Batman Beyond : Burden of Power
Hi. I don't know how much interest there might be in a BMB fiction series in here, but I'll give it a shot. This is set after the series finale, as Terry finishes High School. Enjoy...
Batman Beyond : Burden of Power
Sunlight beamed downwards onto to the open air auditorium of Hamilton Hill School, a beautiful and crisp Thursday morning. Every chair was filled, and the aisles were layered with proud parents recording the scene with holorecorders. The ecstatic and nervous graduation class sat in the first three rows, but they all now stood as the call rang out for them to file up and mount the stage, one-by-one, to receive their diplomas. The C's were reached, and petite Gretchen Cain fell into line beside the high steps.
Nervously she smoothed out her slightly unruly red hair, and fussed with her robe, "Don't know why I even bother." she frowned to herself, "It's not like anyone is here to see me graduate." but she still felt slightly proud at her own success, she was a high school grad now, despite all of her ‘other’ distractions.
Then all depressing thoughts vanished from her mind, as her name boomed across the massive bowl-shaped room. She smiled her flashiest smile, which she had practiced all morning back at her apartment, then climbed the steps somberly. She shook the sweaty hand of the school principle, then grasped the silver and pearl graduation tube.
Moments later she found herself back in her seat, staring at the memento, mulling over what it really ment. Like this she remained, as the rest of the graduating class filed up to receive their honors. She had just reached the decision to rise and leave when a name caught her attention.
"Terrace Steven McGinnis." came the monotone of the school's PA system and Gretchen looked up in surprise at the name.
The tall and lean young man ascended the steps, decked out in an identical purple to those of his class mates. He shook hands with the principle as she had, and accepted his tube. Then he turned to the crowd, and waived it high in the air. A younger version of him jumped up and down on his chair shouting at the top of his lungs, "Yeah! Go Terry!"
She watched as a woman, obviously McGinnis's mother, pulled the boy down to sit, a smile on her face. She waved to her son, and he nodded back, then his gaze moved to the regal older gentleman sitting beside her. He leaned forward on his cane, and smiled proudly up at him. Terry smiled back, a secret look was exchanged between the two.
Looking back at McGinnis, Gretchen leaned forward, her body rigid with recognition, her pale blue eyes riveted on his face. He had surgical tape crisscrossing a badly bruised nose, and dark circles under his eyes, like they had been blackened recently, "His name is McGinnis, and he's been hit really hard in the face very recently..." she pondered with growing suspicion, "From the rate of the healing, it could very easily have been the night before last. Could it be..."
In her mind she flashed backwards thirty-six hours. She held the dark form above her, as he struggled uselessly with her. In his cowl a transmitted voice filtered, very low, beyond the hearing of an average human. Not that she was average. And it said "McGinnis! What's happening?"
She stood quickly and threaded her way past other students, apologizing as she went, then was in the aisle. She gave one glance toward the stage, Terry was heading off-stage now, she didn't have much time. Like a ghost she slipped behind the auditorium's floor-to-ceiling curtains and waited for her chance...
Part I - Night Echoes
Downtown Gotham City, Thirty-six hours earlier...
Terry McGinnis leapt from the maglev train car and ran down the boulevard. He tore past a long line of people, mostly teens like him, or early twenties types, then came screeching to a halt two-thirds the way up the line. He hefted his backpack and smiled sheepishly at the petite brunette who stood waiting in line. She glared back at him.
“Uh, Dana, look I-” he started to say, but she interrupted him.
“Stow it Terry, I don’t want to here it.” she said in annoyance.
Unwisely the dark-haired teen decided to try again, “But you see, Mr. Wayne, he-”
“That excuse is way neg you know?” she interjected again, then grabbed his arm and pulled him into her place in line.
She then stepped out, turned back to face him, raising a finger and poking him in the chest to emphasize her words, "Now, I'm going to get something to eat, I'll be back in like twenty minutes, maybe less. Terry, you are going to be here, keeping my place. If you lose my spot, lose my chance at Nadia Xost tickets, you are a terminal case, you understand?"
Terry raised his hands and smiled his million dollar smile, "You can trust me Dana, you know you can."
She opened her mouth to reply, then shut it again. He continued grinning back at her. She fixed him with a glare then nodded, turned, and disappeared into the cool night. He glanced at the guy standing behind him, he was chuckling softly at Terry’s plight, and he glared at him. Then he whirled around to face forward and jammed his hands in the pockets of the brown jacket he always wore.
And so he stood like that, undisturbed, for a grand total of nine minutes. Then it happened. He tried to ignore it as best he could, he shut his eyes tight and hummed loudly to himself. The guy behind him tapped him on the shoulder, "Hey, buddy, you're phone is ringing."
