Batman 3 - Batman ForeverPeter David
In an amazing new adventure, Batman, Gotham City's protector, propels himself into a fateful battle against two brilliant but villainous souls who have joined forces in a fearsome alliance. One is know as Two-Face, the former District Attorney disfigured by chance and fueled by vengeance. The other is the Riddler, the alter ego of a computer genius whose fiendish goal is to control the minds of the citizenry. Joining the Dark Knight in this fight for the future in Gotham is a young circus acrobat who transforms into his daredevil partner, Robin. As Two-Face and the Riddler plot their twin schemes against Batman, the commitment is made, the die is cast, and the plan springs into action to destroy Batman . . . Forever!
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright © 1995 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.
Batman and all characters and related indicia are trademarks of DC Comics © 1995. All Rights Reserved.
Cover design by Rachel McClain
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
A Time Warner Company
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing: June, 1995
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
T H E N
The rain poured down in sheets, with such ferocity and intensity that it didn’t seem as if it were originating from the skies. Instead—at least to the young man who was running through it, one arm pumping, the other clasped against his heaving chest—it seemed as if the rain were coming from everywhere at once. From above, below, to the sides . . . everything was a source of violent precipitation, as if all reality itself were in mourning . . .
He had run from the house, a house that was no longer a home. Something compelled him to turn and look back over his shoulder at it. The ground, however, did not cooperate with the intention, and his feet went out from under him as the mud gave him no traction. It was like ice-skating on dirt.
He tried to catch himself but didn’t succeed, and the impact rattled his teeth. He didn’t care about it particularly, though. Indeed, it had been a while since he cared about anything.
His suit pants were thick with mud. There was mud under his fingernails, mud in his hair, in his mouth. His feet felt heavy and leaden, filling up with filthy water. For just a moment, like a small winged creature, a thought flitted through his mind:
Dad’s going to kill me.
Then he remembered once more how moot that concern was and—for the hundredth time, it seemed, in that day alone—the floodgates in his eyes threatened to burst. But he kept it in, as he had managed to do thus far and had every intention of continuing to do. Previously it had been a matter of willpower. This time, he was so consumed by misery that he had to bite down on his lip to repress it. But he did so, and kept on doing it until the last vestiges of the urge to sob had subsided. He was unaware of the blood trickling down his face from the bite, giving him an appearance similar to that of a vampire from an old horror film. There was a distant stinging in his mouth, but he ignored that. Pain was something that he’d been training himself to disregard. Physical pain, at least. And within moments, the rain had washed the blood away from his face, although the mud had become a bit thicker.
He hauled himself up, turned, and looked back and up at the house. That’s all it was now: a house. Not a home. Home, after all, is where the heart is. But the young man’s heart was elsewhere: It was scattered in small, bloody ruins on the filth-ridden ground of a place recently dubbed “Crime Alley” after its most recent atrocity. His heart lay intermixed with the blood of two people, pouring from them, darker, much darker than he’d imagined blood to be. There had been warmth coming off it, for it had been a very chill evening. Life had gushed from them with a deep, abiding warmth, the heat rising, wafting away two lives and three souls. Leaving behind two corpses and one living creature that only wished he were dead.
And a leering, chortling monster of a man, glowering down at the boy and saying something that made no sense:
“Tell me, kid . . . have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
The boy had frozen. Not out of fear for himself; that was long gone. No, frozen as he’d sensed the blood of the people cooling in the evening. Frozen as his soul, it seemed, had left him.
Then had come the sirens . . . and the lights . . .
The lights now flickered at him from on high. Lights from the police cars were washed away in his awareness by the illumination from the house. The windows flickered like so many glass eyes, blinking down at him from the cliffside above. Like the eyes of God looking down at him, but not kindly. Not divinely. Not sympathetic to the miserable child, but instead with a sort of cold, distant interest of the type that a scientist might possess. It made him feel like a creature in an experiment. A lab rat. A lab rat flown from the lab.
The rain was coming down harder, which he would not have thought remotely possible. It was getting tougher for him to see. He rubbed his eyes, and only succeeded in smearing more dirt on his face. From the nose up, his face was a solid, dark mask of mud, with two small white orbs peering out through slitted eyelids. He held up an arm to try to ward off the rain, but it was like trying to hold back the Atlantic Ocean with a mop.
