My first attempt at writing fan fiction. Please read and enjoy and feel free to leave reviews, even if they are critical. I'm always willing to learn. All mistakes are my own. If there is a beta out there who would like to volunteer to work with me on this, by all means let me know.
A/N: I do not own Batman or any other characters affiliated with DC Comics.
"If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can't stop you, you become something else entirely."
"A legend, Mister Wayne."
Bruce's head snapped up and he blinked, breaking out of his mindless staring contest with the far wall. He'd been intensely boring a hole through a blank wall with nothing but a notably boring, generic landscape print to liven it. Truth be told, he'd really been staring right through both, not really seeing or hearing anything going on in the room around him. He absently turned and looked down the table towards the annoyed speaker as he put on his best vacant, innocent expression.
"I trust you're okay with this arrangement?" The thin, bald man that had been speaking addressed him again, failing to hide the annoyance and disgust in his voice as he peered at Bruce over the tops of thick bifocals.
Light was streaming in through the open conference room windows, the blinds drawn back on such an uncharacteristically sunny day in Gotham City. The surfaces of the adjacent buildings sparkled in the radiant sunlight, reflecting the sun's brilliance off of thousands of mirrored windows and bathing the city in a false radiance.
Bruce nodded absently, appearing to all nearby to be ignorant of the looks pointed at him from the far end of the long table. Whatever the decision was, it wasn't that important. Nothing important was going to be decided at today's meeting anyways. Just more discussion...something about the ventilation system. He always made sure to pay attention in the important ones.
Two dozen pairs of eyes belonging to the board of directors for the Wayne Foundation glanced knowingly at one another, absurdly accustomed to his antics. The group quickly shifted back in their seats as Mr. Abbott continued with his presentation, looking back to the screen behind him.
To Abbott's right, Lucius Fox was leaning back in his chair, silently chuckling and shaking his head as he intertwined his fingers in front of him.
Bruce stayed where he was.
"...location of the service elevators necessitates the adjustment of the..."
Already he wasn't listening. He wasn't even sure why he was here.
The blueprints for the surgical center and the pediatrics wing the Foundation was donating to the new Harvey Dent Memorial Hospital, had been complete for eight months. Construction of the soaring glass and steel structures was already well under way at the old site of Gotham General and despite countless setbacks it was surprisingly proceeding ahead of schedule. Hell, the grand opening for the hospital was less than two weeks away.
Still, the board wanted to be involved, if only to satisfy their own self-importance. Bruce was sure the architect was chafing under the oversight, but things would get done...eventually. That much he was sure of.
Wayne Enterprises and the Wayne Foundation were working hard to help rebuild Gotham in the wake of the Joker's mayhem. Bruce Wayne was seeing to that. Even with the millions being dumped into civic projects there was still a long way yet to go. This was Gotham City, even without the madman's path of destruction there always would be a long way to go. This town always seemed to need something and the Wayne family had been there for generations providing what they could.
For generations it had also never been enough.
Bruce absently rubbed his upper arm where one of the multiple wounds he typically sported was healing. It itched. This one had been from a knife that had found its way between the plates of his suit. The attacker had been untrained, uncoordinated, and very, very lucky.
Bruce had also been unfocused. He was tired. Exhausted. He'd been out every night for two weeks straight now, barely sleeping. It was catching up to him. He was nodding off in most of his meetings these days as well, his body desperately trying to make up for lost time.
A movement to his left caught the corner of his eye and he shifted to see the rest of the people at the table rising and collecting the reports and loose sheets of paper littering the tabletop. The meeting had mercifully ended.
Bruce stifled a yawn and stood up, fighting the urge to stretch the knotted muscles in his neck and back.
It was still only 11:30 in the morning. He wouldn't be done until well after 3:00, and then he'd still have to go home and get to work. Being a nocturnal vigilante was certainly not an easy life to lead. Even if you were a billionaire. Making his way to the elevator he mentally went through the day's schedule again, silently cursing when, again, there was nothing he could cancel. It was going to be a long day. Straightening his shoulders and buttoning the top button of his suit jacket he plastered the empty smirk that Bruce Wayne seemed to permanently wear on his face and headed for the exit.