"Nope, can't be mine, no way, I don't have one." replied McGinnis, cursing the person who had to be on the other end of the line.
"Well, whatever you have it's still ringing." replied the puzzled guy, "Would you answer it? It's annoying."
Terry sighed deeply, then reached into his coat and extracted the sleek pocket phone. He thumbed it on, brought it to his lips, "Please Wayne, not now. Dana will kill me, she will, you are signing my death warrant, it will truly be-"
"Give it a rest McGinnis, you're wasting time." came the deep tones of his mentor, and he halted his whining, what was the point?
"Where?" he asked, and listened to the instructions, then broke the connection.
He turned to the guy behind him who was smiling broadly, "Hey, you wouldn't mind doing me a favor, and hold a place for the girl..." but gave up as the guy shook his head, "Dreg." he snarled.
Terry broke from the line at a fast run and dived into traffic. He weaved between honking grav cars, then reached the other side, to disappear into a nearby alley. A minute later a shadowy form emerged from the other end. There was an orange burst of flame from his jet boots, and Batman rocketed into the air like a torpedo. He soared high, emerging above the roof-tops. He cut the jets and leveled out, spread his arms wide and the crimson wings popped into position.
In the distance behind him Batman swore he could hear a female voice howling “TERRY!” in fury, and he winced, but there was nothing he could do now.
He flew on the swift air currents that were a permanent fixture above Gotham City, and made his way rapidly to his destination. He glided downwards and alighted on the roof top of the North Pike Mall Complex. He glanced around, then spotted the roof exit door, and his eyes narrowed. He strode toward it with purpose and stood before it's mangled ruins. His gaze took it all in, "You getting this Wayne?" he asked into his throat comlink.
Deep beneath Wayne Manor, more then half the city away, Bruce Wayne leaned forward in his chair and regarded the remains of the metal door being displayed on his large computer monitor. The regal older gentleman examined the raged tears in the material, and the way it seemed to have been roughly removed like it was nothing, "Terry, be careful, whoever did this seemed to do it with they're bare hands."
"Gotcha." Batman replied, he had reached the same conclusion, but it was nice to have confirmation.
He turned to regard the alarm panel that was mounted on the nearby wall. It was also ripped open, and it's circuit board interior lay bare. He zoomed in with his suit's telescopic vision and examined the wiring within, "Looks like the alarm has been cut with a delicate laser, clumsy work though."
In the Batcave Wayne leaned back in his high-backed leather chair and steepled his fingers, "I concur, but it did the job."
Batman stepped inside and descended the steps, into the mall complex. A minute later he stepped past another mangled door into the mall itself. He stepped to the railing and looked down at ten levels of shops, shrouded in darkness, only occasionally pierced with dim lighting. He leaned forward and increased his hearing ten-fold utilizing the audio receptors set into his pointed cowl, closing his eyes to help concentration. Nothing registered for a long moment, then in the distance came the light tinkling of broken glass.
He opened his eyes and transferred the audio data to his directional computer. Instantly coordinates appeared, and he leaped over the railing, glided down to the fourth level. He landed in a crouch, his wings disappearing into the back of the black costume. He grasped his round belt-buckle and twisted, activating the suit's stealth mode. He vanished from the view of normal sight.
He prowled forward, down the avenue of shops and stores, the distant noises becoming louder. He turned a corner and came upon a boutique specializing in jewelry. It's glass front had a gaping hole, just big enough for him to slip through. He glanced at the edges of the gap as he past through, they appeared to be melted. His sensors told him the glass was tempered transparasteel. The heat it would take to actually melt it would have to be immense. A cold chill shot down his spine.
He whispered into his comlink, "Wayne, I think this might be Blight."
Wayne shook his head, "No, it can't be, he disappeared almost two years ago, and a mall burglary wasn't his style."
But he understood Terry's reasoning, a device that could do that kind of damage would be quite large and very expensive. Someone who could afford such a weapon wouldn't be robbing malls.
Batman prowled past the counter, a mess of smashed glass and twisted metal bars. Most of the jewelry was still there, but some pieces were obviously missing. The noise he was detecting was coming from the rear rooms of the shop, most likely the vault. He stepped around the back, and came to the open doorway. With caution he looked in.
The darkness loomed so he activated his infra-red sensors, and the room lit up in shades of red and gray. A large vault door was on the far wall. It was dented and partly melted, but still intact. The walls were lined with lock box panels, half of them torn open. His gaze locked at the far corner, where a small crouched form knelt over an extracted jewelry case. The figure raised a small gloved fist and brought it down hard and glass shattered.
