"He's going to release them at Kennedy airport sometime this week." Talia added.

"Spread it worldwide." Bruce finished the madman's plan, already calculating the outcome.

Several hundred simultaneous outbreaks within one week. One third of humanity dead within few months. Socio-economic breakdown that will take years to recover from. One half in rioting. High probability of war, civil or international. Two thirds to three quarters. Huge plunge in birthrates over the next decades. Shit."

With one hand he massaged the temples. "Where is it now?"

"The old, closed clinic in Suicide Slum that will be brought down next Friday." She answered. "Father is looking for me, he'll kill me for running away. He sees it as betrayal."

"I will transport you directly to the shelter." Bruce strode into the study with fisted hands and a troubled Talia on his heels. "Nobody will find you before he's taken care of." He opened the laptop and logged on. "The shelter is an inconspicuous house in a remote village the middle of nowhere. There's a month's worth of necessities there. First neighbors are a mile away and you probably don't speak the language, so don't leave the house. You will be transported back when the situation is over." His fingers flew over the keyboard with a rapid fire of taps.

"I won't stay with you?" She was disappointed, frightened and confused at once.

"No." He answered with unwavering cold and stepped up to her. "Too late for that."

Talia surprised him with a passionate kiss which he didn't return. "Goodbye, beloved." She whispered before vanishing in a shimmer.

Bruce pulled a small device from the robe pocket and held it to his face. "Did you get everything, Jonn?" He switched into Bat mode.

"Your predictions included." The manhunter replied over the comm. link. "Calling the meeting immediately."

"Have Waller on-line, also. We'll need to work with the CDC."

"Will you be coming?"

Bruce considered the idea. "Audio link." He opted instead.

"I'll call you back when everyone reports in."

"Understood." He ended the call.

Pocketing the communicator, Bruce dragged himself to the kitchen where Tim and Dick were making breakfast.

The view on the manor grounds was magnificent. Morning mist evaporated under the warm rays of Indian summer. The garden was adorned in rich, warm hues and bright counter-light. But the beauty of the sight was lost on a tired and sullen Bruce.

Seated at the counter, he found a steaming mug of black coffee appear in front of him. The unassuming gesture of care shook him to the core. Subconsciously, Wayne's eyes sought the old butler's room. Seeing a glimpse of it through the door left ajar, he felt lured. Mug in hand, he noiselessly pushed the door open.

Bruce noticed for the first time just how small the room was, and felt a dull ache of guilt. He sat on the single chair in the corner and looked about, rolling the mug between his hands. Every item in the room reflected its former occupant's personality.

Have to clear the room. He sipped the scolding beverage. Or lock it up and loose the key.

A neatly folded document by the night lamp caught Wayne's attention. Picking it up, Bruce stared at the Do Not Resuscitate notice. Events form a few days back replayed form memory.

A grip, firmer than expected, kept Bruce at Alfred's bedside.

"Bruce-" the old man whispered.

Wayne felt a lump form in his throat after hearing Alfred call him by his name for the first time in decades,

"…don't." He continued. "You don't have to save me. I've had a long life. A good life." Alfred smiled faintly over the gathered family and received sad smiles in return. "Don't make me an undead." He implored. "Let me go with grace."

"I can't-"

"I relieve you of the duty, son." Alfred cut him off.

Bruce bit his lip. "I… You..." The words wouldn't come out.

"I know." Alfred squeezed the younger man's hand. "Son, be happy."

The device bleeped.

Picking himself up, Bruce left the room. "I'll be in the study." He told the two younger men without looking at either of them. "Tell the Gordons to come by tomorrow."

"No rest for the wicked, huh?" Dick offered sympathetically.

"No fair." Bruce uttered the childish complaint without emotion.