Disclaimer: I do not own "The Batman".

Betaed by: Zim'smostloyalservant ad Trackula.


Yin Yang

Arc 2

The Vigilante

Chapter 4

Masks

Ellen Yin was not a vigilante. It was important to keep that in mind, she told herself, as she left the latest would-be assailant groaning in the alley.

She was not like the Batman, dramatically flaunting the law with a stupid costume and high-tech tools. Even if he had noble motives, everything about him screamed pre-meditated actions and a certain vanity of wanting people to know he was out there. And of course, he went looking for trouble, rushing to a scene or lying in wait.

That was not what Ellen Yin did. She wore the mask, and sunglasses under it, to avoid awkwardness regarding her face when jogging. Eventually she would have to do without, but putting herself out there was the first step. The leather gloves were likewise a style choice, a bit of protection she could slip on quickly if she had to interact with something filthy.

The knuckledusters? Well, that was a bit of common sense, as her routes had the tendency to see her come across trouble. It was nothing extreme; she had endured rants from gun owners on far more petty circumstances they touted to justify carrying. Her routes were needlessly dangerous bordering on provocative? It was a free city, a citizen shouldn't have to limit themselves to so-called safe parts.

And it wasn't like she kicked someone's a** every night. As much as two weeks might go by without her taking a swing at anything more than her punching bag. The fact the lack of "action" made her feel cranky, and her coincidental fights brought relief? Well, she tried her hardest not to acknowledge it.

Sweating but breathing steadily, she finished her combo with a vicious kick to the punching bag. Not some movie material to look cool, a simple brutal move to finish the fight. She was a bit disappointed, though, that the bag didn't break or tear loose from its tethers.

'What, I watch movies just like most people,' she defended herself to no one.

Doing some quick stretches to cool down from the workout, she then grabbed a cup filled nearly to the brim with water. A good little trick to make sure you drank slowly. The towel, grabbed for sweat, currently pressed to keep the water from leaking out.

She'd gotten used to that, reflexively grabbing something or pressing her free hand to her ruined cheek when she was about to take a drink.

Having rehydrated, she began to pad herself down in her workout clothes. Nothing she would wear to a gym, but in solitude she could simply think about cooling and movement. And it was gratifying.

She was in the best shape of her life, a silver lining from this pension-funded existence. She'd never been soft, but now she was iron. Not some roided-out woman, but she expected more than a few guys would be intimidated or just turned off by her strong muscle tone.

She'd beaten Ethan more times than not when she got him into a spar. She'd told him time and again he was too nice in a fight. Big guys often made poor fighters. You had the bully types who were stupidly overconfident in their advantages. An then guys like Ethan, you were worried about overdoing it as if they were obliged to bear in mind the sins of the bullies.

Sins? Crimes, she had been taking in too many words from the Doc. The sessions were useless, but also her only hope for getting her life back.

Well, after a shower she could catch a few hours of sleep before it was nighttime again; time for another jog.

X X X

Professor Strange adjusted his glasses as he spoke into his tape recorder, alone in his office.

"The Black Mask vigilante. There is no denying the pattern now, though it is not definitive that one person is behind this spree. A man of below average height, that lures muggers and the like or assaults those committing crimes in some cases. Other than knuckledusters, it is pure physicality, the body as a weapon. No advanced tools, no theatrics. If Batman is the performer on the main drag, this is a technician diligently operating in a home string budget.

"I am certain, despite the claims of a male perpetrator, that the Black Mask is Ellen Yin. The encounters are brief and violent, and the described attire is not meant to display one's gender. All victims so far have been men, so we can attribute it to the macho ego that they would assume the one who beat them was a man. The detective is smart; her attire also conceals any ethnic identity. And while the media have seized on the Black Mask, it is primarily to deride the Batman for inspiring a brutal vigilante. And that is the case is it not? The Black Mask is not a Rogue, but rather a crime fighter. The transformation having progressed but not completed. But she is not static, not by any means.

"I cannot be certain when she started, exactly, to take the law into her own hands; we can only go off of when reports began to reach the ears of authority, and by extension the media. Though I can place an estimate in the detective's visible aggression taking a marked decline. Her actions are rooted in her identity, that of a police officer. And as established previously, she values the role of the 'street cop' above others. She craves that active role, that measurable making of a difference like any other addict, and just like those addicts when denied a legal source she turns to an illegal one.

"I have not broached the subject, too risky at this stage that if confronted she wold retreat into her shell. But I can note her attitude and demeanor in relation to the time of the Black Mask's attacks. The relief and reduction of hostility when performing her 'duty' and her growing anxiety when denied.

