Knightfall: The Movie

By Alex Stockwell

Note: This is based on my ideas for the next Batman movie. My cast list(apart from previously established characters) is as follows:

Bane: Benicio del Toro

Jean Paul Valley/Azrael: Gaspard Ulliel

Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn: Monica Keena

Victor Zsasz: Nick Stahl

Jervis Tetch/The Mad Hatter: Ben Foster

Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy: Alicia Witt

Aaron Helzinger/Amygdala: Andrew Bryniarski

Sergeant Harvey Bullock: Ethan Suplee

Officer Renee Montoya: Rosario Dawson

Mayor Armand Krol: Josh Brolin


Somewhere in the Himalayas, a large figure wrapped head to toe approaches a temple, clutching a blue flower. He walks in, and is approached by Ra's al Ghul.

"You made it."

The figure takes off his goggles and ski mask. It is Bane.

"Si."

Later, Bane is going through similar training to Bruce Wayne's, as Ra's speaks.

"You, more than anyone, know the sickness that infects this world. Imprisoned for your father's crimes. Growing up among murderers and thieves. And yet you have a mind equal to the greatest I've known. With our guidance, you can avenge your ruined life."

"I am at your disposal, mi amo."

Years later, Bruce Wayne sits in the newly rebuilt Batcave, under the also newly rebuilt Wayne Manor. Bruce looks noticeably fatigued, and even a little emaciated. He talks into a headset.

"So, what's her name again?"

On the other side of the conversation, Commissioner Gordon waits in the lobby of Arkham Asylum.

"Harleen Quinzel. I know, funny name, but trust me, she's brilliant."

"She'd have to be."

Just then, Dr. Quinzel approaches.

"She's here. Maintain radio silence."

He turns to greet her.

"Nice to meet you, Jim. So, I presume you're here to check up on the esteemed Mr. Napier?"

"The esteemed?"

"Just a bit of levity. Essential in my line of work."

"After dealing with him, I'd think you'd have had enough levity for one lifetime."

"Oh, come on, Jim. Why so serious all the time, huh?"

"So, what do you have to tell us."

"Well, he's quite a storyteller. He's already told me about a dozen about the thing with his mouth."

"Anything a little more professional?"

"Well, the patient appears to have a very bleak outlook on life, which may suggest some kind of past trauma, but exactly what is hard to determine. My guess is even he doesn't remember. He seems determined to bring everyone down to his level. Just the other day, he tried to convince me the other doctors were just waiting for me to snap and go on a killing spree." She giggles. "He's got a sense of humor, I'll tell you that."

"Yeah, I know." He looks at his watch. "Well, I'll check back soon, doctor."

"I'll be waiting."

"Yeah."

Gordon walks away.

Out front, he meets Bullock and Montoya.

"Alright, let's go."

Bullock speaks, "Your friend still listenin' in?"

"Oh, right." Gordon puts the headpiece back on. "Hello? Are you there? Come in, over." After a short pause, Gordon takes it off. "Don't worry, he does that a lot."

"Did you find out anything?" Montoya asks.

"Just that he's up to his usual antics. She seemed to think it was funny."

"That could be either good or bad."

"I don't understand why that Bat-freak didn't kill the smirking bastard when he had the chance." Bullock says.

"What would the point be in that?" Montoya replies, "People like Napier aren't afraid to die. Killing him wasn't going to deter anyone else from doing what he did."

"Interesting case, Renee. 'Why bother?' You're right, though. Still, I don't think I'd be capable of letting that freak live. It just ain't in me."

"C'mon," Gordon says continuing to the car.

Meanwhile, Bruce has dozed off in his chair. Suddenly, a female hand pushes against his shoulder and shakes him, and we hear Rachel Dawes' voice.

"Bruce! Bruce, wake up!"

Bruce wakes up, to find Alfred shaking him awake.

"Master Bruce?"

Bruce responds, lethargically. "Alfred?"

"Master Bruce, you're gonna be late for your ten o'clock. The press conference?"

"That was today?"

"Yes, sir, it's today. Master Bruce, if you don't mind me asking, have you gotten any sleep?"

"You just woke me up, didn't you?"

"I'm serious, sir. I don't like the look of you. We can put this off, sir."

"No, this is important."

Bruce gets up and staggers away.

"Dear, dear," Alfred utters under his breath.

Sometime later, Bruce stands before several members of the press. He's shaven and wearing a fresh suit, but still looks disheveled. He takes a sip from a coffee cup on the podium in front of him.

"Okay, in the light of this economic crisis, I would like to announce that WayneTech is launching a new urban renewal program. This will include not only rebuilding parts of the inner city, but the creation of 10,000 jobs in the coming year. We will also be building a new hospital, dedicated to the memory…" He suddenly sees Rachel sitting in the back. "Um, in the, uh…" Looking elsewhere, he sees Harvey Dent. "Uhm, the memory of…" Now he sees his parents. He covers his eyes with his hand.

Alfred is watching the press conference on TV. "Oh, no."

"Dedicated to the memory of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes, who lost their lives fighting for this city. Uh, any questions?"

One reporter stands up. "Yes, Mr. Wayne, what do you have to say to your shareholders, who feel you're in too dire of financial straits to be hiring more people?"

Bruce glares at her. "The shareholders? Let me tell you about our shareholders; a bunch of greedy, pompous assholes, who don't give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves, and their whiny spoiled brats. Do you know how many people died last winter in this city alone in fires caused by space heaters, because they couldn't afford heating oil? I'm guessing not. Some rich punk dies because of a stupid fraternity hazing prank, it's all over the news, but an entire building full of people gets burnt to a crisp, and nobody even notices. If you wanna know my opinion, the shareholders can jump up my ass for all I care!"

Dead silence.

Later on, Bruce is throwing up in his bathroom. As he's catching his breath, he hears a coin flipping behind him.

"Wow, Bruce," Harvey says, "I'm impressed. That was real smooth."

"Shut up, Harvey. You're not real."

"I'm not, am I? Hey, Rachel, he says we're not real."

Rachel now appears. "Unbelievable. You'd think he'd be happy to see us."

Bruce's hands start to shake. "Please…leave me alone…"

"C'mon, Bruce," Harvey says, "we're only trying to help."

"Go…away…"

"Bruce," Rachel says, "you need to listen to us."

Bruce clamps his hands over his ears, and closes his eyes tightly.

"LEAVE ME ALONE!!!" He slowly opens his eyes, and they're gone. Bruce lays one arm on the toilet rim and rests his head on it.

Later on, Bruce sits in the cave, with another cup of coffee, holding the arrowhead Rachel gave him after he fell. On the big screen, the news is going.

"Wayne's publicist claims his behavior is due to influenza…"

Alfred comes down, as the news anchor continues to talk; "In the months since Batman's alleged killing spree, he's barely been seen, but it appears there's a new masked vigilante stalking Gotham's criminals, a mystery man known only as 'Azrael'."

"I, uh, saw what happened."

"And?"

"This is about Miss Dawes and Mister Dent, isn't it? You haven't slept regularly since Mister Dent's funeral."

"I failed them, Alfred. Rachel and Harvey are both dead because of me."

"Sir, I realize nothing I can say will convince you otherwise, but either way, you're not doing them or anybody any good by beating yourself up over it."

Bruce attempts to take a sip of coffee, but Alfred knocks it out of his hand, causing the mug to shatter on the floor.

"And you've had quite enough of that! Listen, if you really want to honor their memories, then don't let their deaths be just another random horrible event in a random horrible world. Make their deaths matter!"

Bruce just stares for a second, then covers his face, like he's about to cry. "Oh, Alfred, I miss them so much!"

"So do I, Master Bruce. So do I."

"I'm tired, Alfred."

"Let's get you to bed, then."

At Arkham, Dr. Quinzel is writing in her notebook about her last session with Napier.

Outside, in the dark, several men dressed in the black of the League of Shadows are creeping around. One of them goes up to a wall, and plants a plastic explosive, then quickly backs away. After a moment, the bomb beeps, then explodes, caving the wall in.