Batman's eyes narrowed at this impressive show of strength, and he took a moment to examine his prey. Dressed in dark loose clothing, whoever it was had to be no bigger then an adolescent, and at this he breathed a sigh of relief, "It isn't Blight, Wayne." he whispered into his cowl's link.
The thief froze in the midst of stowing jewels in a small shoulder bag.
No way they heard me, that's not possible, thought confidently Batman, my suit muffles all sound unless I don't want it to. Just a coincidence-but he broke off this train of thought as the thief turned slowly in place, and stared at the doorway, directly at the spot he stood in, still sheathed in stealth mode.
Batman could swear the criminal was staring right at him. This was not good. Who was this, anyway? He made a quick decision, and turned off the hide mode. As he reappeared, he dropped into a fighting crouch, "OK, you can see me, I don't know how, but it doesn't matter." he said darkly, "You and me are going to take a trip to Gotham PD headquarters, so-"
He never got to finish, as the form suddenly leaped forward faster then he thought humanly possible, and body-blocked him. Batman rocketed backwards and crashed into the counter. The darkly-clad thief appeared in front of him, Batman swung his fist and caught him across the jaw, kid or no kid, the gloves were off.
He had pulled his punch, but it still should have easily dropped an adult male. The thief's had snapped to the right, then returned to face him, seemingly unfazed. Batman got the distinct impression that if it wasn't for the armored suit he wore, he would have broken his hand. It was like punching solid marble.
"My turn." hissed the low voice of his attacker, and they swung forward and pile-drived Batman under the jaw.
The impact was massive, and he flipped backwards over the counter, to land in a crouch on the floor. He shook his head to clear it, and looked up in time to see the thief leap over him to land at the hole in the glass. Batman leaped to his feet, spun. The figure was already through and halfway down the hallway. His mouth twisted in rage, no way was this guy getting away, not on his watch! He leaped forward, dived trough the gap, and ignited his jet boots.
He shot down the avenue toward his target, who turned in time to face him, as he plowed into them. Together they rocketed the rest of the way down the passage. The crashed trough the metal railing, and plunged downwards the four remaining stories, to splash into the gilded fountain on the ground floor of the mall. Water splashed high, and they plunged to the bottom, everything spun and twisted.
Batman was momentarily blinded as his infra-red was still on, and the water was all the same temperature. But he had a firm grasp on the strange figure, and he flipped him around, wrenched their arm up behind him, locking him tight. He stood up in the knee-deep liquid, and held onto the motionless person who was breathing as hard as he was.
"All right, funs over! Are you going to come quietly, or am I going to have to get really rough?" Batman demanded.
The small captured thief finished catching they're breath, and spoke in a low voice, "I really don't want to hurt you, jerk. Just let me go, and you get to stay in one piece."
Batman's jaw dropped. The voice, poorly disguised, was that of a girl's! And a young one at that. In surprise he loosened his grip slightly, and she wrenched her pinned arm free with a growl, spun, grabbed him by the front of his uniform. She then hefted him off his feet with the one hand.
Batman stared down at her face, concealed beneath a black ski mask. Pale blue eyes blazed up at him, and her lips were curled into an angry scowl. He grabbed the arm that held him with both hands and tried to break her grip. He failed miserably. Wayne's voice filtered through his cowl, "McGinnis, what's happening?"
The thief swung back with her free hand, and Batman squirmed in her grip, "Don't say my name!" he relayed to his boss, then aloud, "Oh, this is going to really hurt, wait-" and she hit him.
He saw stars and flew backwards as if hit by a speeding truck. He crashed into something, and everything went dark.
* * * * *
"McGinnis!" came a distant voice.
Batman raised a weak hand and rubbed at his face through his cowl. His head was swimming, how long had he been out?
"Terry, are you there?! I didn't get your last message, come in!" it was Bruce, but the transmission was full of static.
His head was pounding, there was blood in his mask and his nose was a mass of pain. He felt in gingerly, then groaned as the pain tripled, and he quickly pulled his hand away. He slowly stood and looked around. He could just make out the fountain, more then ten meters away. He turned to see what he had impacted with, and discovered a tall marbled pillar.
It was half caved-in, and chunks of stone the size of bowling balls lay all around. He must have hit it at tremendous speed.
"Who or what the heck was she?" he gasped in pain.
He tried to activate the infra-red sights, but only got an error message. The cowl was smashed like his face. He had to get out of here. He turned to jet upwards, then spotted the nearby entrance doors, decided flight may be a bad idea right now. Plus they were torn open, providing a handy exit.
