BLOODBORNE, a novelization of the graphic novel originally written by Kelley Puckett and illustrated by Toby Cypress
Rationalization: the story that Bloodborne tells is probably one of the best Nightwing/Batman tales I've ever seen, plot-holes aside. Unfortunately, the artwork is so terrible that I have always found it difficult to enjoy the writing. I have wanted to novelize this since I first read it and was appalled at the terrible illustration. Therefore, most of the dialogue is taken from Kelley Puckett's original script, while I hope to paint, with my words, the reality of the story. Needless to say, I will do some tinkering throughout. But that's what fanfiction is all about. :)
Lastly, I must offer an apologetic explanation for any errors you see in the text. I have severe carpal tunnel syndrome and am using Dragon software to write this. I've trained my Dragon well and my beta is superb, but sometimes, mistakes might creep through. So, please, bear with us.
Mega thanks to my beta, Ellen!
Chapter 1 SOMEWHERE NEAR THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
Batman stumbled in the snow. He had been successful in his mission. Maybe too successful. In the distance behind him, his helicopter was in flames. The militia, crudely trained, yet armed with the latest in weaponry, had shot it down. He had to get the vial he held back to civilization. It had be possible to find a cure before it was too late.
He faced off against the militia and fought of the frontrunners, noting that they seemed unsteady on their feet. Their shots were going wild. They had it too. As the ones in the back began falling into the snow, Batman raised his hands into the muzzles of the rifles, the vial glowing dimly in the arctic day. The leader raised his weapon in trembling hands, then gasped and dropped backwards to the snow. His comrades began clutching themselves, finally succumbing to the manufactured virus. Batman turned away. He didn't have much time.
Last chance, Batman muttered to himself, as he slogged through the snow. Need shelter, somewhere. He heard the beat of his heart pounding in his ears and getting louder. He'd been exposed too. The pounding got louder. And louder. Soon he was feeling it in his chest, his heart, struggling to fight off the illness. The pounding became a pain, radiating through his chest and into his arms. Batman's legs dropped from beneath him, leaving him out flat on his back in the snow.
It was no good. He was going to die here. He clawed open his utility belt and removed a batarang-shaped device with glowing lights on it. He had to keep them from looking for him. Dick would find him if he could and he'd die from the same plague. Had to prevent that. Mustering the last of his strength, Batman closed his fingers hard on the device. It made one last beeping noise before it fell silent and the lights dimmed.
Letting his hand fall back into the snow, the Dark Knight prepared for death.
Thousands of miles away, Alfred Pennyworth indulged himself in a cup of tea. It had been a quiet afternoon while he monitored the Master's databanks and, most importantly, the readout on his location. The beacon had not moved in at least half an hour. As he sipped his lapsang souchong, the light on his board winked out. The old butler stared for a long moment. His teacup crashed to the floor, but the light remained dark. He found his way to the phone and made a call.
"Last chance, Grayson," Clancy's voice rang through my door as she pounded energetically on it. "It's a glorious day for Bludhaven… Far too beautiful to stay…" She blinked as she saw my face. I try not to see people on this day. "… inside," she finished lamely.
"Sorry, Clance, can't, not today." I backed away from the door and began rummaging on the table beside it. I really try not to see people on this day and Clancy, while a good friend, shouldn't be burdened with old pain of mine.
"A previous engagement, is it?" Clancy peered curiously into the apartment.
"Yeah, for about twenty years. Today's the day my parents died." I kept on rummaging, a good excuse to keep my face away. Clancy's sharp. I knew that she'd noted my good shirt, complete with cufflinks, Bruce's gift from years ago.
"Oh, I'm truly sorry, Dick," she said contritely. "Will… you be wanting any company, then? I could change—"
"No," I said, shrugging on my jacket. I hadn't put on my sunglasses in time and I knew that Clancy had seen that my eyes were red and puffy. "Thanks, but ... this is something I do alone." I grabbed up my keys, shouldered my way past Clancy, and ran down the stairs, leaving her in the open doorway.
The drive to Gotham is long enough to force you into meditation. I had been living in Bludhaven for about a year, but I had to admit that the flavor of Gotham was different. The traffic was not as onerous, the cars a little newer. Unquestionably, Bludhaven was Gotham's poorer, dirtier sister. There was no doubt in my mind that Bludhaven needed me. Of course, when Batman had begun to protect Gotham, the streets there had been just as greedy and grimy as Bludhaven's were when I moved there. I hoped that when I had been at work a while, Bludhaven's streets would look better too.