Instantly, the alarm goes off. A security guard jumps into action. "Shit!" He yells to another guard. "Get to D Block!" Meanwhile, the light goes out in Dr. Quinzel's office, and she hears the alarm.

"What the hell?"

Several security guards get to D Block, and are instantly shot dead by the men in black. After the smoke clears, one of them, bigger than the others, strolls in. He looks at the carnage, and walks on.

The men arrive at the guard station, and the guard there pulls his gun, and fires on the large man, barely phasing him. The large man walks in, grabs the guard's head, and squeezes it in his arms until his neck snaps, then drops him like a rag doll. Bending over, he grabs a key off the guard's belt, then goes to the console, and puts it into a lock, marked "Maximum Security Wing". He turns the key.

In said wing, several of the inmates are seen, as their doors suddenly fly open, including Jonathan Crane, Pamela Isley, Jervis Tetch, and Victor Zsasz.

In her office, Harley sees through the window guards running past her door. One guard is cut to pieces by machine gun fire, right outside, startling and shocking her. Horrified, she almost screams, but stifles it, and runs to hide behind a file cabinet. Through the window, one of the League peers inside, and she sees his shadow, causing her to tremble in fear. After the shadow leaves, Harley starts to compose herself.

"I gotta— Gotta get out…" Harley gets up, and, hunched over, runs over to the window, struggles to open it, and climbs out. Once outside, she continues to run, stooped over, looking both ways, making sure she's not seen. Gunfire can be heard from inside.

Inside, the inmates are running down the hallways, whooping and hollering. Jonathan Crane runs toward the lobby, and runs into the big man in black.

"Doctor Crane?" Bane says, "Come with me." Elsewhere, we see Isley, Tetch, and Zsasz being escorted out as well by Shadows.

Some distance away, Dr. Quinzel runs through an alleyway, and comes to a high fence. With surprising agility, she jumps onto the fence, climbs over, and jumps off the other side, landing almost perfectly on her feet.

Inside, Bane, still escorting Dr. Crane, meets with one of his men.

"Have you found Napier yet?" Bane asks.

"They have him in solitary."

"Okay, bust him out."

Dr. Quinzel makes it to her apartment, and shuts and locks the door. Her back against it, she slides down to the floor, and, hand over her face, appears to start crying. She removes her hand, revealing she's actually laughing. Her laughing gets louder and more manic.

Later, she's standing in front of her bathroom mirror. She applies black lipstick, and puts black eye-shadow around her eyes. She then stands there, and looks at herself, grinning.

"I'm comin', puddin'."

She kisses the mirror, leaving a black lipstick mark.

Later on, she's dressed in a black t-shirt and mini-skirt, with Doc Martens and red and black argyle socks, with a red overcoat, as she's dousing her whole apartment in vodka, and laughing. She strikes a match, and everything goes up in flames, as she casually walks out of the apartment.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is lying face down on his bed, apparently asleep. His rambling suggests his sleep is not peaceful.

"Harvey…don't do this…don't…don't…"

A hand reaches down and shakes him. What sounds like Harvey Dent's voice says, "Bruce!" Bruce wakes with a start to find Alfred shaking him.

"Master Bruce! It's Gordon. There's an emergency at Arkham."

"Emergency? How bad?"

"You'd better ask him yourself."

Bruce gets on the headset in the cave.

"Jim? What is it?"

"Somebody's broken into Arkham, and let out all the inmates. You gotta get down here, now."

Later, inside Arkham, a couple of orderlies are being held hostage by an inmate with a shotgun. Suddenly, a smoke bomb rolls in.

"Oh, shit!" the nut says. Before he can see where it came from, a grappling line grabs his gun and pulls it away.

"Go, now!" Batman yells through the smoke, and the hostages run out, as he subdues the nut.

In the darkened asylum cafeteria, several more inmates have taken more hostages. Suddenly, one of them is knocked down. "Shit!" another fires in the direction the sound comes from, hitting nothing, before being knocked out himself. In a few seconds, all the rest of them are taken down, except one. He just throws his gun down, and runs. Batman throws the line, and trips him up.

Batman walks to the hole Bane blew in the wall, and looks out. He looks more tired than usual, and like he wants to scream.

Gordon waits on the roof of Arkham, with Bullock and Montoya. A couple of police cars, with lights flashing, are below. Bullock speaks.

"So, where is this costumed freak, Commish?"

"Right here." Batman says, appearing.

"What the…"

"Like I said," Gordon says, "he does that a lot."

"Okay," Batman says, "what happened here, Gordon?"

"It's like I said over the radio, somebody broke into Arkham and freed all the inmates. Most of them have been rounded up, either by you or us, but some of the more infamous are still unaccounted for. We've searched all over the island, and there's no way they could've gotten off it in the time it took us to respond, which tells me someone took them off."

"The few guards who survive say men in black pajamas blew their way in, and opened all the cells," Montoya says.

"The League of Shadows?" Batman asks.

"Certainly sounds like them," Bullock responds. "but get this; these guys were armed for World War III! AK47s, uzis, and enough plastique to blow up every cave in Afghanistan."

"You're sure it's them?"

"You know another group of ninja-nuts who'd do something like this?"

"Who's missing?"

Gordon answers. "Well, for starters, Napier's gone."

"The Joker escaped?"

"Makes sense," Bullock says, "You're gonna free the worst loons in Gotham, he's as bad as they get."

"Also," Montoya continues, "Dr. Crane is gone," She pulls out a file folder. "uh, Pamela Isley. Serial killer, preys on young men."

"Kind of like Ted Bundy with tits." Bullock chuckles. Montoya rolls her eyes.

"You might remember her, she left pieces of ivy on her victims' bodies, and sent letters to the Gotham Gazette, calling herself Poison Ivy. Then there's Jervis Tetch. Child murderer, tended to rape his victims before killing them. Also a highly skilled hypnotist, which he used to lure in his victims. The papers called him The Mad Hatter because of his obsession with Lewis Carroll."

"If you know anything about Carroll, that makes perfect sense." Bullock throws in.

"Victor Zsasz. You might have heard about this guy. Likes to carve tally marks on himself after every kill."

"Didn't Rachel Dawes put him away?" Batman asks.

"Yeah," Bullock says, "That was one of the big ones that put her on the mob's shit list. Mostly liked to rape and kill young women, but he sometimes worked freelance for the Falcones."

"There's one more thing," Gordon adds, "Doctor Quinzel is missing."

"Napier's psychiatrist?" Batman responds.

"Yeah. We can't find her anywhere. We sent someone to her apartment; the fire department beat us. Looks like someone torched her place, and half the building with it. We're not ruling out the possibility she was in there, but, given the circumstances, I highly doubt it."

"You think The Joker took her?"

"I do. And considering who we're talking about, I just hope we get to her before something happens."

Just then, backup arrives.

"Holy shit," Bullock turns to them, "it's the cavalry." Gordon and Montoya turn as well.

"Jesus," Montoya says, "where were they when we needed them?" Montoya turns to Batman. "So, let me give you the full…" Nobody there. "…list." Gordon and Bullock turn as well.

"One of these days," Gordon says, "I'm going to nail his feet to the ground."

Batman races down the street in his new tumbler. Inside, he's listening to the police band radio.

"We got a disturbance in Old Gotham, corner of West and Vine, suspect matches description of Helzinger, Aaron. Send assistance."

Batman steps on the gas.

In Old Gotham, the police have Aaron Helzinger(Amygdala) cornered in an alleyway, with a woman cowering in the corner behind him.

"She laughed at me!"

"There's nowhere to go, Helzinger. Give yourself up."

Batman, seeing the disturbance, parks the tumbler in a nearby alleyway. He scales the wall of the adjacent building, runs across the rooftop, then looks down at Amygdala. He moans, out of dread. Unseen by him, another mask, Azrael, watches from the opposite roof.