"Ah, but escalation sets in. The first Black Mask incidents were simply a man being defeated. But as time has passed the damage done has grown. Arcing a curse of escalating danger to be discerned, the change would lie in her. The addition of the knuckledusters in particular. While a close call may have occurred I am unaware of, I believe her craving for violence has grown. That, as much as she may insist to herself she is little more than an off-duty cop using unorthodox methods, a violent savage nature is asserting itself. Behind that mask she has started to shed what she was and become something new.

"But still not a Rogue. And I do not think the current trend will take her there. No, the very stubborn nature that has led to the creation of Black Mask acts as a limiter. Another catalyst may be needed.

"It is beyond my ability to supply such a thing. No matter. Patience is a virtue often spoken of but so rarely practiced. My role must be for the moment to merely document and maintain these conditions. I have little doubt that Gotham shall provide the circumstances to shatter this status quo. And I will be ready to observe how the pieces of Ellen Yin, the Black Mask, fall."

X X X

Alfred slid the tray by his master, meal and a pressed newspaper on it. He was well aware how much news could be gained through the computer; old-fashioned did not mean ignorant. However, it was his prerogative to tear young Master Bruce from his screens and training whenever he could. For such an intense man, a little redundant luxury like eating and perusing the local paper was something that should be invested in.

The fact he was actually willing to read the paper helped. He claimed it let him gauge the public reaction in a way pure data did not.

"The Black Mask again."

"Indeed sir, at this rate you will be challenged as a Gotham institution. But never fear, this fellow lacks your panache. Though in fairness, it's not every man who can dress up like an animal and be taken seriously," Alfred commented.

"Panache is hardly the thing this vigilante is most lacking, Alfred," Bruce said, turning from the paper to the screen, where a few keystrokes brought up images of some of the victims.

"Whoever the Black Mask is, they are getting worse in their treatment of criminals. At first it was just about winning, but now, this is sadistic."

"...Pardon me, sir, but given your own penchant for bam, pow, zam, is that not rather the pot casting shade upon the kettle?"

"Zam? I wasn't aware I was using magic on anyone," Bruce said with a half smile.

"The sound effects aren't the point, sir! The point is that you may be leveling the same accusations at this vigilante that Chief Rojas and others are at you. Delving into this matter may require you to confront certain truths," Alfred insisted.

"No, Alfred. I won't say I'm blameless; it's likely I inspired this vigilante. But our methods aren't the same. The costume, the high-tech tools. They aren't just for winning, they give me the room I need where I can do what needs to be done while putting my opponents at as little risk as I can. I stop the people the GCPD and other departments can't, but when they are stopped they go into the system as intact as I can manage. Whatever their intention, this Black Mask is inching over the line. If something isn't done soon, he will become a murderer."

"And you want to be the one to bring them in? Or perhaps you want to deputize them? Show them your ropes and a better way?"

"Is that approval or disappointment, Alfred?" Bruce asked.

"I'm not sure. And that wasn't an answer to my question," Alfred admitted.

"Well, I guess I don't have an answer. I haven't crossed paths with this Black Mask yet. We can't even be sure all these attacks were made by the same person. Whether they need guidance or a cell, it will all come down to whoever's behind that mask."

Frowning Batman looked up at a new image a sketch artist rendering of the Black Mask vigilante.

X X X

It had been another bad outing. Incredible how dirty the city turned when you weren't walking the streets as a cop, Yin thought, settling down on a floor mat. Still nothing to get mixed up in. The couch, like most of the furniture, had been pushed off to the side but she did not mind sitting on the floor.

Turning on the TV with the remote, she hoped to catch the weather. Not that it would stop her going out. She'd discovered a satisfaction to pushing through her routine in the face of he elements. Still, it was good to know what you were facing.

The news came on wth the Batman, of course...

Had she lingered on the news, she would have been quite interested in the next story. Instead, the highlight of the day for her was being surprised that her cupboards were well stocked, having been certain she needed to order more.

X X X

Cash Tankinson was enduring another "Chief Moment", as he had come to call them. Though Cash Tankinson admitted it was not a perfect label, as it was not brief.

Namely, the Chief had yet again called them together to vent his feelings on the Black Mask. Which, while a dumb name, was a a big deal Cash Tankinson admitted. Still, Chief needed to calm down - a man his age, and so out of shape, it was not healthy. Not like Cash Tankinson, who was and would remain a highly-maintained, finely-tuned engine of law enforcement.