"If I didn't know you better I'd believe the disinterested rich kid show myself."
He glanced back to see Lucius Fox shuffling up, a small smile gracing his freckled face. Bruce looked back towards the now empty conference room and entry beyond. For a Thursday morning the hallways seemed to be unusually empty. He allowed a rare, honest smile to grace his features in return and shrugged his shoulders. Lucius was one of the few who merited those genuine looks.
"Today, the bored look was a little more genuine than usual," he said. "You sure you don't want me to demote you back to the basement so you can avoid these things?"
Lucius chuckled and put his hands in his pockets. "I have to admit, I have gotten use to seeing sunlight again." They started walking together, continuing down the hall towards the elevator. "I was surprised to see you today. I know you wanted to take a more personal interest in some of the rebuilding work we're doing, I just didn't expect quite this level of commitment. Especially considering your other...commitments."
Bruce nodded. "Guess I'm just detail oriented," he replied, hitting the button to call the elevator to head for the upper levels and their offices. He rubbed the bruised and tender muscles in his right shoulder. "Or maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment. Listen, Mr. Fox..."
"Don't worry about explaining yourself to me," he said, holding up his hands in deference. "I'm sure you've got a lot on your mind. Just be careful which meetings you fall asleep in. Wouldn't want stock prices to start dipping because our little billionaire can't keep his eyes open." He winked and stepped out when the doors opened. "Mister Wayne," he said, smile still in place.
Bruce hopped down the three steps from the cab of the large, industrial forklift to finish man-handling the scanner into position, pausing to unwrap it from its protective cocoon once it was in place. The large cylindrical instrument was something of an extravagance, but then again quite a bit of the equipment he was acquiring could probably be filed under that heading. Bruce figured it paid to be prepared.
Although the infirmary within the cave was fast approaching completion the devil was in the details, not the least of which involved closing off the structure itself to the outside environment and sterilizing it against the cave's air, moisture, and ever present bat droppings.
"Are you absolutely certain this is necessary, sir"
Looking up Bruce found Alfred thumbing through the MRI's instruction manual, his lips pressed together in concentration and confusion.
"You've always said I needed to have my head examined. I guess now you can actually test that theory," he said, grinning at Alfred's less than amused smirk.
"As if I needed a machine to answer that question. On the contrary, I've moved on to questioning my own sanity for agreeing to help you."
Bruce smiled to himself, but said nothing.
The cave had come a long way in the past year. More through sheer force of will than anything else its construction was finally approaching something that could resemble a finishing point.
Above, construction on Wayne Manor had progressed quickly. Well, more quickly than a building of its stature should. Given the endless parade of construction crews Bruce had brought in to make the process as expedient as possible that really shouldn't have come as any great surprise. Although massively over budget it was coming in far under schedule, a fact that was far more important to its future occupant than cost.
From the driveway large sections of the massive structure looked largely complete, the brick and glass facade looming over the grounds it stood upon. Although brand new it already projected an aura of age and stateliness, perfectly matching the worn edges of its predecessor.
The rear of the building, however, told a slightly different story. Looking as though it was still in a state of extreme disorder, it was plain to see the rapidly growing structure was still undergoing heavy construction. Its steel skeletal framing that would be her bones had already been mostly covered with its skin of brick and mortar. Some of the windows and doors were already in place as well, staring blankly out over the equally unfinished gardens. The surrounding piles of bricks, concrete bags, stacks of wood, and other building materials and equipment scattered about the site spoke of a road whose destination could not yet be glimpsed, but whose path was being followed anyway.
All in all it looked remarkably like a war zone.
Unlike other sections of the house the portion above the southeast corner was largely done, requiring only some small detail work for completion. The foreman had scratched his head at the odd request by the billionaire, but a comfortable increase in his bonus had made any questions evaporate. He figured the young man had his reasons.
The cave, however, wasn't receiving nearly as fast a resurrection.
Because he couldn't risk having construction crews know there were secret catacombs beneath the foundation of his familial home Bruce largely had to do all the work himself. That meant ample amounts of pouring concrete, forming reinforcing steel, running electrical conduit, and welding together all manner of metals in his meager free time. It was yet another reason his sleep patterns were suffering.