"Aaron, you can't escape. Please come quietly!"

Warily, Batman jumps off the roof, landing right on top of Amygdala, knocking him down. The speaking cop puts down his megaphone.

"Oh, thank god."

Batman gets on his feet again, and goes to help out Amygdala's hostage. Before he can get two feet, Amygdala is up. He grabs Batman, and throws him against the wall. Batman gets up, and attempts to tackle Amygdala, knocking him down, but barely bruising him. Before Amygdala can retaliate, Batman gives him a crack on the jaw, and another one to the temple, trying to knock him out. Amygdala responds by back-handing him, throwing Batman off him, and on his ass against the alley wall. Amygdala gets up, and tries to run Batman down, but Batman quickly kicks him in the gut, dropping him to his knees. Painfully, Batman gets up, and chops Amygdala on the back of the neck, knocking him unconscious. He then goes to help the woman up.

"Are you okay?"

The woman nods, and the police come to help her, and arrest Amygdala. One cop stops to look at Batman. He mouths silently, "Just go." Batman scales up the wall again.

As he reaches the top, he hears a voice.

"You're everything they said you were, Mister Wayne."

Batman looks in the direction of the voice, and sees Azrael.

"Who are you? How do you know who I am?"

"You're well known to us. The man who killed Ra's al Ghul."

"I didn't kill him. He brought it on himself."

"Oh, no doubt."

"You still haven't answered my first question."

"I apologize. My name is Jean Paul Valley, but you can call me Azrael."

"Jeez, another copycat."

"What, you mean like those lunatics with the automatic weapons? No. Though perhaps in a broader sense you can call me that. Surely, Mister Wayne, when you went down this path, you must have known someone was bound to follow."

"So, how do you know about me? You're not with the League of Shadows, are you?"

"Oh, no. Just the opposite; I am with the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. We've been fighting against the Shadows for centuries. But, since I know the question is on your mind, the one responsible for tonight's little…incident…is with them."

"Who is he?"

"Ra's al Ghul's successor; a Spaniard known only as 'Bane'. He grew up in the infamous Peňa Duro prison, serving his father's sentence. That is where the Demon's Head found him. Since he's taken over, the League has changed drastically."

"Hence the huge arsenal."

"That's not all. He's also been experimenting with some kind of drug, a PCP derivative he calls 'Venom'. If I were you I'd steer clear of him. Bane is every bit the scholar and tactical genius Ra's was, but twice as mad."

"Why would he do this, though?"

"I do not know. Presumably he's trying to succeed where Ghul failed, by destroying Gotham. But this plan lacks the subtlety he's been known for. I fear it may be part of a larger gambit."

"Well, whatever it is, I have to stop him."

"Not without my help. If you need me, I assume you know how to find me."

Azrael turns, and jumps over the side of the building.

"Bane." Batman leaves.

At dawn, Batman pulls the tumbler into the cave, then gets out, obviously exhausted.

Bruce, wearing his costume under a robe, comes in from the cave. Alfred is there waiting for him.

"Sir, where were you all night?"

"All over the place. Somebody busted open Arkham, Alfred." Bruce goes into the bathroom and closes the door, and inside he starts the shower, and gets out of his suit.

"I know, I've seen the news. Does Gordon know who did it?"

"The police have their suspicions, but I talked to someone who confirmed them. The League of Shadows."

"Oh, no. Of all the times they could resurface, this is the worst possible."

"And what does that mean?"

"What does it mean? You're already worn down to a nub, that's what."

"Don't worry, I'm not going it alone. That new vigilante the news has been talking about, uh, Azrael, he's the one who told me. He insisted on helping me with this."

"And you're going to trust a man who named himself after the angel of death?"

"Alfred, I named myself after an animal that sucks blood. What's your point?"

"Not everyone is as capable of avoiding the line as you are. How many do you think would've been able to spare Jack Napier, even if he hadn't done to them what he did to you?"

"Well, it doesn't matter. I didn't ask him to help, but there's nothing I can do to stop him."

"Yeah, well I'm sure you'll feel differently when one of these lunatics turns up dead."

Somewhere on the edge of the Gotham river, a police crane is fishing a dead body out of the water, as Bullock supervises. Gordon approaches.

"Okay, fill me in."

"Well, we got a stiff, Commish. Some jogger saw it floating downstream. It appears to be one of the escapees."

The body is laid out in a body bag, as Gordon and Bullock look down at it.

"Holy shit," Bullock says, "it's him. Well, that's irony for ya."

"What does that mean?"

"You know. Did all those horrible things, murdered Dawes, turned Dent into a deformed psychopath, all just to prove he could turn anyone into a killer, and he ends up being taken out by someone who already was one."

"You think one of his fellow inmates did this?"

"Well, either that, or Doctor Quinzel did it."

"That is, if she isn't at the bottom of the river somewhere, as well."

"Well, we ain't found nothin' yet, commish. Best case scenario, though, she escaped while mister Glasgow Smile there was being butchered by one of his fellow crazies, and she's just hiding out somewhere."

"Yes, and if we find her, she can tell us who killed him. Assuming she got a good look, that is."

Later on, a reporter stands at the dock, talking to a news camera.

"It was only last night that Arkham Asylum was blown open, but already there's been a bizarre twist in this plot. This morning, the body of infamous terrorist Jack Napier, better known as The Joker, was found floating in the Gotham River behind me. A police report states that Napier appears to have been stabbed repeatedly by one of his fellow inmates."

The news report is broadcast on a store-window TV, which Harley is watching with a look of total shock. "Puddin'?"

Alfred is watching, as the reporter continues.

"Napier, as you'll remember, is the man who murdered a number of law enforcement officers, as well as one of our most dedicated crusaders in the fight against organized crime, Rachel Dawes," Her picture appears onscreen. "as well as apparently driving mysterious vigilante Batman into killing several underworld figures, and allegedly causing the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent." His picture now appears.

Bruce comes out of the bathroom, once again in his batsuit. Alfred, not seeing him, speaks.

"Well, there's some good news, if you want to call it that. The Joker is dead."

"Huh?"

"One of his fellow inmates apparently."

"Huh." Alfred turns around, and sees him.

"You are not going back out again."

"Not my choice, Alfred. People are already dying. You should hear the police band, it sounds like the world's ending out there."

"And you're going to stop it?"

"Or die trying."

"I guess there's nothing I can do to stop you, is there?"

"No, there isn't."

"If your father could see you now."

Meanwhile, Bullock and Montoya have the list of escaped lunatics on a blackboard. A few of them, including Aaron Helzinger, are crossed out, and Napier's name is scribbled over completely.

"Nine random freak outs already," Bullock says, "resulting in six deaths, with no rhyme or reason, and we've only had four of these nuts brought in, plus one who's turned up dead."

"Given this list, maybe we're lucky it's only been nine."

"Yeah, but it can only get worse from here. And the Commish is already under pressure from the new mayor to wrap this thing up yesterday, like a tidy little miracle. I just wish we knew why. What the hell kinda plan would require the escape of so many lunatics?"

"Maybe there is no plan."

"You're thinking someone sprung 'em for the sheer hell of it, Montoya?"

"Or as a distraction, Harve."

"Shit, Renee. No detective school on the planet can teach you to deal with something like this."

Bullock pulls out a small flask, unscrews it, and takes a hit. "After you with that." Bullock hands it to Montoya, and she takes a hit.

Elsewhere, Harley is sitting on a park bench, watching the sun set. She has a very morose expression on her face.

"I'm sorry, puddin'. I should've been there for ya." Suddenly, she speaks again, sounding similar to The Joker.

"Problem, pumpkin? You look like someone died!"

"Mister J? But…you're dead! Right?"

"Not while I live within you, sweetie. C'mon, baby, let's paint the town red!"

Harley squeals with delight.

Later that night, Batman is driving around in the tumbler, again listening to the police band radio.

"We've got a break in at Conroy's Costumes."