His father had told him, sternly and repeatedly, to stay away from the area where he presently trod. It was at the outer edges of the property. The ground was uncertain. Even under the best of weather conditions, the young man could fall and hurt himself. And he’d be so far away from the house that help would not easily find him. “You could break your leg,” his father had said and then, with a smile, added, “and, of course, if that happened, we’d have to take you out and shoot you.”
His father had never been one for jokes. Oh, he fancied that he had a sense of humor. Everyone thinks they do, particularly those who don’t. Still, the remark had been amusing enough that the young man had actually laughed. And because of the rareness of such an occasion, the boy had taken care to attend his father’s words.
But his father had no more words.
And the young man had no more father.
Somehow, words of advice as to how to take care of oneself lose their impact when the advisor isn’t able to keep himself from being killed. It seemed to undercut the entire premise.
What, indeed, was the point? What was the point of any of it?
In the distance, vaguely over the roar of thunder, the young man thought he heard something. A voice, an anguished voice, calling his name over and over again. But it was far away, and perhaps even his imagination.
Of course, it might be . . . him. The family servant who seemed to have o
utlived the family. But the young man couldn’t stand the thought of seeing him right now. He couldn’t stand seeing that gentle, sympathetic face, offering a shoulder to cry on, because he would be damned if he’d cry.
What difference did it make? He was damned anyway.
He had no clear idea of what he was going to do, or where he was going to go. He only knew that there were too many ghosts in the mansion. That if he had to deal with one more mourner or high-muck-a-muck or captain of industry or president of some massive conglomerate . . .
One more sad word or pat on the back or “Stiff upper lip, son . . .”
One more quick glance in his direction . . .
One more bit of guilt . . .
One more . . .
No more . . .
There was nothing he wanted to deal with, nothing he wanted to face, nothing he wanted to do except to get away, to escape, to hide. Hide from the mourners and the ghosts of his parents. Hide from the things he’d learned. Hide from himself.
The embankment that he scampered down was sharply angled. About a hundred yards off was a precipice which, if he tumbled over it, would send him plunging to the roaring water below. His parents had always loved the view from the mansion on high. His mother, something of a romantic, had likened it to living in an Emily Brontë novel. But the warning for her son to keep away from precisely the area he was now wandering about in had been just as strident as the admonitions of the young man’s father. Just as strident, and—at this moment—just as ignored.
The young man skirted the edge, still at a safe distance. Whatever shouting might be coming from the direction of the mansion was now drowned by the roiling surf far away and far below.
That’s when there came a crack of thunder that seemed to explode directly over his head. The young man let out a yelp and jumped, and once more his feet went out from under him. But this time he was at a sharper angle than he’d been previously. This time he didn’t just fall to the ground. He skidded, trying to slow himself down as he tumbled, the world spinning out around him. He was completely disoriented. He had no clear idea how fast or how far he had gone. He knew only that not too far ahead, the edge of the embankment was waiting for him.
Half of him welcomed the notion.
But another half . . . that which powered his will to live, his need to survive . . . refused to accept that it was all to end in a heels-over-head plummet into icy waters. For a split second the two sides of him warred, and ultimately, it was his determination to live that won out.
That is to say, it won out in the mental argument. The ground, however, which slid away under his grasp, was not cooperating.
The young man’s descent toward certain doom was accompanied by an eerie silence. One would have expected a long, terrified scream, but there was nothing. A gasp of surprise, perhaps, but nothing beyond that. He was developing a stoicism that bordered on the superhuman, and were he allowed to live to manhood, there was no telling where such resolve might take him.
At that moment, as if by some meteorological miscue, the clouds parted. The rain did not abate in the slightest, but nevertheless there appeared, pale and unwavering, the moon.
Something fluttered across it.
The ground around the sliding young man was illumined, and he had a brief glimpse of just how close the drop-off was.
It couldn’t have been more than twenty feet.
The young man tried to dig his heels in, tried to slow his descent by a few seconds so he could come up with something.
As it happened, it took far less time than that, although it wasn’t something for which he could exactly take credit.
All he knew was that, abruptly, he was no longer sliding. Ten feet from a one-way ticket to oblivion, the young man had gotten a reprieve.
He was no longer hurtling toward certain doom on a cliff-side.
Instead he was sinking to an uncertain doom below.
It was as if the earth had decided to end the suspense and bury him right there and then. Before he fully realized what had happened, the lower half of his body had simply vanished, sucked down into a cascading pit of dirt and muck. His legs pinwheeled, seeking ground like a drowning man hoping that, by some miracle, his feet would touch bottom. But there was nothing. For all the young man knew, and for all his frantic mind might allow him to envision, he was about to plunge into a tunnel that would drop him straight into the center of the earth.
