Chapter 3: Insurance Won't Cover the Damages
The only thing Batman could breath in was smoke. The burning sensation in his lungs was all his body could register at the moment. He carefully opened his eyes and took in the destruction that surrounded him. Most of the building had collapsed; Hood must have planted several bombs throughout the building to cause this kind of damage. He was impressed, a little, but not really.
"Damn it," Batman muttered as he felt the sensation in his legs and arms return. He rolled on to his stomach and used his elbows and knees to prop himself up. Nothing was broken, but a rib or two were cracked. He would have to make due and push forward, because Hood was still out there. His former friend was probably watching him right now, waiting to strike.
Batman then noticed the worst of the damage caused by Hood's bombs. About 50 feet from his current location, he saw a giant piece of black metal protruding out of the concrete and brick mounds. He grimaced at the thought of having to rebuild the Batmobile. Who cared about the expensive leather interior or the durable concussion plating? Damian would never let it go, nor would Alfred. But he was sure of one thing: the next Batmobile was going to be building proof.
"I'm sorry about the Batmobile," Hood laughed. "I sure coveted Bruce's favorite toy. I could only imagine what you're feeling right now. The masked villain was standing on one of the floors that hadn't collapsed from the explosion. Batman forced himself up and carefully turned to face him.
"You know," Batman spat blood, "The leather interior was one of a kind. And you know how much it'll cost to replace it?" The pain from his cracked ribs was excruciating, but he had to fight through it, literally. If he kept his movements tight and close, he just might be able to stay conscious. He wasn't going to catch Hood, not in his current condition, but Batman had to make sure he wasn't going to lose either. There was only one thing he could do. His left hand moved slowly behind his back and searched for a plastique carefully. Due to the overcast and the flickering shadows created by the small fires, Batman was able to hide his actions.
"Don't worry, I'm sure you're insurance will be able to pay for it." Hood dropped from the floor onto the next level below him. Batman froze: he found what he needed.
"Doubt it, but you can expect an estimate within the next five to seven business days," Batman when he pulled out a small ball of explosive from his pouch.
"Well, I'm sure your trust fund will cover the damages then."
Batman didn't waste anymore time and threw the explosive. Hood side stepped it and watched it land on the wall behind him.
"Are you serious? How could you miss?" Hood laughed. Batman smiled and pressed his own detonator. The small plastique beeped and exploded violently, Damian developed a new explosive compound. Maybe he spent a little too much time in the lab. While Hood was not caught in the explosion, it did send him flying into the air. There wasn't much fire as there was boom. The shockwave from the blast even caused Batman to lose his balance for a second, followed by the rest of the building.
Hood sailed over Batman and landed on one of the mounds of rubble and concrete covering the Batmobile. He rolled up immediately and charged at Batman. His left hand was pressed against his abdomen, which was bleeding, while his right wielded a big knife. It wasn't big but gigantic. Where could he hold such a thing?
There was a small shimmer when the light from the fires reflected off it, then it was lost in the shadows with the remainder of Hood. Batman was in no condition to catch Hood's right hand and showoff, so he did the next best thing. Before Hood's knife could make contact with Batman's flesh, he took a step back when Hood's arm completed its swing. There was a moment of intense silence between them. A small void separated them.
It was then closed between when Batman grabbed Hood by the shoulders. Time seemed to slow down as both men registered what was happening. Batman was the first to react. Since the lower half of his body was in no condition to move, he did the next bad thing. With a quick motion of his neck, Batman landed a firm head butt against Hood's face.
"Son of a—" Hood grunted as he fell backward. The impact from the small steel plate that was laced into Batman's mask was quiet effective. Alfred had convinced him to put it between the seams of the mask to protect his head from bullets. While this was not the intention of Alfred's addition, it worked. Hood landed on the ground, his right hand over his mouth. He lifted the bottom of his mask slightly and spit a mouthful of blood.
"Thank you, Alfred," Batman muttered as he stepped towards Hood. He slowly walked over to Hood and leaned forward. "Give up." He grabbed him by the collar and tugged. Hood took a few seconds to register the statement and started laughing. Batman raised his right fist into the air slowly and brought it down hard. Hood merely grunted when his hand made contact.
"Give up?" Hood chuckled through the blood. "What the hell are you wearing, anyways?"
"Steel plate," Batman replied as he released him.
"Steel plate? What? You think I'd shoot you in the head? That's no fun at all, Dick." Hood sat up and rested on his hands, he wasn't going anywhere just yet.
"I know you wouldn't," Batman replied when he started to remove some rubble that lay atop of the remnants of the Batmobile. "But that doesn't stop the other criminals out there." He found a latch beneath the rubble, wrapped his bloody fingers around it, and painfully pulled upward. There was a loud release and the ground started to move as the cockpit opened. Batman searched carefully and pulled out a small box.
