First, there was darkness. The sun did not shine here. The darkness took a moaning breath, its vast cavity echoed throughout. It was cold here. Damp. Harsh, sharp rock jutted from the ground, pairing themselves with more juts from the ceiling. The grey, hard earth that could be found here was chilly and lifeless. Occasionally, a pair of red eyes would flash in the dimness from the craggy canopy. There were many of them. Many unseen.
A spear of light shot into the cave, accompanied by a resonant clank and a grinding squeak. It riled its inhabitants. The creatures hissed and spat at this bright intrusion, damning it for all it stood for, hating it for all that it brought. There was another clank, this time bearing an electric fizzle. Anger turned to fear as the darkness was banished. Light filled the cavernous deep, and the hundreds upon hundreds of beasts took to their leathery wings and fled to a darker part of the cave. Those flapping wings repleted the moaning silence with such a deafening cacophony of shrieks and flutters. Nothing could be heard beyond the shattering uproar of terror, yet it only lasted for several seconds. After it had died down, a small, pithy set of footsteps echoed across the vast room, now filled with objects that were not at all cave-like. An array of monitors hooked up to a large supercomputer, a sleek, black vehicle sat stationary on a rotating platform, and a giant penny stood protrusive and glaringly voluminous, to only name a few.
The wide-shouldered figure made his way down the long stone staircase wordlessly. When he found the bottom, he made his way across the flat surface at a smooth, controlled pace, as if every movement he made was leashed with strict discipline. A stark contrast to the clumsy, blundering party-boy he was mere hours ago. He could still taste the sweet, bubbly ginger ale on his tongue from when he was busy convincing everybody it was champagne. Sometimes he thought he overplayed his guise; acting he was somewhere between tipsy and completely plastered almost all of the time. It made him look like an witless alcoholic. He was the CEO of a corporate giant as well as a fervent philanthropist. This suit-wearing alias may not have the best judgement or refine, but he still had somewhat of an image to maintain. Perhaps he needed to tone down the "wild and loose" side of him. The tabloids were getting more creative each and every day.
As he paced across the open space, a pneumatic hiss wheezed from the floor. A section of the ground, circular and about four or five feet across, gradually rose into the air. A glass surface gleamed in the floodlights, revealing the contents within. A black cowl with pointed ears, two holes for eyes, and a section open for the mouth, chin, and nostrils. A shadowy cape, long and reaching down to the boots with pointed ends that emulated the wings of a creature of the night. An ocher belt lined with weighty pouches and compartments. A kevlar-reinforced chestpiece emblazoned with a black bat that stretch across the pectorals, bold and menacing. The man stopped in front of the container as the transparent quarter-cylinders automatically whined and parted, detecting his presence through hidden motion detectors and biometric scans. He stood silent as he gazed into the empty eye-holes of that mask, into his very soul, and they seemed to stare back.
The man's name was Bruce Wayne, and it has be said before that he could've been better off with a less suicidal "hobby".
When Alfred first told him the details of the police dispatch, the English butler was met with disbelief.
"Impossible. Giganta is being held at Iron Heights. If she had escaped, I would have known about it within seconds." Bruce stated as he open the hidden entrance door; an inconspicuous grandfather clock. "Everyone would have known about it. She's not renown for her subtlety."
"Perhaps, if you would give me the opportunity to make such an observation, our... massive mademoiselle is not Giganta, but rather another individual of similar ability."
"You said the police chatter described her as 'visibly growing in size'. The only other documented meta with that power is Albert Rothstein, and to say he's even remotely feminine is probably a crime against humanity."
Alfred smiled. "It seems you're in a merry mood this night, Master Bruce, if you're keen on cracking jokes."
"That wasn't a joke." He swung the clock-door open. "I'd probably hunt them down myself."
The butler's smile faded. "Well, we may ponder her identity well into the morning, but the issue still stands. There's a large woman making a mess of Gotham and, I dare say, the local police are pitifully ill-equipped to combat such a problem."
"I'll handle it before I go after Maxie." He clipped and squeezed his broad frame through the narrow entrance. Alfred called after him.
"Before you don your cape and rush off into certain death again, might you consider seeking help from your superhuman allies? Superman, perhaps?"
Bruce turned and shot him a cold stare. "I can handle it."
Silence reigned for a long moment before the billionaire playboy's gaze faltered and fell to the ground. The iciness melted as he looked back into his surrogate father's eyes.
