The Batwing rapidly approached the target aircraft. "So how are we gonna get in the plane, exactly?" Batgirl asked from the seat behind Robin.

"I have to fly the plane and set the autopilot before I can join you. Just to make sure we don't lose our ride home."

"Hmmm so I'm goin' first, then?"

Robin gave a single nod.

"Okay" the hijacked aircraft started getting closer on the right-hand side, "Er, how exactly am I getting over there?"

"An aircrossing." Robin replied coolly.

"A what?" Batgirl was confused.

"An aircrossing,"Robin restated the term then elaborated, "Think of it like a drive-by-" he flicked a switch.

"A what?" Behind her helmet, Batgirl's brow furrowed.

"-in mid-air-" He ticked another switch.

Batgirl felt her seat scoot back and rotate up slightly.

"With the Batwing as a gun-" Robin continued as he tilted the plane to the right, aiming the cockpit at the nearby plane.

"Gun? What's the bullet?" Batgirl asked, incredulous.

"You."

Before Batgirl could object, the canopy slid forward and she was ejected from her seat into the air in an arc heading straight for the hijacked plane. "Oh, I hate you, Boy Wonder." She cursed into her radio.

"It's part of my charm," Robin replied back.

Batgirl could almost see the smug smile on Robin's face and snarled. She leaned forward a bit and flattened her cape to her body, directing herself to the main body of the plane. As soon as she was close enough, she fired her grapple gun at the cabin and reeled herself onto the top of the plane. Fastest way in should be plastiques. She set two detonation devices on the roof of the plane and then shielded herself from the blast with her cape. "Planning on joining me anytime soon?"

"Probably not." Robin replied back with a grimace and a strain in his voice, "I've got issues of my own."

"Oh for cryin' out loud, what issues could you possibly-"

Boom.

Batgirl was nearly rocked off the plane as a missile exploded just off the right side of the plane. "The hell?"

The Batwing flew over head and then did a barrel roll just as two more missiles narrowly missed the left wing. Followed closely behind the Batwing was a single small jet firing on Robin's wing with machine gun. Well, at least he's keeping them busy. The detonation devices went off and she jumped through the hole in the plane.

Her first priority was the man she surprised. He turned around at the sound of the blast but was quickly stopped from doing anything by a fist to the face. Behind her, another man opened fire with a glock. Batgirl dodged behind a few seats but not before taking a few in the back. Thanking Bruce for the bulletproof interweave in her batsuit, she threw down a flash bang and just after the light subsided, she popped up and fired a bat-a-rang from her left gauntlet, slitting the top of the man's hand. In pain the man cried out and dropped his weapon. Batgirl was on him in mere moments, bashing his head into the bag compartment door. "How are things on your end, Robin?"

"Terrible, I can shake this guy, but don't know how to take him down."

"Robin... Shoot him."

"It's not that simple."

"Why the heck not?" Batgirl smashed through another goon and approached the hostages.

"Remember how this was all covered up and classified as 'experimental'?"

A slow "yeah" came from Batgirl's lips.

"Well, lets just say weapons are less-than-functional at the moment."

"You've gotta be kidding me!" Batgirl used a bat-a-rang to slice through the bonds of the captives just as another goon appeared.

He smiled at Batgirl and leveled his gun at her. "You think you can throw that knife before I can pull the trigger, girlie?" His tongue ran over his top teeth, "Go ahead and try."

Before Batgirl could say anything, Robin's voice rang in, "I figured it out!"

"What?" Batgirl hissed back. She had her answer seconds later as the plane rocked to and fro as if it had ben hit. The gun man lost his balance and fell forward, just enough of an opening for Batgirl to drop her knee of the back of his neck and for one of the hostages to grab the man's gun.

"We-we'll be fine." The gun-toting hostage reassured the heroine, "Go stop this plane!"

Batgirl didn't even nod. "What did you do?" She asked to Robin as she ran down the final aisle to the cockpit.

