Chapter 21: The Last Laugh

Doctor Patel walked in through Rosenkov Materials facility's front doors. He was called in from the processing department's project leader. Patel was needed to fix a computer error that arose developing the new alloys for the new suit systems. He was grumbling since he was awakened at his home. To be called in for something as trivial as a computer error was insulting.

The first thing he saw as he entered the building was the two security guards fast asleep at their desk. Patel sneered from seeing them. He walked briskly towards them with his hands clenched into fists.

Once Patel reached them, he slammed his right fist on the desk. The loud sound woke the two guards with a start. They looked up and saw the doctor.

"Oh, uh, Doctor Patel!" one of them said while standing up. "What brings you here?"

"I was called in to fix an error that couldn't wait till morning," he replied in a grumble. "What the hell are you two doing? We pay you to stay awake and ensure we don't have intruders!"

"Yes, Doctor," the other guard replied.

"I better not catch either of you sleeping on the job, again. Or it will be your jobs." Patel then left without saying anything else.

The two guards watched as the Doctor walked through the doorway to processing. They leaned back in their chairs.

"What an asshole."

"Guy gets called in once after hours and thinks it gives him the right to raise hell."

The other guard sighed loudly. "Yeah, yeah. Though I'm not risking this job, again. I'm not likely to find another job as easy as this one for this much pay."

"Just turn on the guest alert. I keep telling you to never turn it off. Here." He leaned forward and activated the guest alert.

"A GUEST HAS ARRIVED AT THE FRONT ENTRANCE," the computer announced. "ID UNKNOWN."

"And now our computer is on the fritz. Fantastic."

Ahead they saw one man walking slowly towards them.

"Sir, the computer is having difficulty reading your ID. Can you please present your ID to us?"

The man entered into view. He was dressed in a purple suit with a green vest and wore clown make-up.

"What the hell?"

The man reached into his suit jacket. "Oh, sorry, gentlemen. It appears I left my ID in my other jacket." He pulled out two gas canisters. "Will these do?" The man threw the gas at the two security guards.

"Intruder!"

The two guards pulled out their pistols. The two gas canisters went off and green gas quickly filled the area. The guards started choking and dropped their pistols. The Joker breathed in the gas with no ill effect.

The guards fell to the ground and went into a seizure as the gas took effect. Their lips stretched into inhuman smiles and their skin drained of colour until they were as white as snow. Their seizures slowed after their physical transformation. Their backs arched before they finally collapsed and laid their still. The guards' eyes were still open.

Joker approached the two dead bodies and grinned. "In the summer, in the springtime, the winter, or the fall, the only place I wanna be is where I can see you smile at me." Joker jumped on the security desk and pirouette to face the entrance. "Come in," he said through the radio.

A dozen heavily armed mercenaries entered through the front. The team consisted of turians, krogan and a few humans.

"In a world that's full of trouble, y'make it all worthwhile," Joker sang to the mercs. "What would I do if I didn't have you. I just love to see you smile."

The krogan leaned towards his partner and asked, "Are you sure it was a good idea to take a job from this freak?"

"He paid half up-front. What does it matter his mental state?"

"If we were out in the Terminus then not really, but we're on an Alliance world. More cops. And killing them makes us wanted in every part of Council space."

"Where's your krogan spirit?"

"Yes, where is your krogan spirit, Nervoc?" Joker interrupted the two by walking between them.

"Taking a backseat to common sense."

"You want to start a fight, clown?" the other krogan yelled at Joker.

"Oh, I always like a good bout of fisticuffs, but frankly, you don't look like you have much fight in you."

"I'll kill you!" The krogan stretched his hands out to grab the Joker.

Joker ducked under his grasp and reached in his inside jacket pocket. Within the blink of an eye, he swung his arm. The krogan stopped in his tracks. It took a moment before he realized what the Joker had done. The Joker had a four-inch double-edged blade imbedded underneath the krogan's head plate. The krogan stared at the Joker with wide eyes.

"Oh, that's right, krogan really hate this don't they?" Joker leaned in closer to his face. "Know what's worse?" The Joker jerked his hand upwards tearing the entire plate off of the krogan. "This!"

The krogan let out a blood-curdling scream as he fell to his knees. Blood gushed from the wound. He rolled back and sat on the ground while he waited for the wound to heal.