"He's doing quite well. I checked on him about an hour and a half ago." He stated, not changing his unflappable demeanor in the least. "You may check on him yourself before you head out, maybe consider giving him a proper burial this time."
Wayne scowled. "For the last time, the cave is fine. If I had him resting up here, people would be questioning his injuries."
"Yes, Heaven forbid, should a curious soul come wandering in and scrutinizing every secluded bedroom in this dusty old estate."
"We're done here." He whirled around and tramped down the staircase. "I'm suiting up. Good night."
Alfred bowed. "Very well, Master Bruce."
He still considered his butler's advice, bringing Tim up from this frigid cave, but he knew very well the concealment of both of their identities was top priority. The luxury of comfort and convenience was not a liability he could afford. The hospital bed, visible from where he was pulling on his boots, was adequate enough to meet his medical needs. Bruce could see his exuberant young sidekick's splint and tourniquet from here, as well as the frightening amount of welts and bruises on his face. His stillness may have alarmed a regular man, but Wayne's perception had been honed beyond a regular man's capability. He could see the subtle rise-and-fall of this chest. He was merely resting, and the boy needed all the rest he could get.
It was a stupid mistake. An inane blunder. He told him to wait, to not be hasty, yet Tim charged right into that building without getting a good look at the shadows and the dozen bat, tire-iron, and lead-pipe wielding men hiding in them. It was just supposed to be another hit-and-run mission, to break up another one of Maxie Zeus's drug trafficking checkpoints. It was a trap. That toga-wearing freak finally got smart. Batman knew there was something amiss when he was scoping out the hand-off. The hired muscle seemed second-rate and lazy. The thugs directing the crates that were being loaded into the truck were too loud, as if they wanted to be found by him. Yet, the narcotics in those containers were very real, as were the pain, misery, and death they would inevitably cause if they got out onto the streets. Batman tracked them to this crucial bottleneck in their drug flow, and he was going to make sure that it would be the end of the line for these needle-peddling scumbags.
He glanced at his faithful prodigy and gave the signal. In tandem, they swooped in and took out the key, gun-wielding cronies. The rest was clockwork. The brainless goons closed in, throwing sloppy jabs and painfully slow hooks and haymakers. The application of blunt-force trauma made them all think twice about choosing their line of work. The boy handled them well, too, albeit with much more wise-cracking banter. By the time the mess outside was taken care of, the "brains" of the operation had fled into a nearby warehouse. Robin was the first to see him enter the condemned building and gave the chase. The first sign that something went wrong was the crack of a shattered kneecap resonating in Batman's ear, followed by a bloodcurdling scream. He immediately began plowing through the rest of the thugs, heedless, towards the building. By the time he got there and incapacitated almost all of the attackers, some worthless low-life was spitting obscenities while wailing on the boy's face with a crowbar.
"A little hard to make with the yuks when you're worm-food, eh Bats? Haaahahahahaha!"
...It took him every ounce of his willpower to restrain himself from snapping his neck. He settled for a dislocated elbow to render his crowbar arm useless, a broken jaw to make swearing a great deal more difficult, and a swift punch to the gut followed by a leg-breaking stomp, just because he felt he didn't cause him enough physical pain. He cradled his sidekick in his arms and rushed him to the Batcave, letting the wailing sirens converge onto the scene and take care of things from there.
He blamed himself for it. It was his fault. He didn't see all the angles, didn't pay attention to the obvious signs flashing at him like a neon light. In his arrogance, he rushed in to deny his enemy his filthy method of corralling money from the suffering of Gotham's impressionable youth. It cost him dearly.
Batman clicked his utility belt around his waist and pulled on his signature cowl. He went over to his armory and exchanged some extraneous tools for sleeping gas and tranq-darts, complete with the palm-sized, but powerful delivery method. He took one last look at the hospital bed. "No more," he silently promised himself. "After I take care of this rampant meta, I'm coming for you, Maxie, and I'll make sure you're going away for a long, long time."