"Played chicken with the big plane and went into a dive at the last moment. My lil' attacker barely dodged the plane but got scraped up, losing his wing. Plus two: Robin." Over the 'com Batgirl could hear Robin high-fiving himself

Loser. She thought to herself. She smashed through the final door and leapt into the cockpit taking out two armed guards with elbow strikes before getting the co-pilot from the chair in a head-lock. "So, here's the deal," With her free arm, Batgirl tossed two detonation devices onto the windscreen, "You two are going to land this plane or I snap your buddy's here neck and blow the front end of this plane off."

The pilot looked in shock at the scene for a moment then smiled, "You wouldn't dare..."

Batgirl simply arched her brow and then applied pressure to her captive's neck. The man screamed out in anguish and pain. "Don't test me, Mr. man." Batgirl warned the pilot, "Your co-pilot here can't take much more of your bravado."

"Please, for the love of all things decent! Land the frikkin' plane!" The co-pilot screamed from between Batgirl's headlock.

Not wanting his partner to be harmed, the pilot surprisingly started to land the plane.


Something isn't right, here... Batman watched the news in the Batcave. He had managed, unfortunately, to get away from Diana to check on his charges. What he found was less-than-wonderful. Oh, they were doing a lovely job handling the hijacked airline. What bothered him was how much attention the situation was getting. Yes the hijacked plane was big news thanks to the terror attacks eleven years ago, and yes the experimental Batwing had been stolen from the cave without permission... Batman sneered at the screen. But this was Gotham, no matter how egregious the situation, never was every news network tuned into the same event.

"Something's amiss..." Batman wrapped his cape about his torso and stalked to a smaller computer. After a good few minutes of research and hacking, he found what he was looking for. The plane was a brilliant diversion as the real issue, a seemingly small-time robbery of an antiques store, went unnoticed. It was the same antiques store the Joker had stolen the Laughing Dragon from, the event that had forced him to meet and team up with Superman for the first time.

As Batman rushed to his vehicle to intercept the thieves, his thoughts drifted to Kent and Stewart. Both men were still at large and he couldn't help but wonder just what the two former heroes were up to.


"No, no, no, no!" Stewart punched the wall repeatedly but knew it was a lost cause. The wall was lined with lead and was coated in a special dust that rendered his power ring no more useful as a Cracker Jack box prize. "So close!"

Kent was equally upset. In the wall and no where near by could he sense kryptonite, but in his state, he could not summon enough power the barrel through the wall. Gosh, how he missed the old days. "What now?"

Stewart grimaced, "Shayera is beyond this wall in a stasis field. I saw her with my ring's limited foresight, but aside from this wall, there is no way in without getting noticed."

A slow smile spread over Kent's face, "Maybe a little attention wouldn't be to bad?" he slyly asked.

Thirteen minutes later, Kent, dressed in his urban Superman gear, was smashing cars and taking names just outside the S.T.A.R. Labs base.

"Alistar! Alistar!" A security guard screamed into a CB radio at his booth as his partner fired at Superman, "We have a 4-61b in progress!"

A static-y voice crackled over the radio, "Copy, Stephen. What's your status?" Alistar asked.

Stephen ducked as an ATM machine crashed through his booth and pinned his partner against the wall. "It's Superman! He's attacking just outside! Get some cavalry up here, now!"

Superman squinted as a hail of bullets rained down. He could only hope that Stewart wouldn't take so long. He grunted as he caught hold of another mailbox and chucked it toward S.T.A.R. Labs second floor. After all, I'm not as super as I used to be.


Below the ground Indigo as hard at work avoiding security guards and other emergency personnel as the rushed to the conflict at the surface. In his heart, Stewart knew that Batman was away. If the Dark Knight wasn't taking care of the hijacked airplane, then he was most certainly attending to the robbery at a certain antiques store. Even so, Indigo thanked his lucky stars that this lab was on the outskirts of Gotham.

"I'm sure I'm close." He looked at his orchid-colored power ring for reassurance. The thin blips of yellow light agreed with him. The closer he got to Shayera, the more the blips blinked.

