"Wake up little man."
Steve Trevor flicked opened his baby blue eyes to the sound a deep purring.
"What?" He moaned, feeling a rush of blood to his head. He could also smell gas. "Where am I?"
"That is none of your concern little man."
He peered into the shadows, trying to locate the voice. "Who are you?'
"I will be the last face you will ever glare at if you don't stop these insightful questions. Now I know that you have a soft spot for Wonder Woman or should I say "Princess Diana". But the question is how soft is this spot? Do you love her?"
Steve hardened at the question and reminded himself of his position. "That is classified information."
"Classified? Oh, of course since your a government agent."
He stiffened at her remark. "How do you know about that?"
"I make it my business to know every tiny detail regarding my prey before I devour them.
Steve watched as Cheetah jumped down from the crate above, her claws dug into the cement, her golden-orange eyes met his startled blue. "Now how should I do this hunt?" She questioned, licking her lips.
"Should I do it free-range? Give you a gamble? Or a chance to save your hind? Or should I just slice you opened like a gutted pig?"
She lifted her hands and revealed claws. Steve did his best to keep a straight-face but could see the murderous intent in the feline's eyes. She wasn't bluffing.
"Or I could just burn you." She gestured to the gasoline soaked ropes he was bound with. "You're call."
"I'm sorry, Cheetah." A strong voice said from the skylight, drawing her attention. "But your hunt has been canceled."
Steve looked up and smiled. "Angel."
Wonder Woman floated down and landed perfectly on the balls of her feet. Cheetah stood her ground even in the face of a determined Amazon now armed with a sword and lasso at her waist.
"This is going to be so much fun." Cheetah growled.
"Hang on Steve." Diana shouted as she removed her tiara then threw it like a boomerang at the steel pole he was bound to. The ropes snapped apart giving him enough slack to push his broad chest through and break the ropes. Cheetah jumped at Wonder Woman, only to collide with her open hand catching the villain by her throat.
Unfortunately, Cheetah was just as quick and kicked Wonder Woman across the face before the Amazon could apply pressure to the choke-hold. The kick was hard enough for the feline to escape the hold and leap up out of harm's way. Wonder Woman shrugged it off then flew towards Steve. "Are you alright?" She asked looking at his wounds. "Did she harm you?"
"Nothing that a little iodine can't fix."
He still grimaced in pain despite his words. Wonder Woman looked at the exit doorway then towards Cheetah who had regrouped above them. "You have to get out of here. I cannot risk your life."
"What about you angel?" Steve asked grasping her arm. "What about your life?"
"Let me worry about that. Now leave Steve. I have to finish this alone."
Steve shook his head in refusal. "No I won't allow it."
"Enough Steve!" Wonder Woman yelled as she wrapped her arms around him and then pitched a nerve in his neck that rendered him unconscious. "Sorry but you left me no choice." She looked at Cheetah standing on the upper loft daring her to chase after her.
"I can handle this over grown cat."
Wonder Woman picked up her sword and flew to the loft. Her red boots smacked on the cement as Cheetah crouched down on the boxes, her long-tail swaying back and forth, her body preparing to strike Diana with deadly force. Her main target on the Amazon's body was the throat. One swipe of her claw would make Diana bleed to death painfully.
The two stared and circled each other around, sizing the other up. Diana holds her sword pointed at Cheetah with enunciation. In response, Cheetah pulls out a pistol and takes aim. They continue their stare down until Wonder Woman grew frustrated with the feline. "Enough games Cheetah." She said looking around at every corner. "You wanted me so here I am."
"And here you'll die!" Cheetah hissed, then suddenly lunged at her enemy, firing away. Sword in hand, Wonder Woman leaped into the air to meet her, deflecting the bullets as she did. They fought viciously. Each swing of the sword, claws and the graze of a bullet close to delivering grievous injuries.
Yelling a battle cry, Diana threw her sword into the wall, the force of it hard enough imbed the blade into the plaster. Cheetah apparently was just as frustrated.
"Let's finish this woman to woman."
Cheetah threw her gun down. They collide with hard swings and kicks. For a moment Diana was impressed with the feline's speed and evasion skills.
"You're good. But I'm better." Wonder Woman says before she pulled Cheetah by the hair, then headbutted her. Hard. "Much better."
Cheetah gasped and wiped the blood off her lip. She snarled at the sight of it. "Blood. Always the perfect incentive to use in a hunt." She lunged at Diana again but the princess struck her down with a elbow blow to the collar bone. "Damn you!" Cheetah screamed.
Diana smirked as she kicked Cheetah to the ground and sat on her chest feeling victorious.
