Six rolls around. I'm back in my little hidey-hole again, hidden very carefully by the aged butler. He's out cold again - man, those darts have some strong knockout serum in them if he's been out for a quarter of an hour. It's no matter. He's perfect bait for Bruce Wayne, who should be home any minute unless Alfred's lied to me.

If he's lied he's going to pay. I've been through too much to stop now.

I bristle from my hiding place. I've elected to move from my previous position behind the computer to a spot over by the docks. Bats won't see me coming until I've already nailed him with a dart. I adjust my aim with the bolas as well as with the silencer. I'm only going to get one shot at this, so I have to make this count.

"Come on, you frickin' rich boy, hurry up before I lose it and eat this man," I mutter grimly to myself.

Then I hear it: the sound of the fireplace sliding back. He's here! My gods, Alfred wasn't bullshitting me! Bruce Wayne is finally here!

I listen to the pitter-patter clank-clank of feet climbing down the ladder. I look up at the ladder and notice him paused around the middle. I look at his slick black suit and patiently combed black hair, note his eyes (they're like little pinpricks). He's clearly confused on why the lights are on. Then he freezes as he's looking around.

"Oh my god! Alfred!"

His voice is dark and masculine, and I hear the urgency suddenly rise as he races down the ladder. He's falling right for it. I can't botch this now. I ready the gun and wait for him to rush over to the butler.

I hear him jump down from the ladder and run towards the butler. He passes my hiding place, and I watch as he kneels down in front of Alfred and starts removing the gag. He takes the butler's pulse (of course, he doesn't realize I wouldn't kill him...) and tries to rouse him. He doesn't notice me as I slowly get up from my hiding place, as I slowly step forward, as I slowly take aim at the back of his neck.

I squeeze the trigger. Out of the gun a tranquilizer dart flies and smacks him right in the back of the neck. The second the gun's done I ready the bolas and the electrical charge, just in case he attacks and the sedative doesn't work.

Batman stops and reaches back at his neck. He pricks his finger on the dart, but doesn't do anything.

He thinks it's a rock! The great detective thinks a tranq dart is a bloody rock!

The great detective - more like -


He manages to pull the gag off of Alfred, but before he can do anything else, he slumps over.

I've got him right where I want him.

I drag him off of Alfred and throw him to the side. I grab a spare set of rope and cuffs, and quickly handcuff his wrists together as well as tie him up around a separate pole. I wrap the bolas around his ankles and make sure the electrical patches are at weak points. Remembering the hidden pagers I found on the butler, I search for those on the rich boy and find two stuffed up his sleeves and one in his left sock. I crush those and chuck them into the water. Now I just need to wait.

Then, because why not, I walk back over to Alfred and remove the gag. It doesn't take long for the butler to wake up.

The first thing he sees is my face. And then he spots Batman tied up.

"Just don't kill him," he begs. "Please."

"We'll see about that, Pennyworth," I growl. "You've proven very useful to me. If you're lucky I'll let you leave here alive. But we'll see about the Bat."

I stand up and start reloading the gun. I've got one last dart, and with this I intend to make Bruce believe I've shot him dead. Of course, I won't have, but we'll see where my final talk with him takes me. I might just rip his face off to punish him. We'll have to see.

It doesn't take him long to wake up. He looks around for a few seconds and then notices Alfred.

"I would have warned you, master Bruce," Alfred says sadly, "but she threatened to kill me if I did."

"She who?" Batman demands.

I snarl abruptly, forcing him to look at me. "Remember me, Bats?"

Batman looks up at me, but I can tell immediately he's puzzled. "Who are you?" he demands.

"Oh my sainted god. Are you that f***ing stupid? You're supposed to be this great detective and you don't even remember me?" I say. "You know who I am. You're the one who named me!" I pause and grin at him wickedly. "It's me, Bats. Heathen's come home."

I watch as pure shock flies over the rich boy's face. He's stunned. "You're supposed to be at Belle Reve!" he snaps at me. "You're supposed to be locked up-"

"I broke out," I reply simply. "The sanitarium's pretty easy when you make the right moves." My jaws crack and tremble, anticipating fresh meat.

Bruce is growing angry. "You're not -"

"Master Bruce, stop!" Alfred protests.

"This monster used you!" Bruce says sternly to him. "What'd she do to you?!"

"Nothing aside from knocking me out," Alfred replies sadly. "Master Bruce, please don't make her any angrier than she already is. You know what she's capable of!"

