Every night, Terry makes the same wish. Every morning, it doesn't come true. He would trade it all to change that one event- save that one life. But does he really know what he would be giving up?


I am very proud of this story. This is the best one yet and it has many firsts. This is the first story that wasn't all my idea (and I even finished it!), the first present tense story, the first in first person point of view and the first story I've ever finished that has more than one scene and more than two characters. I even plan to give it a part two...

Special thanks to Darkwanderer for helping me through the rough patches and assisting in the conceptualizing of part two. Also, definitions for Beyond words are at the bottom.

For those who don't know, this is a story set in the future, 2043. Bruce Wayne, the original Batman, is about 80 years old and retired decades ago. Originally, Terry McGinnis was destined to be the next Batman, but no future is set in stone, not even his...


Joke's on Batman

I've been standing outside the building for a full ten minutes, just savoring the breeze. It's cool and partially cloudy, but that doesn't stop the sun from warming my body between gusts. I'm just glad to be out of that hellhole; prison has its charms, but I'll take freedom any day of the week.

No car had come to meet me; not surprising, most everyone I know is mad at me for getting arrested—again. Like it was my fault the old man sabotaged things. I'll bet he even called the cops; it would explain how they got there so quickly.

The nearest train is kind of far from here, but I don't mind. A nice walk will do me some good. I really don't want to go back inside just yet anyway.

The city hasn't changed much, unlike me. I'm stronger now, a little jumpy and very paranoid. Four years of watching your back constantly in a place where people are murdered just for the hell of it can do that to you. Of course, that can still happen in Gotham, but it's less likely I'll be the victim.

Approaching the train terminal, I notice an overturned pie at the mouth of one of Gotham's many grungy alleys. The pie had crushed a cardboard box. So, the Jokerz have expanded their territory.

The train ride home gave me some time to think. Time to think about the past; about how I got into this mess. Like I need more of that, I got plenty in prison. The memories come anyway...


"Wanna make it up to me?" Charlie was leaning over the bridge railing, that sly grin spread across his face.

"Depends on what you have in mind." I was skeptical; I knew Charlie, the next scheme was always just under the surface.

"Made some contacts inside—big people." And here it comes..."They have a job lined up for me. I could use your help."

"I am so outta here." I started to storm off, but he caught up with me. Damn him!

"Whoa, whoa! I say something wrong?" Oh, I don't know, maybe that you want to get me into trouble again?

"A job, Charlie? You remember what happened last time? And you just got out of jail! You know how long they'll throw you back for number two? Don't you wanna do anything with your life?" So stupid. Of course he didn't.

"Hey, ease up Tiny. I don't really have that option anymore. I got a record, who's gonna hire me? This is all I got! You owe me Terry, for playin' your part down."

So stupid.

"Fine, I'll do it."


I hate the train. Someone just bumped into me—not on purpose, but the scowl is reflex now. In jail, there are no accidents; out here...it's going to take some getting used to. The crowds, on the other hand, are normal—I'm sick of normal. I'm sick of crowds; I can't wait to get off this stupid train.

Needing a distraction, I take a look around the car. Some people are sitting, some standing. There's a collection of teenage girls down the row, laughing and giggling. I haven't seen that in a while. The mother across the aisle is also different, with her son climbing all over the seats playing with a toy airplane. A mousey little man in large, dorky glasses hunches over his briefcase; no one's harassing him. So many kinds of people I haven't seen in so long; the weak, the happy, the kindhearted. It finally sinks in that I'm out. I'm really out!

My grin sours as I spot a kid in the corner wearing a Batman shirt. Batman... it's all his fault.


"Hey Tiny, where ya been? Having second thoughts?" So snide; like this is even a good idea?

"Had to get something. I'm not spending the rest of my life in jail for this. I brought us a little help." I held up my backpack. Another stupid mistake, I should've know he'd take it. " T' make sure things go smooth."

"Lemme see that—whoa."

His eyes bugged as they ran over the sleek, yet limp form of the Batsuit. It looked so much more impressive on the mannequin in the display case. Bigelow seemed awed anyway- for a moment. There's that grin again.

"Way shway, Terry. Where'd you swipe this? Is it the real thing? Aw, who cares, no one's gonna be stupid enough to mess with us in this thing."