Jervis Tetch steps over broken glass, into the costume shop. After scanning the shelves, he finds what he's looking for; a big, garish top hat.

Meanwhile, in a hotel room downtown, Bane sits with one of his underlings.

"Why don't we just make our move on Wayne?"

"No. He's physically weakened, but his mind is still strong. Or strong enough."

"What does that mean?"

"We've waited a long time for this. For a time when Wayne would be compromised enough that we could begin to tear him down, piece by piece. And thanks to that clown, Napier, our patience will soon be rewarded. First, the woman he loved fell, then his greatest ally. The knife is in his heart already; we need only…twist it."

Again, we see Batman in the tumbler. "Break in at Tenniel estates…" Batman steps on the gas.

At Tenniel Estates, Jervis Tetch appears to be having a tea party with a young girl he's hypnotized, who's dressed as Alice. In the other seats at the table are stone statues of the March Hare, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat, and the White Rabbit.

"So, then I said, 'I told you butter wouldn't suit the works.'" The girl laughs stiffly. "More tea, my dear?"

"Okay."

Tetch picks up the tea pot, which then shatters in his hand. Batman speaks from the shadows.

"Don't make a move, Tetch."

"Well, twinkle-twinkle. They told me about you on the inside. Sit down, little bat, have some tea."

The girl comes to her senses. "Mom?" Batman punches Tetch out. Just then, the police arrive. Batman makes a quick exit, as the police help out the girl, and arrest Tetch.

As Batman is approaching the tumbler, wearily, he once again hears Azrael. "We meet again, Wayne."

"Valley?"

Azrael comes out of the darkness. "Yes. I was going to help with that, but I could see you had it all in hand, and I didn't want you tripping over me."

Batman steps toward him, somewhat aggressively. "Did you kill The Joker?"

"Napier? No. As far as I know, the police are correct in their assumptions that one of his own sliced him up."

Batman drops the hostile tone. "The question is which one killed him, and why?"

"Your guess is as good as mine." He turns, then turns back. "Oh, and one more thing. Try to get some rest. Wouldn't be much good for anybody if the Bat was killed by some random brute." And then he's gone.

Harley walks through Park Row, whistling The Joker's theme from the Animated Series. Unnoticed by her, a mugger is watching.

"Hey, alright, a cute little Goth chick."

As she passes, he comes up behind her, and sticks a gun in her back.

"Okay, sweetie, give me all your money. And how about taking off that coat, huh?" He laughs depravedly. Harley just turns around, and pinches his cheek.

"Oh, aren't you cute!" She then flicks an X-Acto blade from between her fingers, and slashes his throat, which starts gushing blood, as he falls over and dies. She walks away, giggling.

Jervis Tetch sits in the police station, being interrogated by Bullock, while Montoya stands nearby.

"Who is this Bane character?"

"I know not, Sergeant. But, let me ask you something. How is a raven-"

"I'll ask the questions, asshole!"

Montoya steps in. "Harve, calm down. I'll handle this. Jervis, what do the League of Shadows have planned?"

"The League…who?"

Bullock bangs his fist on the table. "Fucking guy's clueless!"

At this time, Gordon is meeting with Mayor Krol, at his mansion.

"This entire situation has been mishandled from the beginning, Gordon! If you don't do something about it within twenty-four hours, I'm gonna call the governor, and tell him to send the national guard!"

"But, sir—!"

"But nothing, Gordon. I wield a lot of power in this town. With a single call, I could destroy your career."

In a tavern downtown, a college student is sitting at the bar. The bartender puts a beer in front of him.

"Courtesy of the redhead at the end of the bar."

The student looks down the bar, and sees Pamela Isley, in a sexy green dress, making more than just eyes at him. He goes down to her.

"Hey, thanks for the beer. What's your name?"

"Call me Pam."

"Okay, Pam. I'm Jeff."

"Well, hello, Jeff. So, you gonna take me home, so I can tear your clothes off?"

Later on, Pam is riding Jeff on his bed. Even later, Jeff is looking in his fridge, as Pamela creeps up behind him silently, naked, with a switchblade. She jumps him from behind, and puts the blade to his throat.

"Don't take this personally, Jeff. You're one of the best I've ever had."

"Let him go, Isley!" It's Batman who's hiding in the darkness. Pamela lets Jeff go, and points the knife into the darkness, as he runs out of there.

"Who the fuck are you?"

Suddenly, Batman comes into view, knocks the blade out of her hand, and armlocks her.

"Ow, ow, ow…"

Meanwhile, Doctor Crane, wearing his Scarecrow mask, walks into a pool hall in Old Gotham. He grabs a cue, and snaps it over his knee, getting everybody's attention.

"Anybody know where I can find Batman?" Everybody laughs. The bouncer approaches, with a baseball bat.

"I got a bat for ya right here!" Crane sticks his arm out, and sprays him, causing him to cough. "Yeah, real cute, asshole. Now, I'm not gonna tell you a—" His face suddenly drops, and he falls to his knees. "Mom?"

"I knew it. I can spot a mama's boy a mile away. Now, as I was saying—"

"Doctor Crane?" Crane takes the mask off, and sees Harley standing there with a pool cue.

"Doctor Quinzel?"

"Is that a new formula? It looks different."

"Yes. I designed it to access the hippocampus, and find the worst thing in there. I'd explain how it works, but you could probably figure it out for yourself. I want to try it out on Batman. See what he's got stowed away in there."

"You looking for Batman? I know how you can get a hold of him."

At the station, Pamela Isley is being questioned by Montoya, as Bullock stands in the corner. Gordon watches through one-way glass.

"Hey, I heard what happened to Dent. I mean what really happened to him, not that bull-shit story you guys made up to keep people from freaking out."

"Who is Bane, and what is he planning?"

"You know I'm the first person he ever put away? Yeah, I tried to kiss him at the trial. No sense of humor, that guy."

Montoya slams her fist on the table. "HEY! Answer my question! Who is Bane? What's he planning?"

"You got me. Is he the big guy in the black pajamas who sprung me?"

"Yes!"

Isley motions to Montoya. "C'mere."

"What?"

"I got a little info for you, but I don't want him listening." She gestures toward Bullock.

Montoya glances at Bullock, who pats his gun, to reassure her. She leans toward Ivy. "Yeah, what?" Ivy leans forward and forces a kiss on her. Montoya pulls away violently and pulls her gun. "You wanna fuck with me? You just try it, bitch!"

"Hey, Montoya," Bullock steps in, "cool it!"

Ivy laughs. "Jesus, you're not a homophobe, are ya? You act like my lips are poisoned or something!"

"Someone get this crazy bitch out of here." An officer comes in and takes Isley away. Bullock enters the room where Gordon is watching from. "Helluva woman." Bullock says, sarcastically.

"Reminds me of my ex-wife." Gordon replies. Bullock gives him a weird look. "There's a lot you don't know about me." Gordon's phone goes off. He looks at it.

"That Bats?"

"Yeah."

Gordon emerges on the roof. He looks around for Batman. "Where are you?"

"Hello, Commissioner." Scarecrow steps from behind the broken Bat-signal, and sprays Gordon in the face, and he starts coughing. Gordon drops to his knees, and looks up at Crane, and sees Two Face, holding his son hostage.

"Harvey?"

"It's your fault, Jim. Her blood is on your hands."

"I'm sorry, Harvey. Please let him go!" Gordon breaks down, and starts shaking and whimpering. Harley then steps out, and produces a Joker card from her pocket.

"This'll get his attention." She giggles, tossing the card next to Gordon. "In the meantime, I've got an even better idea." She then grabs his radio.

Later, Gordon is being taken into the hospital. Bullock accompanies him. Later, he's in bed, with Bullock still by his side. "Fortunately, it appears to have been a minor dose. Should wear off before too long." The doctor pulls out a needle.

"Hey-hey-hey, what the fuck are you doing?"

"We need to sedate him, Sergeant! Believe me, you don't want him to have to sweat that stuff out conscious."

