"Batman: Towards Tomorrow"
Chapter 1: "The Dark Knight Reborn"
Disclaimer: Batman is created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and, along with associated characters and concepts, belongs entirely to DC Comics. This story is simply an extrapolation of what the Batman Universe may look like in the future and I make no money whatsoever from this story.
Author's note: While I tend to depict Damian Wayne in most of my DCU futurefic as a teen hero, this fic will be the first I've written to show him as an adult. This story will depict how he becomes Batman (in a manner utterly unrelated to Batman 666) and what has happened to Gotham City in the future. It will also, at some points, involve guest stars in the form of adult versions of the children of various DCU heroes. Hopefully, you enjoy, and on with the story.
20 years hence . . .
A hydrogen-fueled airliner landed in Gotham Airport, which was marked at all corners by high-tech guard towers with able snipers positioned at the windows in case of a terrorist attempt. Among the masses filing out of the airliner was one overtly casual young man. He wore a dark gray sweatshirt with the hood raised and faded-looking blue jeans with worn-out knees, along with scuffed sneakers. If he was noticeable for anything, it was for the lengths he went to in order to look ordinary, for the glitter in his blue eyes was considerably not that of an ordinary person at all.
The young man picked up his luggage, submitted to the contraband scan, and quietly walked out of the airport. Once out, he flagged a cab and threw his luggage in the trunk of the cab, shutting said trunk and clambering into the backseat of the cab. "Where to?" the cabbie, a bespectacled and slightly balding man, asked.
"Marlton Hotel," the young man grunted.
"All right," the cabbie answered and began to drive. "So . . . what're you here for? Business, pleasure, obligation?"
"One and three and very little of two," was the young man's answer.
"Oh. One of those things."
"Yes. I'm here to repay a debt."
"Aw, man. Stinkin' IRS up in your face. That must suck."
"The debt I have to repay cannot be repaid in money."
"Oh, good." The cabbie soon heard light snoring and continued driving, concluding that the young man had dozed off. When he reached Marlton Hotel, the cabbie stopped and honked the horn to awaken the young man. "Yer here."
The young man stirred. "Yeah. Thanks." He passed the cabbie a bill and climbed out of the backseat of the cab, opening the trunk and taking out his luggage. He closed the trunk, placed the luggage strap around his torso and walked away without another word. The cabbie looked back at him in surprise, wondering why the young man had given him a fifty-dollar bill and why he wasn't coming back for his change. Then he wondered why he cared; it was the best tip he'd ever gotten.
The young man entered Marlton Hotel, lavishly decorated as it was, and walked up to the person at the desk. "I'd like a room. What do you have available?"
"Sir, I'm afraid there's one room left," the desk person replied.
"I'll take it."
"Sir, it's –"
"I'll take it." The icy tone in his voice brooked no argument.
Soon enough, the bellhop came to escort the young man to his chosen room. They stepped into the elevator that would take them to the level on which the young man's room rested and the bellhop vocally instructed the elevator to take them to that level. Once the elevator started to move, the bellhop extended his hand in a gesture meant to convince the young man to temporarily allow the bellhop to carry his luggage. The young man simply denied any acknowledgement of the bellhop's gesture, and the bellhop soon dropped his hand.
When the elevator opened, the bellhop stepped out and guided the young man to his room. "I hope the accommodations are to your liking."
The young man took the key card and slid it through the reader that would unlock the door. The door opened, revealing a room decorated in warm shades of red and pink, including the furniture. The young man looked at the bellhop, raising an eyebrow.
"It's the honeymoon suite?" the bellhop remarked sheepishly.
The young man grunted and slid his cash card through the bellhop's charge reader, then walked into the room without a single word spoken to the bellhop, who was left to fume over the young man's rudeness. As the bellhop walked away, he mumbled to himself, "Maybe you oughtta have brought a girlfriend, dickhead."
The young man inside the honeymoon suite glared at his surroundings, but he had no one to blame but himself. He'd decided to take the room, anyway, and he would pay his just penance by staying in it. He threw down his luggage bag and walked over to the large window of the suite, looking down at the city below. It seemed so very nice from where he was standing now, but he doubted the city had changed that much in the time he'd been away. He would just have to see how much it had changed . . . or crystallized.