I spotted a convertible next to me on the road. A happy family filled the car, the children wearing funny hats, grasping ice cream and cotton candy. In the back I could see the sorts of toys that were sold in the stands at the circus. I couldn't help smiling at the memories. I wondered how much they'd take for that ice cream and that cotton candy? Then I saw it, just off the road where the underbrush cleared, a huge billboard that said "Gotham City Circus next right. I smiled to myself, remembering the day and Mom and Dad. Hmmm, were they trying to tell me something?
As I pulled into the dusty parking lot, my nose was assaulted by a variety of familiar smells: cotton candy, ice cream, popcorn and, beneath it all, the smell of elephants and wild animals. I grinned and got out of the car. I knew just where to find the manager.
Sure enough, in a shabby trailer at the center of things, I found the man. Twenty minutes and a stack of cash later, I found myself on the trapeze again. The show wasn't due to start until that evening and the rest of the crew were rehearsing. Before I ascended the pole, I took a deep breath, reveling in the smell of sawdust. While I was chalking my hands, I heard a conversation between the ringmaster and the manager.
"What the hell's going on down? They said you let some civilian..." the manager groused.
"Shhhh. Remember the Flying Graysons?"
The manager looked thoughtful. I finished chalking my hands and began to climb the pole. The ringmaster said, "The Flying… Yeah, sure, I remember. Why, is that…?"
The manager gave a chuckle. "Yep. Watch this."
I smiled to myself and started up the pole. I recalled what Dad had told me, "Remember son, if you try to look, it'll throw you off, so don't." At the top, I saw my catcher in the distance. He swung out on the trapeze, building momentum. It was time to fly! Soon, I found myself upside down doing my famous quadruple roll. Again, I heard Dad's voice telling me "Just close your eyes, remember your training—and trust your partner to be there for you." With a deeply satisfied smile, I closed my eyes and gave myself over to flight. Much too soon, I felt the smack of two hands grabbing mine. I swung easily back to the platform, to the applause of those standing below. Back down on the sawdust I was greeted like a long-lost member of the family. The Flying Graysons had not been forgotten. Mom and Dad hadn't been forgotten. It made me feel... better.
While I was talking to my new friends, I heard my cell phone beeping from my coat pocket. Who on earth could it be now?
The tone of Alfred's voice on the other end had me speeding all the way to the manor. The look in his eyes told me I should have driven faster. He met me at the top of the steps as I raced from my car.
"I'm sorry to have troubled you, Sir. On today of all days."
Sir? He called me sir? "No trouble, Alfred. Fill me in."
"He's gone to Outer Mongolia… I don't know why. Obviously he should have returned by today, so..." Alfred sounded worried. Probably more worried than I had ever heard him.
I frowned. "Wait… Obvious, how?"
"The flowers, Sir. For your parents. I've never known him to miss the occasion." Alfred walked into the parlor, leaving me next to the large bouquet comprising a dozen red roses. I picked them up, smelling their fragrance. I couldn't help thinking, He does that? I didn't… I'd always assumed that Alfred…
"I'm sorry," I said, realizing that there were more important things to be discussed. "Go on. When he didn't return, you…?"
"I traced his signal to a desolate waste near the Arctic Circle. Before I could pinpoint his location, however…" Alfred's voice quavered. "The homing beacon was silenced. As if in response."
That didn't sound good at all. "You were right to call me. Get me the fastest jet you can find, Pilot's license, fake IDs, the usual. I ..."
I strode into the Batcave with Alfred at my side and noticed a familiar figure in red and green. Tim? He was here? I turned to Alfred. "You called him in? I think I should do this alone, Alfred."
"As do I, Sir." Alfred spared a brief glance at Robin, who was working busily at the computer consoles. "But I thought it best that Master Timothy knew, so he could be sure he done all he could."
I had never heard Alfred talk like this. I really should have gotten there faster. I walked over to Tim at the console. "Hey," I said and studied him closely, the way Bruce had taught me. The boy was scared.
"Hey," Tim replied.
I leaned over the computer screen. "Show me what you've got."
"I don't get it—for some reason, he erased the mission files before he left." Tim continued to pound keys, frowning at the computer's lack of cooperation.
"He always does that..." How to tell him? Bruce does this on missions when he expects to die? Bruce does this on missions when he expects Robin to die if he goes after him? "…on the dangerous ones. So we can follow him." If Tim was scared, I was even more frightened. Bruce didn't lock down the computer for just anything.
"Yeah, well, there is erased and then there's erased. I retrieved most of them. It starts off with the bio of this Russian virologist. When she was just a kid she…"
I could tell by Tim's voice. Tim knew. He could hear it in Alfred's voice. In my voice. He knew this might be the one.