He'd done the same thing with the downtown bunker, but that had been simple in comparison. Construction inside a cave certainly presented its challenges.
Alfred had joked that Bruce should go ahead and apply for a contractor's license at this point.
The access tunnel had been the first and most difficult task. He'd had to pour, rip up, and re-pour the concrete drive three times before it would withstand the rigors he would be putting it under. The extraordinarily difficult task of drilling through solid bedrock to create the hidden opening to the outside world had been pure torture. Hours spent loading and carting stone to be disposed of in the far reaches of the cave.
He'd encountered problems quickly when he'd started the project. Perseverance was the only thing that had made it a reality rather than a failed flight of fancy. It started with the realization that the waterfall entrance was only truly accessible by the Tumbler, Batman's jet propelled tank and preferred means of conveyance.
He'd been able to replace the destroyed car quickly with it's twin from Wayne Enterprises. Thankfully, the original military version had required the use of two of them working in tandem. That had necessitated the building of two prototypes by Wayne Enterprises. He'd simply commandeered the second one.
However, the Pod and other, more conventional vehicles Batman was being forced to use more and more often these days required a more conventional means of access. Thus, the tunnel entrance.
Bruce had also quickly realized the need to ferry in the materials and equipment necessary to construct and outfit his alter ego's base of operations, so it had served double duty.
Of course, that was only after the complicated step of funneling everything through a myriad of intermediaries and front corporations Alfred had set up. Nothing could be traced back to Wayne himself if anyone even wanted to try. It even hurt Bruce's head trying to follow the path his butler had concocted.
Two computer stations were up and running near the old ironwork, in the highest portion of the cave, away from most of the moisture. Six large high definition monitors were slaved to each station, grouped around the viewer in a flat arc of two rows high, their LCD screens glowing and flickering in the dim cavern. The blinking lights of the massive towers of servers and linked Cray super computers hummed quietly off to the side, adding their low noise to the gurgling subterranean stream far below.
The incredibly powerful setup had already been networked, linking all the monitors and systems strewn throughout the other areas of the cave with this control center. Access into the GCPD, FBI, and Interpol mainframes, as well as links to numerous cell phone carriers were secretly established. Lucius had also stopped by a week previous to set up the link to the new WayneSat system, adding its satellite imaging and GPS capabilities to Batman's arsenal.
Behind the two stations and sharing the same platform with the operations center was a large stainless steel table. Featuring a computer controlled, touchscreen LCD map of Gotham City, the screen could be manipulated to display almost any type of information, overlaid against the background map. It was Bruce's newest toy and he'd been having fun with it, beginning the arduous task of visually cataloging who and what he knew about the city and the groups that populated it.
Just to the north and deeper into the dark recesses of the cave, connected to the computer center by a perforated steel catwalk was the forensics lab. One of the "clean rooms", the lab was completely sealed from the outside cave, requiring entry through two separate sets of pneumatic doorways to prevent contamination.
Stainless steel counters lined with drawers wrapped two of the walls while another stainless steel island featuring two large sinks divided the room down the center. The counters contained all manner of equipment meticulously organized and tucked away into place. Brand new, out of the box microscopes, centrifuges, and all manner of glass containers and vials gleamed under the bright lights, patiently awaiting use.
Against the back wall sat several large refrigeration and freezer units, intended for the storage of samples and the delicate evidence Bruce was sure to accumulate in his adventures. Their clear glass of their sliding doors showed they were conspicuously empty at the moment. Something that was sure to change.
Larger equipment was kept against the final wall, immediately to the left of the entry and included assorted scanners and testing machinery for every conceivable need Bruce could find. Several flat screen monitors were also visible, glowing faintly in their standby mode, linked to the main computer center enabling Bruce to access the different databases from the lab as well.
The workshop was located opposite the lab, down the same catwalk that led away from the main computers and serving as the heart of fabrication and repair for Batman.
The instantly recognizable suit of armor was in its storage cage immediately to the left of the entry, alongside a wall covered in all his specialized tools and weapons. A small steel table and chair sat under them for cleaning, assembly, and loading.