He sank lower, up to his armpits, the dirt covering his head. Even so, his hands clawed at the soft loam, hoping against hope that he might still be able to save himself.
Instead he dropped through the hole and vanished from sight. All that remained on the surface that affirmed his existence was the mournful calling of his name by a British manservant, desperately trying to maintain his reserve but—moment by moment—felt himself giving way to desperation and even despair.
The moon hid behind the clouds once more, waiting.
The young man tumbled, Alice down the rabbit hole, plummeting to that place where a grinning creature solemnly announced, “We’re all mad here.” Or so, at least, it seemed.
And then he landed.
It was a rather abrupt stop as he thudded to the ground. It seemed to him that he’d been falling forever. But it was hard to tell how much time had actually passed. It might have been barely seconds. He might have fallen six feet or twenty or two hundred. It was impossible to say. He was inside a small cavern an indeterminate distance underground, with no clear idea of how to get out.
Not that he was being given a lot of time to think. Dirt and mud continued to rain down on him. He rolled out of the way and scrambled to his feet, his eyes trying to adjust to the gloom. The cascade of earth continued for a few moments more and then slowly came to a stop.
Moonlight streamed through the hole above him, briefly supplementing his own vision, which was actually fairly acute in darkness—so much so, in fact, that his father had once commented that it almost seemed as if he were born for night.
Thoughts of his father, the doctor, prompted him to do what his dad would have done in this situation: methodically check himself over to make sure there were no broken bones. He flexed his elbows and knees, patted himself down . . .
And then realized that it was missing.
It had fallen from him during his plunge. It had to be somewhere in the pile of dirt nearby, beneath the hole. He ran to it, shoved both his hands in deeply. It was all he could do to stifle a sob. Losing his footing, losing his life . . . these were things with which he could cope. But losing it, losing that which was his last connection to his parents, was a calamity that threatened to overwhelm him.
He shoved deeper and deeper into the dirt, hot tears mixing with the mud that caked his face. Then, finally, his questing fingers seized on a small, solid object, and he pulled it to himself with a heartfelt gasp of joy. He lay there like that for a moment, sprawled on the dirt, clutching the object that had come to mean so much to him. Then he rolled over onto his back and looked up.
The ceiling was moving.
Not down toward him precisely, but more side to side. As if it were stirring somehow, alerted to his presence.
He squinted upward, trying to make out precisely what would cause such a phenomenon. And then he started to distinguish small, hanging forms, like . . . bananas . . . but that made no sense. Whatever kind of bizarre cave he’d landed in, the concept of tropical fruit growing there seemed fairly unlikely.
At that moment, high above, the moon emerged from behind the clouds once more. Faint streams of light poured through the hole that had been the young man’s unexpected entranceway.
Now he was able to make out just what precisely was above him.
Hundreds, thousands of them. Hanging, dangling from every crevice, their wings flexing slightly, their eyes glittering.
The young man froze, afraid that the slightest motion might set them off. But even as that concern impl
anted itself in his mind, he realized that it made no sense. He had plunged squarely into their midst through the most disruptive of means. That alone should have been more than enough to set them off, send them hurtling through the air, filling the cave all around him with the beating of their wings and their high-pitched squealing.
But there was nothing. Beyond the slight stirring of their leathery wings, there was no movement.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the young man eased himself away from them. At one end of the cavern there was an opening outward. He heard a distant dripping and . . . no. More than a dripping. A rushing of water. There was some sort of underground stream nearby, which probably fed directly out to the ocean.
He made his way toward the hole and peered through and down. He couldn’t quite make it out fully, but he had an impression of massive scope. A vast cavern below him and, sure enough, far below a stream. But he quickly sensed that there was no easy way down. The wall was too sheer. He’d have to get spelunking equipment, more lights if he wanted to explore this vast area.
You’ll have to build stairs . . .
It was as if another voice had spoken within his head. A voice that sounded like his own but colder, deeper, a dispassionate whisper.
The bats began to stir. It was as if they had heard it, too.
Stream’s wide enough . . . You could put the boat there . . .
There it was again . . . the voice that chilled him, that sounded so alien and yet so familiar.
Then there was a gentle scraping from below him . . . below . . . as if something was coming up toward him.