That night, the young man had gone out to explore the city for himself, on foot. He took a bus to get close to where he needed to be, and then walked the rest of the way. It didn't take him long before he found himself in the East End, protectorate of Catwoman. Everywhere he looked, he saw dilapidated housing projects, along with even more dilapidated people roaming the streets. He continued walking, passing a prostitute who was being beaten by a john. Upon realizing what he'd seen, he immediately turned back, ready to pull the john off and beat him the way he was beating the prostitute, only for the decision to be taken out of his hands.
A whip lashed out and wrapped around the arm that the john had pulled back for another strike, forcibly wrenching him away from the prostitute. The john struggled fiercely, but the whip's grip on him was stronger than he expected. Finally, he pulled hard, and the whip's wielder lunged from the shadows, kicking him squarely in the jaw. The john went down hard, his head nearly colliding with the pavement below, and when he looked up, he saw the one who had attacked him, a woman in a black leather suit and cat-eared mask with lenses shaped like cat's eyes.
"What the f#$?" the man uttered.
"Don't come around here again," the woman hissed.
The man got up and ran, shouting something to the effect of, "F#$ this!"
The costumed woman turned her attentions to the prostitute. "You're all right?"
"Yeah," the prostitute replied. "My friends, they told me about you, but I always thought you were just an urban legend, like the Batman."
"He might as well be," the costumed woman answered. "I'm not." She threw her whip at the streetlamp's highest point and swung up on it, then jumped onto the nearest rooftop. She looked down at the street, seeing the sweatshirt-clad young man moving away from the scene, as though he'd just stuck around long enough to watch her. Something, though, felt strange about him, about his very presence.
She used the magnification option on her visor to zoom in on the young man, so she could get a good look at him. Her eyes widened beneath the visor in surprise. She couldn't believe it. It was him. He was back; after all these years, he was back.
"Damian . . ." she murmured quietly. With nary another word, she began free-running across the rooftops.
Meanwhile, the young man continued walking, passing by Crime Alley . . . where the Batman had been born that fateful night so many years ago. He gazed upon the spot where that birth had occurred with an expression that almost bespoke reverence. After paying silent tribute, he resumed walking, happening upon several men in severe militaristic gray-blue uniforms beating and kicking something on the ground. The young man moved closer, close enough to see that it was a ski cap-wearing young man being abused in this fashion. He silently walked even closer, close enough to tap one of the uniformed men on the shoulder.
The uniformed man thrust his elbow back in a strike meant for the young man, but the young man caught his elbow and soundly tossed him. The others turned to him, and the young man could see their badges . . . Gotham PD badges. The young man snarled lowly.
"What's this?" another uniformed man, seemingly the leader, taunted. "You want some of this, hoodlum? Huh? You want to not mind your own business? Go ahead, punk! You'll regret it!"
The young man merely glared at them from beneath his hood and the police must have taken his silence as a challenge, for they quickly went after him. The young man caught the first officer's nightstick and wrenched it out of his hands, then cudgeled him in the head, knocking him unconscious. He threw the nightstick at another officer's throat, knocking the breath out of him and somewhat damaging his windpipe. The officer the young man had tossed pulled his gun out, ready to shoot him, but the young man was quicker, knocking him down for the count with a Batarang. The remaining two attempted to tackle him from opposite sides, but the young man caught their outstretched arms and kicked them both down.
"Whoa!" the ski-capped young man uttered. "That was . . . I don't know what to call it, but the f#$& Po-Po finally got theirs! Thanks for having my back, bruh!"
The hooded young man merely nodded to him and continued on his way, later reaching the Cauldron, the stronghold of the Irish mob. "Hey, there's a toll for passing through here unscathed," a broad-shouldered man clearly acting as hired muscle called out to the young man as he approached.
The young man simply continued his approach, giving no sign of acknowledgment whatsoever. The hired muscle looked at the hooded young man with exasperation. "Didn't you hear me, son? There's a toll! Unless ya wanna pay, I suggest you turn back."