The rest of the space consisted mostly of industrial tools and construction equipment, both computerized and handheld and capable of building or repairing anything he and Alfred had been able to come up against. The conclusion had quickly been reached that this area of the workshop would have to be the largest facility in the cave, in deference partially to the size of the equipment and partially because of the necessity to maneuver large sheets of metal and steel beams within it. Because of that it was spacious and comfortable, in sharp contrast to the cramped quarters some of the other sections exhibited, stuffed as they were with equipment.
The wall across from Batman's contraptions was covered in hand tools, neatly organized above steel counters and sets of drawers containing even more tools, fittings, and hardware at waist height.
It had been the first space Bruce had built and had essentially enabled the construction of the rest of the cave. It was also a workshop any contractor or builder would envy.
At the far end of the catwalk, wedged deep in the shadows of the cave right against the rock face were two heavy, secure storage rooms.
Built out of solid, reinforced concrete instead of the aluminum skin of the other areas, they were essentially vaults, fully sealed and climate controlled. Access was limited to the select few individuals that also knew Bruce's true identity through coded keypads and biometric scanners set into the bare walls alongside hydraulically operated heavy, metal doors.
Although largely empty at the moment the entire cave echoed Bruce's belief in being prepared. He couldn't readily keep extra machinery, spare parts, or other odds and ends strewn about on the bare rock floor after all. In a pinch they could even be used as prisoner cells, prompting Bruce to install closed circuit video cameras on the inside in case that use proved necessary. They wouldn't be comfortable and they lacked the creature comforts of most jail cells, but they would work in a pinch.
The other "clean room" and the final area under construction was the infirmary. Located towards the bottom of the cave, next to the vehicles, it could be accessed by a steel stairway that wound back up to the central platform of the computer center.
One side of it had been designated for patient care and treatment, featuring a pair of mechanical hospital beds surrounded by all of the typical monitoring and surgical equipment one would expect to find in any state of the art hospital.
Through a semi-transparent sliding divider across from the beds was the testing center. It was here that Bruce and Alfred were installing the hulking MRI scanner alongside an x-ray machine and the other microscopes and monitors the room boasted. One wall also featured a bank of climate controlled storage lockers for the numerous antibiotics, medications, toxin antidotes, and anti-venoms that they would stockpile.
Bruce had every intention of providing Batman with the best medical facilities he could. He'd certainly proved that they'd be necessary in his short time as the caped crusader.
Another unexpected problem that had emerged in constructing the cave was the location itself.
Even in the best of circumstances it would be a less than ideal construction site, but as Batman's base of operations it would be forced to support a staggering amount of sensitive equipment and devices. As a result Bruce had been forced to build a suspended ceiling above the work areas that weren't sealed off to prevent the moisture and guano from creating a problem. Anchored several feet into the rock ceiling, inch thick steel cables suspended and supported a complicated truss system on which was mounted the stainless steel skin and overhead lighting.
It provided a more permanent feel to the place and gave things a more human scale, but Bruce had been slightly disappointed in the sleek, modern look it gave and that he'd had to cover up some of the majestic cavern from view.
"Do you actually expect me learn how to operate this?" Alfred gestured to the giant scanner now sitting securely in place. He was standing off to the side, still scanning through the instrument's instruction manual. A very thick instruction manual.
Bruce shrugged. "I really doubt you're going to be the one needing a scan when this thing gets used," he said, looking up at the older man. "And we can't always get Lucius over here. Just see what you can manage." He smiled at the clear disdain showing on his butler's face. "Don't worry, Alfred. I have complete faith in you."
Alfred just raised his eyebrows in response, a sarcastic comment on his lips, but he sighed resignedly and went back to scanning the page in front of him.
Bruce knelt to finish attaching the monitors to the machine and ensuring everything was working correctly. The screen flickered and came to life, beginning its start-up sequence. Nodding his head in satisfaction he powered the equipment down into standby mode, wiping his hands on the legs of his jeans as he stood up.
"Will you be going out tonight sir?"
Bruce's jaw tensed involuntarily but didn't turn to face him. He didn't have to look at Alfred to hear the displeasure evident in his voice. "I've got a job to do."
