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THE DCFuture Underground Fan Fiction group acknowledges that DC Comics owns Batman and ALL related characters and retains complete rights to said characters. These concepts are used WITHOUT permission for NO PROFIT, but rather a strong desire to peer into the future of the DC Universe.
BATMAN Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

BATMAN: DCF
"Heritage"
Written, edited and illustrated by Erik Burnham

Timothy Drake slowly hauled himself up the long flight of stairs that led to his father's bedroom. Not because he didn't want to see his dad; that was decidedly NOT the case… but because he wanted to prolong the inevitable. Richard Drake was dying, and Tim was deep into denial. And even though he knew in his heart of hearts that it wasn't true, a small part of Tim was still praying that his sluggish entry would help his father hold on to the spark of life for just a few minutes longer.

Finally, Tim could delay no longer… he had reached the top of the staircase, his father's bedroom door looming in front of him like the shadow of death…

Tim reached out a hand, summoned up all his courage, and knocked.

"Come," a weak voice replied.

Tim entered the room to find his father and about two dozen 'well-wishers' come to pay their respects. The scene before Tim made him angry… he didn't see people that genuinely cared about his father, he saw torpid sycophants trying to garner one last signed check, one more grant, one more favor before the old man passed away.

"Everybody, please," the old man said as loud as he could. "This is my son, Timothy…"

"We've met," one of the 'well-wishers' said. Tim recognized the man as Tino Merani; lawyer, political hack, silver-tongued bastard extraordinaire. Tino had always known the correct buttons to press to get the green out of Richard Drake, but had so far been unable to manipulate Tim to do so much as say 'good morning.' Theirs was a terse relationship, to put it lightly.

"Yes, we have," Tim replied. "And since we've already met, I can ask - without embarrassment - for you and your buddies here to leave."

"Of course," Tino replied with a smile as he gathered up his coat and hat. "These moments should be private."

Tino offered his hand to Tim as he headed for the door. Tim returned an icy glare in response. The Italian merely smiled again, shrugged, and led his cronies out of the room.

"You don't trust him, do you Timothy?" the old man said through a smile.

"No, Pop, I don't. There's just something about that guy that rubs me the wrong way."

The elder Drake laughed at his son's exasperation, his raspy chortle quickly transforming into a cough. Tim rushed over to the bed, a worried look draping his face, until Richard finally began breathing normally again.

"Timothy, I have something for you," the old man said, reaching carefully under the bed to produce a weathered and beaten journal. Timothy saw the reverence his father had for the book, even as the old man offered it to him with a shaky hand.

"What is it?" Tim asked as he took the proffered tome.

"It was your grandfather's journal, Timothy. It was… is… your true legacy. I wasn't able to follow through with it, but…" Tim practically shot out of his chair when his father resumed his coughing fit. With great difficulty, however, Richard was finally able to suppress the cough and regain control of his respiration once more. After taking a deep breath, he continued.

"The money, Timothy, the vote… all of the advantages I'm bequeathing to you, they mean nothing, Timothy. Nothing. That book is all that matters. It's your heritage."

And that was it. Richard held his beloved son in his eye for a moment longer, reaching out to hold Tim's hand one last time…


The funeral was four days ago, and Tim still hadn't gotten over it. His father had always been such a big part of his life, and now… he was gone.

And more responsibility was the only thing that took his place. 'A pathetic trade,' Tim thought. Now, he had the added duties of overseeing Drake Industries, a company his grandfather had started… when he was barely twenty-one, or so the journal had claimed.

The journal. Tim had leafed through it briefly the day his father had given it to him, but hadn't given it a second thought since then. Grief was funny like that; it could make all the little details of life disappear while it mended a broken heart.

But now, the grief - while still overwhelming - began to allow little things to seep back into Tim's consciousness.

Like the journal.

Tim remembered how excited his father had seemed as he handed Tim the book, the way his eyes had sparkled and dance when Tim accepted it. 'The journal was obviously important to him,' Tim reflected, again remembering the way his father had looked at the book with such… reverence.

'If it was that important to Pop,' Tim said to himself, 'I'm gonna force myself to get through it.'

Tim had expected the journal to be boring - stuff along the lines of 'today, I learned to drive.'

Little did he know it was going to turn out to be such a page-turner.


Wayne Manor had been abandoned for years, ever since the death of the famous philanthropist years ago. Tim had met Bruce Wayne once. For such an old man he'd seemed… youthful was an odd way to put it, but for all of his wrinkles, all of his cantankerous posturing… Wayne seemed as vigorous as a schoolboy. Even at the tender age of seven, Tim had caught wind of the intensity that burned like a torch through Wayne's ruse; whatever he was, Tim wasn't sure. The only thing he was positive about was that Bruce Wayne was most definitely NOT what he seemed.

And after reading the journal of his grandfather, Tim believed he was close to finding out the truth behind his suspicions.

