Batman: Part III
Commissioner Gordon returned to her office and sank into her chair. It had been a long night. A look at her clock told her that it was almost three in the morning. She should probably go home and get some sleep, but the problems from the night were nagging her.
She had just come back from the raid on Kobra. It had not gone as well as she would have wanted. The police had broken into a warehouse and had found a large group of Kobras, apparently waiting to meet someone. They had also been heavily armed. A fierce firefight had ensued, and several of her officers had been injured. The majority of the Kobras had escaped, but the police had managed to take a couple prisoners. Hopefully some information could be gotten from them.
The whole affair seemed a lot like a setup, which Gordon had suspected, but there were a few discrepancies. The Kobras had seemed surprised and angry when the police had shown up. And she thought she had heard someone talking about being double-crossed. So the question was, who was Kobra meeting?
Gordon rubbed her temples. That was just one of many questions. The others involved Bruce Wayne. He had been kidnapped that night by a crazed Batman look-alike and there was no clue of where they had gone.
Barbara had seen the man in person, and the resemblance to Wayne was disturbing. Also disturbing was the fact that his DNA was not registered in the DNA database. Most people had registered, for safety reasons. If you were attacked or kidnapped, any residual blood or organic tissue would be helpful evidence. Also, many hospitals had it set up that your DNA sequence, taken from a simple blood test, could link to a database that contained your entire medical history, especially useful in cases where you were unconscious or couldn't respond. Most importantly, certain risk factors for diseases could be found early and appropriate measures taken. The only people who didn't register either didn't care or didn't want to be found. Gordon suspected the latter.
Another possibility struck her. Perhaps the DNA sequence they had retrieved was a defective sample. It was possible that the DNA retrieval had taken an incorrect reading. She pushed some keys on her chair computer and brought up the DNA sequence copy that she had mailed herself. Some more keys, and she ran an integrity scan on the DNA sequence, a test that checked for the condition of the DNA sequence. A curious report appeared on the screen.
"No central integrity damage detected. Non-central structural damage detected in sequence sectors AF46H2KKZ, HF67B12SW, ..." and a list of several incomprehensible sector names. Gordon sighed. She needed an expert on this.
"Valerie," Gordon said on the intercom to her secretary, "I'm going to see Rick."
Terry stayed quiet as the member of Kobra moved around Robert Mullins's apartment. His camouflage hiding him from view, he followed closely behind as the Kobra searched around the living room. He thought of beating the guy up, but he wanted to find what the Kobra was looking for first.
They went through the living room, the kitchen, and the bedroom. The Kobra grew increasingly angry as he went along, finding nothing that seemed to satisfy him. The last room they searched was completely bare, and the Kobra let out a soft growl of frustration. As the Kobra turned to leave, Terry noticed a Net jack on the wall. There used to be a computer in here, Terry realized. Mullins really cleared out.
The Kobra was hurrying to leave. "I'm not finished with you," Terry whispered.
Right before the Kobra reached the door, strong hands grabbed his shoulders and flung him back against the wall. He slumped to the floor and looked up to see Batman appear in the middle of the room. He pulled a gun and tried to shoot, but Batman had anticipated him and a batarang knocked the weapon from his hands.
Terry ran across the room, grabbed the Kobra by the front of his snake suit, lifted him in the air and slammed him against the wall. "What are you doing here?" Terry asked threateningly.
"Why should I answer to you?" the Kobra responded firmly.
Terry reached over and opened the window. Then he swung the Kobra and dangled him outside the window. He glanced nervously at the ground far below.
"Tell me," Terry demanded.
A weak smile crossed the Kobra's face. "You wouldn't."
Terry smiled broadly back and let go. The Kobra screamed as he plummeted down. Terry waited a short while and shot a batrope after him. The rope wrapped around his legs and yanked him to a stop.
Terry slowly pulled him back up and again held him dangling. "I might miss next time," he said.
The Kobra let out a whimper. "The guy owes us payment," he said.
"Payment for what?" Terry demanded, shaking him.
"We pulled some high-tech machinery for him," the Kobra explained. "A very big job. He was going to pay us tonight, but instead he double-crossed us. Now we're going to make him pay. Nobody double-crosses Kobra and lives."
"I bet," Terry said. He pulled a batrope from his belt and started tying the Kobra's hands together.
"Hey, what are you doing?" the Kobra protested.
"Sorry to leave you hanging," Terry said as he attached the other end of the rope to the windowsill, "but I have to go." The Kobra yelled in anger as the Batmobile screamed away.