The foundations of the sublevels shook and Indigo was certain Clark had blown something up. Stewart couldn't help but laugh to himself as he relived some adventure as a Justice League member. They had blown up a lot of things. "And now here's something else." He pointed both fists at the thick steel door before him and let loose a volley of energy beams. Within seconds the door had been blown off its hinges and Indigo was inside. "Shayera!"

"John?" Shayera called back.

As the dust settled, Indigo saw Shayera braced against the wall staring at the blown-off door now rocking gently on the ground. "What in blazes are you doing her?"

"Busting you out." Indigo replied matter-of-fact. He took hold of her hand and half-dragged her to the doorway, "We don't have much time before guards rush down here to deal with the silent alarm." He turned to her, "Can you fly?"

Shayera blushed, "Can I fly? I don't know yet. My wings aren't what they used to be..."

"Move!" Indigo's militaristic bark snapped Shayera back to the situation at hand and the to dashed to the nearest elevator shaft moments before a squad of soldiers rounded the hall. Indigo used his power ring to rip open the elevator doors. "I need to know now whether or not you can fly, Shayera!"

Shayera frowned at Stewart, "Don't get snippy with me, army boy." You spat back, "My treatments were going just fine until this moment."

"Treatments? What are you-" Stewart's question was cut off as Shayera grabbed his shoulder and jumped into the shaft, pulling him along for the ride.

"Here goes nothing..." Shayera closed her eyes and concentrated hard. She felt a twitching in her back growing. More and more until finally she felt a slight movement throughout her bird-like appendages. C'mon...c'mon. Shayera strained her mind. Her head felt like it was going to explode from mental stress.

"Uh, Shayera?" Indigo's tone had shifted from a commanding and sure-footed tone to a more unsure and worried one, "The ground's gettin' mighty close!"

Shayera blocked out her passenger's worry and only concentrated more on reconnecting with her wings.


Batman landed fluidly on the roof of the antique store and slowly took shape as he stood to his full height, well over six-feet. Before him stood Green Arrow.

"Nice entrance." Green Arrow remarked.

As much as it irked Batman that the green-clad man wasn't phased by his entrance, he had to admit to himself begrudgingly that he respected the Emerald Archer's cool head. "Thought your base was Star City." Batman stated.

"I was in the neighborhood visiting a friend." The masked blond uncrossed his arms and approached the Dark Knight, "Got here about ten or so minutes before you showed. I don't know what they are doing in there, but they haven't left since I've arrived."

Batman retrieved a pair of binoculars, "How do you know that they are still in there?" He put the lenses to his eyes and peered at the building across the street.

"The lookout they have stationed in that building is still there as is their get-away driver." Green Arrow nocked an arrow to his bow in anticipation for a fight.

Batman arched an eyebrow behind his mask, "You expecting something?"

"You look like you're about to jump down and whoop ass. Figured I'd get ready to give you ranged support."

Batman said nothing. Instead he stood and fired his grapple at the far building. "Shoot him."

"Right-o," Green Arrow took aim and fired just as soon as Batman was airborn. The arrow whizzed across the street and smashed into the poor lookout's face. On contact, a net exploded from the head of the arrow and entangled the man. Just as the trapped man hit the floor, Batman was in the window.

Green Arrow flashed a thumps up to the Bat but got no response. "Robin's his kid? Most probably adopted."

Batman eyed ever inch of the small run-down apartment with keen eyes. Nothing escaped his sight. Day-old pizza. Numerous pre-paid cellphones. Fake IDs. Flashlights. A map... With careful hands, Batman spread open the map. Upon closer inspection he realized that this was a blueprint for the antique store. Fool... Green Arrow had done somethings right tonight. But he had missed something of grave importance.

Across the street, Green Arrow's cellphone rang, "Oliver Queen here. Who's this?"

"Queen." Batman's distinct voice came over the line.

"Ho crap." The Archer's face reddened with a mix of anger and surprise.

"Don't fret, Queen. I've known your identity for awhile already."

"Yeah, hit a vigilante while he's down why don't ya?"