Even though nothing specific was mentioned, the Journal gave clues left and right if you knew how to look for them. And Tim - sharp as he was - had figured out his grandfather's riddles. Whatever the big secret was, it was here…

…At Wayne Manor.


The lock was surprisingly easy to pick, Tim thought as he made his way into Wayne Manor, ignoring the soft hum that emerged from the background the second he set foot in the house.

House. There was an understatement - Tim mused to himself. The place was massive, more museum than domicile. Tim was surprised that anyone had EVER managed to live here.

Still…

The house was immaculately clean - spotless. There was nary a cobweb in sight and the place had been vacant some - what - fifteen years now? 'That's odd,' Tim thought.

The humming that had been present from the second of Tim's entrance grew louder now, loud enough for Tim to notice. He turned in time to see a large metal tendril snake out of the ceiling and around him with a blinding speed. He was trapped.

"Hey, let me go!" Tim grunted as the tendril asserted a little pressure.

"Many apologies, sir, but I'm afraid that's impossible. You have been caught trespassing; the authorities have been alerted. I'll let you go when they arrive to take custody."

"What are you talking about? Who's there!" Tim demanded, frustrated that he'd allowed himself to be caught.

"No one, sir, if you're looking for a human. However, if any sentient being falls under the guidelines of your request, I can say that 'I' am here." The electronic voice replied.

"Who are you?"

"I am an automated defense/maintenance system; I was installed thirty-four years ago to maintain and defend the house from intruders. I daresay I've done a fair job of it."

"You said you were sentient?"

"Ah, yes. I gained sentience through some accident made by Master Bruce when he still inhabited this place; I can't say I'm privy to the particulars, but I woke up one day with a mind all my own. Master Bruce had named me Alfred, if your next question was going to pertain to my identity."

"Why are you being so nice?" Tim demanded. "You're holding me for the cops, for cryin' out loud, and you're making with the small talk?"

"Just because we find ourselves in this unfortunate situation, sir, does not mean we cannot be cordial with one another. I've not had anyone to talk to in years. Forgive me if this annoys you, but I doubt I'll have a similar chance in the near future."

"I can't believe this…"

"If I may inquire, sir, why were you attempting to burglarize this place?"

"I wasn't. I just wanted a looksee is all."

"Ah. And why the 'looksee?'"

Tim wasn't going to respond; he was talking to a machine, for cryin' out loud! The folly of the situation was incredible. But Alfred wasn't going anywhere, and he was damn persuasive for a machine… he wanted conversation and was willing to apply a little pressure on Tim to get it. Which he did, slowly constricting his mechanical tendrils until Tim gave up and began talking again.

"Look, my father just died, all right? He left me my grandfather's journal - gave it to me on his deathbed. The only thing is the book - it reads like one giant puzzle - and all the clues point to this place. I just want answers. I want to know what my pop meant by 'my heritage.' Are you satisfied?" Tim asked, close to tears for the umpteenth time in the past week.

The computer said nothing. For a moment, Tim thought had that he'd imagined the whole conversation with 'Alfred'; yet another way of grief playing with his head.

He was almost convinced that he was going crazy.

And then Alfred spoke up.

"What is your name, sir?" the mechanical voice asked.

"Tim. Tim Drake."

"Understood," the computer said. "Accessing…" a louder hum filled the air, more annoying than the one it had replaced. Tim thought that he'd go deaf for the din when all of a sudden, he was free. The mechanical tendrils unwrapped themselves from his body and returned to their hidden housings. Tim was in shock, he'd been expecting something to happen, but being released was definitely NOT on his list of suspicions.

"Master Tim, I believe we can help each other," Alfred said. "I have access to the information that I believe your father intended as part of your inheritance; but before we can continue, you must disable the program block your grandfather placed inside some of this facility's … older systems. Do you understand?"

"If I get these riddles right, you tell me what I want to know?"

"All that and more, Master Tim. Are you ready?"

"Yeah, go ahead," Tim said, still reeling form the sudden turn of events.

"Accessing first riddle… 'In the morning I walk on four legs; two legs carry me in the afternoon, and by evening, I use three. What am I?'"

"The riddle of the sphinx? You gotta be kidding me!" Tim said, almost laughing. "The answer is 'a man.'"

"Accessing answer file… correct, Master Tim. Very good," the computer said encouragingly. "Are you ready for the second riddle?"

"Bring it on."

"Accessing second riddle… 'As I was traveling to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had seven sacks, in each sack were seven cats. Every cat had seven kittens, and thus I my question raise, how many were traveling to St. Ives upon that lovely day?'"

"Another stumper, eh, Gramps? The answer is one."

"Accessing answer file… correct, Master Tim. One more to go."

"If the third is as easy as the other two Alfred, I'm rarin' to go."

"Accessing final riddle… 'The third of three shall now depart - to leave the nest, to claim a fresh start. This final question I pose today, how old was he when he went away?'"

