The Red And The Black
I haven't come back to this for a while. One of my reviewers pointed out that this story is just a "Look how awesome the 90's batman cartoon was." In some ways that's true. In others its also not true. This is a "Look how awesome Batman is" story and while I do think the 90's cartoon was fantastic I'm not trying to belittle the 2003 cartoon.
I'd like to remind everyone about something I said earlier. I'm going to repeat it in the story incase you miss it here. This is a crossover between The Batman (2003) and the DCAU. In other words the world is a completely different Gotham from the one Terry McGinnis comes from.
Finally I'm telling you again why I don't consider this belonging in the Cartoon Crossovers section. The 90's Batman animated series wasn't, in my opinion, a cartoon. It's target audience was not children or students and while it was cell drawn I think it, unlike the 2003 show, was a serious drama. As I hope the B story reflects, even if we don't come to it in this chapter.
Bruce growled before throwing a careful punch. It was a slow faint, he wanted to see how his older counterpart would react not beat him senseless. The answer was he didn't react, not even a flinch. The wasn't time to use that information, Bruce jumped back just in time to dodge a jab at his feet with the tip of a walking stick. 'Impressive.' he admitted.
'This is foolish.' The other Bruce grunted and straightened his stick. Flinty eyes impassive, but with a hint of irritation.
It probably was, but testing his master would give him some idea as to what Terry could do. He still didn't entirely trust their other dimension story, and if they were now just appearing in his home he wanted to know just how big a threat these two strangers were.
Bruce didn't want to push too hard, he was facing an old man after all. In fights he knew he favoured his legs, kicks and jumps were his strongest weapons in close combat. In this fight however they might just be too much. He wanted to test the older man, not brake him in half. Another faint and his opponent's eyes narrowed, nothing more, before saying; 'I don't play games boy.'
'Neither do I.' A final faint, no point in telegraphing his move. It was then Bruce realised just how much he had underestimated his opponent.
Instead of the repeated non reaction Bruce half expected the old man's free hand shot out like a snake. Deflecting the faint then dropping his elbow into Bruce's thigh. Anticipating and blocking a kick Bruce didn't even know he was going to use. Still the old man hadn't finished, with two fingers of the same hand he sent a knife blow to Bruce's thorax. Just below his Adam's apple.
Fighting down a cough Bruce backed off, dropped his arms and squared his shoulders. He was fast, and knew how to string blows together for maximum effect. But he favoured one side and ignored the staff. Given his speed it was possible the walking sick was just an affection.
Bruce decided to test that, and regretted it almost before he finished. Once again the old man's speed shocked him. The kick was high and to his right, Bruce had expected some sort of block and counter strike. Instead his opponent side stepped and caught Bruce's Achilles' tendon perfectly. Then, while he had one leg trapped high in the air, the old man struck with the stick.
It was a low blow, and Bruce was wearing a box underneath, but he still felt sick to his stomach as the edges drove into his crotch.
Throwing him onto his back the old man lent on his stick again. 'You fight like a young man. Brawn, resilience and determination. Calm down, think. Then end this stupidity.' He sounded every inch the old master.
As Bruce got to his feet he realised that was exactly what he was. A Master. He wasn't just an expert in one form. He had devoted his life to the battle against the darkness. Bruce winced, he could at least make it a draw and there was a major flaw to the old man's style.
Letting his cloak fall over him Bruce straitened to look down at his counterpart and challenged him; 'You finish it.'
A blow to his opponents ego, this time he would be the one responding to an attack. His opponent had proven to be good with counter attacks, Bruce was going to show him some of his own tricks.
The old man didn't bother with faints, or tricks. He just took two short steps forward and stuck. Arms going in opposite directions, the walking stick sweeping low. It was laughable, with a smirk Bruce jumped back and readied a kick.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the old man flick his wrist. The walking stick changed direction sharply then so did he. His whole body sweeping the stick.
Off balance and on one leg there was nothing Bruce could do in time as the stick spun and caught the back of his knee. Sweeping his leg and any balance he had from under him.
Bruce felt his shoulders hit the ground first and grunted. He had to move, get up and be ready. A back flip was his only chance at this point, but the old man's ability to think three steps ahead was a problem.
The walking stick had followed his legs up and around. Both hands on the handle his opponent drove the tip into his chest bone. Pinning him like a butterfly. 'I've finished it boy. Stop struggling.'
Barbara felt her jaw drop as The Batman fell. The old guy beat him.
The Batman was beaten by an old guy. Nope just didn't work, no one was that good.
She stole a look at Bat-Ninja, arm's folded he had just stood there like a statue. He must have known how the fight would go all along. Still she was The Batman's sidekick and it was past time she lived up to the title.
Pulling one of her home made baterangs from the pouch in her belt Barbara threw it in the same movement. As it flew at the old guy she dropped a shoulder and rolled out of reach of Bat-Ninja and got ready for him to react.
Like some sort of robot he just slowly watched her, arms still folded and eyes narrowed. He wasn't bothered, as if all she'd done was barely worth his attention. Quickly, not to give the ninja an opening, she tried to see what her baterang had done.