Slowly Batman's anger fades away. Concern takes its place. "You didn't say anything, did you?"

"Sang like a canary," I cut Alfred off before he can say anything. "As for all the information on me, it's gone. Permanently. I've wiped all the copies from your precious little computer. Also changed the password too, while I was at it." That's a bluff. I haven't changed the passcode; I want Bruce Wayne nervous.

Now I watch as the concern also fades... but not too much. Bruce then decides to try a different tactic. "What do you want out of me?" he asks, his voice calm.

Mistakes were made.

"What do I want?" I look at him. I rip my helmet off of my face and stare at him, let him see my grotesque, deformed jaws. The claws slide out from my fingers in anticipation of striking.

Does this guy THINK I'm THAT stupid!?

"What do I want?!" I erupt. "I want to know WHY!"

I lunge forward on impulse and slug Bruce right across the cheek. His head smacks against the pole and I hear Alfred whimpering and begging me not to hurt him. I continue onwards, slugging him after each sentence. "Why was I created?! Why did you mutate me into this monster!? Why did you send me off to Belle Reve?! Why was I supposed to serve you!?"

I step back and look at his bloody face - and it is bloody. There are blood drops on his shirt from a split lip and a bloody nose. Bruce looks at me.

"Why do I exist?" I demand angrily. "Either you start talking or I get busy munching on your worthless body!" My jaws flex and tingle, smelling the blood droplets.

Bruce takes a moment to gather his thoughts. Then he says, "You were an experiment."

"I got that much from your useless old scag for a butler! Now give me the real reason or I'll rip your f***ing face off!" I growl. I unsheathe my claws and swipe at his face, leaving three long trail marks of blood.

Bruce takes another moment. "Thomas Wayne's wish."

I stop dead. What the hell is he bringing up his dead father for?!

"It... can't... be," Alfred says slowly. "But - that's impossible!"

"I'm afraid it is," Bruce murmurs, quiet now. "There was a clause in his will that, when I was old enough, I had to follow his instructions and attempt to create a perfect soldier. It was his dream, actually. All the abilities of Killer Croc - that was the subject we elected to mimic - but under the complete hold of Gotham's protectors. It was supposed to be his crowning achievement, but - well, I'll spare you the details.

"What we were attempting to do had never been done before. We knew we couldn't take many risks. Using a live human was a bad idea, so we took Jones' DNA and mixed it with a developing embryo." He pauses; I slug him and it convinces him to keep talking. "It went well. You grew relatively quickly; you had crazy strength, claws and your jawbone mutated to what you have now, but you had no memory. So that's when we decided to create a false memory for you, mainly composed of memories of Gotham and myself. We had everything ready in time for your awakening... and then... it went completely wrong."

"How?" I demand.

He looks up at me. "You broke out of your confinement the day your memory was supposed to unlock. You broke out minutes before it was supposed to happen. You slaughtered the staff at the clinic and escaped into Gotham's streets. I had to track you down before you killed anybody else, but I couldn't do it in my usual getup. I donned the Batsuit and took off after you.

"When I found you, I realized immediately that I had to take you out, fast, or your memory would activate and I'd be in trouble. So I attempted to neutralize you... and it all went so badly wrong..." he trails off, ashamed.

I stand there for a moment, all of these words flooding into my mind. I remember him flying at me in his Batman guise... but the words I heard were a mistake. If he was trying to neutralize me, then why did he accuse me of a robbery?

"Why accuse me of a robbery, then?" I say slowly.

"That was a mistake I realized too late," Bruce replies. "The moment I said those words, I realized I'd screwed up, that I'd made you attack. I hurried to incapacitate you, praying your memory hadn't activated, but... I discovered too late that it had. I realized seconds after the transport truck left to take you to Belle Reve that your memory had activated. Whether it was with those words or before those words, I don't know. But I knew at once I'd messed up. I'm sorry. I tried to prevent it -"

"You couldn't accept responsibility for a mistake you made," I snap at him. I turn around, close to choking up. I'm shaking like a leaf. What is all this? "You had me locked up, hoped they'd kill me, because you couldn't accept responsibility for a mistake! My life is a f***ing misery because of you, and what do you do!? YOU PIN IT ALL ON ME!"

I stop talking. I'm shaking so badly.