Batman ignored the comment and continued, "Did the police ever show up to the scene?"

Green Arrow nodded even though he was across the street, "But then they took off to report to some airport. Apparently some nuts decided to hijack a plane. Busy night."

Batman growled through the pre-paid phone he was using, "You didn't find it at all suspicious that all the police left this scene?"

"Now that you mention it..." Green Arrow scratched his head then straightened his hat.

Batman hung up the phone and crushed it beneath his boot before firing his line launcher to the store across the street. He rode the wire across and dove into the store's open front door.

"I guess I stay here, then." Green Arrow leaned back against the chimney stack.

As Batman stealthily moved through the abandoned store, he couldn't help be recall his first time stepping foot in the store. The Joker had just stolen the Laughing Dragon: a Chinese statue of a dragon carved out of solid kryptonite. That adventure led him to meet Superman for the first time as well as got him started on the road to crafting the Justice League. He passed the pedestal where the dragon had been stolen from those few years ago.

"Doesn't look like a robbed storefront at all." Batman's night lenses allowed him to take in the entire scene. There was no evidence of a scuffle, no bullet holes, no gunpowder residue. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the door to the stockroom. It was slightly ajar. "Closest thing to a lead I've got." He moved to the door and saw the reason it was open: a trapdoor leading under the store was open and was preventing the stockroom door from closing.

From his belt, Batman dropped a sonic device to the floor and waited a few seconds. A supersonic pulse was emitted from the device: ground-penetrating radar. Batman sighed as the pulse came back and the result filled his cowl's lenses. Catacombs beneath the store. Clever. The Dark Knight slid down the depths of the catacombs.


"What's taking them so long?" Superman took cover behind the remaining parked cars as a spray of bullets trailed behind him. "If this keeps up, I'll be caught for sure."

"Well we wouldn't want that, would we?" A feminine but strong voice floated to him.

"Hawk-Girl!" He called to his friend as she and Indigo climbed from a manhole.

"In the flesh and feathers." The alien woman replied dryly, "Any idea how we are going to get out of this mess?"

Indigo nodded and pointed his fist in the air. "I don't know how far I can take us on my ring. Still working out the limits on the power," A purple bubble enveloped the team and slowly they were lifted into the air, "But I should be able to at least get us to higher ground so we can all escape via the air."

"I can't fly," Superman pointed out.

"But you can still leap tall buildings in a single bound. Still very impressive in my eyes, Kent."

This garnered a smile from Superman as the bullets plinked harmlessly off of the purple floating shield.

"So what's this treatment you spoke up, Shayera?" Stewart started up conversation with the woman he had not seen in many moons.

"I got some pretty humane treatment despite being a prisoner." She started. "My connection to my wings was temporarily severed by that energy weapon. So they hung me up and started using electroshock therapy and physical therapy to get my muscles working again."

"So that...device you were hitched up to?"

"Was nothing more than a tool to strengthen my wings again. All per the Bat's orders."

"Hurm. The more I hear about what he's done, the less I believe we are justified in going after him."

Superman frowned, "Don't tell me you're getting cold feet now, John."

"No, I... I'm just not sure about this anymore."

"He ruined our lives!" Superman yelled out.

"Your live, Kent. And even then, you're still vastly more powerful than any man on this planet. Scream at me again like that and watch how fast I recall this sphere. Then we will really see if you can or can't still fly."

Superman turned away from his travel partner to Shayera, "What are you aware of?"

Shayera shrugged as the sphere started to descend to a nearby rooftop, "Nothing really."

"Absolutely nothing?" Indigo turned his head back as he guided the orb and its passengers to the rooftop.

"Cut me some slack, army boy." Shayera retorted as the purple bubble evaporated into Indigo's ring. "I've been trapped underground regaining strength. The newspaper doesn't exactly deliver to us, you know." Then her tone shifted from apprehension to tenderness, "How is everyone else?"

Stewart sighed, "The Bat recently went active again. J'onn is holed up in Arkham. He could easily escape but says his sins to the Earth have condemned him to life in prison or some bullshit like that."