He emerged outside in a run and scanned the empty parking lot, but could find no trace of the thief. She had messed him up and gotten away, and he was in no shape to look for her. He activated a control on his waist, signaling the Batmobile, then leaned against the wall to await it.
"Terry, will you answer me? I want a report." demanded Wayne.
"I'm on my way back to the cave, I'll fill you in then." Batman replied, "Better dig out the first aid kit, Bruce."
* * * * *
Wayne leaned over Terry, and cut the last layer of surgical tape. The boy grunted, and tried to twist away from his strong hands, "Hold still so I can finish. It's broken you know." the older man’s tone was commanding and hard, but his eyes betrayed his concern.
"Broken? Really? And here I thought it was only sprained." Terry replied in annoyment.
The older man regarded his work, then nodded. Terry stood, and picked up his damaged cowl. The front was partly caved in, and the lenses were cracked. Micro-thin circuitry was exposed, some segments hanging loose.
He held it up for Bruce to see, "Can you fix this or do we need a new one?"
Wayne shook his head, "I can fix it, no problem there. I'm more concerned with the one who did this. Are you sure-"
Terry nodded, "It was a girl, and from the sound of her voice and her size, she was younger then me, but not by much. That's all I know."
Wayne went to his console and brought up a chemical display. A lattice structure spun in three dimensions, and he regarded it thoughtfully. Terry placed the damaged cowl back on the counter, and stepped up beside him, "What's that?"
"The chemical breakdown of the type of glass that protected that jewelry store. You should have obtained a sample for me to study." replied Wayne.
Terry chuckled, "Sorry. I was too busy getting beaten up by a little girl. Wait till Dana sees me, she'll-" then he gasped, and swore, "Dana! I didn't call her, oh no! And it's too late now, I'll have to wait for school tomorrow, and what with it being the last day and all, and graduation coming the next. God, what am I going to say? I’m going to look like crap for the ceremony. Mom’ll kill me as well."
But Wayne didn't even hear him, so intent was he in the study of the glass. Terry shrugged his shoulders, and headed for the shower. This would have to wait for tomorrow night, he had to get home before his mom went nuts.
Bruce didn't even notice him leave.
* * * * *
Terry sat up in bed abruptly, then wished he hadn't, as the sudden movement jarred his nose. Sharp pain flooded his face, and it made him wince, which also hurt. He stumbled to the bathroom, and stared into the mirror at the grotesque image he projected.
Two black eyes, and what skin showed through the white tape across his nose was a sick purple. Had he come up with a story last night? He struggled through the haze to recall any he had thought of, but came up blank.
He felt drained, "I can't go to school, I'm slagged." and he groaned again as he prodded his nostrils, with a hesitant finger.
But he had to hide this from his mother as long as he could. He glanced at his watch, good, he should be able to grab breakfast and get out of here before she was up. He brushed his teeth carefully, took a minute to shower, then dressed.
He slipped into the kitchen, grabbed a bowl and the box of Psycho-Bear Flakes. He was gingerly shoveling the first spoonful into his mouth when his younger brother Matt came sauntering into the room. Terry ducked his head behind the neon cereal box, he had completely forgotten about his annoying sibling, wow, he must have really taken it from the thief.
But he had no chance of concealment, Matt's sharply-honed eyes spotted the sudden movement. He dashed forward, leaped onto the opposite chair and snatched the box away. His eyes went wide and he laughed in glee, "You got beat up, hah! By Dana I bet! She called like fifty times last night looking for you, but don't worry, I kept telling her you were out with another girl."
Terry scowled at him in annoyment, "You twip, shut up." he growled, "Dana didn't beat me up, it was-" then he hesitated, what was it again I was going to say happened?
Matt hopped up and down, "But it was a girl, I know it was. He-he, Terry got slagged by a girl! Terry got slagged by a girl!"
The soon to be-grad hopped to his feet and stormed out. His mother was just emerging from the rear of the apartment, and she caught his arm, pulled him back around. She studied his damaged face with disapproving eyes, "Mr. Wayne didn't do it justice, you really fell hard."
"Huh?" he stared back at her in confusion, "What are you..." then he grasped it, the old man had called her with an excuse, Slagit! Now he'd have to thank him, "Yeah, I was moving some furniture at the Manor and I fell off the ladder. Oops."
She frowned, "He said you slipped on some tea. Maybe I should take you to the hospital for a scan, might be a concussion."
Terry shook his head, headed back to the kitchen. He snatched his cereal bowl from his brother's hands, he had been downing it fast. He settled back into his seat and tabbed the display key on the table's top, bringing the holoprojector set into it online. He glanced up at his mother, "I feel fine, it's okay. Just a little groggy. No, I have my robe fitting at school today, and I'm saying good-bye to Max."
