Batman: Dead of Knight

Gothamite

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Chapter One of Part One of a Trilogy I hope to write. Basically, Batman going up against a SPECTRE-like international organisation called 'Warlock' (not an acronym).

I won't post the whole thing here, but here's the first chapter, anywho. It's rough and the first thing I've written in a long while, so be kind.



Batman: Dead of Knight


by Gothamite


1

Gotham City

The outskirts of the city were deafeningly silent, as the armoured car chugged on down the road that led to the mountainous countryside. The two nervous soldiers sitting in the driver and passenger seats made no attempt at conversing with one another. The severity of this mission was too great for pleasantries and they knew that their respective careers were on the line. The cargo in this truck had to be delivered safely to a heavily secure processing plant ten miles outside of the city, with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of efficiency. Efforts had been made to make the car seem as inconspicuous as possible, so as to throw the criminal element off the true nature of the vehicle. This logic seemed preposterous to the two men in the front of the car and the two men in the back guarding the precious crate. Why minimize security when three similar shipments had been attacked in the space of a week? The chilling thought that maybe the owners of this cargo wanted it to be stolen for whatever reason crossed the minds of all four men in the car and they shivered in turn. They repeatedly blocked this notion out of their heads and tried to think about something to help them escape from this tense atmosphere. Wives, girlfriends, the big game on Saturday, their brother's wedding, their mother-in-law's meatloaf, the beautiful supermodel whose image adorned the billboard on the side of the road; anything that would keep them in high spirits. Unfortunately, escapist fantasies wouldn't help these men.

The first sign of warning came from a sickening crunch as the car seemed to lose suspension on the back left-corner. One of the wheels had been taken out. Luckily, the car could continue on, as there was another wheel suspending the eight-wheeler vehicle. Straight away, the driving soldier realised that their enemies were using armour-piercing rounds from some sort sniper rifle. These were professionals. And the soldiers were in big trouble. The two guys in the back of the car opened the small gun hatches on the rear doors of the vehicle and pointed them out, towards the road. The enemy car was visible at two o'clock. With shaking hands, they fired a few shots, but the enemies were swift and skilful drivers, managing to avoid all but one shot, that hit their headlight. The guards continued shooting at their enemies, to little avail.
The driver of the car was breathing very heavily and perspiring with fear at the thought of being subdued and possibly killed by these criminals. He forced himself to concentrate on the road as he pressed down hard on the accelerator. It would only be a few minutes before the man beside him got through to headquarters, who would sent air-support and they'd be here in no time. Yes, he thought...no time at all...

“Aaarghh!” The driver screamed, realising that the attack on the rear-wheel was just a diversion. His grip on the wheel softened as the screaming nerves in his hands overcame his ability to grasp the wheel's sides. One of the criminals had broken through the windscreen and was lunging towards him. The masked terrorist grabbed hold of the car's steering wheel and jerked it to the right, causing the car to careen off the side of the road. The driver lost consciousness as the masked man clubbed him in the face with some sort of blunt weapon. The passenger grabbed the assailant's attacking arm and tried to jerk him out of the way, but was met with a bullet to the face. Blood sprayed out of the unfortunate man's forehead as the shooter cackled with glee. As the car slowed to a halt, with the driver unconscious and no longer pressing down on the accelerator, the murderous criminal opened the front door and let the unconscious driver's limp form spill out onto the street. He then pressed down hard on the accelerator, continuing the vehicle's journey down the long, dead road. The two men in the back were the next to be dealt with, as the masked man took a skeleton key from his jacket and inserted it into a keyhole on the elaborate dashboard of the armoured vehicle. This key activated the armoured car's vacuum controls, causing the rear-side of the vehicle to be purged of all oxygen. The two guards quickly lost consciousness and within seconds they would be dead, when suddenly another blast shook the beaten vehicle. The armoured car was lifted off its now completely severed back-wheels and turned over. The upside-down car skidded across the road for a moment, before slamming into a tree. The two guards inside, awoken from their daze by the commotion; quickly escaped from the rear, suffering only from a few bruises. The terrorist in the driver's seat had a major gash in his arm and he quickly assessed that he was bleeding to death. The headlights of the car shone brightly out onto the road in spite of the damage to the vehicle. He couldn't spot the car his accomplices were driving, anywhere. All he could hear was a dreadful, thundering noise of another vehicle. With his good hand, the terrorist reached for his cellphone to call his missing friends to his aid, when suddenly the headlights went out and someone stamped hard onto his hand, loosening his grip on the phone. He whimpered in pain as he looked up and saw the silhouette of a monstrous, demonic figure that couldn't possibly be a man.