Oh, and it seemed this time Black Mask had stuck a pimp with his own stiletto. Hmm, irony or pragmatism, Cash wondered, rubbing his chin. Hmm, if it were him, irony would be a motivating factor, but this guy lacked even Batman's flare for the dramatic. He got an impression of a killjoy. Like his school teachers, always telling Cash Tankinson to take off those sunglasses.

While Cash Tankinson was no rebel, the fact was he was an awesome cop, and still had his shades, while they were either retired or still stuck in a classroom. Point, Cash Tankinson.

"Detective Tankinson, do you have any thoughts on this?" the Chief asked icily.

'Oh crap, was he still talking about Black Mask?' Cash wondered, looking to the chart with strings connected to crime scenes and the artist's depiction of the thug vigilante.

Well, mother said, when you can't lie well, tell the truth and hope for the best.

"No sir, no thoughts. Just taking it in," Cash Tankinson said. He gave a smile, smooth as a pair of silk briefs. Cash Tankinson even amazed himself sometimes.

"Right, what about you, Detective Bennett? You seem like a man who wants to say something. More sympathy for vigilantes?" the Chief asked.

Cash Tankinson looked to his partner with some concern. While his partner's style and his didn't mesh perfectly, he had a fondness for the guy. And he'd gotten to meet Bruce Wayne through him; getting to meet and greet with a celebrity was one heck of a friend feature in Cash Tankinson's book.

Bennett was a good cop, but he had a hangup on seeing the best in some people, including the Bat.

"Black Mask is a criminal. It's become quite clear they don't have the Batman's sense of restraint, and they have never gone out of their way to make sure their victims are picked up by the police or get prompt medical attention," Bennett said.

Cash Tankinson realized he must have sighed a bit too loudly, with the eyes on him. He had not pressed he matter of Black Mask, figuring some bells were better left unrung. But it looked like he had been worrying for nothing.

And hey, he wasn't alone. The tension in the room had broken up a good bit since it seemed like they were all on the same page. Go team!

"But," Ethan began, and Cash Tankinson's good mood took a dip, "This latest crime, clearly attempted murder with a knife, it seems too much. The escalation over these months has been gradual, like someone slipping bit by bit toward that line. This is like a leap."

That did get some murmurs from the gathered officers.

"We're dealing with a maniac, Bennett. These days, it's hardly even extreme to pull a knife on someone with the Freaks we have," another detective remarked.

"Maybe, but it has me wondering if this is the same Black Mask. We really know less about this guy than the Batman. Honestly, we're not even sure it's a guy, are we? Face covered, closed jacket and gloves? Who knows if they're young or old, American or foreign? For all we know, this might have been some unrelated murder attempt using the Black Mask persona as a distraction."

The Chief let the murmuring die down before speaking.

"That's a possibility, but it's not really relevant. If there's one Black Mask or ten, man or woman, we need them caught. We are facing the possible start of a vigilante epidemic; this knock-off Batman has gone on too long. Bring them down," the Chief ordered.

Cash Tanknison nodded with a grin; villain or vigilante he'd gladly bring this Black Mask down. He failed to notice the more reserved look on his partners face.

X X X

'So help me, if you declare him public enemy number one...' Bennett thought with a burst of anger as the chief continued. He liked to think the best of his fellow cops. Theirs was a hard job in general, and Gotham City was pushing the profession to its limit, with many good cops burning out and rumors of lowered standards just to replenish the ranks.

But his confidence in the Chief was fairly dead. The man, for all his talk Bennett felt, was more out to soothe his own ego by catching the vigilantes and hoping that would somehow end the villain epidemic. Still, he didn't make any such grand gesture as had seen Yin be targeted by the Joker. It was all behind the scenes, new priorities and budget redirection.

Yin... he had been waiting for her to reach out, as told. But so much silence after all this time. Did she think he'd forgotten her? How was she even doing? Or was it just over, he wondered as the meeting broke up and Tankinson started taking about little and less.

'Huh, phrased like that it sounds like we were a couple?' he thought with amusement. He'd never really thought of her like that. Well, okay, when she first crossed his path, he wasn't blind after all. But she'd made it clear from the starting gate she was not looking for a boyfriend, and even if she was, office relationships were a door better bricked over. No spinning that as hard to get or any such BS; Ellen Yin gave it to you straight and you found yourself nodding before you realized it.

Yeah, no kissing or stuff. But still, the thought she might just leave his life without a word? After everything they had been through? That actually scared him a bit.

He'd have to talk to Bruce, but some other time. The Chief was right this time, if only on accident. The matter of the Black Mask was better closed sooner than later, and they all needed their heads in the game.