Again, arrogance. A mere mortal "taking care" of a meta? Batman mentally chided himself. He's dealt with superhumans before, against impossible odds. He's defeated the likes of Clayface and gone toe-to-toe with Solomon Grundy. He's faced impossible odds before and emerged victorious... but not every time. This never-ending battle against those who would use their abilities for evil served as a constant reminder of just how frail he was. He needed to prepare himself for what could possibly be the fight of his life, perhaps even the last. Every time he put on the cape and cowl, every time he set out to clean up this dying city's streets of crooks, gangsters, and parasites, he knew that that night may very well be his last. Very few people get to choose how they die, even fewer know when. He could perish at the knife of the Joker or the fists of Bane. He could be crushed underneath some excessively garash pseudo-deathtrap, like a giant typewriter or piano. He could even be snuffed out by some lucky punk with a gun. Dying at the hands of this to-be-named meta was a very likely possibility. He needed to be careful. For justice's sake For Gotham's sake. For Tim's sake. For his parents' sake.
Batman finished his preparations, having met all the criteria for a night of crime-fighting. With a whoosh of his cape, he turned towards the Batmobile. There was a roar of an engine, the screech of burning rubber as the custom-made supercar took off. The cave rebounded the clamorous noises for a short moment, then, once again, all was silent.
"I'm getting too old for this..."
That same cliché ran through the mind of Commissioner James Gordon for what seemed like the thousandth time. It wasn't necessarily true, though. Many still considered him to be in his prime for this line of work, even though he was was one of the most senior members of the force. He agreed with them most of the time, too. After all, he had to give himself some credit every now-and-then. It was probably because of this whole scene that stood before him. Sirens wailed into his skull; the fast-paced thwok thwok thwok of a police helicopter added to the bedlam as it circled overhead. Flashing reds and blues shone through his thick, square glasses. A bleak wind ruffled his grey hair and his overcoat, reeking of exhaust and saltwater. He felt as if this scene has defined his entire life so far. Truth be told, it got really old, really fast. The only difference being that, instead of lining in front of an apartment building full of gang-members, or a lone, mentally-disturbed man with a gun to his wife's head, Gotham's finest had followed a trail of destruction to where they've cornered a giant, screaming, naked girl in a dockside warehouse.
Or maybe it was the nervous fledgling he was standing next to, kneeling down with a quivering pistol in both hands, aiming directly at the massive tear in the warehouse's metal entrance that was making him feel so decrepit. He could see the sweat beading on his brow, the wide-eyes look of fear. Gordon chuckled quietly to himself. "Green as grass." The commissioner put a fatherly hand on the young man's shoulder, eliciting a small start. At least he was sensible to maintain trigger discipline, otherwise he would have jerked off a shot. He turned and met the older man's eyes.
"You look nervous, son."
The officer swallowed hard and refocus back at the warehouse. "We... we were never trained for this, Sir. A-a meta. There's a meta in there, S-sir."
He wasn't wrong. James has had limited contact with superpowered criminals in his day. And, with the exception of Clayface and a few other choice individuals, Gotham was fairly devoid of these "gifted" persons. No, they've never been trained to handle metas. He wasn't sure if such training existed.
Gordon turned his grim gazed to the surrounded building. "You're doing fine. What's your name?"
"Ch-Charlie. Charile Reno."
"How long have you been on the force, Charile?"
"This is only my second month." He stated, then fumblingly added: "...Sir."
"Looked as much. Poor guy." He thought to himself and then spoke aloud. "Just stay alert and do what you're supposed to do." He added as an afterthought. "And check your chamber and safety."
There was a long pause. Then, a metallic sliding sound and a click.
"Shouldn't we..." He began. "Are we going to go in, Sir?"
"We're not risking the lives of good men by blindly rushing in." He replied immediately. He scanned the nearby rooftops. "He sure is taking his time."
"So... what do we do?"
"We're waiting for backup, son."
Charlie furrowed his brow. "More officers? The SWAT team? The Army?"
As if on cue, a faint decompression of air became known, followed by a whining rattle and a clank as a cable stretched from the top of a nearby building, over the police line, and embedded itself into the warehouse wall. A dark silhouette glided across the sky, drawing the attention of some officers. The figure landed with a roll and smoothly stood up, cape dragging along the ground, and glanced back at the police line for a short moment, looking directly at the commissioner. Then, the cowled man turned and silently stepped through the jagged hole leading inside.
Officer Reno knelt with his mouth agape while Gordon smiled.
"None of the above."