While the hired muscle had been talking, the young man had been getting closer and closer. "Shut up," the young man growled and nerve-punched him in the neck, knocking him unconscious.
Immediately, the bullets began flying. While the young man was no Dick Grayson, he was no slouch in feats of agility and speed, dodging the gunfire coming his way. He wasn't really dodging the gunfire itself so much as making himself a hard target for whoever was shooting at him, and there were more shooters coming as time passed. He needed to whittle down that number to something a lot more manageable, something like zero.
The young man simultaneously flicked his wrist and tensed the muscles in it, causing the utility cuff hidden underneath his sweatshirt sleeve to release an edged throwing weapon that a casual onlooker might think was a Batarang. He twisted and threw the weapon at one of the shooters, slicing his shoulder and throwing off his aim so much that the shooter ended up perforating another shooter nearby.
The young man flicked both wrists and tensed the muscles in them, releasing two more "Batarangs." He threw them at two more shooters, divining their positions by where the specific salvos were coming from. One Batarang stabbed the shooter in his shoulder, causing him to drop his weapon and collapse in pain. The other Batarang sliced the shooter's gun and the hand that was holding it, eliciting a cry of pain.
"Who the f#$ is this guy?!" someone shouted in consternation.
"Just keep shooting!" someone else answered.
The young man ran toward and up a nearby wall, flipping off to grab a streetlight and climb up on it fast enough to avoid the bullets. Once he was high enough, he threw another Batarang down at the rooftop where one of the shooters was firing. The Batarang hit the scope on the shooter's gun and the glass flew into his eye, eliciting a yell of pain from him.
The young man slid down the streetlight as though it were a firefighter's pole and landed on the sidewalk. The triggermen that had been shooting at him were taken care of, for the time being, so the young man had no trouble walking into a nearby bar. Of course, when he walked in, every patron who had a gun on their persons pointed it at him. The patrons who didn't settled for brandishing chains and knives in as threatening a fashion as they could manage.
The young man raised his hands over his head as though in surrender, only to pop out twin Batarangs from his utility cuffs and duck below the resultant gunfire. He threw one of the Batarangs and it generated an earsplitting resonance that caused the patrons to collapse in pain. He threw the other Batarang and it generated an opposite resonance, the two resonances canceling each other out.
"Listen closely," the young man snarled, picking up the bartender. "I've just soundproofed this entire bar for half an hour, more than enough time to kill you all. Fortunately for you, that's not my plan, but you're all on notice. As of now, Gotham City is no longer your playground; it is my hunting ground. Tell that to your friends. All of them."
"Who the f#$ are you, you freak?!" the bartender asked.
The young man pulled the bartender closer. "Batman." He threw the bartender down and walked out of the bar. He'd done what he needed to do, gotten a lay of the land, and let the scum that still polluted Gotham City know that the city's champion had returned. Now all he needed to go was get proper dress to officially usher in Batman's revival.
The next morning, the young man was garbed quite differently from when he'd first arrived. This time, he was wearing a black blazer with dark gray patches sewn onto the elbows, with a dark red silk dress shirt underneath and black dress pants with cleaned and polished black "business casual" shoes. His black hair, which had been a somewhat curly mess of thick spikes, was combed neatly and his face was clean-shaven. He was ready to go out into the world, but not as the night-stalking vigilante Gotham had seen last night. No, this required a different guise.
Thus, the young man found himself inside Wayne Tower, a gleaming spire that served as the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises. He walked into the receptionist's office and asked her a question, although he already knew the answer. Specifically, "Who's in charge here?"
"Erik Paulson," the receptionist replied. "And who is asking to see him?"
"Damian Wayne," the terse answer came.
Soon enough, a man walked into the receptionist's office, where he found the receptionist talking animatedly with the taciturn young man. The young man turned to him and gave the older man the once-over. The older man was tall and broad-shouldered, his salt-and-pepper hair belying the vigor in his face, his posture, and in his sharp green eyes. He was dressed in a sharp charcoal-navy business suit that looked specifically tailored for him.
"You must be Erik Paulson," the young man greeted.