"Oh. Right. Sorry, doc."

"Sergeant, if we had more cops like you in this town, shit like this wouldn't happen."

Just then, Bullock's radio sounds. He picks up.

"Yeah, what?"

"Bullock!" It's Montoya. "We gotta get down to Bates school, now!"

Batman is again in his tumbler. He now appears to be fighting back unconsciousness.

"…Zsasz, serial killer recently escaped from Arkham…holed up in the Bates school for women…hostages…send tactical squads at once…"

Zsasz, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, stands over the eviscerated corpse of one of his hostages, carving another mark into his arm. His other hostages are cowered in the corner. "You see these marks? Self-inflicted, every one…all lovingly etched…souvenirs…to take everywhere."

Outside, several cop cars are waiting, as Bullock and Montoya arrive. One officer approaches. "Where's Gordon?"

"He's in the hospital." Montoya says.

"One of the escapees hit him with something," Bullock adds, "We'll be handling this."

"Well," the officer continues, "most of the women got out the back. They're being taken to hospitals for trauma counseling."

"How many are left in there?" Montoya asks.

"Still some fifteen are unaccounted for. If they're not stashed in the library, or hiding, then they're probably dead."

"We never assume that, officer."

"Then…he's still got fifteen hostages, ma'am."

"Fifteen or five hundred," Bullock says, "the situation is the same. Who've we got in there?"

"Axton, sir. Been in there going on twenty minutes."

"That's too long."

"Want me to try to raise him, sir?"

"You crazy? Of course not! You want that nut to hear him?"

"I'm going in!" Montoya says, pulling her gun out.

"Okay, I take that back. You're crazy!"

"No choice." She puts an earphone in her ear. "Just speak quietly. I'll hit the button every two minutes, to let you know I'm okay."

She goes in the open window.

Montoya creeps through the darkness, gun drawn. A ways in, in one of the corridors, she finds Axton. He's dead, his throat slashed. "Shit!" Montoya says, under her breath.

Zsasz reenters the room where his hostages wait. "I told them not to send anyone. Now one of you will pay." Just then, two of the hostages rush him. He knocks one down with a kick in the ribs, then grabs the other, and forces her to the ground. "Ah, a volunteer." He stabs her in the chest repeatedly, as she screams. He then licks her blood off the blade of his knife, and slashes another mark on his arm. Just then, Montoya bursts through the door.

"Freeze!" Zsasz quickly grabs the other girl, and holds the knife to her throat.

"Go ahead, pretty cop. Even if you think you can hit me without hitting her, you really want to risk it?"

Montoya lowers her gun. "All right, let her go. Take me."

"Sorry, officer, but I'm going to need more of a show of faith than that. Drop the gun, and turn around." Montoya complies. Zsasz throws down his hostage, and grabs Renee by the throat. "Very noble, but I'm still going to need to take one more for your transgression."

Just then, Batman bursts through the window. "Let…her…go."

"Don't bargain with him," Montoya says, "I just tried it."

"Ah, but he's not a cop," Zsasz says, "He's like me. A predator. Hell, we're practically the same man."

"I'm not like you, Zsasz." Batman responds.

"What, just cause you don't kill? You couldn't even kill that green-haired freak. Perhaps you should thank me for that."

"Y-you killed Napier? Why?"

"Why? That cunt who put me away! They had no right to give her to that grinning bastard! She was mine! He didn't even savor it…just cast her in the flames, like so much kindling! I would've done so much more to her! Even the mob was going to be nauseous after they saw what I did to her! By the time I was done with her, she was going to BEG ME to put her out of her misery!" Just then, Montoya cracks him on the nose with the back of her head, and breaks free.

"TAKE HIM!" Batman rushes in and throws Zsasz down, onto his face. Montoya, kneeling on the floor, rubs her neck, gagging. Before Zsasz can get up, Batman pins him, grabs the back of his head, and starts bashing his face against the floor.

"YOU! DON'T! TALK! ABOUT! HER! LIKE! THAT!"

"That's enough!" Montoya is now on her feet, and is holding her gun on him. "I've got him." Batman stops, and realizes what he almost did. He lets go of Zsasz, and Montoya goes and cuffs him. She quickly turns to Batman. "Don't leave. I need to tell you something. Someone attacked Gordon. He's in the hospital."

"I heard. Do you know who?"

"No, but they left one of these next to him." She hands him the Joker card.

"But…he's dead."

"Napier is dead. Not the Joker, apparently." She turns back around, to talk into her radio. "Yeah, Zsasz has been apprehended." She turns to Batman again, but he's gone. "Goddammit."

Batman stands on the roof. He looks to be at the end of his energy. He suddenly passes out, landing flat on his back.

Meanwhile, Mayor Krol is asleep in his home.

"Oh, Mister Maaa-yor…" The mayor wakes up, to find Harley and Scarecrow standing at the foot of his bed. He wakes all the way up, and throws open the drawer on his nightstand.

"It's not in there," Scarecrow says. "Trust us."

"How did you get in here?"

"Your bodyguards let us in," Harley says, "We had to slash their throats to convince them, but…"

"What do you want?"

"The same thing everyone wants, Mister Mayor. Entertainment!"

Scarecrow sprays him in the face.

Soon after, as the sun is coming up, Batman is still unconscious. Suddenly, a shadow covers him.

"Bruce?" Batman comes to.

"Rachel?" Rachel kneels down in front of him.

"Oh, God, Bruce! What's happening to you?" She starts to tear up. "You could've killed him!"

"Zsasz? I don't…he…"

"I heard what he said, Bruce. That doesn't change what you almost did."

"What…?"

"You can't allow what they did to me to turn you into one of them, Bruce! I won't let you!"

"I-I'm sorry, Rachel…" Suddenly, Alfred's voice is heard on Batman's radio.

"Master Bruce? Where are you?" He looks down at it, then looks up to find Rachel's gone. He picks up the radio.

"Alfred…"

Later, Alfred once again stands outside the bathroom, as Bruce showers.

"So, this Joker copycat has the mayor. And I think Crane's involved, too."

"Sir, how long are you going to continue this?"

"As long as I have to."

"Have you ever considered this might be what this Bane character wants; to run you ragged?"

"It doesn't matter. People are dying, Alfred."

"And you, too, if you keep up like this."

"If the last thing I ever see is an innocent who'll live another day because of me, then that's just what the cards have in store for me."

Alfred walks away, speaking under his breath. "He's beyond hope."

Later in the day, in an abandoned building somewhere in Gotham, Harley and Scarecrow are holding the mayor, who's cowering in the corner.

"Okay, mister mayor," Scarecrow says, holding up a voice recorder, "time for your speech."

Montoya is at her desk, when her phone rings. "Hello, Gotham police."

"Help me, please!"

"Mayor Krol?" She motions to another cop to trace the call. "Sir, are you alright?"

"They said they're going to kill me!"

"Who?"

"Joker…and Scarecrow…"

"Sir, where are you?" The mayor hangs up. "Did you find him?" The other cop nods.

Early that evening, Batman is in the tumbler, when a message comes in, pinpointing the location of the call. Batman has a look of disbelief on his face, and thinks out loud. "That's where…" He steps on the gas.

Several police cars are parked outside the remains of the warehouse where Rachel and Harvey both died, as Batman's tumbler pulls up.

From the top of a building some distance away, Harley watches through a pair of binoculars. "Here, fishy-fishy-fishy! There he is!"

From inside the ruins, the mayor's voice can be heard calling. "N-no…don't…please…not again…please…DON'T…AAAUUGH!!!"

"Holy shit!" Montoya exclaims, "They're torturing him in there!"

"Torture, my ass!" Bullock responds, "They're killing him! We can't wait!" He picks up his radio. "Send the SWAT team in NOW!"

"Wait!" Batman says, "Something's not right!"

"We can't wait! Go! Go!"

The SWAT team rushes in, towards the sounds of the mayor screaming. They eventually find the sound in the exact spot Rachel was tied up, but instead only find a table with an mp3 player on it, playing the sound of the mayor screaming, and a walkie talkie, with the receive button taped down.