The interior was dark, save the glowing crescent moonlight pouring through the dirty windows and the large hole behind him. That was expected. Warehouses weren't usually well-lit. It didn't matter. He preferred the dark. The dark gave him strength. The dark allowed him to defeat those who shared its embrace, as well as those who pretended to walk in the light. The dark gave birth to fear, his weapon against those who would prey on the fear of the innocent.
His boots moved across the floor, making almost no sound. He passed by tall stacks of pine crates, scanning the warehouse with his narrowed eyes. A trail was evident. From the gash in the door, a path of destruction led right in, as obvious as footprints in snow. Or, in this case, as indicated by the foot-shaped divots before him, prints in solid concrete. There were crumpled spots on the edges of the crates where it looked like a huge hand had crushed and splintered them effortlessly. Batman shuffled by a messy pile of toppled containers where the nondescript contents have been strewn about. As he moved forward through the narrow aisle, the destruction became less overwhelming. The stark footprints petered out, but his trained eyes could still make out impressions where a massive weight had been applied. And, up until this point, the spacious warehouse had seemed eerily silent. Now, he could hear a hint of a sound over the distant clamor of the city and the police outside.
It was several sharp intakes of breath, accompanied by sniffles and low moans.
Was she crying?
Cautiously, Batman moved closer, crouching to reduce his visibility. He could see slight movement ahead, in the dark. Hiding behind a refrigerator-sized box, he peered around and caught sight of his target.
She was huddled with her back to a steel support beam, face buried in her knees, arms wrapped around her legs. As the radio said, she was very large and [i]very[/i] nude. To put her size into perspective, Batman estimated that her head came up to his chest in her current fetal position. But what the police failed to mention was her peculiar hair color. Mint green with a stripe of white. A very obtrusive detail not to be noted for the sake of identification, but was most likely overshadowed by her more... bounteous and visible qualities. Most cops were men, after all. Her identity, or rather, her non-identity was now confirmed. Giganta would never color her hair like that. She must have been a new metahuman. The caped crusader could now make out her voice through her sobbing.
"I- I'm s-sorry... *sniff* I- I- Bon-Bon... I'm s-so sorry... I should h-have n-n-never..."
Batman calculated his approach. She wasn't on guard. She wasn't paying attention to her surroundings in her howling self-deprecations. This meta also didn't seem like she voluntarily caused all that destruction. It was evident she was under turbulent emotional stress. It didn't matter, her intentions. She was still a menace, but her apparent disposition meant that he could try and calm her, work this out without having to resort to force. He had already witnessed the effects of her gratuitous strength on the city streets. Crumpled steel and massive traffic mayhem were in abundance as he raced here in the Batmobile. He even saw a body-shaped impression on the grill of a loaded semi on a sixty mile-an-hour road. He would rather not contend with such raw power.
The Dark Knight gathered his wits and left his hiding spot noiselessly. He deliberately moved towards the girl, controlling his composure and looking as nonthreatening as possible while still keeping his hand close to the pouch containing the dart-gun should things go awry. The tranquilizer needles were tipped with diamond, but with what he's witnessed so far, he wasn't sure even that could pierce her dermal layer. Batman halted about five feet from the sorrow-wracked lady. She still hasn't noticed him yet. He cleared his throat.
Her head reared upwards and caught a glimpse of the costumed man with her red, puffy eyes. They widened considerably. She clumsily brought herself to her feet and backpedaled away, each footfall making a small earthquake. Her back slammed against a concrete wall, ejecting a small amount of rubble, but holding true. The window above spiderwebbed with several cracks, though.
"P-please... No! I'm s-sorry! No more!"
"It alright." He returned calmly. "I'm not here to hurt you. I'm here to help"
He now had a good view of her tear-streaked face. It was smooth and youthful with a small nose and a soft chin. She couldn't have been older than sixteen, maybe eighteen. Her eyes, irritated and spent from all the crying as they were, seemed to glow with amber. Her true height also became clear. She was nearly twice as tall as him, and her muscles were as well-defined as Diana's, if not more. Aside from what was on her head, she was hairless. He grimaced. That was a tidbit of knowledge he would rather have not bothered to look for. Though, while on that subject, she had yet to make any attempts to conceal her body, involuntarily or otherwise, which gave him the impression that she didn't care for clothes in the first place. Batman tried to advanced, but she pressed herself further into the wall.
"W-who are you?"
