SHADOW OF THE LANTERN
by Arkhaine -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: All comic book characters and settings are copyright of
DC comics. This story contains mild profanity, references to murder and
violence, and descriptions thereof that may possibly offend some
readers. Discretion is advised.
Few could hear that high-pitched laugh without shivering, for in
that laugh rang the merry notes of madness. Only one man could lay
claim to the laugh which had been known to strike fear in the hearts of
the staunchest men.
That man was currently running down a shadowy side street which, in
kinder times, had been known as Park Row. Emerald hair whipped in the
wind as he glanced behind him, watching for pursuit. The flush that he
felt from running did nothing to bring color to the bone-white cheeks,
the flesh of his face remaining the same cadaverous pallor it had been
for years. Blood-red lips were twisted upwards in a perpetual grin, and
those lips were stretched open to make room for the shrieking merriment
that tore from his lungs.
The Joker rounded a corner and immediately fell back against the
wall, panting from the effort of running and laughing at the same time.
He supposed he could have stopped laughing, but he having entirely too
He gasped twice for breath, filled his lungs, and then screamed
with pure joy.
"WHAT A RUSH!"
Immediately he clapped his hand over his mouth, giggling. Wouldn't
do to be heard, nope nope. Tip-toing with the exaggerated finesse of a
cartoon character, he hesitantly peeked from around the corner.
"Hah! Lost him." Yes, he had been having fun, although having his
escape car just about obliterated put kind of a ding to it. Oh well,
life was more interesting that way. Still, things *did* get kind of
hairy there for a moment, when that nut in black and orange had jumped
from a rooftop had landed on the hood of his car. And plunging that
nasty old sword -- had that sword been on *fire?* He could have sworn
it had been -- down through the hood and right through the engine block
certainly wasn't very neighborly. He had just managed to leap out of
the car before it smashed into the back of a parked truck and exploded
nicely. But what had *really* made him sit up and take notice was the
way Mr. Black-and-Orange had just walked out of the flames, cloak
billowing behind him with the thermal breezes. That had just looked so
-- so --
Cool. Huh. Uhuhuh. Huhuh.
Almost cool enough to make up for the guy picking such a crappy
name. I mean, the guy could have looked like Darth Vader for all the
Joker cared -- that was no excuse for naming himself after that stupid
orange cat in that Smurfs cartoon. Puh-LEEZE!
And people called him crazy.
Joker took a moment to bask in the glory. He lowered the
metal-sided briefcase he had been carrying to the ground, and opened it
up. Inside was a single, innocuous-looking cannister, about a foot in
length, nestled with loving care in a like-shaped foam cushion. Whoever
would have thought that this newly-stolen cannister contained one of the
most lethal pathogens human science had ever developed? Of course, by
the time *he* was through bonding it with his special Joker-venom
(patent pending!), he would make the original virus look like chicken
pox. The end result would be a lovely epidemic of smiley-faces, forever
frozen in all their rictus glory, courtesy of a series of very lethal
"And they thought the Clench was bad," the Joker crooned, lovingly
stroking the cannister. "Wait'll they get a load of me!" He laughed,
then paused. Hmmm. That was kind of catchy.
Snapping shut the locks on the briefcase, the Joker rose to his
feet. "Get ready, Gotham City!" he caroled. "I'm gonna spread me a
"I don't think so, clown."
That voice! That horrible, grating monotone! One of these days,
Joker was going to give the voice's owner a huge shot of Primotene . . .
followed up with a cyanide chaser, of course.
He turned, reaching into the lapel of his oh-so-stylish purple
coat, closing around the gun nestled in a shoulder holster. But before
he could draw, the world exploded before his eyes.
"Arrgh!" Doubling over, the Joker rubbed furiously at his eyes,
trying desparately to clear his vision. The pistol clattered to the
What the Hell had he been hit with? Strobe blinder? Phosphorous
flare? Didn't matter. As soon as he got his sight back, he was going
to open up a few cans of whoop-ass -- with whipped cream and a cherry on
For a few seconds, all he could see was the ghostly afterimage of
that damn light. Then his vision cleared completlely -- and Joker
Somehow in his thrashing, he had gotten turned around, and was now
staring at the opposite wall. He hadn't been able to make anything out
of the blinding flash, but now he saw the details of that light
projected on the brick. The symbol that had become so familiar to him
over the years: the silhouette of a black bat in flight, imposed over an
oval moon. Only this time, the moon's hue was not that of ethereal
It was green.
Joker whirled as the symbol cut off, and the Dark Knight descended
from the rooftop, his boots striking the ground to absorb the shock of
the neat landing. Snarling, the Joker raised his hand, flicking out of
his sleeve --
Calmly, he set to grooming his disarrayed locks Grease-style as he
glanced over his adversary. Not much had changed in the lines of the
costume itself; bat-winged cloak and cowl with ridged gauntlets and
boots. Tights and a shirt with the same oval bat-symbol. However, the
color scheme, as well as the basic design, had changed. The cloak and
cowl had been darkened from their previous midnight blue to a shimmering
black. The gloves and boots, too -- and hey, almost everything else.