"Oh, don't be such a baby," Joker scolded him. He cleaned the blade of the krogan blood by wiping it between his thumb and index finger. "It'll stop bleeding in minutes."

"You took his plate!" the krogan's partner yelled at him.

"And he took up my valuable time. Now I suggest you two big babies take guard in this lobby while the adults go ahead and get what we came here for?"

"What's to stop us from leaving?"

"If either of you leave while we're completing our job, then you won't be paid your other half."

The krogan scoffed. The threat didn't faze them in the least.

The Joker then threw a card that imbedded into the ground between the wounded krogan's legs. Dangerously close to his groin. The card was made of metal and its edges were razor sharp. On one face of the card was the Cerberus emblem. On the other was a medieval jester character. "Oh, and I'll come after both of you and take something far more precious than your head plates. Of course with the genophage, I'm not so sure they are of much value."

"Bastard..."

"So long as you understand who is in charge." Joker waved for the other soldiers to follow behind. "Come on, fellas."

The krogan were left alone in the lobby. Their shame prevented them from making any further complaints.

The other mercenaries were both impressed and fearful of their employer. None of them had ever seen anyone scare a krogan like the Joker did.

Joker chuckled. "Oh, krogans. They are so much like dogs. They act all alpha, barking away, trying to intimidate you. All they need is a good smack on the nose and they become obedient." He pulled up his omni-tool and displayed a picture of an old Indian man. "His name is Doctor Lal Patel. He is, according to my information, currently in this building. He has access to all rooms. We find him and the building's ours. Till I blow it up."

The group entered through the doorway into Section A. Joker's smile grew large as he saw Patel leaning against the coffee machine. He was grumbling as the machine slowly filled his cup of coffee.

The turian mercenary was about to raise his weapon, but the Joker placed his hand on the turian's rifle. He walked slowly towards the man.

"Rough night?" the Joker asked.

"You could say that," Patel replied without looking back. "This was supposed to my day off. I worked for fourteen hours every day for the last two weeks and the one day I get off, some computer glitch comes up."

"The higher-ups never truly appreciate the geniuses."

"No kidding."

"They don't know how much you contribute to the company. They only care about the payout of your results."

Patel turned around. "Just who are- What?" He saw a man dressed in clown make-up with around a dozen mercenaries by his side.

"Surprise!"

"Is this some kind of joke?"

"I'm the Joker! Everything I do is a joke for me."

"What do you want?" he asked fearfully.

"I was hoping you could give us a hand. We need access to the building's reactor room, manufacturing floor and databases."

"And you expect me to just open the doors for you?"

"That's not what I was asking." Joker flicked his finger forward, silently ordering the two closest mercenaries to move.

They grabbed Patel and slammed him on his back on a coffee table.

"See the security relies on handprint terminals and your ID cards." Joker walked over to Patel and tore his badge away from him. "I now have your ID. Now what I asked is if you could give me a hand. Boys."

One of the mercenaries holding Patel down grabbed his wrist and held it out. A third mercenary approached and pulled out a large blade.

"No!" he screamed. "No, no, no!"

The Joker walked over to the coffee machine and picked up the cup of coffee. He took a sip.

Patel screamed louder as the blade went down. Thunk! "Oh god! My hand!"

"Oh, caffeine," Joker sighed. "This is just going to make me jittery all night."

VVVVVV

Shepard poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip. He heard some footsteps behind him.

"I noticed our newest recruit," Garrus said.

"Yeah?"

"Is she a...?"

"Red Lantern. Yeah."

"How did this happen?"

"According to Jack, the ring just suddenly appeared during the prison break. This means that Atrocitus is recruiting again. I'm not sure what to make of it."

"He nearly destroyed the Green Lantern Corps."

"Yes, but now he knows who was truly responsible for the massacre of Sector 666."

"But you can't trust him after what he has done."

"I don't trust him. Though I know him well enough that he won't stop until he has destroyed the Reapers. So long as we don't intentionally get in his way, we shouldn't have a problem."

"And we're supposed to okay with that?"

"We can't have another war, Garrus. Not with the Red Lanterns. You weren't there. It was brutal."

"I'll take your word for it. It's just... be careful."

"Yeah, I will."

Garrus let out a tired laugh. "It seems like everyone is getting a ring these days but me. Still though... How are you sure that Jack will keeps things together while she's wearing that ring?"

"She's already keeping it together than most Reds I have faced before. But one of the conditions of her joining my crew was that I would train her to use her ring properly."