"Get off of me!" Cheetha thrashed beneath her.
"No. I prefer you right here. Down at my mercy." She says as she begins prepares her lasso. Seeing this, Cheetah swiped her claw into Diana's thigh and then pushed her off. Diana groaned aloud clutching her bleeding wound. Feeling free, Cheetah leaped to her feet then jumped to a barrel of gasoline and ignited it with her claws. Sparks flew into a pile of cement bags that soon caught on fire.
"Let's end this little princess."
Diana glared at her angrily. Forgetting her wound, Diana lifted up a heavy rusted chain and threw at her Cheetah making the hunter fall to the ground in surprise. Taking advantage, Diana leaped at the wall, grabbed her sword and then moved to where Cheetah was trapped behind the fires. She stuck the blade into Cheetahs arm. The feline roared in pain, unable to move in risk of making it feel worse. Diana glares down at her.
"Now tell me who sent you to kill me?"
Despite her condition, Cheetah remained uncooperative. "Why? Afraid?"
Diana pressed down harder on the blade. Cheetah snarled to disguise her pain. "Who?" Cheetah laughed. "You think I'm going to you tell you little princess? I'd rather choke on your bones." She spat blood onto Diana's armor.
Fueled with rage, Diana pulled out the sword, her eyes revealed it while the consuming fire was began to surround the two warriors. The weakened Cheetah stares the Amazon, standing over, bloodied-sword still in hand.
"Are you going to end this here and now princess?" Cheetah asked as the glow of the flames reflected in her eyes.
Diana tightened her jaw.
"I should leave you to burn." She paused looking at the blood on the tip of her blade. "But I won't for that is not the way of justice."
Diana lifted the chain off of Cheetahs body and threw it aside. She wrapped her lasso around the spliced woman's hands.
Outside pacing his feet on the gravel parking lot as he watched the steel mill become engulfed with flames Steven Trevor waited for a sign of Diana.
"Come on , angel," He spoke in a soft tone. "Come on."
Diana kicked down the door , holding Cheetah in her arms. She moved towards the worried blonde haired government agent with a look of assurance on her high cheek bone face.
"Angel!" Steve said as he ran up to her.
"I'm alright Steve." Diana said dropping Cheetah to the ground.
"Now if you can excuse me for a moment I need to get this cat to crack the truth." Diana bent down and tied the lasso if that she could hold the end of it. Her glared a steady gaze at the spliced woman.
"Who are you working for?" Diana challenged . "The lasso compels to tell the truth."
Cheetah looked down at the golden rope. "I don't know." She confirmed "Some old hag."
Steve placed his hand on Diana's shoulder. "It's alright , angel," He said. "The authorities will deal with this cat."
"No." Diana snapped removing his hand. "I want to know the truth Steve." She bent down to Cheetahs level. "Tell me the truth."
Cheetah chuckled a eerie laugh. " This is the truth little princess. This battle that we endured tonight was just a test run. The real war has only begun."
Diana looked at Steve.
For some reason she had no strong feelings for this man although she cared for him but only as a close friend. Her heart belonged to someone else who was dark mystery waiting to be unmasked.
The Tumbler crashed through a stone pillar of the Gotham Bay bridge and drove onto the rubble. The canopy hissed opened as Batman climbed out and moved to where Gordon was standing.
"Wow that was impressive." Gordon said amazed as he moved to where Batman stood.
"I always like to make an entrance." Batman replied.
"You were right about Crane filling the drains with his toxin. He released it on the street of the Narrows."
"This is only the beginning. They are planning to blanket all of Gotham with his poison ."
"They will be using the train. It connects all the water mains throughout the entire city including the main one under Wayne Manor. Once they get to the tower there will be no stopping the people of Gotham from tearing themselves apart through panic."
"How can we stop it?" Gordon asked worried.
"I'm going to stop them from loading the device onto the train but I may need your help."
Near the monorail station in the Narrows, a young frightened boy approaches a group of police officers standing behind a truck. They paid him no mind as their attention was focused solely on the device they'd carried out of the vehicle.
"I- I can't find my mom." He touches an officer's arm, hoping to get his attention, but was met only with a cold push at his head from said officer.
Rachel saw the whole thing, anger was rising up inside as she marched to the officer. "Hey! What the hell is wrong with you?" She asked grabbing the child by his arm, protectively. "He's looking for his mother. Can you show him that you obey your oath to protect and serve the people of this city?"
The officer just shrugged with indifference then turned his back to her and the boy. Rachel and the boy moved to the side. "Are you all right?" She asked, concern in her blue eyes.
"What is your name?"
"Where is your mother Jason?"