The only bits of color left in the costume were the utility belt, which
had taken an emerald hue, and the shirt. A green inverted triangle
extended down from the shoulders to the middle of the chest. Only
instead of ending in a point, the lines converged upon the edges of a
green (nice change of pace, huh?) oval, the black bat-symbol resting
square in the middle.
Nifty. Not superb, but certainly different.
"Like the new look, Bats," Joker commented as he finished
grooming. "Especially all that green." He gave his own kelly-colored
locks a final pat before putting the comb away.
"Hand over the pathogen, Joker," Batman grated as he took a step
foward, the folds of his cloak dropping to cover his front. Now he
looked completely like a shadow. Joker didn't like that -- made it too
easy for Bats to get the drop on him. And the night was still young; he
didn't want it to end so early.
"Not another step, Batsy!" Joker shrieked, snapping open the
breifcase and seizing the cannister within. He let the case clatter to
the ground as he held up the cylinder. "Another step and I smash this
open, and we can have lots and lots of company to join us in Hell --
whomever the wind decides to invite along!" That'd do it. Old Batsy
couldn't risk all those innocent lives. He'd back down, and then the
fun could *really* begin.
Not this time.
Batman threw out his hand, and Joker had enough time to see a flash
of green light before a monstrous bat seemed to materialize out of thin
air. It shrieked and dived towards the astonished madman, tearing the
cannister from his grip with enough force to make his fingers bleed.
And yet, the Joker noticed through the shock, the damned thing hadn't
left so much as a scratch in the cannister.
"You were saying, Joker?"
Snarling, Joker threw a punch towards Batman's face. The vigilante
sidestepped it easily, throwing the knife-edge of his hand into the
madman's solar plexus. Joker fell to his knees as spikes of pain
starfished from his diaphragm. He hands clutched at his torso, forcing
in a hissing, pained breath.
"Give it up, clown."
Joker just had to laugh in spite of the pain. Give it up? Was he
"Oh, Batsy," he giggled. "You know me better than that." He
straightened suddenly, brandishing the flower that decorated his lapel
and sending a stream of deadly acid arcing through the air, to hiss and
bubble over --
A brick wall?
A glowing *green* brick wall?
Where the Hell did *that* come from?
Joker didn't have time to ponder, as the wall vanished and a
black-gloved fist slammed into his face. He felt his nose fold, felt
warm blood flow down his chin and front as he staggered back.
"All right, that's it," he mumbled through a mouthful of blood.
"No more Mr. Nice Guy." A six-inch stiletto slipped from his sleeve
into his hand. Uncle Joker was going to see if Batsy-boy bled green
A bo staff materialized in the Batman's hand, hissing through the
air with lightning speed. The Joker felt the bones in his wrist snap,
felt the knife slip through his fingers as he screamed. He collapsed to
his knees, clutching at his injured wrist.
"It's over, Joker." The clown only barely felt the restraints
close around his body, seemingly formed from solid green light. As he
sunk to the ground, descending into shock, he saw the flashing red
lights, could dimly hear the crackle of the police radio. He fought
against unsconsciousness, struggled up to the surface as the
black-and-white pulled into the alley. There was just one more thing he
had to say --
"B'de, b'de, b'de, that's all folks." Then, mercifully, the Joker
dropped into blackness.
The roar of the Batmobile's engine echoed and re-echoed throughout
the caverns, startling a flock of bats into flight. Alfred sighed as he
approached the sleek car, carrying a large covered tray in his hands.
He couldn't understand why, with the power of the Green Lantern at his
disposal, Master Bruce simply didn't fly from one place to another.
Yes, yes, he had heard the speech about not wanting to squander such
power, but with all the Green Lanterns flight had seemed to come as a
matter of course. Besides, Alfred could imagine how liberating it must
feel, to soar the winds without the aid of tethers or lines, the whole
of Gotham stretched below you . . . of course, he imagined it would be
rather disconcerting to be caught like that if the ring's power started
"Good evening, Master Bruce," he said politely as the ebon-caped
figure stepped emerged from the vehicle. "I trust things have turned
out well this evening?"
Batman drew back his hood as he walked past his butler, revealing
the face of Bruce Wayne, weary and drawn with the events of the night.
The eyes, however, blazed with life, with a spark of triumph over a
successful night's work. As Alfred dutifully followed the man he had
raised since boyhood, he reflected that this was the real Bruce Wayne;
not the carefree millionaire playboy, not the grim and forbidding Dark
Knight, but a man who carried more years than he should have been
carrying, and who spent a large share of days morose and thoughtful, but
was still able to take satisfaction in a job well done.