"That sounds like fun," Garrus said sarcastically. "When's her first lesson?"

"In a few minutes," Shepard replied before downing the last of his coffee.

"Should I get the camera and take pictures?" Garrus joked. "It's a big day for her. Her first class. It seems like it was only yesterday we brought her home."

Shepard chuckled. "It was yesterday. Now if you excuse me, I have to direct a firestorm." He left the kitchen area and walked towards the elevator. "Oh, and best to keep out of the cargo bay for the next hour."

"Noted," Garrus yelled back to him.

Shepard entered the elevator and punched in the button to head for the cargo bay. He waited for a couple of minutes before the doors opened again. Right in front of the doors was Jack. She was tapping her foot impatiently.

"About god damn time you showed up," she said.

"Nice to see you again as well, Jack," Shepard said with mild sarcasm.

"Don't play cute. You said you would train me to use this." She jabbed her fist upwards showing Shepard the ring.

"And I'm here. Like I promised." Shepard walked passed Jack. "Follow me."

Jack followed close behind. She was eager to learn how to master her new powers.

"During our practice session, I would like for you to refrain from using your plasma," Shepard said. "I don't want holes burnt in this ship."

"Yeah, yeah, boy scout," Jack said dismissively. "I'll make sure your precious ship is fine."

The two stopped in the middle of the cargo hold.

"Though I have a question before we start."

"Yeah?"

"What is with these skin tight suits?"

"I saw what you wore before the ring took a hold of you. Is it really that much different?"

"They were my clothes," Jack emphasised. "I don't like losing my things."

"It's about energy efficiency. Your suit is made out of pure energy. Mine is from green energy, and yours is from red energy. Think about it. The ring has to expend energy to keep your suit maintained. If your ring runs out of power, your suit disappears. But don't worry about protection. Despite its appearance, these suits can take a lot of damage. Small arms fire will not affect you. You can even take shots from cruisers. You're still going to feel some of the force, but you won't be badly injured. If you want, you can change your suit's style. You are currently in default mode. You can modify your suit to fit your style. But remember that the more you add to your suit, the more energy that is used. Understand?"

"Yeah. Makes sense. I didn't think there be so many fucking rules for these things."

"Okay, I think the first thing we should do is understand how to focus your rage so you can fire energy blasts and create objects."

The next hour was spent training Jack to fire red energy blasts at targets Shepard created with his ring. She had difficulty forming objects with her ring. Shepard expected that she would not master the ability so soon. Creating constructs takes concentration. Jack's ring was powered by rage, an opposing force to concentration.

"You did good today, Jack," Shepard congratulated.

"Good? Shit... I wasn't able to create those construct things."

"It takes time, especially with red rings. They are powered by rage which disrupts concentration. It'll just take practice and we just started. I trained for several weeks, everyday, before I fully mastered this ring. You'll get it. We'll finish today's lesson with the most important thing you should know. How to recharge your ring."

Shepard reached forward and a small green wormhole appeared. Jack took a step back. Shepard reached into the wormhole and pulled out a Green Lantern battery.

"Our power batteries are stored in sub-space which can be accessed from anywhere using wormholes. All you need to do is imagine your red battery and reach for it. Now try it."

Jack took in a breath and reached forward. A small red wormhole appeared in front of her hand. She stopped moving her hand.

"It doesn't feel like anything," Shepard assured her. "You are just reaching into a hole and pulling your battery out."

Jack reached into the wormhole and grabbed a hold of her power battery. She pulled it out and stared at it while her wormhole closed up.

"To recharge your ring, you place your ring against the lens like this." Shepard placed his ring against the lens of his battery. "And then you recite your Corps' oath. In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's Light." The lens of the battery flashed green briefly before dying down. Jack saw Shepard's ring glow green before it too went back to normal.

Jack placed her ring against the lens of her battery and said, "In Brightest Day-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Shepard stopped her. "That's not your Corps' oath."

"Then what the fuck is it then? I wasn't given an instruction manual."

"It's because your ring hasn't been properly calibrated, that you don't know," Shepard concluded. "Alright. Just repeat after me. With blood and rage of crimson red."

"With blood and rage of crimson red."

Shepard continued the oath with Jack repeating him word for word.

"Ripped from a corpse so freshly dead, together with our hellish hate, we'll burn you all—that is your fate!"

