Together the three of them breach the cordon at the entrance hall yet Superman charges off ahead alone. Perhaps that allowance is the first mistake, but soon both he and Wonder Woman are up against the backup sent to the entrance hall. The two are further split up when she tries to catch up with Superman on her own leaving him alone against the security commandos. He never imagined himself in a position like this again even when it had happen years ago with the GCPD, but there is a difference between riot police and government security personnel.
It took more than usual to subdue them, but their armor was on par with his so taking them out meant no holding back at all.
Superman with each passing second is another step closer to the office, which meant he had to get through this quickly. However he is still only human in contrast to either Superman or Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman radios that she is almost caught up to Superman, but Superman is not in the mood to wait. He lands the last blow then dashes down the corridor and rushes to at least catch up to Wonder Woman except another commando manages to tackle him. However Wonder Woman picks up Batman's newest attacker with ease then tosses the man.
She might possess a host of powers, but the real powerhouse is still Superman. Piles of bodies, broken windows, discharged rifles, blast marks from grenades, and yet the strongest smell is the stench of something burning above them.
"You smell that?" asks Batman.
The recoil realization is written on his face as well as hers.
The pair run to the Oval Office then stop dead at the entryway where the doors with their broken hinges lie on either side of the carpeting. The presidential wooden desk is burning, there is no sign of Luthor, and his briefcase is half melted to the wooden surface of the desk. The realization felt like a kick in the head except he also sees the metal box in the draw. There are a handful of ways to stop that, but all are lethal especially if Luthor's finger was anywhere near the button. He could only imagine Luthor made a last stand in words, in taunts, and then Superman used his heat vision.
"Hera," gasps Wonder Woman.
She had worked it out too, but she could not fathom why, even he had trouble letting it go except all his rationale compels to him speak rather than just standing there in silence after.
"Well, it had to be done," resigns Batman.
She goes to him by the window asks the rhetorical question and there it is a smile. He just killed someone and he is smiling though all Batman could do is turn around then walk out of the office. This is where it starts with two deaths, just like it did for Batman, but the consequences of these deaths feels more drastic…darker than their murders. Things would never be the same, but he already understood how reality is always in motion. His parents' murdered shook up Gotham, but not in the way one thought it would and as for him it led him to this costume as well as being Batman.
He could not simply return to Gotham and act like nothing happen because this is news. His parents' murder was news, but it fell out of the headlines eventually. It had become common knowledge, a reality, and everyone went on yet he did not, it had taken hold of his life. His identity had become many masks, many faces, but then he never killed anyone, no matter how much he thought of killing his parents' killer, he made clear too all that killing is not in him.
The impact of the Justice Lords reign spread across the nation and the people went along for now.
Months pass without incident until Robin vanishes on patrol and the search for him turns up little until the invitation from Joker. He would only take Batgirl and Nightwing with him went they finally decide to confront Joker except Diana had shown as they were leaving the Manor. He had forgotten they were going to have dinner tonight, the date was set days ago before Tim's disappearance, but in his experience plans are often subject to revision all too often.
"Don't call Kent," insists Batman.
"Why not?" asks Diana.
"We'll handle this, this is still my city," retorts Batman.
"It wouldn't take three of you together to handle Joker unless he is up to something big."
She was warm, but he could not risk telling her more with her implacable loyalty to Superman. It is a waste of time to argue with her because there is no time to waste with Joker especially with Tim's life in danger. The Batmobile and the Batcycle head out though he notices Diana tapping her earpiece comlink. She did not heed his warning and this could only end with Joker dead or worse.
Harley kept Batgirl busy and as for Nightwing he is off looking for Tim as Batman looks for Joker alone. Batman drops in from one direction to see Joker twirling a remote and Nightwing is up in the rafters.
"I know you and the old Boy Blunder are close by Batsy!"
Batman attempts to drop land and take the remote away from Joker, but Joker side steps at the last second. Batman felt his legs almost give out from landing on the concrete floor. It would have been less painful if he had hit Joker, but Joker occasionally displays exceptional timing. The two continue to dart around the interior of the warehouse and Nightwing still searches for Tim. He finds him surrounded by drums of explosives and quite afraid for his life, but who wouldn't be in a situation like this. The only problem now is that the drums have motion sensors so if he tries to get Tim without disarming the explosives, they would both die and worse if Joker slaps the detonator remote, they would be just as dead.