"They have, Alfred," Wayne responded, addressing his butler's
inquiry. "The Joker has been recaptured, and the pathogen is safely
locked away in a Star Labs vault. Tonight was good." He seated himself
in front of a massive computer while Alfred stood by his side, still
bearing the huge tray. "Has Tim checked in yet?" Wayne inquired as he
entered the details of the night's escapade into the computer's memory
for future reference.
"Master Tim has not, sir," Alfred replied, having seen the young
man depart hours beforehand, dressed in his Robin uniform. Wayne
"I asked him to check in at the top of every hour," he noted,
shaking his head. Unconsciously, his fingers flexed, bringing a
crystal-metallic ring into view. Gifted with an emerald hue, the ring
was worn on the outside of the armored gauntlet, grasping the fabric
with no difficulty. Its previous lantern-shape had been replaced with a
bat-symbol, raised in slight relief from the surface of an oval signet
"Perhaps he is involved in pressing matters, and cannot afford to
call in," Alfred suggested, uncovering the tray. "Or perhaps he has
forgotten. Or," he added gently, "perhaps he feels you are treating him
unfairly by implying he cannot take care of himself, and demanding to
know his every movement like a worriesome older brother."
Wayne looked up to see a green artifact balanced skillfully on the
silver tray. Taking the form of an artistically-designed lantern, the
power battery was the only witness as to the fate of its previous owner,
and Batman sometimes found himself wishing that he could tap the powers
sleeping dormant within, and force it to reveal what had occured on that
"You're right, Alfred," Wayne admitted with a sigh, taking the
battery and setting it in his lap. The battery started to hum, and he
could feel the ring on his finger vibrate in resonance. He continued to
speak as the ring recharged itself. "It's just that . . . ever since
Kyle died . . ." He trailed off into silence, and for a few moments,
the only sound between the two men was the steady drip-dripping of water
somewhere in the caves, and the steady humming of the battery.
"You liked him, didn't you sir?" Alfred asked gently. The younger
man didn't respond for a long time, seeming to genuinely think it over.
At length, he responded.
"He was young, and undisciplined despite his handling of the ring,"
Wayne said slowly. "He was impulsive and often times uncontrollable.
Neither of those are positive factors when dealing with that kind of
power." Another long pause punctuated the cave, before Wayne finished
quietly, "But he found himself given a special gift, and he was
determined to use that gift to make the world a better place, instead of
sitting by and counting on someone else to do the work. I respected
that. And no one deserved to die the way he did." Wayne closed his
eyes, the horrific image rising before him, unlike anything he had ever
seen: the blood-splattered walls, the scraps of flesh, the opened
sternum hanging from a ceiling fan. And on top of it all, in seeming
mockery, the Green Lantern symbol scored into the far wall, bits of bone
and brain embedded in the scratchings.
"I owe it to him to use all the resources at my disposal to find
his killer and bring him to justice," Batman said softly, opening his
eyes. "Kyle was a good person, and one of the JLA. One of us. He
*will* have justice. And besides . . . Earth needs a Green Lantern."
He smiled wryly as he withdrew the ring, now fully charged, from the
power battery. He was still getting used to the idea of continuing a
legacy of cosmic defenders and galactic heroes, as opposed to the
shadowy mantle he had taken for himself.
"And I suppose the fact that assuming the role of Green Lantern
puts you on a level with other super-powered individuals has nothing to
do with it?" Both men knew better, however; the remark was, at best, a
back-handed quip. Batman's greatest concern with using the ring was
that he would eventually come to depend on it for his edge, as he had
with the steriodal drug, Venom, not too long ago. "Are you certain you
would not feel safer leaving it in the care of one of the other Justice
League members? Or perhaps another party altogether? A former Green
Batman shrugged. "Kyle died before he could choose a successor,
and without Ganthet or the Guardians to choose, it comes down to a
matter of selection. Superman, Wonder Woman, and J'onn all have their
own powers, their own responsibilities, to live up to without the added
duties of the Green Lantern. Wally was too close to Kyle -- assuming
the mantle would be too painful for him. Aquaman doesn't want the
power, affirming that his own powers are more than sufficient when
dealing with Earth's oceans. I'm inclined to agree with him.
"As for former Green Lanterns, or any who show potential as such,
those have come up dead-ends as well. Sentinel has similar powers and
seems content with those. The same goes for his daughter and son. Jon
Stewart seems content with his life away from the Green Lantern role,
due perhaps in part to an incident involving the destruction of a
planet, something I'm sure he still feels responsible for. And I'll
admit that Guy Gardener and I haven't gotten along in the past, but I
honestly don't think he measures up.
"The ring is too powerful to allow to sit in storage, where it
might someday be stolen and used for ill purpose. Not to mention the
fact that it might help in locating Kyle's murderer. Someone has to use
it, someone with both willpower and imagination. And, like it or not,
it looks like that someone is going to have to be me."