"I… whoa, looks like I'll actually have to use my head. Hmm… any hints, Alfred?"

"If I had any to give, Master Tim, they would be yours."

"I was afraid of that… let's see… third of three… third of three… leave the nest… I wonder if he was talking about Robin? History indicates that the vigilante Batman had three partners called 'Robin.' In which case the third one disappeared… 20? Is the answer twenty?"

"Accessing answer file… incorrect, Master Tim. You may try again." Alfred said.

"I get another shot? You never said that I'd get another shot!"

"You never asked, Master Tim. But one more 'shot' is all you get."


Meanwhile, across town, Commissioner Mark Grayson walks out on to the roof of GCPD headquarters, exhausted as usual. He'd been staying late at the job every night for… for every night that he could remember since he'd received his appointment as Commissioner.

All to stop the crime that had been dragging the city into despair since… since forever.

Mark inhaled the night air as he lit a cigarette; thinking that the pollution in the Gotham atmosphere was probably worse for him than these 'cancer sticks.' But Mark had always enjoyed the view the skyline provided him… it was one of the few things that calmed him in this day and age.

Absentmindedly, Mark glanced over at the fixtures that had once held the Bat-Signal to the roof of the GCPD; the Bat-Signal that had called Batman. The Batman that used to be a hero to this town… the Batman that used to be welcome at this facility.

The Batman that had killed Mark's father, Dick - the adventurer formerly known as Nightwing.

Mark spit at the fixtures, cursing the memory of the Bat as he headed back inside.

Back to work.


Tim was wracking his brain, trying to come up with the answer… the answer to the riddle that would gain him another, far more important, answer; the answer behind his heritage.

"Wait a minute!" Tim exclaimed. "I can't believe I didn't see it before! Grandpa was Robin!"

"Master Tim?" Alfred asked, puzzled.

"It makes sense, Alfred. All the codes, all the riddles - so many of them having to do with the team of Batman and Robin… Bruce Wayne, Wayne Manor… and of course, Grandpa creating the blocks to the records that you can't access - it all makes sense now! The answer to the riddle is 26!"

"Are you sure, Master Tim?"

"Bet my life on it, Al."

"Accessing answer file… incorrect, Master Tim. Prepare to die." Alfred said in sinister tones, his mechanical tendrils reaching for Tim.

"What? But that's impossible… I'm sure I had the right answer I…" Tim stammered as the mechanical arms hovered in front of his face.

"You did, Master Tim." Alfred said, recalling his tendrils. "I was only playing a joke."

"Alfred, that was NOT funny."

"I beg to differ, Master Tim. You should have seen the look on your face."


For the first time in decades, a human being was in the Batcave.

It was an awe-inspiring sight; the conquests of a long-lost crime fighter lay about as far as Tim could see, as clean as the house above. Alfred obviously had access to this area as well.

"Alfred, this is… this is extraordinary." Tim said, genuinely impressed, as he trotted down the steps to the cavern floor.

As soon as Tim touched the tiles, a motion detector went to work, kickstarting the Cave's generators. The cave sprang to life. And a voice filled the room.

"Good morning, son. I don't know if it's morning there, but let's not fret about with details, all right?" Tim's head turned to see a man's face on the giant view screen… a face Tim recognized.

It was his grandfather.

"I'm assuming you were able to crack the riddles. Good job, Ricky - I'm proud of you." The image of the first Tim Drake said, smiling.

"Ricky?" Tim asked to no one in particular.

"I believe your father was meant to discover this, Master Tim." Alfred interjected.

"Oh, gee - you think?" Tim shot back, waiting for the recording to continue.

"Now then, on to the heart of the matter. Richard, Gotham is in danger. It always has been, but now it's worse now - Bruce has disappeared. Dick is retired. And I…" the elder Drake held up his left arm, revealing the absence of his left hand. "Well, I'm damaged goods. I'm leaving it to you, Ricky. I'm passing on to you the mantle of the protector of Gotham City; the mantle of Batman."

"No way…" Tim said.

"No doubt the legend will have dampened some by the time you're old enough to understand this, Richard. But I have no one else to trust with this; it's a matter of family. All of the things you need to know are stored in the computer; I've made sure of it. I know you'll do me proud, son. I love you."

And with that, the message ended as abruptly as it had began.

***

"So what do you plan to do about the Drake boy?" mob boss Angel Tuscotti asks, his calm, patient tone masking his inner fury.

"I plan to make him see things my way," Tino Merani answered, in between sips of brandy. "One way or the other."


"This is amazing, Alfred," Tim said, scanning through the files of the Batman.

"Yes, Master Tim, I would suppose so. You've only told me - accessing… forty three times now." Alfred responded, surprisingly adept at sarcasm for a machine. Even a sentient one.

"Well excuse me for being overwhelmed," Tim said. "I come here looking for an answer and wind up a legend."