"Diana?"

"Heh," Stewart huffed as his Indigo costume shifted into his civilian clothes. "She got off the best. A few weeks in a rehab center then a few more weeks in some cushy correctional facility."

"And now?"

Superman spat a wad of saliva to the side before speaking, "She's living with the media whore Bruce Wayne."

"Wow. Some girls get all the luck."


"The landing strip is in sight, Robin. Get outta sight. I'll have to make a hasty exit."

"Roger." Robin banked the Batwing to the side and up away from the now-landing plane. Below he could see police lights flashing and a small crowd of media and law enforcement officers crowding the runway. "Am I the only one weirded out that this went over so easily?"

If Batgirl heard him, she didn't respond.

"I guess not."

On the plane, Batgirl released her prisoner and, just for giggles and effect, detonated the two bombs she had thrown on the plane's windshield. With thick and fiery booms, the screen flew outward as smoke filled the cockpit.

"Good luck with the coppers," She whispered into the ear of one of the hijackers. With cat-like grace, she jumped through the hole and slid down the nose to the ground. Instantly a familiar voice greeted her.

"Long time, no see." Police Chief Goren had both hands shoved in his trench coat pockets. "You stopped this all racket alone?"

If Dad's trying to make small-talk, he hasn't gotten the memo still. Bats don't talk. At least, not trivially. "The hostages on the plane have the weapons now and most of the terrorists are unconscious."

Goren stared back into the black visor that shielded the young heroine's face completely oblivious he was talking to his own daughter. There was an awkward silence between the two; Batgirl waiting for the right moment to make her exit and Goren wanting to talk more to the enigmatic female but not knowing the right words to say.

He finally settled on a question, "Reports came out that a giant bat chased down this here plane," He shrugged in the direction of the now-subdued airplane, "Know anything about that, Miss?"

Batgirl was glad for the visor as she rolled her eyes. What do you think, Papa? She was glad when she saw a speck of light rapidly approaching. That's my que. With her cape hiding her hand movements, she readied her grapple gun and counted down in her mind. Then she fired straight into the air.

Woosh.

The Batwing screamed overhead and the Police Chief instinctively ducked down. When he looked back up, he saw Batgirl airborne. Her cape was spread out fully giving the bat-like effect so commonly associated now with Gotham's protectors. But what really pounded in the dramatic effect was that she was tailing a giant bat.

"Hot damn..."


"I've got to make a stop right quick." Robin spoke into his radio to Batgirl, now in the back seat again.

"Oh for the love of Pete. I've got to go to the bathroom!" Batgirl crossed her arms and sulked.

"Oh you had ample opportunity, Kimber." Robin smirked, "There was definitely a lavatory onboard that jet, you know. So piss off and let me just follow up on something right quick."

Batgirl chuckled, "Piss off?"

"Not literally." Robin slightly blushed at his choice of words, "Just give me a moment." He switched the Batwing to stealth-mode and then to standby mode. With a quick check of gadgets he readied himself to drop down to the cityscape below.

"It was a diversion, you know." Batgirl spoke up before Robin made his exit. "In response to your question earlier: it was a diversion, that's why they gave up so easily. Whatever was really going down, they tried to distract the Bat."

Robin was quiet for a moment as the canopy slid forward allowing his exit. "I know." Then he jumped from the Batwing.


"This is the most quiet night in a long while."

"You and I both know that this city is never quiet." Robin dropped down behind Green Arrow, surprising the older hero.

"Well zippadee do dah, the night really does bring out all the freaks, huh?"

Robin smirked, "It is more comforting." He then turned his attention to the antique store across the street. "That's the shop?"

"You betcha. You're mentor's been down there for at least twenty minutes now." Green Arrow propped himself up on one knee and withdrew an arrow from his seemingly bottomless quiver. "I've only stopped about two mooks in that time. This area isn't frequented much."

"Doesn't your city miss you?"

"I have someone working the streets while I'm gone." Green Arrow replied with a smile.