"I'm sorry." Bruce's so quiet now, his head's bowed low towards the ground. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have done all of this, any of this. I take the blame for everything. Don't feel responsible -"


"Because I was the one who chose to create you!" Bruce finally cries. "I was the one who put everything into motion! I was the one who triggered your memory, the one who had you mutated with the genes of Waylon Jones, the one who designed your concept... I was the one who authorized everything." He pauses. "The Grenade Project, as my father called it, was supposed to be his crowning achievement. Instead... it's his biggest failure, and it's my biggest regret."

I look at him, not sure what to say. He just confessed to destroying my life... I ought to destroy his, but I don't know what to do.

Alfred's fallen silent.

"What, then? I'm supposed to be a dead man's version of a perfect soldier?" I say, my mask back over my face. "What sort of sick vision is that? What sort of sick f*** decides to create a false life and then destroy it?" I pause. "Why the f*** would some sick bastard like Thomas Wayne come up with that?! Why would you even consider following his words when he was attempting to create something that wouldn't even listen to him?!"

Neither person says anything.

"You want to know why?!" I snarl. "Because you just couldn't bear it. You wanted your father to be remembered for something wonderful, something that might have prolonged your city's safety. You might be following your father's orders, but you didn't expect to fail the way you did. I'm your biggest success and your biggest failure, and I'm just about ready to end your miserable life."

"What good would that do?" Bruce Wayne asks quietly.

"Master Bruce -" Alfred begins.

"Shut up, why don't you?!" I snarl at him. "What are you saying, Bats?"

Bruce is still very quiet as he says, "If you kill me, they'll all come after you. Do you realize how much of an impression I have on Gotham? Everyone in the city will come after you if you kill me. The criminals, the police, the citizens... everyone. And they'll treat you even worse than what you've gone through at Belle Reve. You've got to run while you can."

"That'll just give you the excuse to hunt me down and destroy my life even further!" I storm a few meters back. "How do I know you're not lying!? How do I know you're not just stalling for backup?!"

"I'm being dead serious!" Batman cries. "If Bane can snap my back into two pieces, if all those criminals can jump me and nearly kill me, if the public knew I was dead - then who knows what they'll do to you!"

I look around at the Batcave, and then look at the computer.

You know what?! F*** this!

I lunge at the computer, grab a chair and fling it at the monitors with all of my strength. It hits the biggest monitor and goes crashing to the ground, cracking the screen. The monitor teeters and totters… before also collapsing. And when it goes, the whole system goes with it. Monitors fall. Cables fall. Sparks fly as cords are snapped. The keyboard breaks under the pressure, as does the desk the computer's mounted on. It's all destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Bruce looks up at me. "You'd better go, quickly," he says. "I mean no offense, but there's an emergency signal inside that system you just destroyed. It transmits an alarm to the Gotham police chief, and he'll be here in a few minutes."

"He's not joking," Alfred agrees. "He's the only one who knows of master Bruce's real identity behind the cowl."

I pause. "How long do I have?"

"Five to ten minutes."

I grab two gags and stuff them into their mouths. "Then here's how we'll play this," I say. "I'm gagging you both. And then I'm leaving. For good. Don't ever try to find me."

I start towards the back wall, then pause. Then, unexpectedly, I whirl around and point the pistol at Batman again. His eyes widen with horror, like they're begging me not to hurt him.

I fire the last tranquilizer dart into his neck, and he slumps over within seconds. I walk back over to Alfred.

"Don't worry. I kept my word. I won't end his life." Then I add a few slashes to his arms and legs, and two to his chest for good measure. Might as well make him suffer a little more. I do the same thing to Bruce Wayne... and then, on a whim, I break his legs. That'll leave him out of action for a while.

I then head straight for the bat-shaped boat and climb in. I prepare to leave, and then I look at Alfred again.

"When he wakes up, tell him this," I say. "Don't ever try to find me. Don't even attempt to find me. I'm not returning to Gotham. If he does track me down, I'm killing him, regardless of his pleas and whimpers for mercy. I've got his number and I've got his blood. And if he even thinks of tracking me, he'll need to find some new keys first."

I close the boat's lid and start it up.

It doesn't take me long to realize the controls, and I quickly speed out of the cavern and into the night.

I didn't kill him. Out of all my promises to end his life...

I didn't kill him.

I should've killed him.

No. He was right. If I killed him, they'd all come after me. EVERYONE would be hunting me down. And they wouldn't show mercy on me either.

It was the right move.

And now he knows not to mess with the Beast.