"You're hardly a legend yet, Master Tim. Perhaps you're suffering from delusions of grandeur? From what I understand, these surroundings tend to have that effect on people…"

"Shut up, Alfred."


Meanwhile, across town, at the Gotham Museum of History, two strange men sit on a bench out front. Strange because, well, they're sitting out, in the open, at night. Not to mention the fact that their clothing is notoriously dichotomous - a style of fashion favored primarily by former Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent, a man that, after a long and terrifying career as the arch-criminal Two-Face, killed himself in Arkham Asylum.

Over the flip of a coin.

The very same coin that defined Dent's life - and ultimately ended it - was now here, in the Batman wing of the museum, on exhibition for all to see… during visiting hours, anyway.

"Is it time, yet?" Graham, one of the strange men, asked anxiously.

"No," his companion, Paolo, replied. "We have another five minutes."

The first man nodded in exuberance, glancing over his shoulder at the massive clock that hung above the museum's entrance.

It was 2:17.


"This is amazing, Alfred…"

"Number fifty two, Master Tim."

"No, really. I can't believe some of this stuff! The Joker, Ra's Al Ghul, Two-Face… these files are so…"

"Entertaining?" Alfred supplied.

"Frightening. I'm glad we only have common thugs 'round town these days."

"Master Tim, that statement brings a certain philosophy to mind; the less a man makes declarative sentences, the less apt he is to look like a fool in retrospect."

"Shut up, Alfred," Tim said as an alarm's annoying klaxon invaded the relative silence of the cave.

"What the hell is that?" Tim yelled through clenched teeth, his hands covering his ears.

"Oops," Alfred said, deactivating the volume. "It appears that I've forgotten to call off the local constabulary…"

"The cops are here?" Tim said in disbelief. "Get rid of them! I can't afford to go to jail!"

"I shall do my best, Master Tim," Alfred said, shifting his concentration to the house above.


GCPD Officer Alexis Fisher slowly ambled up to the door of Wayne Manor, regretting the long trip to the secluded estate. Fisher was a city boy at heart, even though he was born and raised in areas like this; areas with trees, areas where you can see the sky… and the stars.

Silently cursing the trip down memory lane, Officer Fisher knocked on the door.

"Police," Fisher said. "You got somethin' for me?"

A speaker outside Wayne Manor crackled to life, allowing Alfred contact with the visitor.

"I'm sorry, sir. There was a slight malfunction in one of my systems. There is no one here who does not belong."

'Terrific,' Fisher thought. 'Another one of those damned house-droids.' Couldn't the rich hire REAL help anymore?

"Uh, yes, well. Can you maybe fill me in on the source of the malfunction? Still gotta write a report, pal."

"Yes, certainly. It was a bat."

"A bat?"

"A bat, yes. Big as the devil himself, sir. He got into the ventilation systems and chewed through a wire, which, in turn, activated my intruder alert program… I'm terribly sorry about all this."

"The, uh, the bat get fried?"

"The bat? Oh no - he got loose in the house. Flapping around for quite a while, now. Bloody huge for a simple rodent. I don't suppose you'd care to rid me of this pest?"

Officer Fisher was already halfway back to his car. He'd never liked bats. They were too… creepy. 'One thing's for sure,' Alexis Fisher thought as he got behind the wheel of his hover-trol police cruiser. 'I ain't comin' back out here.'

And with that, Officer Fisher gunned the engines, lifting off into the sky - away from the hideous bat that was loose in Wayne Manor.

"And they called criminals a superstitious and cowardly lot," Alfred chuckled, his exterior video scans allowing him to 'see' the cop's retreat.


And just like that, the power for half the city stopped flowing. That was part of the plan, of course, to draw attention away from the heist by giving a few million Gothamites something to complain about… but still, Graham thought it was pretty cool… lights on one second, and off the next. All in the blink of an eye.

"Hey!" Paolo grunted. "No daydreaming! We have a job to do!"

And with that, the two men smashed through the glass doors of the museum, heading for the Batman wing… and the scarred, two-faced silver dollar of Harvey Dent.


"Mr. Drake? Are you all right, sir? You look tired." Ennis Hobbs, Vice-President of Drake Industries said in a paternal whisper.

"I'm sorry, what?" Tim said. Truth be told, he WAS tired. He'd been up in the Batcave all night, pouring over the many secrets of the Batman. There was so much to know - and Tim was voracious. He loved being 'in' on a secret - and this was a doozy. He'd gotten so into it, he'd forgotten that he was to chair a meeting of the Drake Industries' Board of Directors. Here he was, only ten minutes into it, and already half-asleep. Well, maybe a little MORE than half.

"New business?" Tim asked groggily.

"We're in the middle of old business, still, sir," Hobbs said.