"I don't know." He replied trembling.
"Hey it's OK. We'll look for her together. Now take my hand and don't let go."
Ras al Ghul stepped out from the back of the SWAT truck. "Gentlemen." He said referring to his Shadow. "Tonight we leave our mark on the blood-stained streets of the Gotham. Tonight we show the world what happens if we are defiled." This gains the attention of Rachel, still standing a short distance away from group.
He moved to the device. "It's time to spread the word." He looked at the crowds of people flocking through the streets. "Time to make all the nightmares of this city come alive..." His hand hovers over the ignition. Rachel watches in fear. "...through panic." He pressed the button and instantly the water in the city pipes underground began to burst, emitting heavy white clouds of toxin into the air, covering all the streets and the frightened citizens.
Many of them immediately fell to the ground coughing violently. Rachel's eyes went wide as her little friend started choking.
"Gentlemen," Ras looked at his men . " It's time to light the flame."
They raised their fists into the air and shouted : "The Fire Will Rise!"
"Move to the monorail station!" The master of Shadows commanded. "Time is short."
"It's OK." She said in a calm voice. "I'm here. No one is going to hurt you Jason."
The vicious sound of hoofs galloping, and the wail of an animal followed her declaration. If the sound wasn't enough to strike fear in the boy, the sight of a black horse galloping towards them with a dead cop dragging behind did the job. "OF COURSE THEY ARE!" Its rider roared. The rider looked like something that came from the bowels of Hell, his long cloak blowing in the wind and frightening mask reflecting in the lamp light.
The boy squirmed in Rachel's arms. Despite how intimidating the rider's voice sounded to him, it didn't have the same on Rachel after having taken the antidote to the poison. There's was no mistaking that voice.
"Crane?" She says apprehensively. "No. Scarecrow." He growls. He spies the boy in the woman's arms. "Hello there little boy. I've been sent to make sure all your nightmares come alive."
"Get away from the me!" Jason screamed shaking as he saw flames coming out of the riders eye sockets.
Rachel's jaw tightened as she looked at the scarecrow. "Leave us alone, Crane!"
"There is no Johnathan Crane only Scarecrow! I am the master of fear. I have become reaper of souls."
Deciding she'd heard enough, Rachel just shook her head and removed her teaser from her pocket and aiming carefully, fired the two prongs at the scarecrow's neck. It zapped him as she heard his screams. The horse turned and went the other way while its rider hung on the saddle jerking, still howling in pain.
Rachel brushed the hair off her forehead before releasing a sigh of relief. "I've been wanting to do that for quite some time." She looked down and saw people moving in closer. "Come on,"
Both she and Jason started to walk down an alley. They could heard the crowd still approaching them.
"The monsters... they're going to eat me!" Jason screamed. "They're coming for me!"
"Get behind me" She commanded to him as she shielded the child with her body while they both backed into a wall. On the ground beside them they see a lifeless cop. The could hear the footsteps surrounded them. Peering into the white haze they could see shadows appearing as monster. The monsters of Arkham crept closer. The one that stood out the most in the group was Victor Zsaz: the human cutting board.
Rachel knew what he was capable of. The scarred flesh on his body was a tally of marks numbering his victims he sliced into pieces. Looking at the bald-headed freak Rachel thought it was a sick irony that she spent most of her life's work trying to make sure Victor spent the rest of his days in a rotting cell, and now she could wind up his next victim.
"Stay behind me." She ordered the little boy.
Whether the gas was effecting Zsasz or not was irrelevant as he seemed dead set on his target. Rachel deduced even if he wasn't seeing her true-self clearly, it wasn't enough to strike fear in him. Victor flicked the switch blade around taunting them. "I'll going to cut you. I'm going to maim you and then I'm going to drain you." His said slowly, almost wistfully.
Rachel impulsively grabbed the gun from the dead cops' hostler then aimed it directly at Zsasz's head. Her other hand held Jason close, covering his eyes. "Don't peek." She said ready to pull the trigger as the bald-headed monster was moved in closer to strike. Even without the effect of the fear-gas, Rachel could hear her own heart racing in anticipation as she began to pull the trigger. Before she could, they are all alerted to a roar over head.
Victors looks up to see Batman's boot heading straight for his head. Batman landed on top of the knife wielding freak and smashed his head into the ground, knocking him out. "Get away from the them!" He growled looking at the other inmates. He moved to Rachel and the boy, wrapped his arms around them and fired his his grapnel wire to the roof. Once they we're safe, he removed his arms and looked down at Rachel. "Are you alright , Miss Dawes?"