X X X

"Who did this?" the Batman asked, kneeling beside the thug propped back against the alley wall. The thug breathed heavily through a mouth that held cracked teeth and dribbled blood, one eye already swelling shut.

He was the least worked over here, with two others in worse shape. The thug glared at him with his good eye, as a light rainfall started to fall.

"Your buddy, Black Mask," the thug coughed.

"I want to stop them."

"Eh? What? Don't like competition? Figures; cops hate you, why'd you be any different? World's f-ed up these days."

"Can you tell me anything? Did they say anything?"

"Nothing. No 'freeze' or doing a fancy pose. We was working... And then bam. Bastard."

Batman glanced over to the lady's purse lying on the alley floor and not far from there a pair of discarded high-heeled shoes. The street outside had light traffic on the sidewalk this time of night. He would guess they lurked and grabbed.

Had Black Mask been lucky? Or had he been stalking these men, profiling them and waiting for them to commit a crime and act?

"The police and ambulances are already on their way," Batman said. The thug watched him get up and walk away, that cape trailing on the alley floor. He thought about some insult to hurl at the costumed freak, but in a blink, the Batman was gone.

X X X

An impostor. Yin was not sure how she felt about that, as she jogged through the backways. On the one hand, she did not like a violent criminal using her as a smokescreen, but on the other it was not like the Black Mask label mattered to her. She was not the Batman; she did not carefully craft this and dedicate herself to it. It was just the way luck had worked out. The fights were just self-defense or civic duty, the mask for the sake of avoiding the awkwardness of her face. It was just the bizarre way the dice had landed.

Black Mask was a pretty lousy name, too. The media was really scrapping the bottom. Hmm, though she supposed "Batman" was pretty on the nose too, when you step back and think about it.

"Mo... Where's my money?!" she heard from nearby, somewhat muffled. Stopping and cocking her head, she listened. Ah, there it was, the sound of a glass bottle being broken. Loan sharking with dummies? Or just old protection scam with cliche leg-breakers?

Yes, two she confirmed, looking around the corner. One big guy holding a man against the wall, a bit off his feet. Classic intimdation tactic, that. And a smaller guy dressed a bit better, doing the talking and brandishing the bottle.

Hmm, the victim was African-American with the other two being white. Hate crime? Well, it didn't matter much, in this case. Crime was still crime, with or without intention. And now they were cutting the poor man's cheek with the broken bottle.

Guilt free action.

Speed was key. These guys were confident, not expecting anyone to interrupt. Criminals never stopped because of Batman because they felt that they were beneath even his notice, or in the big city he could be in only so many places at once. Likewise, the talk of Black Mask? What are the odds of crossing paths with that masked lunatic, they think?

One, not a lunatic. And two, 100% tonight.

Her shoes were steel-toed work boots; it took some doing to get down running or jogging comfortably in them. But it meant with a bit of knowhow, she could kick like a mule. So the big guy first, to reduce danger to the hostage. Attack low before he can react.

A good hit, his victim stumbling to the ground made him unconsciously step back even as he practically went to one knee from the hit. Low enough for a hook into his face going up, moving between him and the victim. Overhead strike might tempt some, but better to attack the face than the top of the skull.

She felt the jaw break as her punch connected, knuckleduster and all.

He was down; he'd need some serious willpower or medication to get back up in a hurry from that. And this was just a thug.

"What the heck!" little guy screamed, back-peddling. Stupid, he could have tried to force an opening, take advantage of her footing being hindered by the guy and wall behind her and the thug at her feet. But he was a coward; he retreated.

"Black Mask!" he cursed. Stopping, odd, but too late; she'd recovered and stepped clear. He wasn't in good shape, smoker too, she can smell it. He can't out run her, and if he had a gun he'd have pulled it.

Him throwing the broken bottle was a surprise. There was no time to dodge, so she took it on her left arm, ducking her head. The jacket was thick enough, it seemed, cracking and failing to break. It didn't feel like any cuts. But, she picked a bit of glass that had smacked and stuck to her mask. She thought of it cutting through to her face.

What was left of her moth settled into a scowl. The perp was running.

He didn't get far.

X X X

"Can't you give me something to go on? Percentage or something, anything?" Yin asked as she sat on the couch, looking at Strange. The office was the same as always, uncomfortable. But visiting Arkham had lost its mystique; she could probably drive the route from here to her apartment in her sleep.

Which, seeing as she took a cab, was not something she was particularly proud of.