Gordon entered Rick Chang's office and saw that he was luckily still in. "How's it going, Rick?" Gordon asked.
Chang looked up from his work. "Fine, Barbara," he responded. Rick Chang specialized in "subject identification from evidence." This meant that he was the Gotham Police expert on fingerprints, organic remnant ID, and DNA.
"I've got a sequence I want you to look at," Gordon said. "It won't take long."
"Sure thing," Chang said. He took the disk from Gordon, rolled his chair over to his computer and inserted the disk.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Gordon said apologetically.
Chang looked over to where a scanner hung over a knife. "That's for the Grimsey case," he said. "I've got to extract some blood samples. But I'm always glad to spare some time for those who need it."
A complex diagram of the DNA sequence appeared on the screen. Chang didn't seem at all confused by the strange symbols and labels. "So, what do you want me to do?" he asked.
"Check sequence integrity," Gordon replied.
"Okay," Chang said. He pushed a few buttons and watched results show on the screen. "Sequence looks fine," he reported. "It's not defective. However…" His voice trailed off and he frowned. "That's curious."
"What is it?" Gordon asked, leaning forward.
"It shows non-central damage in certain areas," he answered, "areas related to physical appearance, muscle buildup, and voice." He leaned back and scratched his head. "It almost looks genetically modified."
"Spliced?" Gordon asked curiously.
"Oh, no," Chang said quickly. He turned to face Gordon. "Splicing is caused by a mutagenic substance introduced into the body. It spreads and melds with the DNA, causing a combination of human and animal features. An antidote will destroy the mutagen and return the DNA to normal."
He gestured back to the screen. "This is actual DNA rearranging. Parts of the DNA are pulled out and replaced. The technique is very new, and it still leaves small structural damage where the DNA is patched up again."
"I think I've heard of it," Gordon said. "There are only a few such machines in the world."
Chang nodded. "And I believe I heard that one of them was stolen recently."
Gordon straightened up and nodded. "Thank you for your time," she said.
Chang ejected the disk and handed it to her. "Don't mention it," he said.
Gordon turned and left. That explains why the Batman look-alike is identical to Bruce, she thought, and also why the his modified sequence didn't show up in the database. The only question is, who is this guy and where is he?
Where is he? Terry wondered. He figured that if he found Mullins he'd find the look-alike, but that was easier said than done. He had to find someone who'd know where Mullins would be hiding. Perhaps a coworker could tell him who Mullins's friends are.
Terry landed at the house of Andrew Mitchell. He found the window to the bedroom open and climbed in. Mitchell was snoring softly. He was alone in his bed. Terry felt kind of sorry to wake the guy, but this was important.
"Andrew Mitchell," Terry called.
He turned over in his bed and opened his eyes with a groan. Then he cried out and shot up with a start.
"It's okay," Terry said soothingly. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"What are you doing here?" asked Mitchell, still hysterical.
"I just want to ask you some questions about Robert Mullins," Terry answered.
That seemed to calm Mitchell down. He wiped his hand across his forehead and tried to calm his breathing. "Robert? Why? Is he in any trouble?"
If you only knew. "He might be," Terry replied. "I need to find him before somebody else does."
"It's that serious?" he asked. Terry nodded his head. Mitchell shrugged. "Then aside from his home I don't know where he could be."
"Would someone else know?" Terry asked. "Any close friends?"
Mitchell shook his head. "He was never close to anybody." The quizzical look on Terry's face told him to continue. "Come," he said. "I need a drink of water."
In the kitchen, Mitchell held a glass of cool water up to his lips. He noticed Terry staring at him and put the glass down. "I didn't know Robert very well," he started. "He was the quiet guy who just did his job and didn't ask for much recognition. I felt a little sympathetic for the guy."
Terry nodded his head.
"I learned a little bit about his background," Mitchell continued. "He studied genetics extensively in college. Was very good at it, too. He tried to get a job at AmGen, but a more ambitious man got the job. He was forced to fall back on his computer skills and he joined Gotham Comp. He worked there for almost twenty years. Until he was fired about a week ago."
This perked Terry's interest. "Why?"
"He loved Batman," Mitchell answered. He gave a small chuckle. "I mean, he practically worshipped the guy! It was about the only thing you could get him to talk about in public.
"Anyway, our boss, Davis, had a less favorable opinion of Batman. He put up with it, since Robert was such a good worker, but when those files were discovered on Robert's computer, it finally blew his top. He claimed that Robert was using valuable company resources for irrelevant personal use and fired him right away."