Erik Paulson gave the younger man a similar once-over to the one given him by said younger man. The young man was the epitome of "tall, dark, and handsome," garbed in "business casual" attire and staring at him with piercing blue eyes set in a particularly handsome face with sharply fine features. "And you must be Damian Wayne. I thought you'd dropped off the face of the earth."
"I like my privacy," Damian answered bluntly.
"Why did you want to see me?" Paulson asked.
"Your office. I'd like to talk there."
"All right, then." Paulson smiled slowly. "Come with me."
Damian followed Paulson to the elevator lift and Paulson ordered the elevator's AI to take him to the top floor. As the elevator climbed up the levels, Paulson turned to Damian. "Where have you been for the past seven years?"
"Oh, one of those things. I suppose we could all use that at some point."
Damian turned to look out the clear back wall of the elevator, which allowed him to see the city as the elevator ascended. "It's beautiful."
"I'm glad you think so, and I'd like it to stay that way. We do a lot of valuable work here in Wayne Enterprises, work that does a lot for this city's economy, which in turn does a lot for the people who work and live here."
"I'd like to share in that work."
"Where do you want to start?"
Damian paused. "Do you have an R&D department?"
"Wayne Technologies would be excellent for you," Paulson answered with a smile. He ordered the elevator's AI to take them to the first level of Wayne Technologies and the elevator complied, soon dropping them off at that level. Paulson and Damian stepped out and Paulson guided Damian into a room. "This is where we work on the technologies that have military applications."
"I thought Wayne Enterprises didn't do military economy."
"In Bruce Wayne's and Tim Drake's days, yes, but the military is a huge market, especially these days."
"I'm afraid I don't follow."
Paulson sighed patiently. "They must not have let you see the news very often. This is a more dangerous world we live in, what with terrorists and organized criminals of all sorts running loose. We're creating the technologies that allow our law enforcement and armed forces the chance to fight back and protect us."
"I see. What do you have?"
"I'd like to show you something."
Paulson guided Damian to an opaque, tubular chamber and slid his card through a reader situated next to it. The reader lit up green and the chamber cracked open with an audible hiss. Paulson opened the door the rest of the way, revealing a combat suit with two layers. The outer layer was thickened yet sleek black material and the inner layer, visible down the sides and inside the upper arms, was ridged dark gray material.
"What's this?" Damian asked.
"Advanced Infantry Bodywear," Paulson replied. "The outer layer is made from carbon nano-weave and the inner layer is made from modern chain mail. Together, they're twenty times stronger than steel but highly flexible, allowing for optimum freedom of movement. There's something else I should mention, though."
"What is it?"
"The suit is a body-wide apparatus that connects to the wearer's central nervous system and sends a benevolent charge through that nervous system to enhance the wearer's motor functions."
"Huh." Damian looked at Paulson. "I get it. Since the signals the brain sends to the body are bioelectric signals, a benevolent charge like the one you're talking about would augment those signals, particularly the ones the brain sends to the body's muscles."
Paulson looked at Damian askance.
"I had very little to do in the free time I was allotted except read. I got very good at it."
Paulson grinned. "All right, then. Wait until I show you what goes with this baby."
He closed the chamber and moved to a set of what looked like file cabinets. Paulson slashed his card through the reader, which lit up green. He pulled open one of the lower cabinets, revealing a mask deliberately hardened and shaped to fit a human head, almost helmet-like in a way. There were two nodes, positioned where the ears would be on a human head and large enough to fit those ears. The lenses of the mask were an opaque whitish-silver.
"What's this?" Damian asked.
"Advanced Infantry Headwear," Paulson replied. "The mouthpiece contains a voice distorter to prevent enemy surveillance from getting an accurate voiceprint read off the wearer. It also contains carbon air filters that'll keep the wearer safe from toxins. The side nodes and the LCD lenses go together for audiovisual augmentation and augmented reality visuals."
"How far along are you on this and the suit?"
"It's a prototype we're almost done developing. Depending on how it works out, we may either have to go back to the drawing board or just smooth out some rough edges." He smiled at Damian and closed the cabinet, then opened another cabinet above it, revealing a gray belt with multiple pouches attached, as well as four strap-on holsters. "These will be where soldiers keep their equipment when they're on the field."
