Walking carefully in a dark alley behind an old factory, Jay kept looking around to make sure there was no one else around. "Brucey!" he hissed. "You here?"
Steps were heard coming his way only they came from more than one person and the two school bullies stepped into the light. The former quarterback in front of him, the wrestling captain coming up from behind.
"Brucey's not in right now but you like, please leave a message after the ass whoopin'!" Wayde said making his knuckles snap.
"Brucey never sent that note to meet'm here, did he?" Jay said trying to keep a smile on his face.
"See Ed? I told you he didn't have a balloon animal for a brain."
"Indeed, he does seem smarter than your average prankster."
"Heh, and here I thought you guys didn't have a sense of humour..."
"Trust me, you'll die laughing when we're done with you," Wayde said as the two boys started closing in on him.
"I'd love to exchange a few jokes with you guys but all you care about are the punch-lines," Jay said and dived between Wayde's legs then ran off.
The two being hot on his trail he broke a window and ran inside the old factory. There were large containers full of chemical waste, it looked like it had been a cosmetics factory but Jay had little time to think because the two boys burst through the door. He ran up the steps on a walkway that crossed the large room but before he could reach the other side, he saw Eduard already climbing the stairs and behind him, Wayde was walking at a slow pace.
"Come on, fellas, can't you take a joke?" Jay asked as the two cornered him.
"Your type of buffoonery is not amusing," Eduard replied and tried to grab him.
Jay ducked out of reach but Wayde grabbed him from behind and raised him off the ground. The smaller boy hit him in the chest with both feet then landed on the other's shoulders but before he could jump off, Eduard grabbed his ankles and threw him off then dangled him above one of the chemical containers. Just out of reach was a rusty chain and when he saw it, Jay pulled himself up with his legs then pushed off the other's chest and grabbed it.
"Looks like I get the last laugh, boys. Ha ha ha... AH!" he yelled when the chain broke and he dropped into the container.
"Who's laughing now?" Wayde replied.
"We should leave quickly," Eduard said and motioned him to the exit.
When Bruce arrived at school in the morning, still sleepy after another late night of working hard on his project, he found the school at unrest. It looked like some sort of tragic news was going around and everyone was whispering about something that had happened last night.
"Victor, what's going on?" Bruce asked finding a familiar face.
"Dreadful news, Bruce. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you but Jay was in an accident."
After being filled in on the details, Bruce got back in his car and drove to the hospital where his friend was being admitted. Surprisingly, the principal was there, talking to the doctors. He greeted Bruce with a nod and resumed his conversation. Outside Jay's room, Pamela and Barbara were trying to calm down the nervous wreck that was Harleen Quinnzel.
"There, there, Harley," Pamela was saying. "The doctors said he's out of danger, right?"
"Yeah, he'll be cracking jokes in no time," Barbara added.
"Bu-bu-but... they said that thing did something to him," Harley said then blew her nose loudly.
"They said it wasn't that serious," Pamela insisted then noticed the new arrival. "Look Harley, Bruce is here."
Harley looked up, her eyes red and filled with tears then jumped in his arms, squeezing even tighter than last time. "Brucey! They hurt my pudin'!" she wailed.
"Who hurt your pud... I mean, who hurt Jay?" Bruce asked trying to keep her from suffocating him.
"Puddin' said he was going to meet with you last night, said he got a secret note from you..."
"That's ridiculous, I never sent any note and I was at home all night..."
"I know that, you'd never hurt puddin'..." she said letting go then looked at him with an angry expression. "It was them."
"I don't think we should start pointing fingers, Ms Quinnzel," the principal said.
"All the same, Jay's not the type to do a swan dive into a chemical waste container," Bruce argued.
"A valid point, Mr Wayne, but we have no witnesses until Mr Kerr awakens. Even so, he was breaking and entering. But... given the circumstances, I'll allow you four to skip school today," R'as said walking away.
"You believe me, don't cha Brucey?" Harley asked with a plea in her voice and her eyes.
"Of course I do, Harley."
With the day off, Bruce rushed back home and went to his workshop in the attic and resumed his work. They had gone too far. Bullying was one thing but when they put Jay in the hospital he could not stand by any more and let them terrorise the school for their own amusement. For hours he worked to finish up his gear but by sunset it was finally finished. He took a few steps back and looked at it, a proud smile on his face. Onceeverything ready, he packed his gear in a backpack and headed off but before he could step outside, he was stopped by the voice of his guardian.
"Going out this late, Master Bruce?"
"Yeah... I've got some stuff to do."
"At Wayne Enterprises no doubt," the old man said crossing his arms over his chest.
"Exactly, special project with Lucius."
"Your 'special projects' seem to be taking a considerable amount of your time lately. You will eventually run out of energy and collapse, or worse. I will not have that on my watch."
"You worry too much, Alfred, I'll be fine," Bruce replied, though he could not help feeling guilty.
"May I at least know why you sent all those building supplies in the caves?"
"To explore," Bruce shrugged. "Gotta go, Alfred!"
He felt guilty about lying, Alfred had been more like an uncle than a guardian or butler from day one. All he wanted was for him to be safe but Bruce could not think of himself at a time like that. It was not just about Jay any more, he could not sit by while people like Wayde and Eduard terrorised the school.
It was not hard to find them in town, he had heard the football players talk about their favourite places to hang out. That night, it was at street fighter gathering.
'Perfect...' Bruce said to himself as he watched them from high above.
It was dangerous and foolish to just get in the middle of all that so he waited patiently for a couple of hours. By the time the two finally left, Bruce's body was stiff from sitting up there all that time and he had to stretch as he followed them until he reached the end of the rooftops in jumping range. He had climbed the stairs in the first place but when they crossed the street it was a whole different situation. He grabbed his grappling hook then looked at the long way down to street level.
'Ok... come on Bruce, you can do this...'
He aimed at the rooftop of another building and once the grappling hook had a solid hold on the wall, he moved to the ledge took a deep breath and swung away, heading straight for an alley, flying just above the two boys, crashing into a dumpster.
"What the heck was that?" Wayde asked.
"Looked like someone in a glider..." the other replied.
"Let's check it out," Wayde said going in the dark alley before the other could voice his objection.
A few moments later, something kicked Wayde in the stomach then punched him in the face, turned him around and threw him into a wall.
"Wayde!" Eduard exclaimed rushing towards him. "What happened..."
"Th-the shadows attacked me..."
"That's ludicrous. Shadows do not have a physical form and thus cannot attack anything."
"Some shadows can..." a hoarse voice replied.
Eduard frowned but stood up. "More like those who wish to be like shadows..." he said looking around.
It was too dark to see anything and suddenly a metal ball hit him in the chest then exploded into a large puff of smoke. Next thing he knew, someone was grabbing his arm and pushed him against the wall but he used it as support and pushed back, but the figure tripped him and let him fall then tied his wrists. Wayde had recovered and tried to attack but the figure ducked and trapped one of his wrists as wll then turned him around and tied the other one, binding the two together.
When they finally got a good look at him, it was a cloaked figure completely black except for a pair of white, sharp eyes that seemed to glow.
"Wh-who are you?" Wayde asked the black figure nervously.
"I'm the one who'll be watching you from now on."
"Do you have a name?" Eduard asked angrily.
"Batman," it replied and disappeared once more into the shadows.