"What is this?" One of the team says.

On top of the building, Harley speaks into the other walkie talkie. "Hello, dumbasses!"

Her voice comes over the one in the building. "Someone already got blown up in this building! What did you think was going to happen?"

"Oh, SHIT!" The team looks around quickly, till one of them looks under the table, and finds the bomb.

"MOVE OUT!!! MOVE OUT!!!" The bomb goes off with a massive explosion, causing what's left of the warehouse to collapse, and knocking several of the cops off their feet.

Harley runs and jumps down the fire escape, laughing her ass off. She gets in to a waiting car, where Doctor Crane sits shotgun. He looks in the backseat, where the mayor is tied up. "Puddin', you deserve an Oscar! Though you may end up getting it posthumously!" She laughs maniacally, as she pounds her foot on the gas.

Back at the warehouse, the cops are scrambling around. Suddenly, Montoya gets a call over her radio. She picks up. "Montoya!"

"Hello, Montoya. I'm Scarecrow."

Crane is talking into Gordon's radio, as Harley speeds around Gotham. "I don't think I need to tell you we have your mayor. It's also safe to say you know it's another trap, and the Batman definitely knows it."

Montoya listens on the other side. "I also know that's not going to stop him from coming after us. So just give him the radio like a good doobie, so he can trace us. He'll get it from you, anyway."

Montoya turns to Batman, who's standing right there. "You heard that, right?"

"Yeah." He takes the radio.

Back in the tumbler, Batman traces the radio's signal.

After a lengthy chase, Harley stops the car outside an alleyway, and she gets out, dragging Mayor Krol with her. "C'mon, sweetie!" Doctor Crane gets out, and Harley tosses him the radio, then runs into the alley, the mayor in tow. Doctor Crane puts on his Scarecrow mask, then goes into the alley, and tosses the radio further in, before hiding behind a dumpster. Up above the alleyway, Azrael watches.

"The mayor can wait," he says, "Something tells me I'm needed here."

Batman parks the tumbler outside the alley, and goes in after the signal. After he passes the dumpster, Scarecrow comes out of hiding. "Hi, Batman. Miss me?" Batman immediately turns, and Scarecrow sprays him full blast. Batman drops to his knees, coughing. "Now, let's see what's been eating at you."

In Batman's head, he's back at the warehouse, that fateful night. He goes inside, and finds Rachel tied up. "RACHEL!"

"BRUCE? NO! NOT ME! WHY ARE YOU COMING FOR ME?" With no time to untie her, he drags her out of the warehouse. He gets her out before the explosives go off, but then watches in horror as the right side of her of face is set aflame, and she screams in agony. "NO! HARVEY!!!"

Back in the real world, he's huddled on the ground, whimpering. "…Rachel…"

"Rachel Dawes?" Scarecrow says, "Well, isn't this interesting." He turns and runs down the alleyway. As he comes out the other end, he's knocked on his ass by Azrael.

"I saw what you did. That wasn't very nice." He kicks Scarecrow in the head, knocking him unconscious.

At the other end, Azrael helps Batman up, and sits him in the passenger seat, then gets in the driver's side, and takes his mask off. "Do not worry, my friend. I will get you home."

Back in his hotel room, Bane watches the news. "Twenty officers were killed in the explosion."

Again, his underling speaks. "Appears you may not need to finish him after all. This Joker may just do the job for you."

"No. Whoever they are, they've only made it easier for me. He's still mine to break."

The tumbler roars into the Batcave, before coming to a stop. Azrael gets out, and helps Batman out. He helps him into the elevator, then out of it, once it emerges at the top. "Hello?"

Alfred comes in. "Who the bloody hell are you?"

"I'm Azrael. Help him, he's been sprayed by Crane. Something new."

In his bed, Alfred sedates Bruce. Valley, now out of costume, watches.

"He will need more than sleep, Alfred. I saw everything; the amount Crane sprayed him with was huge. Do you know anybody who can make an antidote?"

"Uhm, yes. I don't know if he'll help us, though."

"If he's any kind of human being, he will."

Lucius Fox lies asleep in his bed, when his phone starts ringing. He sits up, and picks it up. "Uhm, Fox."

"Lucius, it's Alfred."

"Uh, listen, Alfred, if Bruce wants my help again, tell him he can forget it."

"I don't think he'd hear me if I did. Now, Lucius, I've known you too long to believe you'd just abandon someone who needs you because of something as stupid as pride. What happened was unfortunate, and I know he feels as bad about it as you do. But if you don't help him now, you're as big a fool as Earle."

Lucius sighs. "What does he need?"

At the police station, Bullock and Montoya are interrogating Doctor Crane.

"Alright, freak, I ain't fucking around here. Who's the jackass who's calling himself the Joker these days?"

"I am. And you are. And she is, too," he gestures to Montoya, "We're all the Joker, deep down."

"Oh, you think you're funny, asshole?" Bullock grabs Crane and throws him to the ground, then starts kicking him in the ribs. "We lost twenty good officers because of that fucking clown!" Montoya restrains him.

"Sit your ass down!"

"Fuck this bullshit!" Bullock stomps out, slamming the door behind him.

Back in Bruce's room, Lucius injects him with the antidote he's made up. "It'll take some time for this to work its way through his system, but he should recover."

"Thanks for helping him, Lucius."

"Alfred, do me a favor. If I ever let my pride get the best of me again, don't wait till things get dire to knock some sense into me."

"I won't."

Later, Bruce wakes up to the sound of a coin flipping. He sits up, and sees Harvey and Rachel standing at the foot of his bed. He turns and puts his feet on the floor, and puts his head in his hands. "I can't take this." They both come around and stand in front of him.

"Oh, what's wrong, Bruce?" Rachel says.

"What's wrong?" Bruce looks up, "I'm sitting here talking to two people who are dead because of me."

"Jesus Christ, Bruce," Harvey says, "I know you're smarter than that. None of what happened to us is your fault. And certainly not the things I did." He suddenly morphs into Two Face. "I made my own choices."

Bruce turns white as a ghost seeing this. "He's always been like that," Rachel says, "Even when we were kids he blamed himself for everything." She then sits down in his lap, and puts her finger under his chin. "All I ever wanted was to get a smile out of you, Bruce. Don't I deserve that, at least?" Suddenly, she morphs into The Joker. "C'mon, Bruce. Why so serious?"

Bruce awakes with a start; pale, clammy, and hyperventilating. He looks around, bug-eyed. "Oh, fuck." He jumps up, and bolts through the house, to the elevator. Alfred sees him.

"Master Bruce, you need to sleep!"

"Not now, Alfred!" Bruce says, as the elevator goes down.

In the police station, Montoya's phone rings, and she picks it up. "Gotham police."

"Renee?"

"Uh, yeah. Is this…"

"Yes. Call Arkham, and see if you can get a hold of Doctor Quinzel's files, especially her notes on Jack Napier."

"What? Why?"

"When Gordon met with her, she said 'Why so serious?' to him, but because of the way she said it, neither of us noticed."

"Wait, what are you saying?"

"I think Harley is The Joker now."

Later on, Bullock and Montoya are looking over Quinzel's files. Bullock looks through her notebook. He turns a page, and stops. "Holy shit, I think Bats might be right." He hands it to Montoya. Quinzel's writing looks like they were scrawled by a lunatic, and all around it are drawings of The Joker. Montoya turns the page, and finds the writing gets even more manic, then, at the bottom, is scribbled, "WHY SO SERIOUS?"

Sometime later, Batman is in his tumbler, while Montoya talks to him over the radio.

"Looks like you were right. Quinzel is The Joker. We still don't know where she's holding the mayor, though."

"Yes, we do. She set a trap in the remains of the warehouse where Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent both died. That means the most logical place to hold him would be—"

"Uh, the building where you caught Napier. Alright, we're on our way!"