"That's why you shouldn't give them the opportunity," Hood said as he pulled out a power bar from his pocket. He lifted the bottom of his mask to the ridge of his nose and started to the snack.
"I'm not going to kill them," Batman responded. The box opened easy enough, since he slammed it against the plating of the Batmobile. The contained collapsed beneath the force and its contents spilled onto the ground. He scavenged through the medical supplies and picked up a small injection pen. Morphine. Finding some skin between his mask and his collar, injected the painkiller.
"Such a shame," Hood finished the power bar and threw the wrapper to the ground. Then he opened his legs shoulder-length apart and started to bend over to stretch out his back.
"Your descent into madness is a shame," Batman slowly stood up as the morphine took affect. His movements would be sluggish and his vision blurry, he would be able to fight, at least.
"Now that, Dick," Hood got onto his feet as well, "was not very nice." The two men started to circle each other like lions. They tried to size each other up. Batman remained silent and calm while Hood taunted him with gestures and quick motions. Then they both made their moves simultaneously. Hood pulled out smoke bombs as he charged forward while Batman used one of his batarangs. It made contact with the bombs, causing them to explode midair.
Hood made his way through the smoke quickly and found Batman on the other side of the smoke. He still had the edge over Batman when it came to speed due to Batman's injuries and the morphine, or so he thought. It was amazing how fast Batman was moving. Each punch and kick Hood threw at his predecessor was met with thin air.
Batman would side step him, duck and weave, and even deflect when needed to. He was always step ahead of his successor and he wasn't going to make it easy on him. Then Hood started to become desperate with every attack. Even though he had not been Robin for a very long time, he was still living in the shadow of Dick. Dick was always the better Robin and now he was going to be the better Batman. Jason didn't blame Dick for his own faults, but he still hated his former friend for being so good.
"Fight me," he roared when his latest punch was dodged. Batman responded by grabbing Hood's wrist with one hand and wrapped his other arm around Hood's bicep. With a quick turn of his body, Batman threw Hood to the ground. He attempted to dislocate Hood's shoulder but he quickly countered by kicking Batman in the ribs.
Batman cried in pain and instantly released Hood's arm. He fell to his knees, grabbing his side tightly. Even though the morphine helped keep the pain to a minimum, it didn't help this time. His was close to breaking and he wasn't sure how much more punishment he could take. Bruce would have never let this happen. Hood would have been put down by now and in police custody. But he wasn't Bruce, nowhere close: he was merely a last-minute replacement.
"I think we're done, for now at least." Hood swung his right around in circles, trying to loosen it up.
"What are you talking about?" Batman tried to regain control of his breathing. Each breath he took, he felt closer to collapsing. The only way to stay conscious was to breath oxygen, but the pain of his chest expanding was driving him over the edge. Either way, he lost.
"Well, I was only sent here to deliver a message, but I wanted to have some fun with my former brother." Hood walked towards him. He basked in his victory as he stood over his battered and defeated opponent.
"And what message would that be?" Batman looked into Hood's eyes, but they lacked any emotion. Even though Hood was enjoying his victory, his eyes remained lifeless. It was haunting and amazing for a man like him to be full with hate and rage to have such eyes.
"This time around, I'm a hired gun." Hood squatted so his face would be leveled with Batman's face.
"A hired gun?" As demented and perverse Hood's logic was, he would never work for a "villain." He became evil to destroy evil, but he never thought Hood would take orders from someone else.
"I'm just working for the bad guy so I can get closer to take him out myself." Hood tapped his temple—his brain. "And this new baddie that's coming to town, he's like no one you ever met."
"Who is he?"
"Never met him," Hood stood back up. "I just know he's some guy from Hong Kong trying to set up shop in Gotham. He already sent some of his goons to start."
"The Scott kidnapping?" Batman asked. The pieces were still scattered, but his was starting to a form a picture, even though it didn't make any sense. At least he had a clue of what was happening, regardless of how small it was.
"Ding, we have a winner," Hood mocked. He took a few seconds to search his pockets and pulled out a small object. "He wanted me to give this to you." The object was dropped in front of him. It was a black knight piece from the game chess.
"Why did he have the girl kidnapped?" Batman was aware she was the daughter of a rising real estate tycoon, but he wanted to know what Hood knew.
"Oh, simple. He wanted to test the Bat-family. Also, he calls himself the White King. The guy loves irony." Hood spoke before Batman could ask. "And he wants to play a little game with Gotham's best. Also, one more thing…" Hood walked around and leaned forward so he could whisper into Batman's ear. "Your move." In that moment, Hood hit Batman in the back of head, knocking him unconscious. He then bent over to pick up Batman's communicator and pressed the "distress" button.