"Are they damage-proof?" Damian asked.
"As much as the AIB. Bullets, knives, fire, water – these babies can take a licking and keep on ticking." Paulson snickered. "Sorry about that." He closed that cabinet and opened the one next to it, revealing what looked a motorcycle suit's back pad, only harder.
"It's a gliding apparatus that can be attached to the AIB," Paulson replied. "Watch." He pressed something on the underside of the pad and the pad began to break apart, but as it broke apart, it formed a structure resembling skeletal wings and a "web" of black material formed between the "bones." "It can be used for negotiating terrain too dangerous or volatile to traverse on foot."
"This is all . . . very impressive," Damian admitted.
"I'm glad you like them," Paulson remarked, activating the mechanism that re-collapsed the glider into a simple back pad. He placed the glider pad inside the cabinet and then closed that cabinet. "We also have vehicles we were designing for military use, if you want to see them."
Damian looked at him. "Why not?"
By the end of the tour, Damian had seen a "carapace cycle," a highly armored motorcycle with protective panels that could lock over the motorcyclist's body and shield him or her from enemy fire. He'd also seen a sleek, armored black car equipped with various types of evasive weaponry and a black jet designed specifically for stealth combat. They were also prototypes, but ones that were very close to what the final product was intended to be.
"Still want to work here?" Paulson asked.
"Yes," Damian replied.
"Very well, then. I'll set up a meeting with the head of this department and if all goes well, you'll be working under her."
That night, Damian garbed himself in a different version of his street clothes. This time, he wore a zippered black sweatshirt with the hood up, black jeans with worn knees, and scuffed black sneakers, along with black motorcycle gloves with joint reinforcements and utility cuffs hidden under the sleeves of the sweatshirt. He took a cab to the nearest monorail station and then took the escalator up to the monorail. He got on the monorail and let it take him to the nearest stop to the Bowery. Once there, he got off, left the monorail station, and began walking.
Damian wandered the "worst neighborhood in Gotham City." Nothing had really changed in this city since he'd left it seven years ago. While the monorail trip had shown him metropolitan spires gleaming with advanced technology and sleek, highly outfitted vehicles, it also showed him that the benefits of this technology had yet to "trickle down" to the less advantaged, as this very walk proved to him.
As he walked, he heard the faint sound of a lash whipping toward him. With honed reflexes from a lifetime of training and retraining, Damian dodged the whip and materialized a Batarang from his utility cuff, throwing it in the direction he'd heard the whip coming from. He saw a feminine shadow twist away from the Batarang as she descended and land in an agile crouch. She straightened up and into the light, revealing that she was a woman dressed in a black leather suit and a cat-eared mask with lenses designed to resemble cat's eyes.
The Catwoman lashed out at Damian with her whip, which Damian could see had three claw-like prongs on the business end, and Damian dodged, throwing another Batarang at her. Catwoman dodged the Batarang even as Damian sped toward her, but Catwoman quickly raised her leg to kick Damian in the solar plexus. Damian took the kick and threw Catwoman up into the air by her leg, only for Catwoman to turn her unwilling flight into a somersault and land sweeping her leg out to trip him. She did manage to knock him off his feet, but he landed and spun on his hand into a kick that would have caught her in the stomach had she not knocked him off-balance with a chop to his ankle.
Damian managed to land on his feet and smiled at Catwoman. "You've grown . . . Helena."
"Damian," Catwoman answered tersely. "What are you doing here?"
"Carrying on my father's work."
"I was hoping to draw you out. I need your help." Those last four words were pronounced with a noticeable curl of his lip, as though the idea of relying on someone else disgusted him too much for words.
Catwoman barked out a short, harsh laugh. "You? The mighty 'Son of the Bat,' needing my help? Oh, if only Mother was around to see this."
"I don't have time to play games," Damian spat, quickly losing his patience. "I wouldn't be asking for help unless I needed it."
"And what makes you think I can help?"
"In addition to your guardianship of the East End, you've been engaging in covert thefts from Gotham-based corporations, including Wayne Enterprises."