I remembered one of my first missions as Robin. I was helping Batman bring in members of the gang who'd killed my parents. Batman had left me in the rafters to watch him take down the last five or so thugs we hadn't caught yet. With a loud crack, then a wham, Batman threw the goons through the air. One of them dropped the gun and it went off with a loud explosion. Batman recoiled suddenly, and grabbed at his chest. As the bullet twanged the air, suddenly I was there, on the sawdust listening to the wires give way just before my parents fell.
Panicking, I leaped down from the rafters and ran towards Batman. I had just lost two parents and I wasn't going to lose a third. Somehow I had to get to him and help him. As Batman staggered from the shot, the last thug tried to get him from behind, but Batman swung around with a roundhouse punch. Batman stood over the last thug, then let him drop. In a deep gravelly voice he said, "I told you to stay hidden."
"But… the gun! You were shot!" I looked Batman up and down, but didn't see any blood.
Batman's voice went deeper and more gentle. "Take a deep breath. Calm down. I dodged the bullet, Robin. I always do. Okay?" I wasn't sure that I believed him, but he wasn't going to say anything else.
"Okay," I finally replied. He rested his hand on my shoulder and led me back to the car. As I often did, I fell asleep on the ride home. I remember hearing Bruce's voice talking to Commissioner Gordon on the phone, calling in the Gotham City Police Department to pick up the thugs he'd just dealt with. I remember that I smiled, comforted that the last of the murderers had been caught. I drifted off to sleep while Bruce called Alfred about something.
The next thing I remember, I was in Bruce's arms being gently lowered into bed while Alfred pulled the blankets around me. "Sleep well, master Grayson," Alfred said, and turned the light off. Bruce followed him out the door and I fell asleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night, suddenly worried about Batman. I had seen him get hit by that bullet, I was sure of it. I got out of bed and tiptoed into the study. Everything was quiet in the house. I knew that Bruce was asleep. I opened the old clock and went down the stairs. On one of the tables Bruce or Alfred had left Batman's uniform next to a tray of surgical tools. I picked up the shirt and held it up to the light. I saw it shine through a hole in the center of the bat that decorated the middle of Batman's chest. I'd been right. Batman had been hit by that bullet. I put two fingers through the hole. I couldn't explain it, but Batman had survived it somehow.
I think it was at that point that I began to believe that Batman was almost immortal. It allowed me to work as his assistant, Robin, until I matured enough to know better. No man is invincible and no matter how much I want Bruce to be impervious to death, he is still just a man and mortal.
The next thing I remember, I was lying in the snow, being pulled by my arms. Something's happened, I mused. I had just been in the batcave, listening to Tim. I looked around at the snowy wasteland and guessed that I wasn't in Gotham anymore.
I smelled smoke and burning jet fuel. Had the WayneTech jet crashed? No, shot down. Amnesia, I thought to myself. That was bad. I was thinking in complete sentences, though. I stretched my legs and realized that I could breathe in fully and I could feel my toes. Good enough.
I kicked upward and quickly subdued the two gunmen who had been dragging me. I saw three guns behind me and two ATVs. I'd need one. The remaining gunmen started firing. I pulled out a handful of wingdings and threw them at the three men. I realized that I only had scrapes and bruises from the crash. Lucky.
The fighters wore patchy parkas. Most of them were unshaven and slovenly looking, but their weapons were shiny and so were their vehicles. Rebel fighters of some sort. I wasn't up on local politics, but they were clearly well-financed. I heard a loud, high-pitched buzzing from behind me and wondered what the sound was. My plane exploded, taking out two of the men and startling the rest. They began to complain loudly—in Russian, I think. I used my wingdings to take them were well-financed, but undisciplined. And bloodthirsty.
Okay. I decided to take stock. No jet. No ATVs. My equipment went up in the fire: thermal suit, electronic devices. In fact, I was down everything except a heartbeat sensor with a twenty foot range. Maps and instrument readings said I was just south of Alfred's partial trace location. I sighed. A circle five miles wide.
On foot, five miles wide. Twenty foot range, and there was a storm coming in. I rubbed my face with my icy gloves. Don't do the math.
The day got darker and the wind picked up. I began to really regret losing that thermal suit. The only thing I had was the heartbeat monitor and I followed it religiously, clutching it to my chest to protect it from the freezing wind. I did a clean sweep and found no heartbeats in the Valley. I had just decided to move on to the ridge when I saw a hand sticking up out of the snow.