Tim nodded and sank back into the plush leather of his executive model chair, listening to others blather and drone on about the assimilation of Wayne Enterprises, the Restoration: Gotham project, and several other uninteresting topics. Tim was in a trance, nodding or shaking his head as the tones of others decreed, losing himself in his own fatigue spawned fantasy world, one where he was Batman, the ORIGINAL Batman, chasing down famous criminals like the Joker, the Mad Hatter, or…

"Two-Face." Came an anonymous voice from the boardroom, pulling Tim back to reality, faster than a speeding bullet.

"What was that?" Tim asked, suddenly alert.

"Sir?" the employee asked, caught unawares by Tim's sudden shift in mood.

"Repeat what you just said," Tim commanded, the puissance of his attitude surprising everyone - himself included.

"I - I said that one of our subsidiaries, Bienos Security, got a commission to upgrade the Gotham Museum, after last night…"

"And what happened last night?" Tim asked.

"There was a robbery - someone stole the coin that belonged to Two-Face," the employee said.

Tim nodded, smiling on the inside. It had been less than twenty-four hours since he'd been all but commanded to become the Batman - and he already had a mystery to solve.

"Is there anything else?" Tim asked. "No? In that case this meeting is adjourned. Go about your business."

"Sir?" Came a voice from behind Tim. It was Donna Olsen, Tim's new secretary.

" Yes, Donna?"

"I just wanted to remind you that you have a lunch appointment with Mr…" Donna looked to her cyberpad and scrolled through Tim's schedule until she came to the name she'd been grasping for. "Tino Merani."

"Cancel that appointment," Tim said, heading out the door. "Wait a sec, Donna," Tim said, pausing. "Where am I supposed to meet Mr. Merani again?"


The Cenilmaga Club was the latest in a string of Gotham clubs that used holographic imaging to take its rich patrons out of the dreary atmosphere of Gotham City and into… well, elsewhere. The Cenilmaga was the most popular thus far as it took the concept one step further - allowing each patron the choice of 'where' they would be dining. The restaurant was no more than a collection of holographic booths…

But the effect, the ambiance, which the Cenilmaga offered, was beyond words.

Tino Merani was enjoying his lunch in a small outdoor café in 20th century France when the sky parted, revealing the seams of a door. Merani looked up from his meal and into the dark eyes of Timothy Drake.

"Don't bother getting up, Merani. I just came to tell you myself. It's done. Your business 'association' with Drake Industries is over."

"You can't do that," Tino Merani began.

"I can and I have." Tim said. "Enjoy the rest of your lunch." And with that, Tim closed the door, restoring the Parisian skyline to its holographic beauty. Tino Merani growled despite himself, wiping his chin with a silk napkin as he quickly punched a number into his communicator.

"Yes?" grunted a rough voice on the other end.

"It looks like Drake has fallen under your 'jurisdiction' after all," Merani said to the man on the other end.

"Understood. We'll be on him as soon as we're finished with our first little violator."

Tino Merani disconnected the call, returning to his salad, no longer enjoying the surroundings.


Tim stormed into the Batcave, angry.

"Alfred!" Tim called out.

"Master Tim! How did you get in here? I had no knowledge of…"

"I used another entrance. I did LEARN some things last night, you know!"

"Ah, yes. Of course," the droid replied, embarrassed that it had not considered this.

"Speaking of learning, Alfred," Tim said, anger still peppering his voice. "How come you didn't tell me about the theft last night?"

"Theft, Master Tim?"

"The theft at the Gotham Museum. Last night. Why wasn't I informed?"

"Here less than a day, absoLUTEly no experience and already you've taken up Master Bruce's former manner of interrogation. How impressive."

"Alfred…"

"You've mastered his tone as well… how droll. But the simple fact of the matter, Master Tim, is that you didn't ask. In point of fact, you requested that nothing disturb you while you studied the files."

"The alarm, the quips…"

"Oversights on my part, Master Tim. I apologize."

Tim shook his head in annoyance as he approached the computer console, commanding all relevant information on Two-Face and his coin to be brought up immediately…


Mark Grayson almost never played hooky. He'd always been responsible, always lived up to his father's rather high standards.

Tonight, he felt like taking a walk. Even through the crime infested streets of Gotham City. He put on his coat and left his paperwork for later. He was pulling what was - in his mind - an irresponsible stunt. Even though he'd shouldered far more of a burden than any man should, he felt guilty about his moment of rebellion. So guilty, he found himself lost in thought as he traipsed through the dark city that he had sworn to protect in memory of his father. He was so preoccupied, he never heard the footsteps quickening behind him. He never felt the needle jabbing into his back, driving him to unconsciousness.

He never knew what hit him.


"I think I have it, Alfred."

"Have what, Master Tim?"

"The answer to the mystery. Apparently there's a cult out there that's obsessed with Two-Face. Ever hear of them?"

"Accessing… yes, Master Bruce mentioned this cult upon its formation, decades ago. I wasn't aware they still existed."