"Then I wish you the best of luck, sir," Alfred said fervently.
"Will you be going out again? It's several hours until dawn." Batman
shook his head.
"No, Alfred. I'm still not used to concentrating my will towards
making the ring function. I need to rest." Batman rose to his feet,
beginning to strip off the green-and-black armored suit, his butler
giving a helping hand.
He had created the costume out of the same basic materials as his
other suits, Nomex and kevelar, changing the design to reflect his new
status. He had removed the utility belt, however, for the sake of
reaction time; he found it to be a great advantage when the ring created
the tools he needed out of reflex or instict, materializing them at the
speed of thought. The new belt was part of the costume, and for
He supposed he could have dissolved or altered the costume using
the ring, but he didn't like the idea of coming to depend on its power
for every aspect of his life. If that happened, his reflexes were bound
to sink, something he could not afford. It was healthy to depend on
physical means for mundane actions, such as driving and dressing,
although he would not hesitate to call upon his costume should an
emergency demand it.
"Wake me at five, Alfred," he murmured, heading up the stone steps
to the manor above.
"Yes sir," the butler responded, gathering up the costume and
taking special care with the ring. He could not help but turn and watch
as his master stood at the head of the stairs, his silhouette framed in
the doorway, pondering over some matter or another.
Then Batman, the newest and last Green Lantern, was gone.
It is written that the sleep of reason brings demons. Although
precious few slept the sleep of reason within the walls of Arkham
Asylum, demons of flesh abounded in every corner. Locked and bound in
tailor-made prisons, those who did not sleep screamed and gibbered into
the night. But on this particular night, it was one of those who slept
that drew concern from the watchmen.
"She hasn't moved in nearly six hours," the chief of security
observed as he donned a special suit. "Even when a body's at rest,
there's some kind of motion. Tossing, turning, whatever."
"She's breathing," a guard noted, donning a similar suit.
"I noticed that," the chief said dryly. "That's not good enough.
We'd better take a look." He finished sealing up his suit and stepped
out the door of the security office. Oxygen hissed as the three made
their way down the line of doors, halting as their leader punched in a
special code on a nearby keypad.
"Probably nothing," one of the men grumbled. "Waste of time."
"We'll find out soon enough." The locks clicked open in acceptance
of the access code, and the three men entered the room.
"Miss?" the chief asked, addressing his comments to the figure who
lay in a corner bunk, wrapped snugly in blankets. The low-level light
was enough for him to make out the cascade of silken hair that flowed
down to touch the floor, and the gentle rise and fall of breath. "Miss,
are you all right?"
No answer. Cautiously, the chief reached out his hand, heavily
gloved in layers of protected clothing, and drew back the blankets.
A grinning skeleton of petrified wood leered up at them.
Mucous-like slime oozed from viney tubes as they siphoned into the
spongy mass where the heart should be, causing it to expand and contract
in mimicry of breathing. The luxuriant, fiery hair was the only thing
that looked even remotely human, and attached to that impossible
monstrosity, it seemed a grotesque mockery of humanity itself.
"Someone'd better call Doctor Arkham," the chief said through
numbed lips. "Poison Ivy has escaped."
The best Tim Drake could manage was a muffled "Mmrph." Which,
under the circumstances, was pretty good. He had gotten in literally at
the crack of dawn, almost too tired to change out of his Robin costume
before getting to bed. It had not been a good night, and the prospect
of having to explain to Batman why he hadn't reported in last night
didn't make it any better.
With Herculean effort, Tim managed to haul his body (which felt
like it weighed a ton) out of bed, padding down the hall to pick up the
phone. "Nnh, hello?"
The youth snapped wide awake, his mind clearing as he recognized
the grating voice at the other end of the line. What was *he* doing on
the phone? He *never* called here! "Umm, yes?" he asked, glancing
down the hall to see of anyone was listening.
"I'd like to talk with you. Can you meet me in Gotham Park, around
"Sure," Tim replied, trying to keep his voice neutral. "I think
"Thank you." Click.
Tim stared at the receiver dumbly, listening to the dialtone. What
was *that* all about. Shrugging, he figured he'd find out at sunset,
and made his way downstairs for breakfast.
Gotham Park was actually rather nice, if you ignored some
unsettling facts. Free of the city's usual architectural pattern of
arched peaks and stone gargoyles, the sculpted hedges and tranquil
setting made for a fine afternoon. However, when night fell, the park
became one of the most frequented sites for muggers and gang members.
Tim was trying not to think about that as the light began to fade
from the sky. He had spent the day wondering about this meeting,
wondering what could be so important that it could not wait for his
presence at the Batcave.
"Thank you for meeting me here, Tim." Drake looked up to see his
partner, looking like he had just gotten off from a day at the office.
Dressed in an expensive-looking suit and tweed coat, he carried a
leather briefcase in one hand.