Mitchell shook his head and looked down at his glass. "It sounds crazy, but he had been planning out how to modify his DNA so he'd be exactly like Batman." He laughed softly and looked back up. "Isn't that just the-"
He stopped. Batman was gone. "Hmph," Mitchell said, taking another drink from his glass. "Kind of rude."
The Batmobile shot through the air, the new revelation turning in Terry's mind. Robert Mullins was the look-alike. And the high-tech machinery that Kobra had stolen for him was probably a genetic modifier of some kind. The pieces were all coming together.
The only problem was how to find out where the hell Mullins was.
Terry glanced down and noticed that Gordon had called and left a message while he had been talking to Mitchell. He pressed a button and Gordon's face appeared on the screen.
"New developments," she said. "An analysis of the DNA sample shows signs of genetic tampering. Not splicing, but something newer called genetic recombination. A genetic recombinator was stolen recently, with Kobra as prime suspects.
"The raid on Kobra tonight was unsuccessful. They were armed and put up quite a fight. Most of them got away. We did manage to take a few prisoners, so we may be able to get some information about the recombinator heist.
"The anonymous phone call that informed us about Kobra had a voice ID check done on it. Says the speaker was 'Bruce Wayne'. A trace on the call led to a pay phone in the warehouse sector.
"Be sure to tell me if you find out anything more."
Terry froze as the message ended. A lot of that merely confirmed what he already knew, but the comment about tracing was sticking in his mind. There was something important there…
Then he realized what it was. He remembered that Mullins had taken the computer from his apartment. This meant that he still had it with him, and probably used it to maintain his website. If that was the case, then he could trace the access calls and find out where he was hiding!
Terry quickly activated the tracer program and entered the web address. A list came on the screen showing all the access calls to that web server. Most of them came from Mullins's apartment, but the last couple were from an address in the warehouse district.
"Got him!" Terry exclaimed.
Terry arrived at the warehouse and landed on the roof. He silently opened a window and dropped inside. It was very dark and quiet. Terry could see the moonlight glinting off of strange machinery. He heard breathing and headed towards the sound.
He found Wayne asleep, tied to a pipe. Terry ran over and shook him awake. Wayne blinked and then looked up at Terry's face. An expression of relief crossed his face, and he let out a sigh.
"Thank goodness you're here," Wayne said. "The guy is starting to get on my nerves."
"It's okay," Terry said. "I'll get you out of here."
Suddenly, the lights blazed to life. Terry grimaced and covered his eyes against the harsh brightness. Something hit him in the side and he slid across the floor. Gradually, his eyes adjusted and he saw Mullins, the Batman look-alike, standing over him.
"And I thought I was going to have to go out and find you," the look-alike said. "How nice of you to come to me."
"Let's finish this," Terry said.
The two quickly started trading blows. Back and forth, they attacked. One particularly vicious punch sent Terry reeling into a table, knocking it over. Batman-equipment scattered across the floor. Terry leapt back into battle.
A batarang slid towards Bruce, stopping a few feet away. He saw his opportunity and stretched his legs to try to grab it. If he could get the batarang, he could cut the ropes and free himself.
Terry and Mullins had reached a deadlock. Both had grabbed each other's wrists and were trying to push the other over. "It's useless," said the look-alike. "I have the spirit of Batman on my side."
"Shut up, Mullins," Terry said, and kicked him in the chest while letting go.
He soared across the room and into the advanced machinery. "I am not Robert Mullins anymore," he said while picking himself up. "I am more than that now. I am Batman."
"It takes more than changing your appearance and voice to be Batman," Terry argued.
"Like you'd know anything about that," Mullins retorted.
"We do," Wayne said, standing free of his bindings. Mullins turned towards him and the batarang that Wayne had already thrown hit him in the back of the head. The distraction allowed Terry to run forward and snap batcuffs around Mullins's wrists.
"I won't be defeated that easily," Mullins exclaimed as he kicked Terry square in the chest. Terry fell away as Bruce threw another batarang at Mullins. He dodged and charged towards Bruce. Bruce stepped aside at the last second and stretched out his foot, tripping Mullins into the wall. Terry quickly came over and tied up his legs.
Mullins growled and pulled at his restraints. "It's no use," Terry said. "You'll only waste your energy."
Mullins grumbled but stopped struggling. "You haven't won yet," he protested. "Many other supporters of the original Batman will-"
Wayne rushed forward with a growl of rage. He picked Mullins up roughly and glared into his eyes. He spoke with as much emphasis as he could put into every word.