The red battery flashed brightly and Jack's ring glowed with its energy. Jack placed the battery on the ground and held her ring-slinger hand. She breathed heavily and the power flowed through her.

Jack shuddered. "Does it feel like this every time?"

"Every time," Shepard replied. "You get used to it. From now on, we can train down here every day at this time. For now, I have to attend to other business. The Normandy is approaching Korlus and we have to pick up our last recruit." Shepard made his way to the elevator.

"Wait," Jack said. Shepard stopped. "Before you go, Boy Scout, I have a question."

"Yeah?" he replied while turning around.

"How do you know this much about Red Lanterns and shit? I can understand knowing about them, but training today, you seem to really understand what wearing ones of these things is like."

"I was once a Red Lantern," he answered solemnly.

"What? Bullshit! The good-two-shoes, Boy Scout, a Red Lantern?"

"It was during the war against the Red Lantern on Oa. Atrocitus made me watched as he choked my partner to death. At that moment, my heart was filled with nothing at rage. I was weak. And a Red ring took advantage of me in that moment. I attacked Atrocitus with the full power of the ring, but I was not in control. All there was... was a being of rage. I was only able to break free of the ring's influence because of the Blue Lantern Corps. With the combined might of the Blue Lanterns and the Green Lanterns we were able to defeat them. But they are still out there."

"Why even bother helping me control this ring if you faced nothing good from them in the past?"

"The ring takes control over people who have given into rage and allowed it to consume their hearts. Even I lost my mind when I wore the ring. The only reason I was able to make constructs was because I had previous training. There are only three people I know of who have control of their rings as oppose to the other way around. There's you, Atrocitus and Atrocitus' second-in-command: Dex-Starr. Since I met you I've been wondering why you three are different from any other Red Lantern. I only came up with one thing you three have in common. A lifetime's worth of rage."

"The fuck?"

"Each of you has lived with rage in your heart for a large portion of your life. I think it has adapted you to that emotion so when the ring went on your finger you didn't lose yourself to it."

"That all sounds both ridiculous and fruity."

"It's the only thing that makes sense at the moment." Shepard continued towards the elevator. He briefly chuckled. "Since these rings have come into play nothing makes sense anymore."

VVVVVV

Clouds have gathered in the skies and rain poured down. Batman crouched near the edge of the skyscraper's roof. The Rosenkov building was bathed in darkness. Batman analyzed the data about the building. Hacking the building's systems was easy enough. Batman viewed a schematic of the building and, thanks to the biometric sensors inside the building, saw the signature of every person in the building. They all came up looking like three-dimensional x-rays.

Using the protocols on his omni-tool, Batman was able to differentiate between friend and foe. The building recognized its employees and so their dimensional representations were light blue. The intruders were coloured orange. He analyzed the weaponry they carried. Each of the mercenaries carried standard assault rifles, something easily found in the Terminus system. In total there were twelve mercenaries along with one unarmoured intruder armed only with knives.

It appears that Cerberus picked the perfect time to stage this operation. The number of personnel in the building is minimal, just over half a dozen. In the front entrance, two of the mercenaries stood guard. Batman saw two dead men in a crumpled heap on the ground. Another dead man is in a nearby room with his hand missing. There are two more mercenaries in the sub-levels. The scans weren't in-depth enough to show what they were working on. On the twentieth floor were six mercenaries who surrounded a group of Rosenkov employees who were sitting on the ground. At the top level of the building was the group leader along with two mercenary escorts.

This was as much information Batman could gather from the building's systems. He needed to pacify the threats. Batman stood up and leaped off of the building. He grabbed the edges of his cape and spread his arms. The cape's material contracted allowing him to glide from the large height.

The glide from the top of the skyscraper to the base took a minute. Batman landed quietly next to the front entrance. He took cover by the doors and waited for the lightning to flash across the sky. As it did, thunder soon followed. Batman took the opportunity to go in through the doors with his sound disguised by thunder. He took cover behind a column and listened to the two krogan.

"First he rips my face plate off and now we have to work in the dark," the plate-less krogan complained.

"If you ask me, as soon as the payment goes through, we should waste the clown. All he did was get in one lucky shot. You've seen that guy. He's skinny. I bet he wouldn't be much in a real fight."

"From now on, we need to be more choosey over our clients. We need to avoid psychopaths. Five hundred thousand credits is not worth having my plate removed."