"It's not that simple. Many have tried to apply such metrics to the field, but each patient and case is so unique... I am of the school that prefers to forgo a tool that seems to do more harm than good. But I can say to you that I think you are making progress."

"I'm sensing a 'but' there," she said flatly.

"Of a sorts. You have clearly dedicated yourself to your physical health, which is commendable, rebuilding your self-esteem and striving for clear goals and control over your daily life. It shows you retain a drive to achieve. But I cannot help but feel you have plateaued. That, as far as you have come, you are facing a wall that has halted your progress. Tell me, do you feel beyond the Joker, beyond your face, beyond your career, that something is pressing upon you? Standing in your way?"

"...don't like Batman," she grumbled.

"That is a matter of public record. I understand Chief Rojas has actually commended you for having 'the right attitude' toward the Batman."

"You'd probably like to get him in here, eh Doc?" Yin remarked. It brought a fleeting smile to her face the Batman in Arkham Asylum.

"Oh yes. He would make a fascinating patient, for so many reasons. But let us not get distracted. Is there some deeper resentment to the Batman beyond the mere illegality of his acts?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"Is it?"

"...He makes it look easy."

"Go on."

"The Chief actually said it well, he makes us look like clowns. One man is seen to do a better job protecting and serving this city than the GCPD. It's not a perfect system, but it's a system, okay. Batman's just a man, under all the theatrics and tricks. And he's pulled so much stuff off by the skin of his teeth. The whole situation should be seen as deplorable, but people see him as a hero. Even some cops who should know better!"

She took a breath and steeled herself, realizing her hands had balled into fists. Strange's scribbling off notes was the most audible sound as she let it sink in.

"You envy the Batman?"

"No... I don't think so."

"Hmm, is it because he remains intact while you have been damaged, despite him throwing himself into danger? Do you feel perhaps that he should be the one cast out and hiding his face? Do you resent him, for the fact that the first time he has failed to pull it off 'by the skin of his teeth' was the time you needed him?"

"...The Batman is a criminal. I don't need anymore reason, Doc. Cop and criminal, simple formula."

"And if you were no longer a cop, what then?"

"Nothing," she slipped.

"Nothing what?"

"Uh, never mind. But anyway, even if I am cut fully loose, I still have the mind of a cop, and that means Batman is no good."

"Very good. Our time is almost up, but I feel we have had a very good session. I believe, though, you should begin to truly test your boundaries, Detective Yin. Otherwise your growth will simply be an exchanging of one prison cell for a larger one. Think about what it is you need to overcome to achieve peace of mind," Strange said, tapping his fingers.

X X X

He followed the news in his hideout. He never thought of it as a home. There was only one place that could claim that to any degree, and he was working now.

It pleased him to think of himself as Fake Mask for the time being. A cheap label for a dime role. Still, even the best performer must, at times, stoop low for the sake of the production company.

Fact was, this city did not have the room for Batman knock-offs like this Black Mask running round. The police had proven useless, and Batman was better suited to catching baddies than this B-lister, apparently. Well, it's just like the old saying, you want something done right you do it yourself.

And it seemed the media had taken his bait, hook line and sucker. Lumping his darker, edgier deeds in with the original knock-off. Which, if he was reading the situation right, would tick them off enough to make them come out of hiding. Why waste time turning the town upside down for an off-market imitation, when you could bait them into a trap?

A simple enough ploy. Take the Black Mask look and apply it to villainy, something big and loud. The police would come, the Batman would come... and the Black Mask would come. If not to clear his name, than at least to reclaim the title from Fake Mask. And then he'd kill the knock-off artist like the no talent hack he was, Fake Mask thought, kicking the TV off the table for effect.

Yes, complex method was often best applied to simple, reachable goals, he thought, turning his back on the dying device and taking a seat at a paper-laden skewed desk.

The stage was set, he just needed to buckle down and get the script hammered out. Just because this was a lesser role with an off circuit performance was no reason to loosen standards. The goal of even the most petty performance, was to knock 'em dead.


Authors Note:

I am quite pelased to get back to work on this. For a long time I hung up on describing Yin's first outing as Black Mask, but after getting pumped reading MHA Vigilantes, I realized it was not worth it to hang up this story over that scene. Hope it can still interest even slipping that part.

For that matter it will be interesting to see if anyone os still interested in this story. Three years, dang.

Anyway for my AU take here there is no Black Mask already established as a criminal in Gotham. As I understand it Roman didn't even debut in the series until later. So fir this AU Yin's Black mask is the original.

Low standard that it is I hope to get the next chapter out sooner. Hope you liked this short chapter.

Long days and pleasant nights to you all; stay safe out there!