The Dark Knight Falls, Issue #1

Barbara Gordon flicked the switch on the side of the giant floodlight atop Police Headquarters, and it blazed into light, projecting an unmistakable symbol onto the grey sheet of clouds above Gotham. It used to be a sight criminals feared, but it hadn’t been seen for years. Not since her father passed away. It was his legacy as much as the Batman’s, the cleanup of Gotham. He’d endured the worst of it during his time as Commissioner, not just the mob, but all the freaks that had filled the vacuum they left behind… Gradually they’d been killed or locked away in Arkham Asylum. Barbara wondered if the world would have been better off putting them to death. But that was revenge, not justice. And justice was why she was here tonight.  
She heard the door open behind her and a heavy set of footprints approach. She pulled her trench coat tightly around her and felt her service weapon on her hip as the wind swirled and the sound of sirens floated up to them. Her companion spoke in a deep, commanding voice; 
“How long does he usually take?” 

“Never as long as you’d think.” 

“You’re sure he’ll come?” 

“Of course he will. He lives for this signal.” 

“And you still won’t tell me who he really is?” 

“Logan I’ve told you – I want him to have a chance for a normal life. He deserves that from us, after all he’s done for this city.” 

“Deserves…” Logan responded with a mix of resentment and dismissal. “He deserves to be in that Asylum. You want justice? This ain’t it.” 
She didn’t reply. She couldn’t – she agreed with him. But then again, Batman also deserved the credit for cleaning up the city as much as her father, but was never going to get it. As with everything in Gotham, it was complicated. Giving Batman the chance to retire may not have been the best legal solution, but it was the least messy way to tie off the loose end.
“Commissioner?” a familiar voice growled beside them.
Barbara wheeled her chair through 90 degrees to face the Batman. Even showing as little of his face as he did though the mask, she could see his advanced age showing through. She wondered if his body really did still fill out the suit, or if it was a hollow facade. Bruce Wayne and Logan may have been the same age, but Logan’s mutation spared him from showing it physically – the gruffness of their manner on the other hand, betrayed both of them.
“Thank you for coming.” She began.

“What’s the situation?”
Logan rolled his eyes and let out a small laugh.

“Relax Bat… The world isn’t ending.”

“Logan please” Barbara chided “don’t make this hard.”
Logan slunk away and lit a cigar, only half interested in the conversation. 
“Sorry about him, that’s…” Barbara began.

“Wolverine.” Batman finished. “Mutant…” He added with a trace of venom in his voice. He saw Logan shoot a look back to them… “Why is he here?”

“I asked him to come. We need to talk to you.”
Batman walked over to floodlight and turned it off. “This isn’t a toy.”
“No, it’s a relic.” Logan cut back, “But it got you here, didn’t it?”

“What do you want Barbara?” 

“I need you to retire the Bat. Gotham doesn’t need it anymore.” Barbara stated, with a firmness that surprised her.

“Gotham will always need the Bat – it’s part of who this city is now.” Batman replied.
Logan shifted his stance subconsciously – this is exactly what he’d said would happen. 
“My father told me who you are before he died” Barbara continued, unconvinced. “Don’t you want to have that life again, free of the Batman?”

“Batman isn’t something I can get free of. It’s who I am.”

“Then what do you need the mask for?” Logan sniped.

“To protect the people I care about.”

“Well you’re doing a bang-up job of that…”
Three things happened simultaneously; Batman stepped forward, Logan showed his claws and Barbara Gordon pulled out her weapon and cocked it. 
“Stop it!” she shouted, her gun pointed at Batman, to his shock.

“Just stop it! This isn’t the way to deal with this. Not every problem requires someone to get into a fist fight to solve it… ”

She put away her gun and calmed a little.

“Bruce – it’s over. The Mayor wants to show the world that we’ve moved on. That the Police can handle the city without the threat of the Batman backing them up. Civil Liberties groups want you to stand trial for all the crimes you’ve committed as the Batman… Right now only the three of us know who you really are, and it can stay that way – all we have to do is say you never showed up, and you never leave the cave again. You go back to being Bruce Wayne, billionaire industrialist, and nobody will know… But if you refuse, we have to take you in. It’ll be Arkham – it’ll be a circus. It’ll be horrible.”
The silence between them allowed the sounds of the city to fill the spaces between the buildings once more.
“I can’t stop. Ever. If it’s not Bane and the Joker, it’s something else. The mob. Other people with powers. Now we have mutants…”

“Mutants aren’t a threat pal, we’re just defending ourselves.” Logan snarled.

“I can’t take that chance. This city needs to know I’m here. Defending it. Always.”

Barbara pleaded with him; “You can do so much good as Bruce Wayne…”

“I’m not going to Arkham. You can try to take me, but it’s going to take more than one man.”

“Bruce don’t be so stubborn – you know this can’t last forever. People need to see that nobody, not even the Batman, is above the law.”
Bruce turned slowly to look out over the city. Barbara could feel his shoulders drop – was he really considering giving it up? So easily? Perhaps his face wasn’t the only thing to have weathered over the years. Maybe his will-power was lacking these days as well.
“I’m not above the law.” he said “But you know as well as I do that sometimes the law isn’t enough. Sometimes the truth is that guilty people go free. Deals are made. Corruption undermines the system. And when that happens, that’s where I’ll be. You can argue the rights and wrongs, but we both know it’s necessary.”
With that, Bruce Wayne receded and the Batman lurched forward and threw himself from the building, extending his wings as he tumbled towards terminal velocity.
Barbara went to yell after him but thought better of it. Logan stood implacably beside her.
“Great. Now what?” he asked.

“Now you and your friends have to catch him…” Barbara replied.

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