"Yes they do, Alfred. Where's the suit?"

"Suit, sir?"

"The bat suit. The costume, where is it?" Tim asked.

"Master Tim, I really don't think it's such a good idea for you to…"

"WHERE IS IT?"

"Opposite end of the cave, sir."

Ten minutes later, Tim had appropriated the guise of the Batman, grim avenger of Gotham… a dark suit of body armor emblazoned with the bat-emblem, a mechanically controlled cape that granted the power of limited flight, and a cowl as black as the heart of midnight.

Tim felt different, more… serious. Invincible. He could handle anything.

"Where are you headed, Master Tim?" Alfred inquired as Tim - the Batman - stalked towards the tunnel that had granted him access to the cave.

"To find this cult and retrieve that coin." Tim said in a voice that seemed darker than his own.

"And how will you get there, Master Tim - walk? Or perhaps take a bus?"

Tim stopped - he hadn't considered that. He was overwhelmed with the feeling of power the costume gave him.

Ancient gears whirred to life, bringing the Batmobile out of its resting-place, ready for action.

"May I suggest this as a means of transportation?" Alfred asked.

"I… I never learned how." Tim sheepishly admitted.

"To drive? Master Tim! I'm surprised. But no matter, this transport is a deluxe model; verbally controlled. I'm sure you'll have no difficulties navigating… er," Alfred paused.

"Spit it out," Tim commanded as he strapped himself into the Batmobile.

"Do you know where you're going, sir?"

"They're in the phone book, Alfred." Tim said as he bid the Batmobile to rocket out of the cave, speeding towards Gotham City with all the power it could muster…


Mark Grayson woke to bright lights in many colors, an annoyance that contributed heavily to the biggest headache he'd ever had in his life. As he tried to reach his temples to massage them, soothe them, and maybe drive away this shrieking pain, he came to notice that his hands were bound. As were his feet. Consciousness came racing back to him in a flood of pain…

And he remembered what happened. He had been ambushed, although he wasn't sure of how long ago that had been.

He was being held captive. But why?


The Batmobile cruised through the murky skies of Gotham City with all the subtlety of the moon's shadow, flying high above the unwitting denizens of the dark metropolis.

Batman himself was lost in thought… after all; there was a lot of unfamiliar territory now. The whole legacy of the Batman was Tim's to deal with. He had no reason to be doing what he was doing. He had no intense personal crusade - like the fire that had driven Bruce Wayne.

Tim just wanted to live up to his father's expectations. He saw the hope in the old man's dying eyes. He could not deny this. It was impossible.

So he was Batman by default… not by destiny.

"Land, 421 E. O'Neil Avenue," Tim commanded, the Batmobile immediately complying.


The sign out front read 'The Brotherhood of the Coin.' For quite a few years now, the Brotherhood had existed, obsessed with the dead criminal Harvey Dent, other wise known as Two-Face. They'd been overlooked from their inception, well, mostly because it was a simple mens club than the cult that they were sometimes described as. There were dues, there was liquor, and there was idle chatter. That was it. They had never done anything illegal.

…And the Batman was about to discover whether or not that had changed.

'Funny,' Tim thought as he made his way through the halls of the lodge. 'This sneaking around stuff is a lot easier than I thought it would be.'

Not far ahead, Tim could hear voices. 'Soon,' he thought. 'I'll get some answers.'


Mark was finally back in control of his faculties. The lights had dimmed somewhat, but were still infuriating. And his headache remained.

Mark looked around the room - well, he tried to make out details through the lights. But he couldn't see much… other than a large, dark object not far past the lights.

It looked like a judge's bench.


The voices in the lodge grew louder. Tim - Batman - could hear them clearly, now. They were having a meeting. They were discussing… basketball?


"The Gotham Knights are going to go all the way this year," one said.

"No doubt - but them bastards from New York…" another said.

"The Knicks?"

"No, the new ones…"

"Pistons?"

"Thought they were still in Detroit."

"Naw, the city sold the team for some quick cash after the war with Beantown started."

"Oh. Celts still playing?"

The room was a cacophony of middle-aged men in dichotomous wardrobe, drinking and discussing meaningless things. A TV that no one was really watching was on in the corner, the news relating the disappearance of Commissioner Grayson.

Some of the people in the room that heard the update were surprised at the Commissioner's absence. Some others couldn't care less. Still others merely talked about it as though they were the ultimate authorities on life and all else. These people were just happy to be part of a group.

Batman gauged them all. He looked everyone over, reading as far into their reactions as he could…

…And came up with nothing. If any of these men had stolen the coin, they would have shown it off long ago, just to have something to talk about.

"Dead end." Batman said, skulking back to the Batmobile.

This was not a good way to jumpstart a legend.


"Commissioner," a calmly monotonous voice called out, breaking the silence around Mark Grayson.