"I heard what Blue Boy did to Luthor, can't say I'm too surprised Luthor enjoys playing with heads almost much as I do, but see I don't have to worry about you killing me 'cause you don't do that and you don't use weapons either."
"I might make an exception this time, you have been a pain in the back side for years, and the number of people you have almost killed as well as have killed is starting to add up. I may not have heat vision, but I can still manage well enough with my hands for starters."
"Nope, you wouldn't, you make threats, but all you ever did in the past was beat me up if I got too rough for you. However this is the first time I have felt really tempted to see if I could drive you off the edge… just like Luthor did with Supes before he got burnt to a crisp."
"He didn't leave to see the results. Luthor's last mistake cost him his life."
"Risks of the trade Bats… you know that as well as I do."
"I have neither the patience nor the mood for your games tonight Joker!"
"Mood, you never complained about moods before, usually you talk little and then take me down. Getting sentimental are we Bats?"
Joker thumbs the trigger on the remote then it starts to glow red, but not from the blinking red button. The whole thing glows and then Joker drops it as it melts on the floor. Superman burst through the ceiling where the burn holes appear above Batman and Joker. The next thing heard is Joker screaming then falling to floor as a tiny smoke trails steam up from the clown's skull.
"You don't have to thank me, but I'm not stopping with him," comments Superman.
"I never interfere with Metropolis unless necessary and you should have stayed home. I have dealt with him more times then you have," snaps Batman.
"Why are you upset? He won't be able to do something like this again or harm anyone again. Plus Tim is alive," retorts Superman.
Batman catches the stares of Nightwing and Tim after both noticed what happen to Joker. Batman could not erase the horrified stares from his memories of that night.
Superman offers to take Joker back to Arkham, and Batman merely nods. Batgirl saw Superman carrying the unconscious and drooling Joker. She also saw the melted bomb activator remote and then worked out for herself what just happen since none of the others are breaking the silence. Batman knows why Superman had shown up, Wonder Woman told him something happened to involve the entire Batclan and the rest is fresh in mind.
Diana's reaction is expected, but the action she took, felt wrong to him knowing that Superman had been less lenient with all the Metropolis regulars since Luthor's demise. Nobody would use the word assassination, but killing a political official is just that. Strykers' Island had never been fuller, but that was the point. They started staying in rather than bothering to bust out because those who did get out, they had been brought back with injuries, and usually in the past Superman would avoid that if possible. He didn't care as long as they went back and the breakouts had come to a halt mere weeks after his roughness got through to them. Crime in Metropolis had come fallen almost entirely yet Gotham looks by far 'worse' than Metropolis.
Joker's abduction of Tim set off the change in Gotham because now Batman would have to be harder if he wanted to keep Superman off his city's streets and away from his Rogues except Joker's fate is inflicted upon the rest. None got away from it no matter how they would try or seek to go out with a bang. It wouldn't happen; they would no longer be who they were or what they did before. They would just be shells of men and women. He believed until lately he could help them to lead lives where the passions didn't lead to them continuing as criminals. His attempts to be benevolent yet vigilant were no longer enough, his policies would have to change because otherwise he'd risk looking better than Superman thus have others take advantage. Advantage to twist his ideals against him in ways that Joker had almost done if not for Superman showing up, but then he pulls back his cowl and views his face in the mirror.
He slams his fists against the mirror and several pieces fall to the ground leaving only a few with patches of his expression in the glass.
It had to be done or did it? How much more can I justify what I am considering doing to keep Superman off my back and out of Gotham? I couldn't prevent their deaths... couldn't prevent Wally's murder or Luthor's assassination? Have I failed? What am I going to do now?
He collapsed and stared at the broken mirror for hours until it hit him mentally and so it becomes that Batman must be more than just vigilant.
All laws must bear out the same, no quarter given, and justice for all… no exceptions… that is the rationale.
Rationalization it always kept boiling down to that especially every time he sped pass Arkham. It was one thing to vaporize him on the spot, but one by one all the criminals that were once part of the revolving door of Arkham were little more than shells doing menial grounds keeping tasks. Gotham look like a completely different place, no trash, no litter, no crime, and most of the time people point blank avoid an intersection if they see his vehicle in the rearview mirror. It was the same for the others, nobody stood up to them, but if inspiring this kind of fear is what it took to maintain peace and security than that was it.