"I wanted to talk something over with you before we went on
patrol," Bruce said, taking a seat on the bench, "and I felt it was best
we did so outside."
Tim felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Look, if
it's about not reporting in last night, I was in the middle of a huge
drug bust. I couldn't -- "
"Tim," Bruce interrupted, holding up a hand. "It's all right. I'm
Drake stopped. "You're not?"
"No. In fact, I think I owe you an apology."
The youth stared, speechless.
"You're a young man, and extremely capable," Bruce went on to say.
"I wouldn't have made you my partner if I didn't believe that. I had no
right to ask you to report in every hour. It's just that . . . ever
since Kyle died, I've been conscious about the dangers we face every
night. The dangers *you* face. I just don't want to lose you." He
bowed his head as he added quietly, "You mean too much to me."
Drake stared for a long moment, unable to believe what he was
hearing. But as his mind took in the words, he felt a warmth bloom in
his heart, that his usually taciturn and controlled partner would show a
part of his soul in concern for his safety. "Thanks, Bruce," he said,
not quite sure what else to say.
That seemed to suffice, however; Wayne nodded, a grateful look
flitting across his features before vanishing quickly. Silence fell
between the two as she shadows lengthened. Then, Drake noted, "You
know, you've really changed. Calling me at home, talking to me like
this. You're not at all the same."
Bruce considered this for a long moment before answering, "My life
isn't what it was."
Automatically, Drake's gaze flicked to his partner's third finger,
but of course it was bare. "You might want to start wearing the ring
during the daytime," he noted. "If you want to use it to help catch
Kyle's killer, it won't do you much good locked away in the storage
Bruce considered this for a long moment as well before responding.
"I don't want to become addicted to its use. I don't want to have all
my abilities revolve around a single tool, powerful as it may be."
"I don't know," Drake said thoughtfully. "I didn't talk much with
Kyle, but from what I came to understand, the Green Lantern ring isn't
just a tool. It's a symbol, a sign of the office and the
responsibilities they handle. It reflects on how they relate to those
they protect. Maybe . . . maybe that's why you don't like wearing it?"
Tim suggested. "Maybe because you're afraid that the responsibilities
it entails will override your own? Override your promise?"
Bruce stared. For someone so young, Tim had made a very astute
observation. It was unsettling -- more so because there was a little
truth to it? Bruce opened his mouth, whether to deny or confirm was
uncertain even to him. But at that moment, Tim grabbed his arm, staring
at the sky.
"We've gotta go." Bruce followed his gaze upwards to catch sight
of the ghostly-pale circle cast against the darkening clouds, the shadow
of a bat caught within its confines. The signal.
They were needed.
"We're not sure exactly when Ivy escaped," Gordon explained. "She
must have planned it pretty far in advance; that dupe in her bed must
have taken weeks to grow -- months, were it not for her techniques in
"Any idea as to when she escaped?" Robin smiled as he glanced at
his partner, a shadow among shadows on the darkened rooftop. Even with
the ring and the new costume (which personally, he didn't like), the
keen analytical mind that had earned Batman the title of "The World's
Greatest Detective" had remained unchanged.
"We found traces of a mild hypnotic in the bloodstream of an
orderly," Gordon replied. "Enough to make the events of the last few
nights fuzzy. We believe that's also how she got her hands on the
materials she needed to create that thing."
"Any leads on where she may be hiding?" Batman asked.
"None so far. We're checking out all her old hangouts, but so far
we've come up with a blank. I'd like to believe that she's left Gotham
City, but unfortunately that's only wishful thinking."
"Thanks, Jim. Keep me posted." Batman turned, making his way to
the edge of the rooftop.
"One other thing," Gordon called. "Your recent catches have been
babbling about ghostly shapes and green light, and the press is
beginning to make connections between your newest stunts and the
disappearance of the Green Lantern. And I noticed the costume change
and the ring -- care to explain?"
Batman paused on the ledge, half-turning his head to consider his
friend's question. Robin stood at his side, wondering how he'd handle
"Some other time, Jim," he responded at length. So that was how --
evasively, as usual. Looks like intelligence wasn't the only thing
that didn't change.
Robin leaped from the rooftop, hearing his partner follow only a
heartbeat behind him. The distance rushed past his face as the pavement
reached up to him. Slipping a grapnel from his utility belt, the Boy
Wonder threw it outwards, feeling it catch onto a piece of statuary. He
jackknifed his body as the line grew taut, swinging outward in a
sweeping arc and releasing the rope to land solidly on the ground.
"Any ideas?" he asked as the Batman landed beside him.
"None right now," the Dark Knight replied, his own line dissolving
in an emerald glow. "The next move is up to Poison Ivy." The ring
pulsed dimly on his hand as he spoke. He had already learned how to
scan energy signatures with it; he now had it tuned to the police band
and the television frequencies, monitoring them for any mention of
"So what do we do in the meantime?"