"Who's there?" Mark asked in a voice that came out weaker than he'd hoped.

"Ah, so you are awake. Good," the voice continued. "I was afraid we would have to postpone the proceedings another day."

"What proceedings? What the hell are you talking about?" Mark yelled with as much force as his voice could muster, receiving silence as a response. "Answer me!" Mark demanded again, but all for naught. He was alone again.


The Batmobile alighted softly in the Batcave, its frustrated occupant exploding into the cave, and immediately attacking the heavy bag over in the gym area.

"I take it that your hunch did not pay off, Master Tim," Alfred said.

"Not at all, Alfred," Batman said, hammering away at the heavy bag with all the strength he could muster. "I learned several things. I learned the Pistons are out of Boston, I learned the Gotham Knights are gonna go all the way, and I learned that Commissioner Grayson has disappeared."

"How interesting, Master Tim. However…" Alfred allowed his electronic voice to trail off, as though he hadn't yet decided to finish his sentence.

"However WHAT, Alfred?" Tim asked, removing the cowl of the Batman.

"I always thought that the Pistons were from - accessing… Detroit."

"Shut up, Alfred. Where's my grandpa's journal?" Tim asked as he further removed the guise of his alter-ego.

"Whatever for, Master Tim?"

"Someone stole the coin, Alfred. Now, grandpa had a LOT of stuff about Two-Face in that journal. I'm thinking that maybe I can get some kind of clue as to where I should start next."

"Hoping that it's simply some copycat psychopath, perhaps?"

"That would be nice. Where's the journal?"

"You brought it home with you, Master Tim."

"I did? Damn. I'll be back, Alfred."

Tim headed out his access and back to his home.


Graham waited in the dark. He was waiting for… what's his name… Drake. He was waiting for Drake to get home, and then he would knock him out with the syringe he was clutching in his left hand. And then he would bring Drake to Paolo's car, and then they would go.

Graham had run through the plan in excess of thirty times while he waited in Drake's foyer, trying to keep all the details straight in his head. Graham hated details. He preferred unsubtle action, break in, break out, damn the torpedoes and devil-may-care.

Graham was waiting as patiently as he could, but shouldn't Drake be home by now? He should be home now.

Graham hated waiting.


Tim re-entered his house cautiously. He had no idea why, but something was telling him to play it extra quiet. Maybe it had something to do with where he had just come from. Maybe it had something to do with his enjoyment found sneaking around. Maybe he was just getting the standard rich-boy paranoia.

But he was listening to his instincts in any case.


"And how are we doing, commissioner?" the bodiless voice asked, appearing again to Mark Grayson.

"Go to hell, whoever you are," Mark said.

"Commissioner! I am surprised at you. After all, you have always been a proponent of justice, have you not? Well tonight, Justice shall be done."

"What are you talking about? Justice? What?" Mark hollered, again to no avail. There was no one in the room. Mark was being electronically monitored… communicated with via intercom. And his audience was at an end.

And then, a hidden vent opened, allowing a mist the commissioner could neither see nor smell into the room.


Graham waited. And waited. And waited some more… but still no Drake. Maybe he wasn't coming home? Maybe he was somewhere else? 'What if all this time I've been waiting for-'

Graham wasn't even given the time to finish his thought; the cliched priceless-vase-to-the-base-of-the-skull served to intimately acquaint Graham and the cold marble of Timothy Drake's floor.

"That was my mother's favorite vase, I'll have you know. Good thing I never liked it. Hello, what have we here?" Tim asked himself as he simultaneously dialed the GCPD and kneeled down to inspect the contents of Graham's left hand.

"Yes," Tim said upon contacting the police. "Tim Drake. Yeah, I have an intruder in my house, here… mm hmm. Incapacitated. Yes. Well, I'll leave him here for you. Yes. No, I won't be here. Thank you."

Tim disconnected his communicator and looked down at the unconscious Graham. After binding him with his belt, Tim scanned his yard. Sure enough, a strange hovercar was out front. A broad grin erupted from Tim's face as he raced with all the speed he could muster back to the Batcave.


Paolo hated waiting. All he had to do was wait for Graham to knock out Drake, and drive them to court. That's all. But Graham had been gone for quite some time. And Paolo had run out of daydreams, fantasies, and mind games to keep himself occupied. Now he's just bored, and so tired…

The sound of the back door opening brought Paolo's senses back. He was awake now. Graham was back, the waiting was over, and all was well. Paolo turned to his partner.

"So what took you so-oh my God!"

Graham was not in the backseat… no, instead there was a creature that had to have stepped straight out of a nightmare. Completely black with a large red BAT emblazoned on his chest… it looked like a man… but it emanated such an intimidating sense of fear…

Paolo wanted to scream as the dark thing reached towards him, clasping his collar, pulling him towards it…

'IT DOESN'T HAVE A FACE!' Paolo thought in a fevered panic. 'OH, GOD! IT DOESN'T HAVE A FACE!!'

