Master of the Hunt, Part XI

All parts linked here.

Screaming across the sky at several times the speed of sound, my thoughts finally caught up to me.

I had no idea what I was doing.

For one thing, I was headed back towards Gotham. I suppose heading South was a good thing, but I was going to pass straight over Cyborg and Nightwing again.

In addition, I was headed straight towards Flash and Superman, which was bad for them, which meant it was bad for me. Wonder Woman or Green Lantern could probably stop me if something bad happened, but I highly doubted they’d be nice about it, given Nightwing’s innovative “blunt force trauma” solution.

Before I could formulate a solid plan, my reverie was interrupted by a crackle over the radio, followed by Commissioner Gordon’s rough voice.

“Oh, Batman, thank heavens you’re already in the air. Something happened, probably Deathstroke resisting incarceration or something like that, and now half of Arkham is loose. Things are not looking good. We’re looking at Joker, Ivy, Quinn….”

I stopped listening. Nightwing could handle the issue. I had bigger fish to fry.

As Gordon droned on, I searched for the right button to shut him up while plotting a course that would skirt Midway and Central Cities and steer well clear of Metropolis, intending to make for a small Southern town for supplies before hopping over to a British hamlet. Hopefully living in the middle of nowhere on a different continent from the Justice League Headquarters would buy me a few years’ peace.

Unfortunately,  I would have time for neither.

About three miles out of Gotham, mere moments before I would have passed over the city, a sniper round tore through the fuselage of the Batwing. A second, incendiary round followed almost immediately, detonating the fuel tank. The resultant explosion flipped the jet almost thirty degrees below the horizontal.

The resultant forces and sudden air resistance very nearly tore the Batwing apart. As it was, I lost nearly all forward momentum and plummeted towards Gotham harbour.

I wasn’t too scared of the fall. I had seen the footage of Batman climbing free of the wreck after Doomsday blasted him out of the sky enough times to have faith in the Batwing’s crash survivability. I was concerned, however, about who would be waiting on the ground. The list of humans and metahumans who could have made those two shots dead on was relatively small; in fact, I could only think of one.

I had about fifteen seconds to ponder the shortcomings of stealing Batman’s vehicles while in a city full of individuals who hate Batman.

However, I had to hand it to Mr. Wayne, or at least to Lucius Fox. The plane’s wings and nose crumpled like a stunt car, and, as the gunship rolled to a halt, I was hardly even stunned.

As I dangled, upside down, I picked up voices approaching the wreckage.

The first one shot a bolt of ice through my chest. One of the very first actions taken by the Pureman government had been to silence that particular voice forever.

joker.

“Well, it looks like the Bat has finally deigned to land!”

A significantly more grounded voice, the one I had originally expected to hear, responded.

“That’s cause anything’ll land once I put enough bullets in it. You gonna pay up or what?”

That was definitely Deadshot.

“Ah ah ahh, we’re not paying until we’re sure he’s dead.”

Joker’s voice started off playful but terminated on a terrifyingly serious note. A tittering laugh, doubtless on Joker’s arm, shattered the air.

“Yeah, silly, Puddin’ can’t pay a hit man if the target hasn’t been hit!”

Thank you, Harley, I need more enemies.

Deadshot growled.

“Yeah, but you see, you called on me to kill the toy plane, not the Bat, and if he’s NOT dead, then I don’t wanna be here when he gets up, you feel?”

I stared out of the slit of window that wasn’t pressed against the ground. I could only see the bottoms of feet, but I identified no fewer than seven villains. I could only hope that the Huntmaster program had files on them all.

If I was correct, I was dealing with Killer Croc, Joker, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Riddler. I should have listened to Gordon, then I might have known.

There was an eighth distinct voice, but it was fuzzy, as if significantly further away. It was unidentifiable and didn’t seem to fit with the flow of conversation. I ignored it.