"Even the most dedicated workers take leave occasionally," his butler pointed out. "Despite what some misguided people in the media may argue, you're only one man." Alfred pointed to Bruce's arm, the same arm that had been itching earlier and that was still extremely sore. "Some of those injuries need attending and proper rest if they're to heal. I'm sure Commissioner Gordon can keep the city from tearing itself apart for one night."
Bruce shook his head slightly, still refusing to meet the other man's gaze. "Not tonight Alfred. There's too much to do." He began walking out of the partially built structure, heading up the stairs, daring to hope that the argument was over before it began. "Soon...I'll get some rest soon. Don't worry."
Alfred wasn't going to concede defeat yet apparently because he followed his master up the stairs, stopping by the computer station and putting his hands on the back of one of the chairs as Bruce continued down the catwalk.
"And If I don't then who will?
Bruce paused, his hand on the steel railing. "I'm fine Alfred. I promise," he said over his shoulder.
"Begging your pardon, sir, but she wouldn't want this."
He looked out over the cave and closed his eyes, his back still to the older man. Talking about Rachel still stung. It was a wound that had closed somewhat over the past months, but also refused to heal completely. "Rachel would have wanted me to keep going, Alfred."
"She would have," Alfred nodded, "but not at the expense of your life. Know you limits, sir. Because if you're not careful, this will cost you just that."
Bruce's busy schedule had been a point of contention between the two men of late. He'd plunged himself into his work following Rachel's death. Between the construction of the cave, his nightly duties patrolling the city as Batman, and his days reinforcing the image of a vapid, self absorbed Bruce Wayne he was quickly running himself into the ground. Although Lucius handled most of the business on the Wayne Enterprises side Bruce still insisted on being involved in certain aspects of his father's company. He needed that connection to his past and wanted to involve himself in those projects involving the rebuilding of parts of the city.
Following her death he needed this to mean something even more than before.
Two weeks ago he'd promised Alfred to take a few nights off. It was a vow he didn't appear he was going to keep anytime soon seeing as he was headed for the workshop and Batman's distinctive armored suit.
Alfred simply shook his head, making his way to the elevator that would take him to the manor.
"Good hunting, sir," he said.
Bruce shifted his weight for the fourth time in under an hour. No matter the level of discipline, staying crouched for hours at a time taxed the muscles as well as his patience. He settled in again, scanning the distant building through the small cylinder of his light amplifying monocle.
It was an especially dark, moonless night. The soft, yellow glow coming from the streetlights and being emitted from some of the nearby buildings provided only faint illumination, allowing most of the alleys and buildings to be bathed in shadows.
The familiar smells and sounds still reached him high up on his perch, the faint saltwater smell that was ingrained in the nearby wharf and the ever present, yet distant, sounds of sirens that Gotham never seemed to be without.
Staying in the shadows six stories up and two buildings across from his target he hardly had the best view of things, but he could clearly see the front entry. That would be enough. The bugs he'd planted in the building earlier in the evening would provide the rest of the information he'd need.
An arms shipment was supposed to come into Gotham tonight. A big one. Meant for the Odessa Family, the Ukrainian syndicate that had taken control of the Jerold neighborhoods and portions of Midtown after the fall of Carmine Falcone and the death of Salvatore Maroni. Those guns, and the cash and firepower they'd bring with them, would be vital to keep the Ukrainians in any semblance of power. It was vital to Gotham and Bruce's efforts that they'd never get that chance.
The mob war that had erupted in the vacuum of Maroni's death had caught Gotham and its protectors unprepared. The Italians, the Irish, and the Ukrainians had all immediately begun scrambling over each other to grab the districts that had once been under the absolute control of Falcone. The results were predictably bloody.
The Italians under Johnny Sabatino were faring the best, having thus far remained relatively unscathed. Despite the best efforts of the Irish and Ukrainians to knock them off their perch they stood strong. Claiming all of South Hinkley and most of Stevensburg and Haysville, they'd been in the best position to pick up the pieces in the ensuing chaos, many of their members had simply altered their allegiances from Maroni.
Sean Riley and the Riley family had taken over West Harlow and were desperately trying to move north into Odessa territory or east into Galante's. For now they were secure. Being located next to the Italians was bound to eventually prove bloody for everyone though. It was only a matter of time before greed and pride dictated a showdown.
