Batman Quest: Bethlehem Rising, Issue #10

Gotham is on fire.

Due to record-breaking temperatures, flash-fires have begun to erupt spontaneously throughout the metropolis. The city’s fortunate have fled to relief shelters, those left outside the overcrowded facilities facing near certain death by exposure.

The fall of night has brought little relief. Gotham’s sickness, its madmen that eat at it like a cancer, have struck it at its weakest. Seemingly in concert, they’ve all attacked on this night, the eve before the environmental summit. Behind it all lurks a mysterious, hereto unknown adversary: the “Instigator.” His name has come up far too often to be ignored.

Father would be ashamed.

You are Damian Wayne, son of the Bat and his successor. When Bruce Wayne met his inevitable end, the charge was laid upon you by both his ghost and the tacit endorsement of Richard Grayson to take his place. You have done all you can in his stead; and yet, Gotham burns.

You are currently in a downtown office tower in pursuit of the criminal known as Max Roboto. Roboto has been taking advantage of the murderous climate, sacking the financial quarters of its riches by using his cybernetic augmentations to directly interface with the security systems. From there, hacking it is as easy as breathing for him.

Roboto currently has you trapped on the 37th floor of an office tower, and he’s turning up the heat. Your cowl calculates five minutes until temperatures become unsustainable. You’ve placed Semtex on the otherwise unbreakable glass panel that runs along the outside wall of the building.

Behind you, a phone is ringing on a desk.

You pick up the receiver, toss it on the table and have your cowl patch in wirelessly.

“What do you want, Max? We need to end this.”

You’re buying time. Roboto is insane, always has been. You’ll never give him what he wants.

“I want you to leave me alone. I want to walk away from thi–”

“That’s not an option, Max. You’re going down for this one.”

There’s a prolonged silence, during which you crouch down behind a cubicle wall and ready the detonator, then command O.R.A.C.L.E. to override the audio frequencies of this floor and prepare for a sonic burst.

“Then, Batman,” replies Robot, his voice building into a scream, “I want you to die!”

O.R.A.C.L.E. triggers the audio burst and everything goes silent as your cowl shuts out everything outside. You key the detonator and feel the thump as the reinforced glass shatters in great sheets. Running toward the opening, you launch yourself outward and audio comes back online. Roboto is still screaming.

“That’s not an option, either.”

Throwing your weight forward in the air, you reach for your grapnel gun and aim for what you hope to be the thirty-third floor.

In all of a second, the grapnel gun fires and breaks the target window, burying itself in the floor beyond. You trigger the retraction mechanism and it nearly pulls your arm out of its socket. The next thing you feel is your shoulder slamming into the carpet of the thirty-third floor. You do your best to roll out of it, but it’s awkward. A moment is spared to extract some shards of glass from your arm and shoulders, then you stand and consider your next move. You have a minute at best before Roboto knows exactly where you are.

You wander the cubicles, hoping to get some sense of where you are. But it’s all so non-descript, cubicle after cubicle of mundane office space. O.R.A.C.L.E. is having trouble getting a fix on your location. Figures.

You see an emergency stairwell sign at the far end of the room.

You attempt to splice connections to get a boost and provide O.R.A.C.L.E. with an anchor, but it’s no use. Whether the increase in power just isn’t sufficient or the method of combining lines is simply beyond your expertise, you’re not sure.

You cross the darkened room to the emergency stairwell door, test the crashbar. Surprisingly, it’s open, but locks seconds after you push the door ajar.

Behind you, a cell phone somewhere in the dark stats vibrating.

Odd. A cell phone. Slightly different method of communication.

You click your tongue in frustration.

You find the vibrating cell phone with relative ease, pick it up and thumb the talk button, then toss it back down on the desk. In seconds, your cowl interface picks up the signal and taps in. You say nothing, waiting for the psychopath the make his play.

There is a long moment of silence. Then a strange, altered voice comes over the line.

“Batman? Are you there?”

“What do you want, Roboto?”

You’re already down the stairwell, moving as quickly as you can.

“I’m not Roboto,” answers the mechanical voice, “I’m… It’s M.”

You keep moving down the stairwell, vaulting the steps two at a time.

“I don’t have time for this. Who are you?” You growl.

There’s another long pause, then:

“The Machinist. You were supposed to meet with me and blew me off. Looks like you could make use of my expertise. Question is, why should I make myself available to you?”

“I decided you weren’t worthy then. I still don’t think you are now. You’re a cheap merc with a flair for the philosophical, Machinist. Nothing more.”

You end communications as you arrive at the thirtieth floor. Looking around, you see signs indicating the presence of a security nexus on this floor. You follow them down the virtually indistinguishable, corporate hallways to a heavy steel door with a card reader lock.

This, it would appear, is Max Roboto’s most likely location.

You brace yourself against the wall opposite the door, then launch yourself, planting your foot squarely on the locking mechanism.

It squeals, shatters and gives way. Inside, a small room with a large bank of computers and monitors lining the inside wall. A single occupant, sitting on a cheap desk chair with several wires trailing to and from the mainframe.

Max Roboto.

He turns, startled, then snarls upon recognizing you. The deadly laser in his right eye heats up. You’ve got less than a second before this becomes a full-blown drag-out brawl.

“No.” You growl, your hand darting out, knuckles curled. The normally light blow impacts effectively against Roboto’s Adam’s apple, choking him and giving you a chance to get in a few more chops.

He recovers, then makes an attack of his own, trying a swift right cross as his eye heats up again.

Roboto’s armored fist cracks across your jaw, rocking your head back and setting you seeing stars. You manage to break away and reset for another bout. Roboto’s eye is almost charged up.

You charge Roboto all-out, flurrying him with a brutal series of blows. He howls, doubling in on himself under the assault. The psychopath looks so beaten that you nearly miss his uppercut arcing toward you.

You arc your head backward and away from Roboto’s attack, leaving him open and vulnerable. One last chance to put him down before the eye is charged.

You can almost here father growling over your shoulder as you ponder the possibilities. In the end, you decide to uphold your promise to him. You deliver a savage punch to Roboto’s side, breaking ribs and collapsing a lung.

He’s down, suffering, but definitely still alive. You’ll have to call in the GCPD to ensure he goes to Arkham before anything else happens. There’s still much to do.

And the sun is coming up.

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