Now that was a line he hadn't heard in a long while. Over his many years of pursuing his personal crusade of crime-fighting, he has developed into a symbol known throughout the world. Nearly every news station across the vast blue planet had a weekly bulletin detailing his major exploits for all the couch potatoes sitting at home with nothing better to do. His endeavors with the Justice League has even made him known on other worlds as well. It was very hard to find a person who's never heard of him before, which added to the mystery of her origin. Isolated from the media and a chronic streaker. He was beginning to consider the possibility of her being a human-like extraterrestrial, maybe even another Kryptonian. He hoped that wasn't that case. Earth was host to more than enough already.
"I'm Batman." He stated. The giantess's fearful expression shifted somewhat towards incredulous disbelief. He went on regardless. "I know you're having a rough time right now, but I can help you. If you'll come with me, I can get you someplace safe before you cause any more trouble."
She shook her head wildly. Batman saw that her eyes were dilating and contracting erratically. Her eyelids fluttered from time to time, especially when he spoke, as if it hurt. Her senses were in overdrive, and, as a result, she was probably suffering maddening delusions. Was she under the effect of some drug? Psychic influence? His hand drifted to the dart-gun compartment.
"N-no!" She sputtered, plunging back into panic. "I-I don't want... I didn't mean to... I never wanted to hurt a-anypon- anybody! I just... I... Ahh... Ahhhh! AHHHHHHHHHH!"
She brought herself to her knees, clutching her head between her hands, all while screaming uncontrollably. To the vigilante's shock, he could see her body swell even more. He could hear the sickening sound of her bones expanding, her muscles nearly ripping themselves apart. Batman now drew the conclusion that her rampage was attributed to her severe growing pains and the unimaginable mental feedback they've been causing. The reason she was an undocumented meta was because she, possibly, only acquired her powers shortly before. He was no medical expert like his father was, nor was he a brilliant scientist of S.T.A.R. Labs. He could only stare in horror as she shrieked in agony. She needed help, and fast. Batman drew the metallic box-shaped object from his pouch. At the press of a button, it whirred, clicked, and morphed into a compact dart-gun, a syringe already loaded in the chamber.
Before he could bring it to bear, something unexpected happened. In the midst of her thrashing torment, a bump appeared on her head, stretching the skin and gradually getting larger. It looked like a pointy tumor. The abscess turned an angry, inflamed red, as the giantess clawed at her skull, screaming louder than ever before. Then, it gave way in a splash of watery blood. Spiraled and about four inches in length, It was a mint-colored... horn?
Before the Dark Knight could react, his entire body was forced backwards along with several nearby crates. The unnamed woman's eyes and horn radiated bright with amber, the same color of her irises, but tainted with an ethereal white. The objects affected were laced with the same hue of scintillating aura. Batman felt his back forcibly connect with the far wall. Through his training, he had learned to mitigate such damage. He instinctually kept the back of his head from taking most of the blow, but the pain and the strength it sapped was still present. He readjusted his vision and saw the writhing giantess, now encased in a swirling vortex of fragmented containers and arcane plasma.
"Great." He thought with contempt. "Magic. Just what I needed." Though his loathing for the supernatural was not as great as Superman's, this enigmous, powerful energy was just as annoying as the abilities contrived from his superhuman adversaries, quite possibly even more so. The worst part was he didn't think to bring his Nth metal gadgets upon departing the Batcave.
Adrenaline coursing through his veins, Batman sprung into action, dodging flying debris and finding sturdy cover. A crate shattered against the support column he hid behind, causing him to wince. This was getting out of hand. He could hear the building groan amidst the telekinetic turbulence. The solid steel girders near her were beginning to twist and warp. The ceiling precipitated dun-colored pebbles and cracked menacingly.
"Get yourself under control!" He shouted over the din. "You'll bring the whole roof down on both of us!"
She did seemed to not notice his voice at all, too busy convulsing in unbearable torment. The vigilante swore as another high-speed object nearly took off his head. That line never worked. Why did he even bother?
From his belt, he withdrew a roundish disk and depressed a switch at its center. It beeped and glowed red. Batman subsequently chucked it in her direction. No use. The sleeping gas emitter was swept up in the magical wind and tossed to another part of the warehouse. "Typical..." He scanned the vicinity for his dart-gun, lost when he was tossed right into a wall without warning. The gleam of the device was plain in the strobing amber light, lying behind an adjacent support beam. The only thing that separated it from him was several yards of floor space and a tornado of certain death. It was his only chance at subduing her, provided it hadn't been damaged in the process of the forceful separation from his hand. A trivial detail. From barely dodging bullets to all the narrow saves with his grapple-gun, he's made a living off of these slim odds. Literally.