His mom nodded from the sideboard, "That's right, she leaves today for University in Metropolis. Early admittance, how nice."
He frowned, "Oh, hah-hah Mom. Not everybody can be a genius. I did graduate you know."
She snagged a tart from the refryer and turned back, leaned against the counter, the pastry held delicately before her lips. She took a bite and chewed thoughtfully, swallowed, "But you still haven't decided what college you want to go to. And you did get accepted to the same school as her, just in the fall. I still don't see why you don't want to go. It's not like you won’t have friends there, and-"
"No." his tone was strong and decided, her eyes widened slightly, "This is my town. Gotham is my city. I'm needed here, no, I'm staying. College or no college." and he stood abruptly, grabbed up his coat and pack, headed for the door.
"Terry!" she called after him, but he was gone.
Her eyes narrowed as she reviewed his words. What did he mean, his town? Oh well, he has alot on his mind, I'll wait until after the ceremony, then bring it up again. Her eyes moved to the news report that was already under way over the table-top.
"...and the Nadia Xost concert is still set for three days from now, despite the heavy rain warnings." the voice of the artificial announcer then dropped an octave, "In more serious news, a daring midnight robbery of the North Pike Mall Complex resulted in the loss of several thousand credits worth of jewelry. But more serious, the unknown robbers caused nearly a hundred thousand in damage and vandalism. This is not the first time such a smash and grab has taken place, such tactics have been reported four previous times across the country. But the Gotham PD refuse to comment. In labor news..."
* * * * *
Bruce Wayne thumbed off the news report and leaned back in the high-backed office chair, mounted before the complex array of screens and terminals that contained the command center of the Batcave. His eyes strayed to the police reports he had 'accessed' from security computers across the country. The news report had it right, Terry's encounter last night seemed to have been with the same person who had been breaking into malls across the nation. He had already indexed the times and dates, and found a pattern to it, the thefts were in a jagged line that zigzagged across the map. But the news report had the number of break-ins wrong, there had been nine to his count. And the amount taken each time was small, never more than five or six thousand, like the thief only too what she needed. She. Terry had been sure, and a teen as well.
He stroked his chin in concentration, if the kid was right, it must be an extraordinary young women. She had taken Terry and the suit out like a pros, though there was the fact that Terry hadn't seen it coming, he had under-estimated her. He wouldn't next time. If there was going to be a next time, though, for there was always only one robbery.
But she has to fence the goods, and quickly, before word of what was taken gets out and they become to hot. He reached for the phone, he needed to talk to some of his contacts in the underworld, specifically those who could be in the market to buy right now.
Gotham was a big city, but not big enough, Bruce thought with a grim smile, then began to dial...
* * * * *
But whoever she was, she made no move that Wayne's network could detect, and the night came and went without incident. Terry, in Batman guise, stole back into the mall complex and obtained the glass sample Bruce needed, but it was still being examined by the Batcave’s powerful computers. Things proceeded normally, and the next morning found all in attendance for Terry's graduation. Terry pocketed his diploma and headed for the steps, glad it was all over now. He could concentrate on the coming prom, though he might not be going now, what with Dana saying she hated him forever and all.
Terry stepped off the stage and descended the steps. He slumped forward slightly, the happy graduate routine slipping away, he felt like crap, and needed some real sleep. He paused by the velvet curtains for a minute, not ready to return to his seat yet. He rubbed at his sore nose bridge, the pounding was still with him despite the drugs. He was about to return to his seat when a hand emerged from the curtains, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, and hauled him bodily back into the darkness.
His training kicked in and without hesitation he spun. He grabbed the arm and shoulder of his assailant, slipped a foot behind theirs, and thrust. Whoever it was gave a yelp and tumbled flat onto their back. His eyes now adjusted to the filtered light of the backstage, Terry looked down with surprise at the small form of a redheaded teenage girl his own age. He reached out a hand to help her up, "Sorry, but you shouldn't grab a guy like that. Of course if we got to know each other first..."
Angrily she pushed his arm away and jumped to her feet. She dusted off her robe and glared at him, "Oh, we know each other, you just haven't made the connection." she replied, as he gazed at her with a perplexed expression, "But I've made it."
With blinding speed she grabbed him by the collar and, with seemingly no effort, hauled him off his feet, into the air, "Maybe this jog's your memory." she said with a scowl.
Terry stared down at her, first with astonishment, then with horrified recognition. She smiled at his obvious reaction, "So, you do remember me...Batman."
The two stared at each other, him in shock and she in triumph, their eyes locked...
To be continued...