"Yeah, I have. Because they're stealing, too. They're stealing the dignity of people in this city. Did you know that Wayne Enterprises' military gear is somehow finding its way into the hands of the Jokerz, the Two-Faces, and the Scarecrows?"
"No . . . but I shouldn't be surprised. This city . . . it's rotting."
"It's an interlocking system. The crime lords control the mayor, the majority of the city council, and the Commissioner and the chief of police, while the megacorps arm the police with the castoffs from their military projects and sell slightly better versions to the gangs."
"Jokerz? Two-Faces? Scarecrows?"
"While you were away, a lot of your dad's enemies were either locked away for good or just got the needle. The up-and-coming crooks started forming gangs based on them, trying to capitalize on their image to intimidate their victims. And the megacorps are making money using the gangs to test their weapons."
Damian gritted his teeth. "My father's family built that company to help people. I am not going to allow profiteers to debase it."
"That's why you need my help?" Catwoman asked.
"Erik Paulson, the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, showed me some equipment I think would be useful for my endeavors. I want you to get me access to it."
"Sounds like fun." Catwoman smirked. "I'm in."
Some nights later, the docks were alive with activity. Specifically, it was the Two-Faces bringing in a shipment of Ambrosia, the street name for a hyper-stimulant drug that specifically affected the brain. The Two-Faces were clad in outfits deliberately designed to imply duality, with jackets split between white on one side and black on the other and the clothes worn beneath having the colors flipped. They all wore bisected masks colored black on one side and white on the other to conceal their identities.
The Two-Faces moved the Ambrosia-filled crates between them into an eighteen-wheeler's trailer, stopping only when they heard something embed itself in the trailer's side. "What the . . . ?" one of the Two-Faces uttered, going to the side of the trailer and plucking out the object, finding it to be a throwing weapon vaguely shaped like outstretched batwings. The center of the weapon was a circular part surrounded by a blue light that was shutting down in segments as though counting down . . . and the light was almost completely gone. "Oh, s#&!"
The light finished shutting down with a beep and the Two-Face dropped the weapon, just in time for it to explode and send him flying back. The blast was large enough in radius to catch other nearby Two-Faces and scorch the trailer of the eighteen-wheeler. "What the f#$ was that?!"
While the Two-Faces were disoriented, a humanoid figure lunged at them from the shadows. After that, everything was a blur for the Two-Faces; they saw black-gloved fists and black-booted feet striking them in their chests, their stomachs, their jaws, and anywhere else available. Whenever they tried to use their guns, they found those guns swatted out of their hands and themselves brutally swatted to the ground. The ones that were successful enough to get a shot or two off saw their bullets dodged by the figure assaulting them. If there was anything they could see clearly, it was lurid white eyes glaring at them.
The last Two-Face skittered toward the cabin of the eighteen-wheeler, planning to get away with the Ambrosia he already had. Unfortunately for him, something sharp impaled him in the back of his calf and he collapsed on his front, crying out in pain. It didn't stop him, though; he just crawled toward the cabin until a hand grabbed him by the back of his neck and yanked him off the ground, turning him around. The Two-Face attempted to kick the figure with his good leg, but it was a futile gesture, as the figure didn't seem moved by it.
The Two-Face could see the figure more clearly now. He was a tall, imposing figure in hardened black with ridged dark gray marking the edges. A gray pouched belt wrapped around his waist and there was a dark gray holster around each thigh and calf. His face was concealed entirely by a black mask with white eyes blazing from the mask and pointed shafts rising from where human ears would be. A symbol was carved out of the chest of his suit, a stylized representation of a bat.
The Two-Face shuddered in fear. "Oh my God. You're . . . you're . . . B-b-b . . ."
"Yes," the figure snarled, his voice a distorted growl. "I'm Batman."
End Notes: There you have it. The new Batman has debuted and he is definitely going to make waves in the halls of power. Do you think the corrupt powers controlling Gotham City will allow Damian, in his guise as the Dark Knight, to unsteady their grip on the city? No, I didn't think so, but don't count him out just yet. In the meantime, I hope you'll let me know what you thought of this.