"Yes. But he's not." She gestures to the shaking boy in her arms. "If he stays like this any longer he won't last the night." Batman removes a vial from his belt. "Give him this. It's a sample of the antidote." He hands it to Rachel who immediately administers it. Batman watches them. "He's in good hands." Rachel nods.
"I'll stay with him until his mother is located."
Batman nods his approval then looks at the child. "Stay safe." He said moving to the ledge. He crouched his body down and prepared to base-jump into the misty air. Rachel quickly stood up and approached her dark protector. "Wait!" She spoke firmly. Batman turns his body around and stares at her with his burning eyes. "You could die." She said thinking about the outcome. "At least tell me your name."
At first Batman was apprehensive about sharing his secret with her, knowing the consequences of it. But he realized this could be the last time they would speak to each other let alone see each other alive. Complying he spoke in a voice that Rachel knew all to well.
"It's not who I am underneath. But what I do.. that defines me."
Rachel's eyes went wide, recognizing the voice of her childhood friend: Bruce Thomas Wayne. "It can't be." She said. "Bruce?"
Seeing the realization in her eyes, Batman dove into the air. His caped-formed a rigid wing giving him the power of flight as he glided through the smoke covered streets. To the panicking citizen below him, he appeared as a giant nightmarish creature with red flaming eyes and horns.
Ras al Ghul was on the monorail platform commanding his men to load the device into the train when the sound of shrill and the shriek of someone saying ' a giant batman entered his ear drums. He quickly turned his head and say the winged protector of Gotham aiming his attack directly at the device.
"Not this time Wayne," Ras declared.
Batman landed on the railing giving his former teacher a cold stare of demise with his cheerless eyes. The orange glow of the street lamps blow give him a night terror appeal as if he was a creature lurking in the corridors of Hell.
Under the cowl Bruce was venting with anger , seeing that six months ago he trusted this man of conquest with his very life. At one point Bruce consider Ras like a second father ,a man of that would guide him on a path but instead the 30 year- old had to choose his own path and make the right choice that could make him become an everlasting symbol to both the people of Gotham and to his very self.
"So can cheat death. I am impressed." Ras said snapping his fingers at his ninjas.
"This madness ends now!" Batman roared until he felt the enclosure of his throat churn.
"For you and the so called police maybe. But if you excuse me I have a city to destroy piece by piece. No one including a self appointed stuck up billionaire who dresses up as his greatest fear is going to stop me."
Batman turned his attention to the ninjas assemble encompass him.
"I can beat two of your pawns." He bellowed.
"I would love to see you try but I am needed else where ."
Ras escalated into train with three of his masked men.
Batman focused at the ninjas and then he clutch onto one making both of them clash into a sheet of metal and then onto the ground. He got onto his feet and prepared counted the three pawns he was about to take out. He swirled his cape and then struck one of the men in the chest and then slashed the face with his hand knocking his prey to the ground. He then looked at the other two.
"Stay good night bat." One of them bellowed holding up a chain. "I'm going to use this to make you hang upside as we cut your wings off."
Batman shook his head. "Always with the dramatics." He mumbled under his breath as one of them struck behind pulling him to the ground. Batman did an elbow in the jaw and then in the stomach and then he forcefully flipped the man to the ground . "One down." He thought looking at the others. "Two more to go."
Two ninja's lunged at him making him fall to the ground hard. They jumped down as he arose and preformed a round house kick and then twisted his body and raised his elbows . He grabbed their head and smashed them together into one another and then he dropped them a he heard hissing.
A crowd of soon to be deranged people circled around him, Batman was finding it was difficult to breath as they pushed him to the ground.
"Rip is wings off!" A bag lady shouted.
Batman's hand reached for the grapple gun underneath .
He waited until his eyes got a clear shot of the train and that he shot the grapple cable on the bottom of the fast moving train. He pulled himself up as the crowd starting to dig into his flesh. He pressed the button and ascended into the air while the train was making zip through the streets- crashing into sheets of metal making his body turn.
He howled in pain as he felt the impact. "Ouch!"
Commissioner Loeb and Gordon were standing on the bridge when they saw the train accelerate with Batman hanging on.
"What the hell is this?" Leob snapped pointing at the caped figure zipping through the air.
"Relax sir," Gordon said. "He's the best we got."
Batman smashed through the window of the train. Glass stung the exposed part of his face but he shrugged if off as he focused on his quarry. He regained his feet and hopped onto a seat and glared at Ras al Ghul. His mentor gazed up his defiance with disbelief, Batman remained poised and determined.
"You!" Ras said. " Why can't you just stay dead?" He drew his sword from his cane. Batman lunged at him as he swung his sword at the cowl.