Nightwing arrived at the Batcave a few days after what happen to Joker then changed from the costume to plain clothes and put the costume in the transparent storage rack. He left in silence, he already knew there was nothing left to say, they had their argument in the early hours of the morning after Joker's lobotomy. Batman had worked alone before and having partners put them at risk though the others were likely to follow Dick's departure with their own.
Alfred descended into the Batcave a few days after Dick's announcement with another box in hand. The lid is off the box and inside is the Batgirl costume with a rather lengthy note. Alfred is looking quite somber; two of the closest individuals in both their lives are gone. Tim is gone by the end of the week leaving them again alone together like it was for so many years after the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Alfred retires both the Batgirl costume and the resized Robin suit worn by Tim until the Joker abduction that nearly claimed his life.
The endless string of lobotomies and crackdown tactics are the last straw for Alfred. He tenders resignation and heads back to England.
Diana still comes now and again. The sex is rough yet meaningless at least to Bruce. He eventually tells her to leave knowing that he would either end or she would before long.
He is disgusted with himself and so begins to design a new costume to reflect his new outlook. The colors are inverted except for the area near white lenses in the cowl and the Bat symbol look more animalistic rather than the old elegance.
Gotham becomes a very different city as the months pass and so he defaults to inventing as the GCPD maintain the crackdown policies except now incidents involve Gotham civilians, not criminals, but he had seen it first hand often. When he can will himself out of the Batcave, he drives without any sense of direction except to drive though he often passes Arkham, which is brighter yet quieter place now. Rationale he mutters to himself every time he passes it.
His latest invention is an inter-dimensional gate and with the video feed he discovers a world where Flash is still alive as is Luthor, but events had clearly happen differently. He had given warning to interfering with their reality, but the others outvoted him even though he had not given a direct objection. It didn't matter when all others had powers and he didn't, not such a thing was bothersome before, but now they had also rationalized how they behaved except for Shayera. She plays along like him, but the civilian unrest is spreading across the world.
He with the others built a device to incapacitate the others, which did work except when the other Shayera had fought against the current much to Shayera's surprise. The once vocal Thanagarian had seen an echo of her former self though Stewart took charge and blasts his wife's counterpart. Next they were taken to specially made cells to restrain them and he opts to stay behind to watch over them. His abrupt chat with both his other self who still wore his old costume struck a nerve while the one with the still living Flash had been blunt.
He had known his other self would not lead the breakout, but fear of having another die on his watch made him sprint down to Flash's cell. Flash had duped him except he saw it too late to dodge the speedster's fist. It was simple to breakout of a cell that he made, but he had to wait for the others to leave including his other self. He already knows where to find the other Batman because and their fight in the Batcave is a stalemate. The verbal spars are likewise leading nowhere except he had forgotten what it meant to be like the other Batman.
"You grabbed power!"
"And with that power, we've made a world where no eight year old will ever lose his parents...because of some punk with a gun..."
It was one thing for this reality to become like this, but their reality is in their hands, not in the hands of the Justice Lords. After a side trip to Arkham, he sends them all back to their reality to take down the other Lords. He knows about their return things would change and for once in a long time change could be better except it would have to change without the costumes. The crossover had already changed him, but the League will have to learn the lesson he learned already, lines must be crossed at times to do the hard as well right decisions.
The other Batman is the last to enter the vortex, he and the other merely nod then the other Batman is gone. The vortex collapses and now he must face the consequences even if he must face them alone because it had to be done. The words were just as true today as they were two years ago.
The costume felt lighter than it had in a long time.
It is time to plan for a Gotham without Batman and a world without the Justice Lords.
A/N 1: I rewrote the original Rationale to incorporate what could contribute to why I think Justice Lord Batman is the only one at the manor or more precisely the Batcave as all the other costumes are shown to be locked away.
A/N 2: The new material includes everything prior to his encounter with the Justice League Batman and Flash. The in-between scenes are how I think the changes could have taken place such as the new Batsuit, the fact that the Arkhamites are lobotomized, and why the change in tactics have driven the others to leave Bruce.
A/N 3: Also the new depth is how his mind reacts to how he is going along yet hesitating to do all this. Superman in my mind isn't the only that had a mental snap in the Justice Lords reality.