"I WAS THE ORIGINAL BATMAN!"
Mullins slowly shook his head, an expression of shock and disbelief on his face. Wayne rattled his shoulders. "Listen to your voice!" he commanded. "It sounds exactly like mine!"
"That's-" Mullins started to say, but stopped when he heard the sound of his voice. He began to cry as he realized that Bruce was right.
Wayne let go and let Mullins slump to the ground. "All this time," Mullins sobbed, "it was you?"
"I tried to tell you," Wayne said softly.
"Then the boy…?"
"I'm too old to be Batman anymore," Wayne replied. "I'm training him to work in my absence."
Mullins wiped his eyes on Wayne's pants. "Why didn't you tell anyone?" he asked.
Wayne was at a loss to think of an answer.
Gradually, they calmed Mullins down. They unbound him and sat down in some chairs, Mullins between Terry and Bruce. He had taken off his hood, exposing his red hair. "The only aspect of Batman I didn't know," he commented.
"How did you know so much about Batman?" Terry asked.
"My brother," Mullins answered. "Zach grew up during the time when you were at your peak. It was his stories of Batman that got me so interested in you. The two of us became crazy about you."
"Because of what you stood for!" Mullins exclaimed. "You were power, you were strength, you were perseverance! Every day in school that I was picked on by bullies, I thought about how you would handle the situation and make them stop. If only I could be like you, I could be somebody.
"After high school, Zach and I became avid collectors of Batman-media. We gathered newspaper clippings, eyewitness accounts, pictures, an occasional sound clip, whatever we could find. Once, we got some home-video footage from a person who had amazingly been there one time you'd fought the Joker. My expertise in computer programming allowed us to analyze your fighting style and try to emulate it."
Mullins sighed. "If only he could be here now. He died from a rare lung disease twelve years ago. However, in his will he left me the greatest treasure of all: your belt!"
"My what?" Wayne asked in surprise.
"Your belt," Mullins repeated. "Many years ago, he had visited a fight scene after the police had been there and found your belt lying among the wreckage. He hid it away and told nobody about it, not even me. Only after his death did it surface again. From it, I was able to learn many things about you and the tools you used.
"Also, in his will he left me this piece of property," Mullins added, indicating the warehouse. "He had acquired it cheap and dreamed of turning it into a Batman headquarters. His dream has finally been realized."
Terry and Bruce were quiet. "That was an amazing story," Bruce finally said, breaking the silence. "But you haven't explained how you came to be like me."
"I studied genetics heavily in college," Mullins said. "I used that knowledge to work your characteristics into my genetic code." He pointed to the machinery behind him. "All I had to do was wait for the technology to come around to carry out my plan."
"Where did you get that machinery anyway?" Bruce asked.
Mullins looked away and didn't answer. Terry chimed in. "He got them from Kobra."
"Kobra!" Bruce exclaimed. Mullins bowed his head. "How could someone who believed so much in Batman work with such criminals?!"
"It had to be done," Mullins protested. "There was no other way. Besides, it all worked out in the end."
Bruce raised an eyebrow. "How?"
"He set them up," Terry said.
Mullins nodded. "I gave them part of the payment--my life's savings--and promised to pay the rest later. I think they assumed that I'd steal the rest of the money for them. Anyway, I called the police to raid our meeting place and give them their just rewards."
"Except that it didn't work," Terry commented.
A worried look crossed Mullins's face. "What do you mean?"
"They were armed," Terry explained. "They fought with the police and got away."
The fear spread to Wayne's face. He stood up and looked around nervously. "Terry, how did you find us?"
Terry didn't get a chance to answer. A large explosion rocked the warehouse and the front wall blew open. Kobras hurried inside and started firing at the three Batmen. Wayne fell to the floor as Terry and Mullins tossed out smoke bombs. Thick smoke filled the air, but the Kobras kept firing.
Terry and Mullins crouched near Bruce. "What do we do?" Terry asked.
"Take him and leave," Mullins said, pointing to Wayne.
"What will you do?" Terry asked.
"I'll stall them," Mullins answered, turning to run towards the attackers.
"You don't have to do this," Wayne said.
Mullins said nothing, but ran out into the smoke.
Terry pulled Wayne to his feet and directed him to the back door. "Go," he said. "I'll help Mullins."
"Terry!" Wayne called, but Terry had already disappeared into the smoke.
Terry and Mullins spread out in the cloud of smoke, taking out any Kobras they found. However, more kept coming. The onslaught of gunfire continued.