"We wait," Batman replied, making his way to the car. As it turned
out, they didn't have to wait long.
// -- reporting live from the Gotham reservoir. Gigantic plants
seem to have taken root within the maintenance station, clogging up the
pipes and cutting off water to half of Gotham City. There is a
possibility that this occurrence is linked -- //
Batman didn't need to hear any more as he jerked the steering wheel
sharply to the left, cutting into the next lane and ignoring the honking
of an angry motorist behind him.
"Let me guess," Robin said slowly, trying hard to swallow his
pounding heart. "Ivy?"
Batman nodded as the announcer's voice grew fainter, rejoining the
murmuring chorus at the back of his mind. "The reservoir. She's cut
off the city's water supply."
"Huh? Why would she do that?"
"Who knows what a mind like hers is thinking? She probably figures
her genetically altered creations could benefit from the water more than
"Either that, or she wants to get your attention." A glittering
glance was the Boy Wonder's only response, and as Batman turned his
attention back to the road, Robin replayed what he knew about Poison Ivy
in his mind.
Once a brilliant horticulturist named Pamela Isley, her life was
changed forever as a result of a series of cruel experiments. Her blood
had become a mass of toxins, making it impossible for any to touch her
without absorbing a lethal mixture into their bodies. She had withdrawn
from humanity, taking solace in her love of plants. Over time she
learned to control the toxicity levels transmitted through her skin, as
well as her pheromone levels, making her capable of literally bending
men to her will. Taking the name Poison Ivy, her sole concern now was
for the plants she loved, and to that end she had lied, cheated, stolen,
and even killed to continue caring for them.
Somewhere along the way, she had developed an attraction for the
Batman. Robin wasn't sure where the attraction stemmed from -- perhaps
because he was the one man she could not dominate. Though the
attraction certainly wasn't mutual, Ivy had convinced herself she was
completely in love with Batman, and pursued that end almost as
relentlessly as she did her other.
"We're here." Robin was jarred out of his thoughts as the
Batmobile came to a stop.
From the outside, the building looked quiet enough -- until one
took in the masses of vines that hung in the windows. Reporters and TV
crew clustered outside, separated from the site by officers and yellow
tape. The Dynamic Duo had no trouble getting past any of them, and into
the maintenance building itself.
"It's a jungle in here," Robin noted. "Literally." Vegetation
crowded over the floor and walls, almost obscuring the pipes and
stonework. The temperature and humidity were like that of a
rainforest, and he felt his armored costume clinging to his skin. He
watched as Batman reached up to pluck at a strand of vine wrapped around
"I recognize this species of vine," Batman noted. "Rare. All
these tendrils are connected to a central root-mass."
"Great. Only how do we find it?" A low growl cut off any reply
the Dark Knight might have given, and both turned to behold a create
that looked more at home in Gotham Park. Given the shape of a tiger,
the plant-creature slowly advanced, its leaf-like body giving off a
rustling sound as its tail twitched back and forth.
"One of Ivy's hybrids." Created using genetic protocols from both
plants and animals, the plantlike imitation had all the animation and
instinctual ferocity of a living animal. In this case, the tiger was
showing all the signs of hunger as it circled the two.
Robin tensed, his hand slowly reaching for his utility belt. He
wasn't sure if he had anything that could stop a tiger. Maybe a
Batarang right between the eyes --
"Let me," Batman murmured. Green light coalesced into solid bars
as a cage formed around the hybrid, who responded by snarling and
throwing itself against the bars with no effect.
"So," a low, honeyed voice reflected. "The rumors were true."
Both men whirled to behold a vision crafted from a dream. Silken
green hose clung to shapely legs, slim with a dancer's hidden strength.
Green leaves covered the sensuality of her hips, the soft curve of her
breast as it took in breath and released it with a sigh. Lips as red as
blood roses parted slightly, and dazzling green eyes were framed by hair
of spun flame. The fact that death lurked behind these features only
made them more exciting.
Robin felt his breath catch in his throat, felt his blood race with
heat. He tried to think of his father, of his girlfriend, of his
partner who was counting on him, but to no avail. He was caught;
fantasies filled his mind of what lay underneath the leafy costume, of
how her skin would feel under his hands as he tore the flimsy-looking
cloth away. He did not even hear the faint rustling above him, or feel
the coiled weight drop around his shoulders.
"I like the costume change, Batman," Poison Ivy purred as she
stepped closer. "You look sooo delicious in green."
"What -- what's your game, Ivy?" Batman rasped, feeling sweat
break out over his body, suddenly burning with an inner fire. He
realized that the altered plant life that filled the room was somehow
augmenting the pheromones that pervaded the air. On previous occasions,
he had managed to fight the allurement long enough to act. Now, he
discovered he couldn't even take a single step through the blazing,
"Why, it's really very simple." Ivy stepped closer, reaching out
to trail her fingers over the symbol on his chest. "The more water my
plants take in, the stronger they grow, and the more water they drink.