"What do you think he did with it?"

"If he throws it out, I swear to the ancestors I'll break him in two."

The two krogan were too immersed in their conversation to notice the area around them. Batman pulled out a small device with a bat-shaped claw at the end. He pulled the trigger on the device which launched the bat claw with a rope attached to it. It hooked onto the railing of the walkway above. The device yanked Batman off of the ground and pulled him to the higher level.

"Did you hear something?" Plate-less asked his partner.

"It's just the rain."

Batman crouched on the ledge of the upper walkway and observed the area below. 'Two armed krogan would be extremely dangerous to take on in close quarters,' Batman thought. 'I have to take them down quickly.'

Batman leaped off of the walkway and primed his right fist as he fell. The two krogan finally heard the Dark Knight and both looked up.

"What the-?" Plate-less muttered.

Batman slammed his fist into Plate-less' unprotected forehead. The force of the punch knocked the krogan out cold. The other krogan tried to raise his weapon but Batman swept his cape knocking the top-heavy krogan off his feet. Batman pounced forward. As he did, his omni-tool appeared as he slammed his fist into the face plate of the last krogan. The omni-tool let off a small explosion. The explosive punch was enough to crack the krogan's faceplate. The krogan was out cold and foaming at the mouth.

'Lobby group, neutralized.'

The next group that needed to be taken care of is the hostages. Batman walked over to the elevator. The power was cut off to the elevator so Batman shoved his hands in the crack between the doors and pried them apart. Batman looked up and down the shaft and saw that the elevator lift was stationed in the sub-levels.

He pulled out his grappling hook and fired it up in the shaft. The grapple brought him up four floors at a time. Batman had to repeat the action several time before he reached the twentieth floor. He manually opened the elevator doors and climbed up onto the floor. Batman could hear the mercenaries in the conference room. The lights were still on in the room.

"What do you think Joker will want to do with these people after we're done here?"

"He'll likely just kill them. They're only needed if any cops show up."

"The guy is crazy but at least he keeps things simple."

"Chek, you should probably do a quick patrol of the hallway."

"Yeah, sounds good," the batarian mercenary said. "Anything to get away from the sound of these crying humans."

Chek walked out of the conference room into the dark hallway and closing the door behind him. Batman quickly and quietly moved in behind the unaware batarian. He slammed his fists together on each side of his neck causing the batarian to blackout. The merc crumpled onto the ground.

"Did you hear that?"

"He probably tripped."

"If he did, he didn't grunt while doing so. Hey Chek, you okay?"

Batman dragged the body towards a broom closet and placed him inside.

"Fuck, better check on him."

Two turians left the conference room to search for their missing team mate. They switched on flashlights that were mounted on their assault rifles.

"Chek, you around? Chek!"

Inside the conference room, the last three mercenaries listened to the two turians call for their missing companion.

"Chek! Where the hell are y-"

The sudden cut off of the turian's voice and the lack of response from the other caught all the mercenaries' attention.

"What the hell is happening?"

The lights to the conference room went out.

"Who's there?" one of the mercenaries demanded.

There was no time for a response as the next sounds were a struggle and the sound of the mercenaries in pain. The fight was completely one-sided as the mercenaries were unable to fire off one round from their weapons.

The room went quiet again. The civilians were still petrified from fright.

"H-Hello?" one of the employees manage to get out.

"You're safe now," a deep emotionless voice told them. "The mercenaries on this floor and the lobby have been neutralized. All of you can take this chance to leave this building. Use the stairs down the hall."

"Who are you?"

"Who I am doesn't matter. Leave this building and call the authorities. I'll take care of the remaining mercenaries. Now go."

"Yes, thank you."

The employees quickly got to their feet and left the room without seeing their dark saviour. Once the employees left the room, Batman continued to scale the building to reach the top floor.

VVVVVV

Shepard entered the cargo hold where their latest spoil stayed. A bio-tank inside the hold contained what was described by its creator as the perfect krogan. The krogan is still young. His head plate patches still haven't fused together into one plate.

"The subject is stable, Shepard," EDI said as Shepard approached the tank. "Integration with onboard systems was seamless."

"What can you tell me about him?" Shepard asked. "Anything unusual?"

"The subject is an exceptional example of the krogan species, with fully formed primary, secondary, and tertiary organs, where applicable. No defects of any kind, aside from the genetic markers of the genophage present in all krogan. I cannot judge mental functioning."