At length, when Batman failed to materialize in a suitably dramatic fashion, Joker issued a few threatening orders, and Killer Croc shoved the remains of the Batwing upright. Obviously the ringleader, Joker curtly instructed him to extract the Bat and, a moment later, a hulking, reptilian fist smashed through the glass and tore the seat I was in, harness and all, from the cockpit. As he did, I reached down and smacked the harness release, and was flung to the far side of the group rather than hanging in Croc’s hand.

I landed in a pool of shadow between two tanker ships, cornered by water on three sides and villains on the fourth.

I shook myself, getting to my feet, and instantly assumed a combat stance.

There was a moment of pure, unadulterated tension as the seven turned to look at where I had landed.

Almost immediately the War AI in my head started trying to take over. I winced slightly as I tried to fight it. Each of the seven assailants was outlined in turn in and orange glow, identified, and deemed a worthy opponent, which ruled out running.

Only Poison Ivy and Croc’s fighting styles were in my database. Crap.

Joker advanced on me, the others arrayed three on each side of him. Deadshot kept both of his wrist guns raised, maintaining a slight crouch. Riddler and Harley slapped their respective walking stick  and baseball bat against their palms, almost perfectly in time with each other. As Catwoman drew her whip, Croc dropped to all fours.

:Baty, Batsy, Batsy… I thought you’d learned your lesson! After I took care of poor, poor Mister Todd I thought…”

“Screw it,” I murmured. Both AIs seemed to look at me, confused. “War, you’re in control.”

He – I meant it – laughed maniacally.

The sound escaped my own lips as a disturbing chuckle.

All seven stopped dead in their tracks. Evidently disturbing chuckles were not something Batman let out often.

“Batsy?” Harley Quinn asked, evidently confused.

Then my fist slammed into her face, specifically, her forehead.

She dropped to the ground, unconscious.

Before any of the other villains could react, my foot shot her baseball bat into Deadshot’s legs, incapacitating him for several moments.

Catwoman moved first, her whip coiling around my throat. Joker, enraged, tried to punch me, but my feet planted themselves on his shoulders, knocking him onto Deadshot and buying me several more bulletless moments.

I was amazed at how effectively the computer ran my body.

As I fell, my body twisted, trying to wrench the whip from Catwoman’s grasp but ultimately only coiling it tighter. I couldn’t see Riddler anywhere, but I could barely see anything anyways.

As I landed on the ground, the whip dragged me backwards into a cloud of fumes, or rather, spores. Clawing at the whip, I managed to engage my respiratory override, keeping myself from inhaling too many of the spores, but I started to feel drowsey in spite of the technology’s efforts. I looked up, into a set of venomous green eyes.

“Sorry honey, but, Batman or not, nobody touches Harl.”

“Go… Cry me… A river… Build a… Bridge… And get over it!”

I finally managed to pry the whip loose and my right foot kicked her in the gut hard enough to send her sprawling. I scrambled to my feet, increasingly unsteady, and staggered from the group.

I made it maybe two steps vefore Croc lifted me off the ground.

“Joker, zis isn’t Batman…” he growled.

He slammed me on the ground and the four remaining villains crowded around. Black began to gather at the edges of the orange tinting my vision.

“I dunno who this kid is but I’m putting a bullet through his skull right now!” Deadshot spat, but Catwoman smacked his arm down.

Joker crouched down, directly above my head, as Poison Ivy spitefully dusted something over my face. I felt a rash spreading instantly.

“Y’see, kid, no one, NO ONE, touches my girl…”

He stood up, twirling theatrically, gesticulating madly.

“We might have let you go, seeing as you’re not the Bat, but you had to go and do something stupid! If you hadn’t been clowning around… Ah, but it’s too late now.”

He turned around, six shot revolver aimed at my head, when he was suddenly disarmed by a throwing knife.

“What the…?” he turned on the spot as an orange and black clad figure landed behind him.

Deadshot brought up his guns but was promptly knocked off his feet by an explosion directly in front of his chest. As he hit the ground, I could already tell he was unconscious.

As my own consciousness faded, I barely managed to process each of the villain surrounding me being disabled.

The last thing I remembered was a masked face picking me up.

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