The time to act was now. Batman dived from cover, feeling a whoosh scant hair-breadths from his ear. With a roll, he found his footing and sprinted towards his quarry, a mere five or so bounds away. But, as it so happened, his luck ran out at that moment. A crate rammed itself headlong into his side. A bark of pain flew from his lips. He felt as if he was hit with a sack of bricks. On noticing the contents of the box that hit him, he saw that it was, in fact, masonic building material. He clutched his torso, dragging himself on with his free hand and feet. More containers exploded around him, ejecting their contents like shrapnel. He ignored the discomfort as much as he could and limped on.
Nearly collapsing at his destination, he took the device into his hand. Aside from a few unfortunate scuffs on a brand-new piece of equipment, the dart-gun was still perfectly functional. WayneTech had designed it robustly, just the way he needed it to be. The hurricane of supernatural energy was reaching dangerous levels now, as indicated by the soon-to-be-failing integrity of the roof. The girl was faring no better than before.
"HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME!" She shrieked at the top of her lungs, eyes and horn blazing brightly. "FOR THE LOVE OF CELESTIA MAKE IT STOOOOOPPP!"
The first needle hit her in the area around her right shoulder. Her skin, thankfully, wasn't thick enough to withstand the diamond point. She reeled slightly, but she was still going strong. Batman swore and loaded another syringe. The second one hit her closer to his target, right beneath her collarbone. She stumbled from that one, her constant screams subsided to a wail. The magical maelstrom also died down some, but not enough. The roof was still susceptible to a cave-in. He pulled the trigger once more. The third and final dart hit her right in the sweet spot: the soft flesh of her neck. Her eyes stopped glowing along with her horn, which seemed to give off a trailing mist like gunsmoke. The levitated objects all dropped to the ground with several crashes. She herself swayed on her bare feet, her eyes rolled into her head, and, like a great, felled tree, toppled face-first onto the floor and drifted into a merciful slumber.
Batman breathed heavily for several moments in deafening silence, slowing down his mind. His disciplined heart rate never passed 90 bpm, but he could feel it pushing. With his head cleared from the haze of combat, the pain in his side set in as well. He winced when he applied pressure to the spot. Internal injuries were likely. What a shame, for they wouldn't be treated until morning. He would have to adapt and ignore the discomfort. Precariously rising to his feet, Batman hobbled over to the unconscious body splayed out on the floor. He knelt down and removed the darts, their sedatives spent. It took a bit of a tug. Her skin seemed to have firmed up since he fired them. Intriguing. With the needles properly disposed of in his utility belt, he went over to her side and prepared to flip her over. He grasped her arm with both hands and heaved, awakening the red monsters in his side, baying angrily. He paid no attention and grunted, hauling the monumental, limp weight over her shoulder and onto her back. She landed with a loud thud while the caped crusader panted. "Oh, if only Dick could see me now," He wordlessly lamented. "He'd probably say something like, 'Worst date ever.'"
He needed to get her out of here. Somewhere she could get real help. He couldn't hand her over to the police. They wouldn't know what to do with her. A jail cell would hardly be fitting or effective in her case. Gotham General was even less of an option. They weren't equipped for metahumans. Not in the very least. He needed to get her to S.T.A.R. Labs, stat, but there was no time. He put so much planning into this one night, ratting out countless leads and following Maxie's movements. He would never get another window of opportunity like this. He didn't like the option he was left with, but there was no other choice.
Batman pressed his finger to his ear-more specifically, a communication device hidden in his cowl-and spoke.
"Computer, send the jet to my position. Configuration 5-C."
His earpiece beeped in acknowledgement. It would take a few minutes for the Batwing to get to him, so in the meantime, he decided to learn more about his hefty friend here. Kneeling back down, he could hear her rumbling snore vibrate through his feet. Taking care to mind her dignity and paying no attention to anything below her neck, he took a closer look at the aberrant appendage sprouting from her forehead. There was some thin, membranous flesh still hanging in frays around the base. He carefully peeled it off, revealing that the border between her head and the horn was faultless. Taking extra heed, he touched it with his index finger. He winced and instantly pulled back. It felt like a small discharge of static electricity, but it left a lingering sensation creeping under his skin. The girl groaned in her sleep.