Batman blocked the sword with his scallop blade as sparks flew.
Ras swung his cane at Batman who trapped it with his scallops and broke it in half, growling out of anger as he did.
The Demon's Head then thrust his sword to Batman's throat. "You will be bleed. Just like all the rest of my children who have forsaken me." He kneed Batman into the stomach, then swung him crashing into a seat at the front of the train.
Batman regained his footing before Ras struck him down by with a punch in the back of his cowl head. Batman crossed his arms, shielding his head from the deadly blows. His jaw tightened as he used his full strength as the blade became trapped between his gauntlets.
"Nothing I haven't seen."
Batman yanked his arms in the opposite direction, his scallops made the blade break into half just like the cane. He strikes his bewildered opponent. Ras stumbled backwards, and loses his balance falling in a seat. Batman looked ahead at Wayne Tower. He only had one shot at this. He removed a batarang from his belt and threw it into the window then climbed out onto the roof of the moving train. Careful of his movements, he fired his grappling gun into the gilding wheels causing them to jam.
Sparks flew out from underneath accompanied by the sound of grinding wheels in airways. Batman braced himself, clenching his teeth as the cable-wire of the grapple rips out of the gun. The train jerks making him lose his balance... Suddenly aware of his surroundings he glances back over his shoulder. Ras al Ghul was standing behind him.
"Bruce what are you doing?" He yells.
Batman threw the grapple gun at the sparked- filled guiding wheel.
"What needs to be done!" He roars.
The wheel hit the grapple gun and bumped off the track. Ras dives at Batman, smashed his body onto the roof as the train lurches and scrapes against the steel-guider rails. Ras eyes were cold and merciless but there was a hidden agenda behind them as he observed his former student.
"Don't be afraid, Bruce." Bruce knew he was mocking his father's last words to him. He knew how much they haunted him. "Soon you will join your dead parents." Ras said choking Batman. He yanked off the cowl to reveal the face of Bruce Wayne. "You're just a normal man in a costume. You don't have the power to do what is necessary when evil is at work. And that is why you could not fight injustice and why you won't stop this train!"
Bruce struggled to break free from Ras's iron grip.
"Even after everything I've taught you... you're still afraid. Aren't you boy?" Ras asked looking into Bruce's fading eyes.
"...Yes." Bruce wheezed out. The weak sound of his voice and the despair in his eyes was enough to assure Ras of his victory that he failed to notice the unmasked billionaire hands slipped through his cape activating the pockets.
".. but not of you..."
To Ras confusion, Bruce finished his sentence with renewed fire in his eyes. But it was soon washed away by surprise as the cape formed into a rigid-wing. Bruce lifted his head and forcefully headbutted Ras into the forehead. Almost instantly Ras flesh turned purple as a bruise took shape across his sweating flesh. Bruce removed a throwing star from his belt while Ras stumbled off of him, dazed.
"Are you finally going to do what needs to done Wayne? Are you going to take my life?"
Somehow there was still hope in Ras' voice that he hadn't failed, that he'd finally forced his old student to do what needed to be done. Bruce threw the star at Ras. It made the bearded man's coat become latched onto the train. He recovers his cowl.
"No. It's not my life to take."
The cape catches the wind, propelling Batman into the air. Ras watches him with fury in his eyes, despite his calm exterior.
"I will see you in Hell"
"We'll see." Bruce said as he flew into the air listening to his former teacher scream his name.
"Wayne, this is not over!"
The train runs off the tracks, Ras barely held against it by the throwing star as it crashed into the lower level of Wayne Tower. Inside the microwave emitter lost stability from the impact and detonated, making a huge explosion.
On the Gotham Radio Tower roof top mounted above the city on the ledge of a to get a clear view of the sunrise was the Batman .Despite the beautiful sight, he was still haunted by events of the night. Gotham would never be the same. He could still hear sirens wailing and people clamoring as Police, paramedics, firefighters and national guard workers set up quarantine zones for those still suffering the effects of the fear-toxin and trying to contain the civil unrest. It wouldn't be long before most we're cured, sedated and sent back to Gotham and GCPD.
In the distance he imagined the smoke still rising from his burned down house. Such was his concern for his city and the people, he hadn't until now paused to reflect on the devastation this would cause for Bruce Wayne. His head was downcast as his eyes were concealed at the affliction he caused."Great," he conceived. "first Wayne Manor and now Wayne Tower. I really did destroy everything my family ever built..."
He elevated his head and turned towards the sun rising above the waters of Gotham Bay.
"... but the Wayne legacy will rise from the ashes."
( A BIG THANK YOU TO MY AMAZING EDITOR)