"Hey, wait! What are you doing, I found it!" He was already halfway into it.

"I just want to try it on, Ter. Relax, I'm just gonna take it for a test drive; you know, see how it works."

"Fine, but I want it back. It's mine."

"Actually, it's Batman's." I leveled my best glare at course it had no effect, he just changed tactics. "I just meant Batman probably booby-trapped it. I wanna make sure it's safe. We're friends, Tiny, I'm just tryin' to protect you." I can't believe I actually bought that.


The train drops me off a couple blocks from home. If you can call what we have a home. My parents are divorced. Mom has my little brother Matt. Dad got me. I hate him, we never get along. He's always grounding me, yelling at me, whatever; Matt is so lucky. A friend of Dad's got sick at work and died; sometimes I wish it was him. Maybe I should just keep on walking. I won't, but I should.

Arriving at the door to our apartment, my mind overloads with a blur of thoughts, fears and scenarios, paralyzing me. I'm mad at my father for not being there when I got out. I'm embarrassed for getting arrested in the first place. I'm afraid of our inevitable confrontation; of what he'll say to me; of what I'll do to him. I hate him and I don't want to do this yet.

Empty. Thank God.

I check everywhere to make sure. I breathe a sigh of relief as I plop on my bed for a nap. Hopefully I won't wake up until Dad is asleep. Hopefully I can do this every day- for the rest of my life.

Charlie?

My sleep isn't sound.

Charlie, get up!

It should be; I'm home. Still, it isn't.

"I said get up! Charlie, what are you doing?!" The sirens in the background have me in a panic. He's just lying there on the ground! We have to get out of here, what the hell is wrong with him?

"I can't move!"

"What?"

How can this be happening?

«I've paralyzed the suit, Charlie. You're not going anywhere.» I can hear a faint voice coming from the hood—not Charlie's. "Wha—?"

"Tiny, get me out of here!" His fear doesn't fuel mine as much as his anger.

"I—the cops are coming!"

«You should probably get out of the suit.» It finally dawns on me that the cowl must have some sort of a transceiver. I think it might be the old man over the radio—did he do this?

"Terry, you can't leave me."

"I know, but—"

I have to do something; I have to get him out of that suit! The head piece comes off easily, but the body is all one peice. There's no time!

"Hurry, I think I hear them!" Charlie sounds more mad than scared; what does he have to be angry about? This is all his fault!

I start dragging Charlie toward the nearest stack of canisters, but he's too heavy for me. We're barely half-way when—

"Freeze!" My head snaps up to catch two cops arrive, leveling firearms at me.

"Down on the ground!" The second cop shouts.

Oh no, no way!

"He's running!"

"I got this one." I turn back to see the first officer charge after me as the second crouches to cuff Charlie. I tried...

Ducking behind the canisters I start searching for an escape route or a hiding place.

"You can't hide kid, we have this place surrounded. Come on out and we'll go easy on you."

I can't get arrested, I just can't! I notice an open door; it looks unguarded. Sprinting to the doorway I spare a glance behind me to check for pursuit. Clear. Once again facing forward I'm horrified.

Noooooooo!

"Stop right there!"

Staring down that dark barrel, all I can see was my life falling apart, right in front of me.

—oOo—

My day had started badly; I can't even quite remember the dream. Dad was still here when I woke up, but I managed to slip into the shower and hide until he left. Sadly, things didn't improve.

"Your money or a pie!" Jokerz.

Shit! They never used to be anywhere near here; this was Fat T's territory. I have to figure a way out of this; it took me two hours to steal these creds- there is no way I'm giving them up to this white-faced dreg.

"Better do what he says."

Damn! I turn to look behind me. The annoying imitation of a maniacal voice belonged to a Joker dressed up like THE Joker. for whatever reason, he's twirling a dog whistle strung on a chain.

"Listen guys, I was just passing through, I don't want any t—"

Spying a discarded section of pipe on the ground, I gain courage. Straightening my posture, I take a stand.

"It's my money. Why should I give it to you?"

Behind me the whistle stops twirling. Get ready...

"Ravager. Get 'im."

That's not a Joker name...

"RRROWROWWWWROW!"

"AAAAAA—uh!"