Gotham City will be as dry as a desert within a matter of hours --
unless they pay me five million dollars. Enough for me to set up my own
ecological retreat, safe from mankind's decimation and pollution." She
leaned closer, her hair trailing over his cheek, her lips a bare inch
apart from his as she whispered, "There could even be enough left over
for a private little grove. With just . . . enough room . . . for two."
Fire arced through his skin at her light touch. Her breath was as
hot as a Saharan wind, yet sweeter than jasmine and sage. He felt his
head tilt slightly, reaching down to meet those lips, to crush against
them and give vent to the flames within him. Telling himself it was all
chemical didn't help -- the pheromones had him under their spell.
Have -- have to -- shut them out --
Air hissed around him, and suddenly his head cleared. He blinked,
drawing back, and glanced down at himself to discover a green glow
surrounding his form. He grinned; the protective field had been
designed to protect Green Lanterns against the vacuum of space,
providing an independent supply of oxygen and maintaining temperature
and pressure. Although his body had been held in thrall, his mind had
struggled for freedom, and must have unconsciously activated the ring,
cutting off the pheromones.
Ivy drew back, feeling the protective aura repulse her hand. She
knew something was wrong as she watched the feral, triumphant grin
spread over the Dark Knight's features. "Obviously, you need
convincing," she murmured, making a hidden gesture.
With a roaring scream, something slammed into the Batman, knocking
him aside. He rolled with the impact, ignoring the pain in his ribs as
he sprung to his feet. The hybrid plant-gorilla screamed again,
swinging its clublike arm.
Batman ducked the blow easily, hearing the air hiss above his
head. Going low, he darted between the gorilla's legs, turning to
deliver a solid double-kick to its rump. The creature gave an enraged
roar as it went tumbling forward, only to spring easily to its feet.
Green fire exploded from the Batman's gauntlet, singeing the
hybrid, and its scream was one of pain this time as it went scurrying
away. Batman watched it as the miniature flamethrower disappeared from
"Ba -- Batman -- "
He whirled to see his partner caught in the grip of yet another
hybrid, this one a boa constrictor. Robin was struggling for breath, a
bat-shaped cutting blade in his hand, slashing desperately at the
creature. Unfortunately, the boa seemed to be made of a stronger
material than the other hybrids, for it only squeezed its coils tighter,
and the blade fell from nerveless fingers.
A Japanese katana-longsword appeared within the Batman's grip, and
giving a short "Kiyah!" cry, he scythed it through the hybrid's body.
The fluronic serpent slid lifelessly to the ground, and Robin struggled
for air as he fell to his knees.
"Are you all right?" Batman asked. Robin nodded as he clutched as
his throat, then reached out a shaking hand to point. "Ivy -- "
She was running towards a patch of undergrowth against the far
wall, presumably to an exit hidden behind it. Emerald light solidified
around her like a shroud, and she fell to the ground, struggling against
the polymer-like material.
"The shroud will provide her with oxygen," Batman noted as he
helped his partner to stand. "At the same time, it will keep her
pheromones from escaping into the air." Which left the enhanced
pheromones lingering in the room to deal with.
Emerald light glowed again, and the ventilation shafts hissed with
the sudden appearance of a vacuum inside them. The provocative scent
was drawn from the room, to disperse harmlessly in the open air outside.
"Nice," Robin rasped, tasting copper in his still-sensitive throat.
"Thanks. She said the city would be dry in hours," Batman
recalled. "I'm guessing the main root-mass is underwater, inside the
"Great." The youth rubbed at his throat, his voice beginning to
smooth out. "We can't use herbicides unless we want to poison
everybody, and I'll bet there's a bunch of hybrid barracuda waiting for
divers. How do we get to it?"
Good question. The Bat-sub might have been able to clear the mass,
but there was probably all manner of vegetation in the water that would
clog the intakes, stalling the submersible. Depth-charges were out of
the question -- assuming they didn't contaminate the water, bits of the
root-mass might regrow into new plants. Batman frowned. What was he
going to do?
Wait a minute. He was thinking too technically. Go back to
basics. Reason it out. What agent could destroy plants, yet remained
relatively safe to humans?
Animals. Fire. Natural forces --
The ring glowed. And suddenly, Batman had his answer.
Raising his hand above his head, the ring began to glow brighter
and brighter, until the unearthly green light filled the entire room.
Sweat broke out underneath the Batman's mask; he could feel his teeth
clench as he focused every ounce of willpower towards a single,
Outside, press and police alike turned their heads as the emerald
light flooded the windows. Voices rose in excitement -- they knew who
had to be in there, and what he was using. The reporters pressed
against the police line eagerly, wanting the opportunity for a
photograph, for an interview, for any confirmation to give substance to
the rumors they had been hearing.
