Requiem of Gotham City

A Christyle Inc. exclusive!

Gotham City. 

The city at war with itself.

You can never wash the stench off of you that is this city. Infested with crime, ulterior motives, and blanket statements of support from the surrounding districts. You can’t help but wonder what purgatory exists that doesn’t mirror the streets of this foul place. How does anyone wake up every day and positively recount the previous day as anything but a failure that they survived this city’s advances towards death?

And yet, it’s the city worth risking everything to protect from its elements.

The so-called herald of this city is gone. We don’t know if he’s been taken out in the sewers and horrendously eaten by Killer Croc, blown up by Riddler on one of his questionnaire binges or if Joker finally got unlucky and ended him during his patented cat-a-mouse games he always puts on display. Several days ago, he was last seen above the GCPD HQ answering his famous bright pillar of light silhouette with Commissioner Gordon.

But we last spoke several months ago when he inducted us into his new Gotham initiative, Batman Inc.

Batman was losing the team support he had. Nightwing left the city and was seen in Bloodhaven. The other Robin vanished and was later reported dead by the Joker. The next one joined with Nightwing and his Titans while this newer Robin exiled himself from Batman and started fighting on his own. With him being spread out thin, Batman decided to start a training program for willing participants to defend themselves when needed and to train them on how to assist the GCPD if they cannot fight. As this training regime proved positive, he took a select few under his wing in secret to train them into the way of the Bat.

I, a former Marine with a dishonorable discharge on my record, and my teen daughter, who set records in her high school’s gymnastics team, were chosen to participate in this secret training course. Originally they wanted me due to the demand chase between Penguin’s goon hiring service and Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad, but I declined both and even survived multiple assassination attempts because of it. Out of the few attempts I thwarted, only one was successful.

Before now, we were a happy family with my wife Monica and our daughter, but that changed when she was taken from me. 

I don’t dwell on the story because it never has a happy moment, and that’s in the past. It was supposed to be a simple hit: they were to arrive on motorbikes and shoot me in the driver’s seat on the highway. They didn’t anticipate that my wife drove that night because I forgot my wallet at home, and they didn’t expect that we left the party separate because we fought publicly that night at the Wayne Manor benefit social. Nothing could prepare me for the rest of my life but anticipation after that night.

The following nights, I couldn’t sleep. I looked after my daughter and ensured that nobody else was to die under my supervision. I found a few of Penguin’s men snooping around my daughter’s friends at Gotham University and decided my message needed to be clear: You will not terrorize me any longer. I tailed them to a nearby dive bar as they were planning a heist of the friend group when I approached them from behind.

“Leave now, and I won’t send you back to Penguin with your tailbone lodge in your skull.”

“Huh? Talking to us? Who are you, tough guy?”

Suddenly, the bar became smaller and smaller as every patron stood up and circled us.

“Do you know where you’re at? Do you think you can waltz in here and say whatever to me? What a death wish.”

I sighed.

“I don’t care how many men Penguin owns, you will leave my family alone, or I’m evening the score.”

Just then, the realization hit the thug. He noticed the angry shaking man in front of him immediately. 

“Hey, that’s the guy we didn’t kill. We nicked his wife! What a great gift: we can take you out now AND grab your precious little girl in the SAME DAY!” remarked the thug, brandishing a knife.

Rage built into me as I lunged forward and punched the knife-wielding thug, avoiding the oncoming fists from the onlookers. My marine training prepared me for close hand-to-hand combat of somewhat this caliber so I made it my mission to survive and if not: take as many out with me as possible. 

A selfish mission to go with considering my daughter is not even more than 3 miles away from this brawl.

As the fight continued, I began to see the positive in grouping in more significant numbers as they almost began to overpower me. With most of my stamina beginning to wane, I noticed a shady figure approach behind one of the thugs taking in the scene and kicked him to the side. With everyone’s eyes averted, I took advantage of the distraction and continued fighting. Nobody needed to ask who came to fight, we all know who arrived.

As we finished the brawl, Batman knelt down and grabbed one of the conscious Penguin thugs who had just finished gargling his own teeth. “I want you to relay a message,” said Batman.