An enormous tiger just lept from the shadows to land on me. Its hot breath cooks my face while I fight to get it off me, or at least keep it from biting me. All the while, the Jokerz are cracking up in the background.

I somehow am able to keep Ravager's mouth far enough away that I only choke on its noxious breath; unfortunately, teeth aren't a tiger's only weapon and it contents itself to rip my jacket and chest to shreds while roaring and growling just inches from my nose. I turn my head to the side to avoid flecks of spit and the puffs of stench washing over me.

"Fine! I'll give you what you want, just call it off!"

"Oops, sorry. Too late!" the 'Mr. J' Joker casually replies. "We didn't train him to do that."

I crack an eye in suprise, they are seriously going to let it kill me!

I spot the pipe I'd seen earlier. Yes! Now, if only I can get to it without getting scragged in the process.

I have the full weight of the frenzied feline on me, but as much as it's moving around I can let it push me closer to my target. Inching slowly across the grimy asphalt, keeping my eyes on the big cat and the guffawing Jokerz, I still have time to notice things; like the tiger's face. The muzzle, while still shaped the same, it's very short. The head is small too, and the fur isn't very long. That seems wrong, but I don't have time to reflect, my salvation is almost within reach!

Ravager seems to be getting frustrated and pulls back for its final assault. I take advantage of my momentary freedom and scrabble the last few inches to snag the end of the pipe. The tiger is already pouncing; I bring the pipe across its jaw, knocking it safely to the side, my arm reverberating from the impact. I dart right and skid to a stop facing my current opponent. The Jokerz are at my back, but I'm turned enough to catch their movements out of the corner of my eye. They still consider this entertainment and thus allow us to continue one-on-one. The tiger is pissed, bleeding and studying me intently—on two feet. It must be one of those splicers I've heard about. No wonder.

I let the next tackle blow right past me and I drive my weapon into the thick muscles of its broad back as it runs into the fat Joker's pie—face first. I can't help but laugh—which is probably the wrong thing to do since now I have to fight all three. While the Jokerz close in, I get exactly five seconds respite to catch my breath and realize how close to collapse I am; now is not a good time to faint from blood loss and exhaustion. Then they charge me—and are promptly blineded by two beams of light roaming down the alleyway.

"What's going on down here?" The authoritative voice seems irritated about the inconvenience of saving my life.

"Uh, nuthin' officer!" the lean nutball looked like a deer caught in the headlights for a split second before he turned to me an said in a low voice, "You're lucky this time, twip, but later? Kkkkk", he drags a thumb across his throat for emphasis and they all run off, howling and laughing. The gruff older cop glares after them, following when they begin knocking over crates and boxes in their wake.

"You okay kid? You shouldn't be out here; this part of town, you're lucky to be alive." You can say that again. The first cop's partner is kind of nice, but she's still a cop, so I try to leave before they decide to search me or something.

"Hey! You need a ride to the hospital?" Damn, this limp. She's not going to let it go. Thankfully, her radio doesn't give her much choice.

•Kkk• «All available units respond, we have a 10-108 at Turner and Vine, suspect is fleeing the scene.» •Kkkch•

•Kkk• "This is unit 117 responding." •Kkkch• After throwing a concerned look in my direction, she was all buisness. "Daniels, come on, let's go! We've got a call!" I tuned out the rest; they were leaving me alone and I'm not headed anywhere near Turner or Vine.

The cab to the hospital was boring, more actionless time. Free time; time for self-reflection. Time for beating myself up for the past or panicking about the future. I hate both options, but my fears push past the laments to the fore. The fight just minutes ago has me scared; jail was dangerous, but at least there were guards around. Out here, in the real world, I have no protection. No guards, no cages, no witnesses. Tonight proves that I need something or I could be dead soon. There is only one thing I can do—I have to join a gang.

After another torturous night- at the hospital no less, I am itching to get up and move. Wracking my brain for any kind of idea of what I can do to keep my mind occupied, I finally hit on something that could make me feel a LOT better. The problem is, the doctors don't want to let me go. Not a problem, a little fuss, a few creds and these overworked, rem-deprived nurses ought to help me out. Three hours later, I'm wheeling out the front door.

Night is settling already; I can't believe I wasted the whole day at the slaggin' hospital. Oh well, what I'm planning probably should be done at night anyway; it's only smart.