"I'll find out who."

"I know."

"Yo, bird-boy." Batgirl's voice came over the com, "I really gotta go and I have no clue how to fly this thing."

"Just five minues," Robin replied back.

"In five minutes is gonna be raining in one particular area and I wouldn't recommend drinking it... unless you are into that and in that case: ew."

Robin tuned the girl out and focused on the dark store across the street. "You see that?" He asked Green Arrow.

Green Arrow squinted, "What?"

Robin didn't reply, "Batgirl, do you know how to access the radar equipment of the Batwing?"

"Is it attached to the bathroom?"

"This is serious, girl." Robin warned in a slightly soft tone.

"Yeah, I think I got it." She sighed, "What's up?"

"Angle the radar straight down and tell me what you read..."

There was a moment of silence over the radio, then; "I'm reading twenty-no thirty-fiv-wait... Fifty. You got at least fifty guys down there. What are you doing down there? Facing off a battalion?"

"No... I'm staring at a storefront." Even still Robin's voice trailed off into a subdued tone as his interest over what was happening in the closed antique store piqued. "Ready your bow, archer..."

Green Arrow did just that. "Just tell me when to fire and I'll light 'em up with my flash bang arrow."

"I have a bad feeling about this place." Robin then called back up to Batgirl and gave her the address of the store, "Tell me who owns this place, Batgirl."

"The store was built in 1895 by a Randalph Moise. Passed down through the Moise family for a few generations... blah blah blah... Until 1995 when it was burnt down in a local fire during a riot... Insurance paid for the damages but it was bought by one Joseph Duley. Nothing to note until about six years ago when the Joker stole a solid Kryptonite statue from Duley putting the man in the hospital for a good while... unable to tend the store, Duley sold his shop to... oh, get this... Mr. Henri Ducard."

"Fascinating..." Robin whispered.

"What?" Green Arrow relaxed his hand.

"We gotta get outta here."

"What about your mentor?"

"If they are coming up now, he's fine. They haven't found him! But if Ducard's got all those men coming up and we engage, I swear it will be the death of us."

"What do you mean? Henri Ducard's the owner! At least that's according to the police report I snooped in on."

"No! 'Henri Ducard' is an alias; a fake name."

"So who is this guy really? Who owns this store?"

Batgirl's voice broke into Robin's thoughts, "Okay, Curt. I'm telling you this not just as a partner or as Batgirl, but as a good friend: Get the hell outta there. The radar just picked up catacombs under the store. Catacombs. And they're just teeming with blips. He must have at least a legion down there... But it makes no sense, more just keep popping up! Just, BOOM, and then there are more men!"

"Rob!" Green Arrow snapped his fingers to snap Robin back to the situation, "Who is Henri Ducard?"

"Ra's Al Ghul."

As if he heard his name spoken, Ra's himself stepped out of the store with a confident smirk followed closely by Thanatos and Ubu.

Green Arrow steamed, "Oh, I got a special arrow just for you, buddy." He whispered. From his quiver he withdrew a stealth arrow with a deadly point.

"You're really gonna try and kill him? Isn't that unethical?"

"I'm making an executive decision. Don't like it? Leave." He drew the bow back and aimed.

"I'm telling you that we need to get outta here, he's got an army of honest to god ninja's down there. Ninjas!"

"I seem to recall a certain situation where I promised that I would shoot an arrow between this fool's eyes. Well, here it is."

Robin aimed his grapple gun up but didn't fire, "I'm only staying long enough to say 'I told you so.'"

"Thanks for the moral support." Green Arrow let loose his arrow and it silently flew across to the unsuspecting eco-terrorist. "Perfect."

Then, just as the arrow was sure to hit Ra's' face, he caught it. He caught the arrow by the shaft evenly just as easily as one catches a ball. With the smirk still playing on his lips, Ra's turned his head to where Green Arrow was perched.

"Well, poop."