“Yeah…yeah sure, Bats. Who needs to know something?” asked the nervous thug, unaware that he’d have to remember it after he woke up in an hour.

“Tell Penguin that this family is no longer a target. If he doesn’t comply, I’m coming after him again! You’d better have this remembered when he comes to wake you!” reminded Batman, readying his fist.

“I’ll tell him right now Batm-…wait, wake me? Why would he-”

Just then Batman delivered a thundering blow to the thug’s head rendering him unconscious. As he slowly rose back up, he turned to me.

“I’ve assured you he won’t come after you and your daughter, Robert.”

“Don’t say my name. You don’t have the right.”

A hushed silence formed between us.

“…I can’t keep holding that above your head. It doesn’t bring her back and it sure as hell doesn’t make the situation any easier,” I sighed, unclenching my jaw and relaxing my body.

“If I could change the outcome of that night at Wayne Manor-”

“You’d have done the right thing, Bruce. I know. Miranda wouldn’t have needed to drive home angry if I knew how to communicate.”

Batman’s identity had been a global secret for years, only known to a select few of his allies and enemies. I signed myself in the neutral zone of that list after Miranda was killed when he ventured into the funeral as Bruce Wayne and said his condolences as he offered to pay for the funeral costs and medical bills I accrued. I couldn’t see it then, but he then offered Batman as a service to find the people responsible. My time in the military taught me very little but one thing: Anyone who can be deployed by another either knows them personally or is masquerading as them completely.

I later told him I knew he was Batman, and he didn’t argue it back to me. We’ve kept a secret at bay since then.

“Have you given it some thought, Robert?” asked Batman.

“Of the Batman Inc. thing? I don’t know, is it safe to include Mila as a vigilante?

“She, like you, are especially capable of defending yourselves at a higher rate than most. Just a course in League of Assassin’s training should be enough to prepare you.”

I’ve been mulling this over for weeks. Batman wants my daughter Mila and me to become crime fighters along with several other people in Gotham. It’s completely immoral as a parent to put your child in this predicament. There isn’t a single sane person who would, nor should make the incorrect choice here.

But, it’s a waste of skill and expertise not to include her. She’s agile, smart, and capable to adapt. As a soldier, you can’t have that skillset and not use it to defend your home. That would be more immoral.

“I’ll talk to her about it and give you your answer. I know how to reach you.”

That night, Mila came home from university and told me about her day at dinner over Chinese take-out. She mentioned a shady guy dressed in black followed her, but then recounted that she no longer saw him after that, or anybody fitting the description. 

“Mila, remember when we talked about how fast you’ve gotten and how much you’ve changed after high school?” I asked, breaching into the uncharted territories I wasn’t ready to journey into.

“Yeah? Why, do you want me to talk to that coach at Gotham U?”

“No, not that. What do you think about the current state of Gotham and Batman’s protection of it?”

“I think it can’t just be Batman risking his life for this City. GCPD is spread thin, but unless the Commissioner can get better sanctioning on who he hires, it’s useless for them to do anything other than reading meters. It’s almost up to us.”

“What if…it is up to us?”

“What, you think asking Batman to hire us to fight with him is some idea he has for us? You sure you didn’t fall down more than just the stairs today, dad?” Mila joked, noting my bruises and cuts on my face and arms.

“I’m serious. Why not? What if he DID ask? Would you accept?”

“Hell yeah, I would. Who wouldn’t want to work with the Dark Knight himself? But I’m a realist and not a little girl anymore. He’s not wasting time on us no matter how many pseudo-self-defense training courses he offers the city.”

I had no choice. She answered.

I reached into my pocket and dialed an unlisted phone number from my contacts.

“Hello, Alfred Pennyworth of Wayne Manor speaking?”

“Alfred. Let’s start the enlistment process.”

“I’ll relay the message and give you the coordinates.”

I hung up and turned to Mila. “Let’s go see your Dark Knight and start your dream job.”

“Wait…what?” asked Mila, getting up from the kitchen table.

“It’s time I told you the truth about Batman and how much of your life he’s involved in.”

We entered into my pick-up, still littered in military insignias I hadn’t had the chance to remove and drove off into the night.