"Stand by," Shepard ordered. "I'm going to open the tank."

"Cerberus protocol is very clear regarding untested alien technology."

"Test it unsafely until it backfires on them?"

"Point taken. But you do know what I mean."

"Regardless, he could be an asset to the team. Open the tank."

"Very well, Shepard. The controls are online. The switch and consequences are yours."

Shepard walked over to the tank's controls and activated the tank's opening sequence. The fluids started to drain as the tank was tilted forward. Once the fluids emptied, the tank doors opened and the krogan fell to his knees. He vomited up the last of the bio-fluids that were in his lungs.

The krogan require no recovery time as he immediately stood up. The first thing he sees in a lowly human in an oddly designed skin-tight suit. The krogan swayed slightly back and forth as the daze he was in faded from his mind. Once he was fully aware of his surrounding, he did the one thing that came to mind: Follow his instinct. The krogan charged forward and grabbed Shepard and slammed him against the wall.

"Human," the krogan's first words. "Male. Before you die, I need a name."

"I'm Commander Shepard of the Normandy."

"Not your name. Mine. I am trained; I know things, but the tank... Okeer couldn't implant connection. His words are hollow." The krogan began to recall the last words of his father. "Warlord, legacy, grunt... grunt... 'Grunt' was among the last. It has no meaning. It'll do. I am Grunt. If you are worthy of your command, prove your strength and try to destroy me."

"Why do you want me to kill you?" Shepard wanted to get a deeper understanding of this krogan before allowing him to join his crew.

"Want? I do what I am meant to. Fight and reveal the strongest. Nothing in the tank ever asked what I want. I feel nothing for Okeer's clan or his enemies. That imprint failed. He has failed. Without a reason that's mine, one fight is as good as any other. Might as well start with you."

"I have a strong crew, a strong clan. You joining us would make us stronger."

"If you are weak and fight weak enemies, I'll have to kill you."

"My enemies are as old as time and have killed countless trillions. I plan to put an end to them. Does that sound like a fitting fight?"

"Hmph. It... does. Very well... Shepard. I'll fight for you."

"I'm glad you could see reason," Shepard said while nodding downwards.

Grunt looked down and saw the man's hand glow with green energy. He assumed it was some kind of specialized biotics.

Grunt back away from Shepard and made a throaty chuckle. "Offer one hand, but arm the other. Wise, Shepard. If I find a clan, if I find what I want... I would be honoured to pit them against you."

VVVVVV

"You know it's moments like this that really irritate me," Joker sighed. He stood next to a console with his purple omni-tool copying data from the building's database.

"Moment's like what?" one of the two mercs asked.

"The silence! The lack of conflict! This operation has gone off without a hitch and I'm bored because of it."

"We could always throw some of the hostages down the elevator shaft."

"That'll get boring after the first couple hostages. Just this once..." Joker groaned and turned to the terminal. He then said solemnly, "Just this once I wish something interesting would happen."

The two mercenaries grunted in rapid succession as a struggle quickly happened behind the Joker's back.

"Your plans are over," the stranger said.

The Joker slowly turned around, almost shaking with excitement. He saw the mystery man. The man was dressed in black armour with a specialized helmet with pointed ears like a bat. The outfit was even adorned with a cape.

"Apparently there is a god," the Joker said. "Though I have no idea what I've done to make Him answer my wishes. I'm guessing to reach here you already taken care of my other guys."

Batman nodded.

"Oh, this is something else. Look at you! I have faced soldiers before, but you are something different. You're not some cookie-cutter grunt. You have your own persona. Before anything, can you tell me your name? Or what you call yourself."

"Batman."

"I am definitely going to remember that name." The Joker's omni-tool beeped. "It looks like I was able to get the data. Let's get to it then."

The Joker walked towards the Batman. He quickly pulled out several knives and threw them at Batman. Batman swung his cape and deflected the knives. He followed up by charging forward and throwing a right hook towards the Joker.

The Joker dodged the attack and followed up with a quick three jabs to the abdomen. Batman countered with a kick to the side, causing the Joker to fall to the side a few steps. Batman continued to try to land another hit against the Joker, but the clown-man was fast. The fighting stance he is using is fisticuffs, but, despite that, he's holding his own against the Dark Knight. It's not the criminal's skill that's giving him an edge. It's his unpredictability.