In the aforementioned building, Harley hears the police arriving. "Oh, poo."

Outside, police snipers are setting up on the roofs of the surrounding buildings, and helicopters are arriving. On the ground, a number of cars are parked. Bullock picks up a megaphone. "Harleen Quinzel! Let the mayor go, and give yourself up!"

Inside, Harley is brandishing a hand cannon, and looking out at the police. "There's no way out!" Bullock continues.

"Yada-yada!" She then points the gun at the mayor, who's cowering against the wall. "On your feet, asshole!" He gets up, and she drags him along by his ear. Pointing the gun directly at his head, she yells out at the cops. "You'd better back off, before I paint the walls in here with the mayor's brains!"

"No, please!" the mayor cries.

"Let him go, Harley." Batman's voice comes from behind her. She spins around, keeping the mayor at gunpoint. "I know you're not as crazy as he was."

"Crazy? You never got to know him like I did! He was the sanest person I ever met!"

"Harley, just let the mayor go. There's no way out."

Harley's face suggests she's aware of this. "Alright! Let me make you a deal. I'll let the mayor go if I can speak my piece."

"Whatever you want, Harley."

"You know those scars on his face? He probably told you a few stories about that. He told me a whole bunch. So I put him under hypnosis, to get the real story out of him. His wife was pregnant, but there were problems, and she needed a procedure done, to survive it. The insurance company refused to pay for it, cause it was due to a pre-existing condition. His only option was to go to Carmine Falcone. Falcone said he would pay for his wife's operation, if he did a job for him; shake down some local businesses for protection money. Before he could do it, though, his wife went into labor. Both her and the baby died. So, he went to Falcone and told him he couldn't do it. Falcone got pissed, and told his men to hold Mister J down, then he pulled out a knife, and cut his face up. He got home, and looked in the mirror, and just started laughing…and he never stopped."

Batman looks deep in thought. "I'm sorry. But that doesn't excuse what he did." Harley nods, and takes her gun off Mayor Krol. The mayor runs away.

Outside, one of the snipers sees this, but doesn't know what's going on. "He got away! I'm taking the shot!"

Harley steps forward, holding her gun out for Batman to take it. Suddenly, a shot rings out, and hits her right in the chest, knocking her down. Batman runs to her. Her eyes widen, and she starts breathing shallowly. Batman kneels at her side, and takes her hand.

"Harley?"

"Oh, God, what happened? How many people did I kill?"

"Harley, keep still." Montoya comes up the stairs.

"Is the mayor okay?"

"Yes. Call an ambulance." Montoya leaves.

"…Bruce…" Batman is surprised to hear Harley call him by his real name.

"What did you say?"

"Bruce…I'm sorry about Rachel. I know you loved her. I'm sorry about Harvey, too. But you have to mourn them now. Let them die, Bruce. Don't let it eat you inside like it did him."

"How did you know…"

"C'mon, Bruce. I'm a psychiatrist." She laughs weakly, and then coughs, and spits up blood. "…shit…"

"Try to relax, Harley. The ambulance is on its way."

"You're such a sweet guy, Bruce. Rachel and Harvey were lucky to have a friend like you." Harley stops breathing, and goes limp, and her hand slips out of Batman's. Batman closes her eyes.

Mayor Krol staggers out of the building. Bullock and another cop run up to help him; one throws a coat over his shoulders.

"God, I…I…"

"It's alright, your honor," Bullock says, "you're safe now."

The other cop asks, "How did you get out of there?"

"S-she let me go. He talked to her, and she let me go."

"Who?"

"The Batman. He saved me."

At dawn, the tumbler pulls into the Batcave.

Inside, Bruce takes off the mask, and covers his face with his hand. He starts to cry, then audibly sob. Eventually, he's full-on bawling.

Later on, Bruce rides up in the elevator, leaning against the side. He is clearly beyond exhausted.

He emerges from the elevator, and finds Alfred, unconscious on the floor. "Alfred?"

"I left him alive. It is not your underlings I want…" Bruce looks up to find Bane, standing there, looking right at him. "It is you."

"Bane. But, why…"

"You are Gotham's protector. Any attempts to destroy this city would be futile, as long as you still stand."

"So, you have come to finish what Ra's al Ghul started."

"Ra's al Ghul was a visionary, but he lacked patience. That's why he failed. That's why he died. I've waited a long time for this; for the right moment, so I could wear you down, and then destroy you."

"That's what it's been this whole time? All those people, dead, just because you think I'm the only thing standing between you and Gotham?"

"They won't be the last, not that I'd care if they were. I'd kill for anything. To silence a grating voice. To darken the light in eyes that dared look at me."

"Well, while you revel in it, Bane, I am sick of death; sick of blood, and horror. I've spent my life fighting maniacs like you."

"I would not be here otherwise."

"Valley was right about you; you are insane. You're the worst lunatic I've ever faced. And if I have to kill myself to stop you, so be it."

Bruce rushes at Bane, but Bane backhands him, knocking him into a mirror on the wall. As he struggles to get up, he flashes back to his parents' murder. Just then, Alfred comes to.

"S-sir, are..are you?"

"Go, Alfred! Get out of here!" Before Bruce can get to his feet, Bane grabs him by the neck, and throttles him.

"Sir!" Bane throws him into the grandfather clock next to the elevator. Bruce now remembers Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows burning down the original Wayne Manor. Bane picks him up and tosses him into the elevator, then goes in after him. Bruce sees the death of Ra's al Ghul. In the elevator, Bane continues to beat on him, as he tries to fight back. He remembers Rachel's death, and Harvey's mutilation. Now in the cave, he tries to get up, but Bane kicks him in the back.

Upstairs, Alfred staggers toward the phone.

Bane again backhands Bruce, knocking him into the computer. He now remembers his capture of The Joker. Bane throws a punch at him, but Bruce barely dodges it, and Bane's fist smashes through a computer screen. Bruce remembers Harvey's death. Bruce gets up and ineffectually punches Bane in the stomach.

"You are already broken," Bane says. He kicks Bruce in the jaw. Bruce now remembers the breakout at Arkham.

Alfred struggles to his feet, and picks up the phone.

Bruce again tries to get up. "It is over. You are nothing." Bane punches him in the back of the head. "A disappointment!" Bruce remembers his fight with Zsasz. "Why don't you fight?" Bane picks him up and hurls him into the tumbler. "You've got no spine!" Bruce remembers his nightmare, from Scarecrow's fear gas. Bruce manages to block a punch from Bane, but Bane then punches him directly in the chest. He now remembers Harley's death. Bane throws him into a glass case, shattering it. Lying among the broken glass, Bruce sees the arrowhead.

"…Rachel…"

Lucius Fox picks up his phone.

"Hello?"

"Lucius, thank god."

"Alfred? What's wrong?"

"I don't know, Lucius, but we may need an ambulance."

Bruce weakly stands up, and vainly tries to throw a punch at Bane. "You have nothing!" Bane knocks the hand away, then punches Bruce in the face, and follows it with a kick. Bruce falls to the ground. Bane kneels over him. "Beg for mercy! Scream my name!"

"G-go back to…hell." Bane smashes him across the face with his fist. He then picks Bruce up, and cradles him in his arms.

"I could kill you, but death would only end your agony, and silence your shame." He lifts Bruce over his head. "Instead, I will simply…" He then brings Bruce down hard on his knee. "BREAK YOU!!!" Bruce's spine shatters with a loud, sickly crack, and he screams in pain. Bane drops him. "Broken, and done." Bane turns around to leave, as Bruce lays there, paralyzed.

Some time later, Bruce lies in the hospital, hooked up to machines, in a coma. Alfred sits at his bedside. Suddenly, Bruce stirs.

"Uhm…muh…"

"Master Bruce?"

"…Alfred?"

Lucius Fox comes in.

"He's awake?" he says.

"Lucius? What are you doing here?"

"You didn't think I'd stay mad forever, did you?"

"I-Why can't I feel my legs?"