Where did she come from? How did she get here? How did all this happened? And, above all, who was she? These questions ran through the mind of the world's greatest detective as he lifted his costume's upper piece and tended to his injury as best he could. These were also mysteries that wouldn't be solved tonight. He had work to do.
Commissioner Gordon was getting worried, and that was saying something. He clenched and unclenched his hands, nestled in his overcoat pockets. He put a lot of faith in that man. The press, the media, and all the opinionated hoity-toities on the talk shows beleaguered him endlessly about him condoning the actions of a vigilante. He didn't care. In this city filled with crooked cops and agenda-toting politicians, he found someone he could truly rely on. And, despite how much of a "menace" they made him out to be, he got the job done. Gordon didn't mind if justice didn't come from the bureaucratic nightmare that was Gotham PD, he didn't care if it came from a possibly mentally-disturbed man in a cape and mask (having known him on almost a personal level, nothing could be further from the truth). As long as proper justice was served, one way or another, he was content.
But his assurance in Batman's abilities faltered when the screaming started. Though he wasn't one of the officers to catch sight of her as she was stampeding through the city, as he was roused from his office instead, he drew the conclusion that it must've been her. And the slight lapse was nothing compared to the dread he felt from what came next. Yellow-white light, somehow sickeningly unnatural, flooded out every window of the building like powerful spotlights. The police, as well as the nearby bystanders and news reporters behind the line, all muttered in both awe and fear at the anomalous display.
"What's happening?" They cried. No one had an answer.
The lights lasted for less than a minute. The stillness that hung in the air thereafter could be considered more harrowing than the event itself. After a few minutes of the blithering crowd and the newswoman frantically chattering at the camera behind him, Gordon could stand it no longer.
"I'm going in!" He said and drew his revolver. Old-fashioned for this day and age, but it was reliable and familiar. He squeezed between two car hoods and marched straight for the warehouse. "Cover me!"
"Commissioner!" Charlie called after him.
"Don't worry, son! I've done this more times than I can count!"
He didn't make it halfway to the building when a roar sounded overhead. All eyes turned skyward to see a bat-shaped craft cast its shape in the moonlight. It decelerated and halted over the building, waiting. It was different, however. The usually sleek jet was carrying an extra part; a coffin-like bay on its underside. To the scrutinous observer, the jet appeared to drop a golfball-sized thing from a small compartment. There was a blast and the tinkle of broken glass as the warehouse's skylight was destroyed. A platform hissed and lowered from the Batwing, down through the building's roof. When it came back, it carried two additional shapes: the Dark Knight himself, his cape flowing like a flag in the wind, and a large, prone form stretched out on the platform. Cameras flashed incessantly, destined to become front-page headlines for tomorrow's papers. The platform withdrew into the storage piece as Batman climbed into the cockpit. Without another moment's hesitation, the craft thundered off into the night sky. Gordon sighed, holstered his pistol, turned, and strode back to the barricade.
"We're done here, boys." He told his subordinates. "Pack your things."
"Commissioner, Sir." Reno said. "He took the perp. Can... can he even do that?"
Gordon took off his glasses and wiped them clean with his shirt. "You know the rules, son. Finders-keepers." He donned them once more and looked into the sky. "And he sure does like to keep stuff."
The Batwing soared over the electricity-lit city of Gotham, his cargo secured within the heavy pickup attachment. The compartment was designed to handle things like large bombs and nuclear warheads; heavy, inanimate, could explode at any time. The thing he was carrying was certainly heavy. Inanimate, most certainly not. As for the third thing... he wasn't sure. Wouldn't surprise him in the least. In this line of work, the unexpected tended to happen on a regular basis.
Within the dim pilot's seat, surrounded by luminous widgets and switches, Batman pressed a button on the console. There was two and a half short rings before a light clatter was heard: the sound of someone picking up the phone. The masked vigilante spoke, the onboard microphone picking up his voice.
"Are you awake, Alfred?"
A groggy English accent droned on the other end. "Despite my best efforts, Sir."
"Good." He banked the jet towards the Manor. "I need you to make a run to the store. Women's undergarments. The biggest you can find."
"Bringing home that sort of company tonight, Master Bruce?" He deadpanned.
He narrowed his eyes. "You have no idea."