"Told ya so. Bye." Robin fired his thick chord up and was whisked up to the Batwing before Green Arrow could even turn around. As a parting gift, he emptied his entire pouch of smoke pellets to at least allow Green Arrow some cover to escape, "Get outta there, G.A..." Robin murmured as the scene below him rapidly shrunk.

"Great bit of detective work, there." Batgirl congratulated Robin as he scurried into the cockpit of the batwing, "Now please deduce the location of the nearest restroom before I ruin my suit and this seat."

"That doesn't make sense," Robin looked below but could only see clouds below him. He could only pray that his archer friend had gotten away.

"GO, CURT!" Batgirl bellowed into the radio.

"I'm goin', I'm goin'!"


The final man rushed passed Batman's hiding hole in a panic. Now was his chance. He had expected the men down here, but what he hadn't expected was the sheer number. In fact, he was certain that there hadn't been this many men in the catacombs at the start. They had all come from somewhere... but where? Batman stepped out of the shadows and entered the large storeroom from which all the ninjas had come.

There was nothing super special. A few boxes with old trinkets and some crates of various odds and ends. Even so, Batman's ever-clear gaze didn't falter or get lazy. Something big was down here. Some great hint at Ra's plan as well as a way to stop it. Insight just waiting to be found. Whether it was in plain sight or tucked away in a corner, he'd find it.

He had relayed some information back to Alfred, the Batcave's AI, and learned that the store had shifted ownership at some time from Mr. Duley to Ducard. A simple parlor trick of Ra's. A cover name. But why?

Batman grimaced beneath his mask. He saw it. He saw a small tape-recorder-isk device strewn on the floor. It was broken a bit and slightly burned but he knew what it was. It was a motherbox for a boomtube; an inter-dimensional gateway that was a preferred method of travel on Apokolips.

He kicked the device and the motherbox flashed open a portal linking the storeroom to the last coordinates. It wasn't Apokolips. "Thank God." But a few moments later he wished to high heaven it was Apokolips. For on the otherside was not Darkseid, Ra's, or even an army, but a malignant...thing

The deadlights that shone from what could only be considered the creature's eyes seemed to pierced Batman's soul. The head seemed to be a grotesque combination of a squid and a skull with a sickly green hue. It existed in a seemingly endless expanse of red clouds as its numerous coarse tentacles snaked through the realm in a random pattern like elephant trunks. The horrible thing seemed to float there, staring at Batman.

The Dark Knight winced at the horrible sight at first, then stood firm for he knew what the impossible entity was. When he was training under Ra's, he had heard rumors that the madman worshiped an eldritch deity from some nether-realm. That it was by the knowledge and allowance of the entity that Ra's had learned about the Lazarus pits, But at the time these were simply rumors. Batman had discredited even the notion that such an extra-dimentional creature could exist.

That was until he heard Shayera on the Watchtower speak of the thing again in hushed tones when they both shared the night duty. She would stare off int the vacuum of space and share with him tales of an ancient religion on her home planet of Thanagar. Though she said she no longer believed the "fairy tales" anymore, every time she uttered the horrible word used to identify the thing that had no true name, she would shudder and her voice would crack low.

Before Batman, the Dark Knight, was the Old One. The Great Ichthultu.

A/N: Shit. Just. Got. Real.

Sorry that this took awhile... A lot of research and rethinking went into this chapter. A few themes are now building up as this Act now is just about to reach a half-way point. A few more characters need to be introduced and a few more events need to happen before the great showdown. This chapter is over 5k words (not including this Author's Note) and, yes... My chapters are getting longer to make up for the great time gaps between submissions. If they are too long or seem too unfocused and enough people tell me to... I'll do my best to cut down and separate some parts out.

I've decided to change John Stewart's hero name to Indigo from Orchid Guardian. It is faster to type and sounds cooler. Also I tried to dabble a bit more in the superhero life. I have always wondered how bathroom breaks worked as a superhero... do you hold it? Do you go during patrol? So that was the point of the ending, also to highlight that they are still human and just kids... well young adults, but you get the idea.

There is a spoiler on my dA account pointing to a character soon to come up.

PLEASE READ AND REVIEW