“Talk,” The monster had a voice that sounded like glass being crushed “Who are you and who are you working for?”

The terrorist limply shook his head. In spite of his terror, he couldn't divulge that information. In response to this, the monster pressed down harder.
“Alright! Alright...” The terrorist responded. “But you'll have to protect me-”
A shot was fired from behind the Batman. The Dark Knight watched as the wounded terrorist's eyes rolled sluggishly back in his head, as blood seeped from his head.

Foolish, Bruce thought to himself. When he had rammed the other car off the road, he hadn't accounted on the two other terrorists staying conscious. These men were more professional than he had originally surmised; and now because of his miscalculation, one of them was dead; murdered by his very accomplices, no less. Bruce swung around and rolled onto the ground, avoiding the continuous barrage of fire from the assailant's gun. As soon as he reached the ground, he reached into the left-hand pocket of his utility belt and produced a flash-bang. He launched it at the ground with all of his might and then covered his eyes with his cape. Sure enough, the gunman was thrown off and reached for his eyes, in pain. Bruce caught sight of him and threw one of his 'Batarang' shuriken at the man's hand. By the time the gun hit the ground, Bruce was already descending on the criminal. Alas, once again he failed to take into account the skills of his opponent and was met with a crushing blow to his jaw. Quickly recovering, he responded with a vicious uppercut, knowing his foe backward for a moment. Bruce followed this up with a roundhouse kick to the assailant's chin. The man spun around in the air and hit the ground, hard. Bruce grabbed his enemy by the back of his head and clobbered it off the hard road, ensuring unconsciousness. Bruce leaped back onto his feet and scanned the wide open area for any sign of the third man, who was undoubtedly still conscious. He quickly caught sight of him removing the valuable crate from the back of the wrecked armoured car. What's he going to do with it now, Bruce thought. After all, Batman had already disabled both vehicles. The only other car around was the Batmobile and that wasn't going to be hijacked any time soon. Bruce's question was answered before he even had time to start after the third terrorist. Above him, there loomed the shape of a compact, futuristic-looking aircraft, that zipped right past him, down toward the criminal. A ladder and magnetic harness fell from the craft and the escaping terrorist grabbed the ladder and attached the heavy crate to the harness in one quick, fluid motion. By now, Bruce was running to catch up with him, to foil his escape. The terrorist produced an uzi from his side and sprayed a flurry of bullets at Bruce, breaking his momentum. The aircraft had now begun to move off in the opposite direction. Bruce reached for his grappling gun and fired it at the tail of the craft. The craft's speedy ascent caused him to be yanked into the air. Bruce pressed his thumb onto the retractor button on the gun and he was swiftly pulled towards the tail, as the airship continued to climb up into the sky. He grabbed the tail of the craft with all of his might and began slowly crawling towards the front of the modern craft, breathing as softly as he could, so as to avoid suffocation from the high altitude.

“He's on top of the airship!” Draco shouted at the pilot. “He'll make us crash!”
“Will he?” The pilot smiled with glee as he pressed down on one of the many buttons on the control panel of the airship. An electro-magnetic current ran through the body of the airship. The two men breathed a sigh of relief as they heard Batman's scream of agony as the current shocked him. Ivan ran to the rear window and laughed when he saw the vigilante's limp form plunging down towards the ground.

The icy cold slap of the wind was Bruce's only saving grace. He quickly came to his senses as he continued to fall. Very calmly, he pressed his hands to his sides and moved his feet together. He pointed his head down towards the ground and closed his eyes. This manoeuvre would take perfect timing and expert precision. If he left his eyes open for too long, he ran the risk of blindness from the rate at which the air was smacking into him. If he tried to activate his glider-cape too soon, the sheer force of the air would rip it apart, dooming his chances of survival. He kept his eyes closed and counted to himself in his mind. Seven, six, his calculations had to be correct...four, three, please God, two, one...
“Now!” Bruce shouted as he grabbed the sides of his specially created cape with his high-tech gloves, causing it to turn into a rigid wing. He came so close to the ground that his foot almost brushed off the grass before he ascended safely back into the air, his speed slowing. As he reached a safe distance, at a safe speed, he gently let go of the cape, allowing it to return to its flowing form. He felt a slight sting as his feet slammed clumsily into the ground. The adrenaline was already starting to subside and he suddenly felt very faint. His knees buckled and he fell onto the soft grass. He wasn't going to lose consciousness, but he was certainly exhausted and in need of some rest. He reached for his belt and pushed a button on the back side of it. After a few minute's rest on the grass, he heard the familiar thunder of his Batmobile as it roared up toward him from its original vantage point, several miles down the road. He rolled onto his side and pressed himself up. His feet still stung from the rough landing, his head ached from the sudden energy crash and his whole body felt itchy from the chafing of his damaged armour, because of the electric current from the airship. With all of this bother, he reached into the glove compartment of the car and removed a painkiller, which he promptly swallowed. At the very least, his headache subsided, as he climbed into the car.