"Stay back!" One of the policemen shouted, trying to hold the
line. "Stay back, dammit! I -- what the hell is that?"
The crowd fell silent as a horrible crackling filled the air,
deafening in the night air. Then one of the reporters shouted, pointing
past the building. "The water!"
The people could only gape as they saw mist rise up from the
reservoir -- mist that came from the thousands of gallons of water which
had suddenly frozen to ice.
"Jesus," one of the cops whispered as he tested the surface,
expecting a thin film. "It's frozen all the way down!"
"All right, people," Commissioner Gordon barked. "Let's get
inside." Every glance towards the Commissioner was filled with awe and
admiration, that he could remain unfazed by such an occurrence. Gordon
merely took it in stride as he walked towards the main doors; having
worked with the Batman for years, he had come to expect surprises.
"All of Ivy's plants are dead or dying," Gordon reported hours
later, hidden in a dark corner away from the press and the cleanup
crew. "Even after you turned the ice back, the temperature was still
too cold for them to survive. There's some damage to the pipes and the
stonework from the water that froze inside them, but that's all
repairable. A water supply definitely isn't."
Batman nodded, keeping to the shadows alongside of his partner.
"What about Ivy?"
"She's being shipped back to Arkham. They're going to make sure
that the personnel, volunteers and full-timers, are thoroughly briefed
on security protocols from now on. I wish I could believe that would
put an end to the escapes."
"So do I, Jim," Batman replied.
"I have to say I'm impressed with your performance tonight," Gordon
noted, polishing the lenses of his thick-framed glasses. "Although
everyone saw that green glow, the press doesn't have anything solid.
You can look forward to more rumors."
"Terrific," Batman said dryly.
Gordon turned his head as one of the cleanup men dropped a wrench
with a loud, resounding *clang.* "I think we've got things pretty much
wrapped up -- "
He turned back to discover he was talking to empty air. He sighed
as he shook his head, giving voice to a sentiment that Robin had held
only a few hours' before.
"Some things never change."
"Beef stew, Master Tim," Alfred announced, handing a covered bowl
to the youth.
"Thanks, Alfred. After nearly being strangled to death by a giant
boa-hybrid, I don't feel like having salad right now." Drake had
removed his uniform, sinking gratefully into a chair. He uncovered the
bowl, smiling at the rich smell that wafted up.
"Where's Bruce?" he asked as he ate, mindful of his still-sore
throat as he watched Alfred bustle around the kitchen.
"Down below, I believe," Alfred replied.
Alfred was correct -- Bruce sat in front of the Batcave's computer,
gazing at the monitor. Unlike his ward, he had not removed the whole of
his uniform, contented with drawing back his mask as he worked. It lay
hood-like over his back as he stared at what was displayed before him.
Kyle Rayner's obituary. The Justice League had decided to wait
awhile after Kyle's death was announced before announcing the death and
replacement of the Green Lantern, to avoid drawing suspicion as to
Kyle's dual life and endangering his family and loved ones. Although he
hadn't attended the funeral -- there was no feasible explanation behind
millionaire Bruce Wayne's paying his respects to a teenager he never met
-- he had returned to the cemetery after it closed, to pay his respects
in quiet privacy.
Tim was right, Wayne realized. I *am* afraid of giving up my
responsibilities. That's why I never wore the ring during the day. But
that's not fair to Kyle -- I owe it to him to find his killer and bring
him to justice. And I won't be able to do that at night, when I have to
concentrate on patrols.
There was something else he realized; use of the ring was becoming
more natural to him. He had used it to monitor frequencies when the
police scanner in the Batmobile would have sufficed, and he had used it
to protect himself from Ivy's influence when he should have relied on
his own discipline. Was he beginning to become addicted to the ring's
No, he realized. He was beginning to adapt to it.
**In brightest day, in blackest night/No evil will escape my sight
. . .**
The words echoed within his mind. The Green Lanterns' oath, made
famous by one of the greatest Green Lanterns of all time, Hal Jordan.
Not so different from his own oath -- he, too, had sworn to seek out
evil wherever it lay. But he had kept to the blackness of night to do
his work. The role of the Green Lantern demanded more -- it demanded
eternal vigilance against all dangers that the people of the Earth
threatened. Not just against the common thug or lowlife crouching in
the alleyway, but also against foes like Sinestro and Doomsday, who had
come from beyond the stars to crush the life out of this precious
planet. The work of the Green Lanterns was not carried out in the
darkest hour of the night, but in a blaze of emerald glory that reached
beyond the stars.
Batman wondered just how long he would be able to continue his own
dark existence before having to fully take up the legacy that came with
the Lantern ring.
And it was with those thoughts that he fell into a troubled sleep
before his computer, to dream green dreams and await the onset of the
To Be Continued...
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