The answer was nothing. The old man had just watched as the metal blade spun harmlessly past. keeping his back to her he growled; 'You missed, I wouldn't try again.'
Bat-Ninja didn't use the opening she had given him. 'He wouldn't like it.' was all the black on black clad statue gave her.
Barbara frowned, there was something about the way he said it worried her 'You're boss?'
'No.' He answered with a nod to her left. 'Ace.' Before Barbara had a chance to ask who or what Ace was she was tackled by a giant black dog. It was as big as her and strong enough to hold her down with just it's forepaws.
From somewhere there was a high pitched squeak as she hit the floor. It took her a second to realised she was the one who half screamed. 'G... Good dog?' she asked it.
'No, not really.' The two guests said at once.
'So Ace right? w...want to tell him to get off me?' The beast's forelegs were on her collar bone, just enough to keep her pinned, while it's mussel had her face to face. She was almost in awe of the huge beast.
Bat-Ninja came up and looked over the dog's massive shoulders. 'It's up to him.' He wasn't talking about the old man. The look on the dog's face was more than just instinct, it looked intelligent.
'Don't know much about freaky future stuff, did this guy use to be human?' Barbara could have sworn that it had been.
Bat-Ninja chuckled. 'That can happen, but no. Ace is a hundred percent dog and two hundred percent attitude.' He looked up and Barbara craned her neck around to see. The Batman and the old man stood side by side.
Slowly the dog rolled it's haunches before delicately stepping back off from her. Not daring to move Barbara watched as it stalked it's way around to it's master. With a flick of his eyebrow the old man nodded at the dog. He didn't have to say anything as the dog seemed to nod back. In silence it walked over to a massive computer station and sat down.
'Wow,' she said. 'Wish I could train a dog like that. I'd enter him in...' She stopped as the old man doubled up.
It was like his body had suddenly decided to betray him, for a moment the only thing holding him up was his stick. Then, just as quickly, it slipped from his grip and he began to fall. The Batman caught him. 'What's wrong?'
The Bat-ninja was there too, holding him up with the other arm. The black clad ninja reached into his coat and pulled out a medicine bottle. 'Get him to the chair.' Painfully the two of them carried the old man under the concerned gaze of the giant dog-beast.
Barbara picked up the walking stick as Bat-Ninja opened the bottle and pulled out a handful of pills. The Batman lowered the old guy into the chair. 'What's the matter with him?'
Between gritted teeth the old man somehow sat up. 'Angina.' He said and took the pills.
'Heart attacks?' The Batman asked. 'Why didn't you say anything?'
'Would you?' He answered, leaning back as the dog rested it's chin on his thigh. Barbara had never seen a man and animal so suited to each other.
'You're terrifying, you know that right.' she told him.
'Yes.' Scratching Ace behind the ears the old man looked up, at the pair of Batmen. 'You two, go upstairs and get something to eat. You've got one night before that fool Wayne hosts his target range masquerading as a charity ball. If this copycat Joker's going to use this distraction for anything it will be that.'
'What are you talking about?' The Batman asked.
'It's obvious. Wayne's party is going to be a massive target for any sociopath and madman with an axe to grind or purse to steal.' The look he gave them was sharp enough to split them both in two. 'Why else pretend to be our worst enemy? The last thing the Joker would want is some tribute act taking all the glory.'
The Batman took a step back. 'You're saying the gangs, the Joker enhanced venom, its all a cover?'
The old man laid it out 'Organised chaos. Tonight is going to be bad, most of the town in uproar. Gordon will have to mobilise everyone he has to keep control. Someone will suggest that the party should go ahead, to show it's not going to be intimidated. You can guess the rest.'
'Somehow you know all this?'
'It's not the most original plan I'll grant you. It doesn't have to be, this one always seems to work because no ones paying attention. Now go, I'll stay here and research.' The chair spun around to face the massive computer
'You will, will you?' The Batman asked. 'Not without the access code to the Bat-wave...' as he said it the big screen above them flicked into life and a bat symbol appeared on it.
'I changed the password, it wasn't secure enough.' Came from the chair, it's back to the three of them.
Barbara shared a look with The Batman. He could be bad with people, cold and abrasive. This guy was ten times worse. Bat-Ninja just treated it as a normal day. 'Come on, he's right. As ever.'
Bouncing on the balls of her feet Barbara was about to get her first look at The Batman's home. Cautiously she got in beside her partner, she knew him well enough to know he didn't like the idea of being ordered around in his own cave. For some reason he was hiding it.
Nodding The Batman turned to leave. 'I'm trusting you. Don't make me regret it.'
'If I believed that we'd have a problem.' The old guy turned his back on them. 'You stay here Miss Gordon.'
'What?' She had no idea how he had gotten those eyes on the back of his head. She just knew it would be so cool if the guy couldn't scare off the devil himself.
'You missed.' He growled, still not looking at her. 'Aim as sloppy as that is no use out there. You're under-trained and inexperienced, both are dangerous liabilities and could get everyone you care about killed.'