Although every muscle in his body told him to head straight back to the Batcave and get some valuable rest, Bruce decided to head back to the scene of the carjacking. Gordon and his men would no doubt be crawling all over the road, setting up roadblocks and allowing forensic detective to contaminate all of the valuable evidence. As Bruce approached the barren road, he parked the Batmobile behind the billboard of the beautiful supermodel. Once he had turned off the engine and all of the lights, the sleek vehicle lost any trace of its previous conspicuousness and almost seemed to blend into the shadows. Bruce proceeded to skulk through the grass, trying to remain as unnoticeable as possible.

***

Jeremy Fox of the CIA took his first cigarette of the night (or the morning, depending on how he wished to view his nicotine habit at 3am) and pressed it into his mouth as a forensic scientist examined the dead, bloody body of a masked terrorist, whose figure lay sprawled out of a over-turned armoured car; wrecked beyond repair. Beside this masked man lay the body of another gunshot victim; an innocent soldier by the name of Terry Keen, a man with a wife and an unborn child. A few feet behind Fox was Commissioner Jim Gordon, stressed out of his mind as he watched the unconscious body of another criminal being hoisted onto a stretcher by paramedics who were being very difficult and inconsiderate of this delicate and unusual crime scene. The key factor of this situation was the unconscious man's gun and how it had been used to kill the other terrorist, lying dead at Fox's feet. Both Gordon and Fox knew that the Batman had probably played some part in this, but neither of the two men spoke to any other officer of this, fearing another in a long line of unnecessary and pointless probes into the Dark Knight and his vigilante escapades by some hotshot detective looking to make a name for his or herself, rather than all of the energy and attention of the cops being given to the case at hand. Nevertheless, Fox wanted to speak with Batman. This whole situation was messy and Fox hadn't failed to notice that the contents of the armoured car, three HawkSoft Pulse Rifles, weren't anywhere to be seen.

“The third man escaped in one of Wayne Enterprises' new XK-101 airships,” said a growling, foreboding voice from behind the wreckage. “Those crafts haven't even been unveiled yet.”
The cigarette fell limp in Fox's mouth as he saw the black and terrible figure of the Batman rise from behind the broken down armoured car. Fox's eyes were drawn to the bat-symbol on the Dark Knight's chest, which seemed to be almost a branding from a higher demonic power. Horns sat sharply on the backsides of the Batman's head, adding to the almost satanic appearance of the vigilante. Batman's eyes blazed at Fox, as though he was staring through his soul. Fox knew better than to suspect that Batman was more than just a man, but it was very difficult at times. “Jesus, I wish you'd call first...” Fox said, sucking on his cigarette.

“What are you doing here, Jay?” Batman asked. “You're CIA. This is federal stuff. Surely you're out of your jurisdiction?”

“Those were the fourth and final batch of HawkSoft guns on their way to Central City for processing,” Fox answered. “All twelve of those advanced rifles are now in the hands of drug-runners in South America. That's my jurisdiction.”

Batman ignored Fox's retort as his claw-like forefinger and thumb touched his chin, in contemplation. “HawkSoft developed the AI software for those airships...” Batman pointed out.

“You think there's a connection?” Fox inquired.

“I think there's a possibility,” Batman responded, as he picked up some fragments of the dead man's cellphone.

“Gordon!” Fox turned around to beckon the police commissioner. Gordon swerved his head over to Fox in response, then the grey-haired man pointed one of his stiff fingers at the inexperienced paramedics to inform them that he wasn't quite finished with them. As he walked briskly toward the dark-skinned man, Fox noticed that a smile was played wistfully across the Commissioner's lips.
“What is it?” Fox asked. Gordon pointed towards the wreckage of the armoured vehicle. Batman was nowhere to be seen.