Terry heard someone behind him and started to strike, but saw that it was Mullins. "What are you doing here?" Mullins asked.
"You can't do this by yourself," Terry insisted.
"Where's Bruce?" Mullins asked.
They both looked and saw Bruce hobbling towards the exit. Just then, a stray shot hit a ceiling beam. It broke away and fell towards Bruce.
"No!" Terry and Mullins both shouted. Terry fired his boot-thrusters and pushed Bruce away before the beam fell on his own legs. Terry struggled, but the heavy beam trapped his legs down. A shot hit the ground next to him. This is not good.
A dark shape flew over him. Terry looked up and saw Mullins throw a bomb batarang at the ceiling above the Kobras, causing much debris to fall down. There were frightened shouts and the firing lessened.
Mullins reached down and pulled on the fallen beam with all his might. Terry helped, too, and soon he was able to slip his legs away. As they set the beam back down, a thought ran through Terry's head. An hour ago this man would have killed me, and now he just saved my life.
And then another thought. I'd do the same for him.
There wasn't much time to think, though. The firing was starting again, and some of them came dangerously close to Terry's head. He turned and saw Mullins lift Bruce up. He whispered something in Bruce's ear, and he whispered something back.
Mullins turned to Terry. "Take him out of here," Mullins ordered.
"I can't leave you here," Terry said.
"I'll make the building collapse on them," Mullins said. He noticed the shocked expression on Terry's face. "I'll get out, don't worry. Now go!"
Terry hesitated a second, then solemnly nodded. He draped Bruce's arm over his shoulder and carefully led him out of the building as Mullins turned back to the Kobras.
He looked around at the ceiling and noted the main supports that would have to go. Then he grabbed some bomb batarangs from his belt and started throwing them. His many years of practice paid off and every one hit their mark. The building started to shudder as it was suddenly unable to handle the load weighing upon it.
Mullins waited for a moment and relished hearing the startled cries of the Kobras. He had turned to leave when a shot hit him on the arm where he had been shot earlier that night. He cried out as pain rushed through his arm. Another shot hit his leg and he collapsed on the ground.
He lay on his back and watched the ceiling crumble above him. A smile crossed his face as he realized that his actions would help Batman escape unharmed. He had saved someone's life. Batman would have been proud of him.
There was a great noise as the debris crashed all around him.
And then silence.
Dawn came. It brightened the outside world, but this brightness was not seen nor felt in the Batcave. Bruce was resting in his chair next to the Batcomputer, while Terry was putting his batsuit away.
Terry walked back over to Bruce and noticed his slightly ragged breathing. The exertions of the night had worn him out greatly. Terry had heard him calling and canceling several meetings that morning. He would need all the rest he could get.
"So," said Terry as he stopped next to Bruce's chair, "do you suppose he made it out alive?"
Wayne pointed to the screen. It was the morning newscast. The blue face of the newscaster was imposed on the scene of the collapsed warehouse. "No one knows what the cause of the collapse was," he said, "but police suspect it had something to do with the terrorist-cult Kobra, many members of whom were found buried among the wreckage."
The camera zoomed in and showed rescue workers dragging a body from the rubble. The body was wearing a tattered Batman costume.
"Also found was this man," the newscaster continued. "His identity is unknown, but police have promised to determine who he is and what his possible connection to Kobra is."
"I talked to Barbara," Wayne said. "I explained the whole situation to her. She's promised that Mullins's identity will remain a secret."
Terry bowed his head. "So he died to save us."
Wayne turned to look at him. "It's what he would have wanted."
They were both silent. The only sound was the bats as they flew through the cave. Finally, Terry spoke up.
"What was it that you told Mullins before we left?" he asked.
Wayne was quiet for a moment. "Don't you have school to go to?" he finally responded.
Terry sighed and left. Why did I expect an answer to such a personal question? he wondered as he walked up the stairs. Then he heard Bruce's voice.
"I told him how proud I was of him."
Terry turned back and looked at the silent form of Bruce Wayne. Thank you, old man, he thought. Then he left.
At school, Terry noticed a great crowd around Chelsea. She seemed very excited about something. He turned and saw Dana next to him. "What's with her?" he asked.
"She got tickets to the Tygers concert next week," she replied.
"The Tygers?" Terry asked. "The group that she loves and adores above all else?"
"That's the one," Dana said. She turned towards Chelsea and shook her head. "Can you believe how obsessed people can become with their idols?"
Dana didn't wait for an answer, but walked off to her first class. Terry stood silently for a moment. Actually, I can.