During the years he spent training around the galaxy, much of the martial arts training Batman has undergone was dependent on reading the opponent's next move. All of that is thrown out the window against this incarnate of madness. He's erratic and his attacks are random.

"I'll be honest Bats. It really makes me feel down knowing I'll have to kill you here." Joker punched Batman in the kidney and then in the face. "I just FEEL like we are destined for something bigger. I really don't want it to end here."

Batman head butted the Joker's face causing him to step back. "It will end here." He threw several pellets that exploded in a flash of bright light. With the Joker blinded, Batman charged forward and hand his hands around the back of the Joker's neck. He brought the Joker's face down towards his knee.

The attack knocked the Joker to the ground. Blood came out from his nose and a bit from his mouth. Batman tossed the Joker onto his stomach and placed cuffs on his wrists. He then placed cuffs on his ankles.

"Bravo, bravo!" the Joker cheered. "This is the most fun I have had in years."

"You're through. You will be handed over to be interrogated."

"Tell me one thing though. How many did you take out on your way here?"

"Along with your personal guard? The lobby group and the people guarding the hostages."

"And you didn't go after the sub-level guys. Heh, heh, heh, hahahahahaha!"

Batman punched the Joker in the face. "What's so funny?"

"Why do you think I had those two guys down there? They're setting a time bomb which will blow this entire building and several blocks around it."

"You're lying."

"Am I? They're currently in this building's reactor room. Setting off a good explosion there will create one big boom. One that could be seen from miles around. Go ahead and check the building's schematics."

Batman brought up his omni-tool and displayed the building's schematics and focused on the location of the last two mercenaries. It was as the Joker said. The two mercenaries were in the building's reactor room.

"If you hurry, you can stop them."

Batman ran towards the elevator shaft and jumped. He pointed downwards to maximize his descent speed. After a few moments, Batman could see the stuck lift. He brought up his omni-tool and launched an explosive ahead of him. The explosive went ahead, thanks to the extra speed granted to it by the omni-tool, and impacted the stuck elevator. The explosion destroyed the attachments the elevator had to the shaft, causing the lift to fall all the way to the bottom of the shaft.

Batman unfurled his cape as he approached the bottom of the shaft to slow his descent. He landed on the damaged lift with a loud thud and his cape spread across the surface. Batman quickly pried the elevator doors open. He jumped onto the floor and ran down the hallway as fast as he could.

It took little time for him to reach the reactor room. As soon as he entered the room, the two mercenaries were made aware of his presence. Batman threw two batarangs knocking their weapons out of their hands. He ran forward and delivered a round-house kick that hit both of the mercenaries in the side of the head, knocking them out.

The bomb in question wasn't well hidden. The mercenaries and the Joker didn't expect anyone to come in time to look for it. The bomb was stuck against the reactor core. The device had a holographic display to show the countdown.

10 minutes.

Batman walked over to the bomb and quickly opened its case. He could see the different circuits that controlled and powered the bomb. Batman placed his omni-tool close to the bomb to bring up the circuit points. All he had to do was connect the right circuits and the bomb would be disarmed. The layout was simple. Roughly six circuit points, meaning only three connections were needed.

Batman hovered over each of the nodes to reveal their connection types. Knowing this, making the bypass was simple. Once the connections were established, the system confirmed the bypass and Batman breathed a sigh of relief.

"You didn't think it'd be this easy did you?" the Joker asked over an open frequency.

"How did you get out?" Batman demanded.

"This wouldn't be interesting if I was caught this soon. I have what I need. Though I didn't have the time to clear the database. Oh, well. Enjoy disabling the secondary system. You'll be more pressed for time. I really do hope to see you again. So you have my encouragement in disarming that bomb. Ta-tah."

A new timer appeared on the display.

10 seconds.

Batman went to work on the next bypass but saw twenty nodes to connect. He cursed under his breath as he went to work.

9 seconds.

8 seconds.

Half of the nodes are memorized.

7 seconds.

6 seconds.

All the nodes are memorized.

5 seconds.

4 seconds.

A quarter of the nodes are connected.

3 seconds.

2 seconds.

Half of the nodes are connected.

1 second.

0.

Batman instinctively crossed his arms, bracing for the explosion.

Nothing happened.

Gotcha.

Batman stared blankly at the screen. After a few moments, he took the bomb and left the room. He felt nothing but the bitterness of defeat and humiliation from this Cerberus agent.