"You're friend couldn't make it," the thing said in a dark whisper. "Don't you think we'd better go along without him?"

"Y…y…y…y…yes… I…" Paolo stuttered, unable to coherently string anything more together.

"Drive." The dark thing commanded. Paolo could only nod as he lifted off into the sky…


Mark Grayson woke once more with a fresh headache. At the very least, the bright lights were gone this time, but his arms and legs were still bound. And this time, he was not alone.

As the fog faded from Mark's vision he could see that he was, indeed, in a courtroom. There was the judge's bench that he'd thought he saw before. There were a good fifteen people sitting behind Mark, to the best of his estimation. There was some large man leaning on the bench… maybe a bailiff.

There was no jury box.

The large man audibly cleared his throat.

"All rise," the large man said, trying to keep a smile from his face as he glanced at the bound commissioner. "The honorable Judge Swann presiding."

A thin man wrapped in the flowing robes of a magistrate stepped up to the bench. Mark could not believe his eyes.

"M-Maxie?"

The judge smiled.

"Hello, cousin." Came the same deep, monotonous voice that had toyed with Mark from afar. "I trust your wait was not too long? We do our best to expedite justice around here."

"Justice? What?" Mark started.

"Silence, cousin. Bailiff, the charges, if you please."

"Mark Allan Grayson is hereby charged this day with conspiracy to destroy true justice."

"True justice? What are you…"

"Cousin, please! We've had our eyes on you for quite some time. You talk a good game, and you log a lot of hours, certainly, at your office. But what have you done, truly, to aid justice? Nothing. Crime is still rampant on the streets. Too many go unpunished. It must be made known, my dear 'commissioner' that no one is above or beyond justice. Even if they are beyond the law."

"What are you talking about?"

"I talk no more, cousin." Max said as he pulled a small, silver coin from his pocket. "Now, I act. Will you go free, or will you be put to death? Will you continue allowing such mockeries of justice to occur if given a second chance? Or will you be forced to wonder in the last moments of your life if someone will take care of your cat? We shall find out, cousin. All through a simple flip of the…"

A crash came from overhead, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. A dark figure was swinging down from a skylight no one had previously noticed, splaying shards of broken glass throughout the interior of this Kangaroo Court.

The fifteen angry men seated behind Mark were immediately on their feet, shooting at the intruder, rendering this flying man a corpse in rather short order.

After the maddening din of the semiautomatic weaponry had died down, the bailiff cautiously approached the dead man that swinging like a pendulum a mere six feet from the floor.

"Oh, my… it's Paolo!" the Bailiff exclaimed before noticing a small piece of paper attached to Paolo's collar. "Quiet! Quiet! There's a note… 'Look up.'"

The collected mass of the courtroom, Grayson included, were all looking towards the skylight when the doors to the courtroom burst open. Everyone turned to see a mass of darkness… with a giant, red bat emblazoned across his chest.

"No one ever expects the front door," the darkness laughed. He then produced a gun from beneath his cloak, took aim, and shot every armed member of the Kangaroo Court.

The gun was filled with some specially prepared darts, containing one of the most powerful sleeping agents known to man. The men were unconscious before they felt the pricks of the darts.

Batman took one final bead, knocking the bailiff into oblivion. And then, the gun was out of darts.

"It looks like I'll have to do you the old-fashioned way," Batman said to the 'judge', smiling beneath his mask.

Batman charged the judge's bench with a speed that surprised even him; he'd never been that fast in his life. It must be the adrenaline. He leapt at the judge, but to no avail. The thin man had already disappeared through a hidden trap door, a definite perk to paranoia.

Batman embarrassingly hit the wall. But, to his credit, he was up immediately and over to Grayson, untying his bonds.

"Tell me you're not supposed to be who I think you are." Mark asked.

"No problem. I'm Wonder Woman. Doesn't this cape just do wonders for my figure?"

"What?"

"Go home, commissioner. You've had a trying day. Pun intended. Leave by the front door, you'll know how to make it from there." And with that, Batman shot a line into the air, disappearing through the skylight, leaving Mark Grayson with a huge feeling of disarray.


EPILOGUE


Tino Merani was bathing when he heard the door creak. Looking up, he saw a disheveled Maxie Swann.

"What's your problem, Swann?"

No reply.

"Swann? You got Drake, right?"

No reply. However, this time, Swann did reveal the glint of a blade to Merani.

"Hey, what are you…"

"Silence. All was going to plan, Merani. All was going well. My insufferable cousin was ABOUT to pay for his crimes when all of a sudden… an intruder. Who else knew of our location, Merani? Who did you tell?"

"No one, I swear!" Tino said, nervously eyeing the knife. Another glint soon caught his eye… it was a coin.

"We shall see, Mr. Merani, we shall see." Swann said, flipping the coin high into the air…


**END**

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