'Hey I've kicked my fair share of bad guy butt.' She insisted.
Finally he turned to face her. 'You still treat this as a game? Looks like some things are a constant no matter what reality you're in.'
'Do as he says.' The Batman said, surprising her. 'And keep an eye on him. I want to know exactly what he does while he's down here.' Barbara tried to keep her face stoic as the two costumed men went to a massive lift in the middle of the room and she watched as the doors closed a yellow light zoomed up one side.
After a moment she turned back to the old guy. 'So what's first? Back flips?' she pulled off a perfect flip. 'Or how about cartwheels?'
'Balance beams.' He pointed at a corner not too far away. It looked like a training area with a set of weights, punching bag and the like. In the middle of some padded mats twin beams at about The Batman's shoulder height.
'Balance beams. I'm a Olympic class gymnast and you want me play with balance beams?' Barbara scoffed. Taking a running leap and a roll in mid-air she landed almost perfectly.
'You throw too much of your weight into your blows. You're punching above your limit.'
Keeping her balance Barbara turned to face him. 'What do you suggest? I bulk up?'
He shook his eyes 'No, that you fight smart.' The old guy sat back and folded his arms into his jacket. 'Back and forth on there. repeating your twelve times tables.'
'Wha?' she blinked. That didn't make much sense, then she thought about it. That was going to be a bit more difficult that it sounded. He wanted her to think and move at the same time, splitting her attention.
'I see you understand. Begin.'
Barbara walked slowly across the beam. 'Twelve. Twenty-four, Thirty-six...' She was on her way back when something black and red flew in front of her, it was so close she could feel it cut the air. 'What the hell...?' The alien baterang buried itself into the cave wall.
'Reaction training, that was aiming to miss.'
Barbara blinked at him. 'I thought we were still on the basics?' she asked and then saw his face. 'These are the basics aren't they.'
The old guy reached under his jacket and pulled out two pen sized things. 'You're learning already.' A flick of his fingers and the things unfolded into the red edged throwing weapons. He sent them at her, both at the same time, with the same movement.
Pulling off a double reverse summersault flip from dead standing wasn't easy. It could have even earned Barbara an Olympic Medal all on it's own. Pulling it off and landing on a balance beam, that was just pure skill. 'Ha, have to do better than that.'
She was ready for him to throw again when she noticed he was just waiting, before she could wonder what for the baterangs flew back over her head and into his hands. Too damn close for it to have just been bad luck. Reaching for her cowl Barbara discovered both bat-ears missing.
That was why they were called baterangs she thought bitterly
Most men would smirk at this point, even The Batman would do that stern twitch come closest-he'd-ever-get-to-a-smile thing. The old guy just said two words, 'Forty-eight.'
It was going to be a long night.
Terry stepped out of the lift and pulled off the mask. Wayne did the same, only he went as far as take off his whole cape and threw a shirt over his costume. Thinking of doing the same he wasn't surprised when Alfred arrived, holding his jacket.
Terry nodded his thanks and threw it over his shoulders. It didn't completely hide the Bat-suit but anyone trying to look through the windows would be fooled. Cocking an eyebrow the butler said; 'Master Wayne, your other guest suggested you both might require dinner.'
'Thinks of everything doesn't he.' Wayne snorted as they followed him. 'Whatever happened to make me become him.'
Terry thought for a moment. 'You might both be Bruce Wayne, but you are nothing like one another. You're a lot more emotionally stable for one and while you might not trust me he doesn't trust anyone.'
'You still think you both came from an alternate future?' Wayne asked.
Terry shrugged as the butler lead them to the kitchens. 'I don't know about this world, but where I'm from stranger things have happened.'
Wayne sat down with frown on his face. 'You got here by accident, but that doesn't explain how he found us.'
'Any number of ways.' Terry shrugged. 'I know there's a dimension portal in the JLU tower. There might be others he knows about, on the other hand he could have just built one out of stuff he had laying around.' Alfred put down a plate; on it was two slices of beef, some vegetables, potatoes and next to it a glass of water. A good balance of protein and vitamins. 'His collection is a bit bigger than yours.'
Wayne nodded. They spent a few moments in uncomfortable silence eating before Wayne said something. 'When I first put on the cowl I thought one day I wouldn't need it. Gotham would be safe and good people would live here again.'
'They will Wayne, but you will never give up. It's not just Gotham that needs a Batman. Out there there are Supermen, aliens, people with powers you can't dream of. Among them all you are the darkest. I've seen whole rooms of heroes blanch at the sight of Batman. You will do things they can't, cross lines they won't and terrify the underworld. Through it all your human, we're human and that makes the world our responsibility. Not just Gotham.'
Wayne put down his fork and just seemed to stare into the middle distance. Terry waited, it was possible that this Wayne hadn't looked beyond the city limits. He knew from personal experience you could get caught up in the city's night life. 'Then Gotham is just a start and I have a lot of work ahead of me.'
'You might not, it could be different here.' Terry said but he didn't believe it. From the look on Wayne's neither did he.
End Chapter Five