"Yes. About that." Alfred hesitates, before answering. "Our intruder…broke your back. You're paralyzed."

Bruce quickly gets up on his elbows. "Bane! Where is he?"

"We don't know."

"We have to stop him! He's going to destroy Gotham!"

"What?"

"That's why he crippled me, so I wouldn't get in the way. Lucius, I need you to get a hold of Jean Paul Valley."

"Who?" Lucius asks.

"I need you to make a new suit for him. Someone has to stop Bane; if not me, then it'll have to be him."

At the Gotham police station, Gordon is returning to work.

"Hey, Commish!" Bullock says, "How you feeling?"

"I've felt better. But I understand you guys did a hell of a job handling things while I was out."

"Well, thanks, Commish, but Bats deserves most of the credit. Even the mayor's warmed up."

"I heard."

"Tell you one thing, Commish; Arkham's gonna have to tighten their screening process."

"Do we know where Bane is yet?"

"No, but I'm sure Batman can handle him."

On the news: "Billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne was paralyzed in an auto accident early this morning. It's been reported the 33-year old son of Thomas Wayne crashed his car coming home, totaling it, and paralyzing him. He's currently in the hospital, in stable condition."

Bruce watches from his hospital bed, with Alfred still sitting by his side. "Car crash?"

"We thought that sounded like you. By the way, we had to wreck your Porsche."

"At least I still have the Rolls Royce."

Later, Bruce is in his home, in a wheelchair, talking to Jean Paul.

"I cannot."

"Listen, Jean Paul, I understand your reluctance. But there is no one else. And you said it yourself; someone has to follow me."

Jean Paul sighs. "Okay. You are right. I'm the only one who can stop him."

Jean Paul Valley stands in Wayne Enterprises' weapons lab, with Lucius.

"If I'm to stop Bane, we're going to have to make some modifications to the suit."

"Whatever you need."

Some time later, Jean Paul stands, in the new Az-Bats-suit, with the mask under his arm.

"Well," Lucius says, "this is certainly a change."

"This is about more than just stopping Bane, Lucius. We need to send a message to all who come after him; this is the Batman's city."

Later on, Bruce is on the radio, talking to Jean Paul, now driving the tumbler, as Az-Bats.

"We still don't know his plan, Jean Paul."

"We have an idea. The Venom."

"The PCP derivative?"

"The drug turns anyone using it into a super-strong berserker. If he releases it on the city, the results would be catastrophic."

"The question is how."

"I think I may have some idea. We first discovered the League was using the drug when we were attacked by two of their men. They killed nine of us before we took them down. They both had patches on the backs of their hands."

"Patches? You mean like nicotine patches?"

"Yes. We believe the drug is absorbed through the skin."

Bruce sits in silence. "Fuck."

"Huh?"

"Oh, my God, that's it!"

"What?"

"He's going to seed the clouds, make it rain Venom."

"Of course."

"But, wait a minute. He must know the police will be watching the airports for him. And he must also know they'll be watching for any unusual cargo."

"Perhaps he intends to get on the plane with the drug in mid-air?"

"Yes! He waits for the plane to pass over him, and sky-hooks on with the drug!"

"That means he'll be someplace high."

"And I think I know where. Get over to Wayne Tower. I'm going to call Gordon."

At the police station, Gordon is on the phone with Bruce. "You want me to do what?"

"Find out if any planes with cloud seeding equipment is planning to depart from Gotham airport, and stop them, and divert all air traffic over the city."

"Why?"

"The League is planning another terrorist attack on Gotham. Just trust me on this."

That night, Bane marches into Wayne Tower, carrying a large, heavy bag. On entering, a guard gets up to stop him, but Bane pulls out a gun, and shoots him. He then gets into the elevator.

Meanwhile, at the airport, two Shadows get onto a plane, and into the cockpit. Before they can start it, though, several police cars show up. Gordon gets out of the lead car, and points his gun at the plane. Bullock and Montoya, along with half the Gotham police force follow. Gordon picks up a megaphone.

"COME OUT OF THE PLANE WITH YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD!"

Ten minutes later, Bane is waiting at the top of the tower. He pulls out a radio. "Where are you?"

No answer.

"What the hell?"

"Sorry to disappoint you, but your flight has been intercepted."

Bane turns around, coming face to face with Az-Bats.

"Now this, I don't believe. Valley?"

"You were expecting George Clooney?"

"Even I didn't plan for this. No matter. I broke one Bat, I can break another."

"Yes, you've definitely proven yourself against a man worn down by your machinations. Now let's see how you fare against an opponent who has all his strength!" Az-Bats roundhouse kicks Bane in the face, knocking him to his knees, against the side. Bane just grins.

"Impressive. I was hoping I'd get a decent fight today." Bane leaps to his feet. "Wayne couldn't give it to me. That weakling couldn't even avenge the woman he loved." Bane backhands Az-Bats. "You, you're much more worthy." Az-Bats quickly recovers, and punches Bane in the stomach.

"You want to save the world, but the only way you know is to destroy!" Bane grabs him and throws him against the wall.

"That was Ra's' plan. But I've seen what he couldn't. The world is beyond saving it by just destroying one city. Gotham's only the beginning. I have to destroy it all, so the world can start anew." Az-Bats leaps up, and tackles Bane, then punches him in the face repeatedly.

"You're even madder than I thought. The only difference between you and a maniac like Napier is you think you're doing the world a favor by burning it to the ground!" Bane grabs his shoulder, and pushes him up against the wall again, then punches him several times in the stomach. Az-Bats holds his hand out, and razor sharp blades come out of his fingers like claws. He slashes Bane across the face, then backhands him, knocking him back. Bane grabs Az-Bats, dragging him with him, and swings him around, almost tossing him over the edge. Bane holds him over the side.

"You think you've succeeded, Valley? I can just throw you over now, and start someplace else. Not you, or anybody, is going to stop me."

"You have no idea what you're dealing with, Bane." Az-Bats puts his hand around Bane's neck. Suddenly, an electric charge shoots through his glove, like a tazer, stunning Bane. Az-Bats bashes his forehead against Bane's, again knocking him down. Before Bane can recover, Az-Bats kicks him in the ribs, then in the head. He then places his foot on Bane's neck. "You broke Bruce Wayne, but the Bat is something not so easy to destroy. It's bigger than him, me, all of us; and it's more powerful than all your petty ideas about vengeance and retribution. That is why Wayne spared Napier's life. He knows death and destruction are not the answer. I am not so forgiving. If I ever see you again, Bane, I promise, you will never see me." Az-Bats takes his foot off Bane's throat, and steps up to the ledge, then spreads his wings, and jumps over. As soon as he's gone, the police show up to arrest Bane.

The next day, Alfred is driving Bruce through the local cemetery. Bruce holds the arrowhead. "You're sure ready, sir?"

"Harley was right, Alfred. I have to let them die. I can't let what happened to them turn me into another Joker. I owe them more than that."

"So, are you going to keep fighting the good fight?"

"They would've done the same if I was gone. You said it yourself, Alfred; I need to make their deaths matter. I might not be able to fight the darkness in person anymore, but there's still a lot I can do."

The car stops in front of one plot. Alfred gets out, and helps Bruce get out and into his wheelchair. Bruce wheels over to a memorial plaque; it's Rachel's. He starts crying manly tears.

"God, Alfred. There wasn't even anything to bury."

"Well, sir, at least you can take comfort in that she died with her eyes open."

Bruce attempts to lean over the plaque, and drop the arrowhead.

"Please, let me, sir." Alfred takes the arrowhead, and places it on Rachel's plaque. They then both look at it, silently. "I'm sure wherever they are, they're both very proud of you."

"Yeah. Harvey was probably very surprised to find out I was Batman, though." He laughs.

"See, that's it. They'd want to see you be happy." They both sit/stand silently for another moment. "Well, how about lunch, sir?"

Bruce smiles a little. "Yes, that sounds good, Alfred."

THE END