A new group had also moved into the far northern districts of Gotham and been surprisingly effective at holding off their peers and the police. Bruce hadn't had the time to mount any serious investigations into the group or their capo, nicknamed Black Mask. The few attempts he had made had netted him nothing solid. He still didn't have a single name or image that he could link back to them. For now though they seemed content to sit securely in their own territory and let the other families claw over the scraps. Watching, as they killed each other off.
Which left Marko Kazan and the Odessa Family. Kazan had been into all manner of illegal activities since immigrating a decade previous. The group specialized in gunrunning and prostitution, utilizing their ties to their home country and proving surprisingly adept at smuggling in Russian made weapons and desperate, underage girls.
Their main weakness, however, had manifested itself quickly in the lack of people of Ukrainian or Russian heritage that made their home in Gotham. It was simply not a large demographic in the city. As a result they had trouble replenishing their numbers because of the mistrust they showed everyone else.
Ever since a car bomb had killed Kazan's son and several lieutenants a month and a half ago their grip had been faltering. In their weakness they'd been getting bolder and more desperate. A week ago a team of Ukrainians had opened fire in South City Park in broad daylight, targeting an Irish member and his family. After managing to kill twelve civilians, they'd begun a running battle with the police through the streets that claimed five more lives before they'd been either killed or managed to disappear back across the South Channel.
Headlights. Approaching the building from down 45th Street. At this hour it was unusual for anyone to be on the streets. Likely the target vehicle.
Through the grainy, green-tinged image his equipment produced Bruce watched the heavy, industrial metal door of his target open and four men walk out. All four were visibly armed. Nothing more than semi-automatics for the most part, but one had a small Russian sub-machine gun. He'd have to be dealt with first. A large delivery truck pulled up almost immediately and was hastily waved into the building, the four following it in and closing the door behind them.
They hadn't left a guard outside and there was nobody visible on the roof. That would make things easier.
Activating the audio stream he listened as the men conversed in their native dialect, speaking casually. While not fluent, Bruce could pick up enough to get the general direction of the conversation. At first it was just complaints about the hour and general greetings and small talk. One was even discussing his mistress' talents from the previous evening.
As he'd hoped, one eventually got around to discussing the contents of the truck with his comrade.
He cut the feed and allowed himself a brief smile. He'd gotten it right, the information had paid off.
Satellite thermal imaging now showed a total of six men inside. The original four plus the two with the truck that they were now unloading. They weren't expecting him either, expecting their secrecy and the late hour to cover them.
Grabbing his cape he vaulted off the parapet and activated the electrical current that caused the fabric of his cape to become rigid, gliding through the dimly lit sky.
Hitting the roof silently, Bruce immediately released the cape, rolling into the shadow provided by an air conditioning unit. There had been barely any noise, but you couldn't land on a building completely silently. He froze, holding his breath and listening.
This close to the docks you could faintly hear the bells of the channel markers clanging offshore. A distant police siren wailed in the distance, growing more faint with every passing moment.
No footsteps. No alarms or raised voices. Nothing out of he ordinary.
Bruce moved to the side of the warehouse. Climbing hand over hand down a drainpipe on the west side of the building he silently picked the lock and opened one of the large windows three floors above the men and the crates they were shifting.
Slipping inside, he glanced up, taking in the various girders and trusses supporting the roof and prepared the remote that would ignite the small charge he'd placed on the breaker panel earlier, when he'd sneaked in and planted the listening devices.
A/N: This is intended to be a fairly long, multi-chapter story set in the "Nolan-verse". Reality will be key here, so don't expect to see Clayface make an appearance. I will present some takes on Batman's classic villains that attempt to bring them into the real world and may change their modus operandi and origins. At all times I will be working to stay true, or "Tru-ish", to Nolan's established characters. This is a story about Bruce/Batman and his struggles, not a focus on a love affair that pushes Batman to a secondary character. Will there be romance? Yes. Can I write it convincingly? We'll see. I guess this is in some ways my take on The Dark Knight Rises although it will in no way take anything from that movie. Bane isn't even planned to make an appearance. Will there be Joker? You'll have to find out.
Like I said, all reviews are welcome and will encourage me to get more chapters up (should more be desired) in an expedited manner.