“Damn it!” Fox cursed.

“It takes some getting used to,” Gordon smiled. “Now are you going to let me know what's going on, here?”

“Look, Jim all I can tell you is that some high-tech weapons have been stolen and that off the record, we're following a circumstantial evidence that suggests that the perpetrator of the theft is someone working for, or Gaspar Hawk, himself.”

“Off the record?” Gordon asked, pushing his thin glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“Whether I like it or not, I'm getting some outside help from an old friend of yours,” Fox said, taking the remainder of his cigarette and stomping it into the ground with the heel of his shoe.

“Okay,” Gordon said, crossing his arms, “I'll let you play it close to the chest and if he can help you in any way, that's fine, but if anyone else dies in my city because of this thing, I'm going to have to go public with it and pursue an investigation, myself.”

“Believe me, Jim,” Fox said worriedly, “I almost wish this only concerned your city.”

***
The Batmobile raced through the outskirts of the city, homeward bound. If Bruce's hunch was right, he had been dead right about Gaspar Hawk, head of HawkSoft, from the very beginning of Wayne Enterprises' joint venture with the French software firm, a project which had begun nearly a year previous. From reading about him in the financial pages, Bruce was well aware that the man was a ruthless snake when it came to business, but that was nothing knew to Bruce Wayne, the principal stockholder of one of the biggest multinationals in the world. Lucius Fox performed his usual courtesy check on HawkSoft's books before Bruce ever signed a dotted line and the firm seemed clean enough (other than a few cases of South American factories that had been shut down because of a lack of respect for workers' rights), but as soon as Bruce made the acquaintance of Gaspar Maximilian Hawk in person, he knew that there was something he found repulsive about the man in a criminal sense. His shallow, sunken eyes suggested a chain-smoker, and his heavy, red skin suggested a heavy drinker. Again, this was nothing knew, but it was Hawk's aggressive, nervous attitude that worried Bruce. Bruce noticed that Hawk was making skilful efforts to avoid detection of these eccentric, idiosyncratic factors of his behaviour and to most businessmen, they would not even register, but Bruce Wayne was the Batman and arguably the world's greatest detective. Subtle aspects of one's personality tended to stick out a bit more to an individual of his particular occupation.

The Batmobile approached the mountain, atop of which Wayne Manor sat proudly. Rather than driving up the steep hill to the estate, Bruce instead rammed straight through into what appeared to be a solid rock surface. Instead, the Batmobile passed through a sophisticated holographic disguise, and entered into the vast underground cavern that was the Batcave, Bruce's true home and the place which housed his essential tools for fighting crime. The jet-black car thundered on down the initial tunnel, reaching the main garage, where a round, circular turntable was located. Bruce slowed to a halt on the turntable and jumped out of the cockpit of the sophisticated vehicle.

“I trust you shall now be retiring until midday, at the very least?” Alfred asked Bruce as he stumbled out of the car, exhausted.

“I'll rest for an hour or two,” Bruce responded, removing his armoured Batman mask and his aerodynamic cape and placing them in the vault near the Batmobile. “I need to get up after that and read up some more on these weapons heists.”

Alfred raised his eyes to heaven at his master's restlessness. “Just don't forget that Bruce Wayne has to attend a drinks reception with Gaspar Hawk, tomorrow evening.”

“That's tomorrow?” Bruce answered, with unusual enthusiasm for what would undoubtedly be a vapid, social event that he would usually only attend to further his cover as a partying playboy. “That's good, actually. It wouldn't do me any harm to converse further with Gaspar Hawk.”

“Unsure of Mr. Hawk's nobility?” Alfred asked, making his way up the stone steps toward the secret entrance into Wayne Manor.

“No, I just really want to enjoy the taste of a good glass of Bollinger, with some Beluga Caviar and plenty of toast.” Bruce replied, smirking, in spite of his aching body. Alfred carefully pretended not to be amused by Bruce's joke, as he continued up the stairs.

Bruce tore away his high-tech armour from the unprotected seams at the side. The insulation had worked well enough to keep him alive and even from sustaining any notable injuries, but at the same time, the suit was spent after the damaging electric shock. None of its useful functions would work anymore and that could mean the difference between life or death in a dangerous situation. He would have to make do with one of his former, less efficient armour while his trusted ally Lucius Fox conjured up a new battle-suit for him. He was quite certain that Batman would require a sophisticated suit of armour for this peculiar case and Jeremy Fox's father was the only man that could provide such a necessity.
 
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