After a couple quick stops and a few swigs of the strongest courage I could handle, I was ready. The cab ride over had been unbearablely long, as the anticipation built exponentially, but at full sundown I was there. Standing at the rickety, old, wrot-iron gates, I contemplate what I was getting myself into. It's dangerous, yes, and probably expected, but I'm getting even. What goes around, comes around.

Getting past the front gate is the easy part, although I fall flat on my face when the cuff of my pant leg catches on one of the gate's rusty spires. Cursing, I listen for the telltale growling that announced that stupid mutt's presence last time. Picking myself up, I ready the raw meat I picked up with the scotch. I know using the same trick twice probably isn't a very good idea, but it works like a charm.

Not being locked, the front door isn't a problem either—I'm starting to get nervous. It can't be that easy, can it? I tiptoe toward the family room. As I approach, I can hear voices float down the hall towards me. They are low and serious; things are not looking good, maybe I should try again later. I slip down the hallway to the opposite end and shut myself in another room- I have to figure out a new plan. A visitor? What the hell! Nobody has seen him in years. Why, today of all days, is someone else here?

As luck would have it, while I'm freaking out in some antique's showroom, one of the voices gets louder as she enters the hall. Cracking the door slightly, I catch a glimpse of the receding form or a white-haired chick in a trench coat. Ah...that explains it. He's not dead yet, right?

When I'm satisfied she's leaving, I sneak out of my hiding spot to confront the man who killed my future.

"Bruce Wayne."

"If you leave now, I won't have you charged with breaking and entering." His eyes never left the fireplace.

The nerve! Face me, you bastard!

"This is your last chance."

"Hell no! I'm not leaving until you pay for what you did to me." My words must have started to slur, because I swear his eyes traveled straight from the fire to the bottle in my left hand.

"You're drunk."

"Don't change the subject!" I'm pissed now. He doesn't care about me, I'll bet he doesn't even remember who I am. "You destroyed my life, and now I'm going to take what's left of yours!"

"I didn't do anything to you, you did i—" He stops mid-sentence and stares at the present I brought him. A wave of exhilaration washes over me and my face splits in an ear-to-ear grin as I cock the pistol. I decide to savor the moment, what can go wrong? "Any last words?"

"Put the gun down."

He's so confident. How can he not be scared right now? I can kill him, just on a whim, and there isn't a damn thing he can do about it!

Now he's smiling. Smiling. What is wrong with this guy? That does it, I'm scragging him right now, that'll show him!

"Put the gun down, McGinnis," he says sternly.

So, he remembers me. I guess he just doesn't care.

"You're not a killer."

"Not yet." Man, this is harder than I thought. Come on Terry, just pull the trigger and boom, you're done. Or bang, heh.

"If you kill me, then your life really is over."

"Sorry, nothing can save you now." Pull the trigger, you know you can do it. He deserves it.

"I'm not trying to save me."

Pull the trigger.

"I'm trying to save you."

Pull the damn trigger!

"Good night, Dark Knight."

Bang!

-+-

"AHHHHHH!"

"Bruce, are you alright?" The calm voice vaguely registers as feminine.

"You shot my hand!" Where the hell did she come from?!

"I'm fine, Barbara."

"You shot my fuckin' HAND!" I can hardly think for all the pain, but I'm pretty sure I am curled up in a ball on the floor.

"It's a good thing I was here, Bruce. Do you know this kid?" What are they saying? Aw, who cares. It feels like I'm dying.

"Yes, he made a bad decision a few years ago." I'm pretty much just moaning now. God this hurts!

"As bad as this?"

After my body begins to go into shock, my mind clears enough to start thinking again. I start to reflect on what just transired and realize a few things. Wayne barely cared about the gun and he refused to admit his blame for the four years I spent in the joint. If I want to hurt him as much as he hurt me, I have to find another way. I suppose the place to start is with the Jokerz. I have to join a gang anyway, for my own safety. Look out Batman, there's a new Joker in town.


Cred: dollar

Dreg: lowlife

Rem: sleep

Schway: Possibly from feng shui, meaning cool

Scrag: kill

Slaggin': explitive

Splicer: a person who injects him/herself with an illegal serum to gain physical attributes associated with a particular animal. Splicers are known for being extra aggressive.

Twip: dip; dipstick; idiot