A month after the September 11th attacks, I was fully engrossed in running and writing for my two fanfiction sites, Marvel Anthology & DC Anthology. Since Marvel had used Amazing Spider-Man #36 as its response to the tragedy, I wrote my first and so far only Batman story dealing with it as well. Originally released on October 16th, 2001, I give you issue #7 of DCA's anthology series, The Brave & The Bold: "Words".The wind cut into the large looming skyscrapers; skyscrapers designed to look sleek, yet powerful. And the buildings did their job well, casting an imposing shadow upon men who soon realized just how small they are in the world. In Gotham City, skyscrapers have become more than another amazing structure. They have become passageways to a person's soul, as the true thoughts within will always surface. Even though few have been able to accomplish the feat of conquering the beasts, the few who have are special within their own right.
Each has bettered themselves towards a certain type of perfection, each with its own consequences. While one man can boast of being the first to be taken under his wing, that doesn't stop him from having thoughts of never being able to step out from his mentor's shadow. And yet another can boast of being a part of his life, but lately the two have been on bad terms and have spoken rarely. And while others have also been graced by his presence, none have been able to prove themselves quite like he has. Time and time again, he rises from insurmountable odds to achieve victory and he treats it as normal as breathing. Yes, he stands apart from the rest of his extended “family". He alone has achieved mental and physical perfection through years of training for what is his equivalent of revenge. To avenge his parents' deaths when he was a small boy, he takes revenge on any and all crime within the city. His city.
He was oblivious to the cool winds blowing in from the ocean, for the cold never bothered him. He had seen so many autumns come and pass through the years that he hardly paid any attention to the weather.
Never enough time, he thought as he peered down on the busy city below. It was no surprise for Gotham's streets to have day-like traffic jams in the wee morning hours, and one would think that staring out across the vast sea of buildings for what could be hours would get boring. Quite the opposite.
The Bat never tired of the constant life that floated about the city, nor did he get tired of its view. This is when he enjoyed Gotham the most, in the few moments of silence that it rarely offers. He looked out across the giants that dotted the landscape, and did not have a typical reaction of feeling small. He felt proud to know what people could accomplish when things were gone about in a peaceful way. He felt proud to be doing what he was doing, no matter how crazy it made him seem.
His thoughts drifted to Alfred Pennyworth, his faithful friend who had stood by him with every step he's taken. Even when Bruce had told Alfred to go to Brentwood with Tim, Alfred soon found that he was taking up residence in Wayne Manor once more. No sooner did the thought of his Manor cross his mind, Dick Grayson appeared. There was so much Bruce wished he could've done for him, and so much he wished he hadn't. But he was his son, and even though Dick has his own city to protect, fathers still worry. And then there was Tim and Batman could only shake his head. Tim used to be right by his side and want to do anything to learn the tricks and trades of being Robin. Now he was off with the Teen Titans and hardly reporting in when he was on patrol… hell, he's still ticked about him telling Spoiler his identity. He had his reasons, however, and it would all play out soon enough. Just how and when things would unfold and the not knowing was what was gnawing at him.
But even now as he looked across the populated canyons, he sensed something was missing. Tonight was not a night to hunt down his criminal prey. Tonight was different. The air had a slightly different smell to it, as if it had been… violated. As if something needed to be said. Batman stood from his perch and looked towards the dark horizon before him. Bruce only remained there for a second before his left arm flashed out and he sent a grappling line spiraling towards a building below. Before the line even attached, the Bat leaped off the building and began to fall towards the ground far below. There was no emotion across his face though, just a look of blankness. Just when it seemed the line would not lock in time, it suddenly went taut and the Batman swung effortlessly into the driver's seat of the Batmobile. Soon he was driving it on the freeway, his destination unclear. And as he drove into the plague of blackness, Bruce's mind wandered again.
How many times had he been the cause of the trouble he was trying to stop? How many times had someone died because of his involvement? How many could have been saved if there was no Batman? Wouldn't that mean his rogue's gallery would also be non-existent? Batman knew better. Of course they would still be around; they would just find another obsession for their madness. Whether he was Batman or not, he had no say on whether a person would find evil in their hearts. What mattered is that he was able to prevent it when it was possible. But if that was the case, why did he feel as if he had failed yet again? Now, all he could felt a familiar pain, as if he had a ton of bricks dropped onto his chest. It was then he had to jerk the steering wheel hard to prevent the Batmobile from going off the road.
"That's exactly what you get," Batman said aloud. "You lose concentration, you lose control." It was times like this that the years of training kicked in and Bruce was able shut off his mind to prevent distracting thoughts through meditation. A few seconds later, a focused vigilante continued his drive into the black void that had settled on his surroundings.
It seemed like hours had passed when the Caped Crusader finally brought the Batmobile to a halt. The hero was soon back in his element; the city's skyline. The Batman careened through the hallowed caverns that he knew so well, as if it was his first time he had done it in his life. The enthusiasm he showed was evident as he smiled with each deft twist or turn he executed. But no sooner did he let his guard down did the smile disappear.
"Stay away from me you brutes!" a middle aged woman screamed at her two nearby attackers. "You'll never get away with this!" Her tiny hands began pounding away at one of the thieves.
"Or what lady? Are you gonna hog-tie and arrest me?" It was too dark for them to notice what was rapidly approaching them.
A Batarang knifed through the dark, knocking her purse out of the criminal’s hand. The first thief jumped and turned to run, but Batman's foot sent him chin first into the concrete. The other man couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"Batman?! I thought you only hung out in Gotham City?" the purse-snatcher asked as he spun on his heels to run as well. His efforts to accelerate were halted by Batman’s fist grabbing his jacket.
The snatcher’s question was answered in kind as Batman’s other fist glanced across the man's jaw. A few seconds later, both men were handcuffed and sitting together against a wall, unconscious. The Bat picked up the woman's purse and handed it to her. And the idea of having her purse handed to her by a man dressed as a giant bat didn't sit well with her at all.
"Help, police! Batman's going to kill me!" Bruce winced at her high, shrill screams, but knew it was time to go, as her phone had dialed the authorities while he dispatched her assailants. Before the woman could speak another syllable, he was gone.
Bruce had realized a long time ago that recognition for his deeds would be few and far in between. Even though his association with the JLA brought him some good notoriety, he preferred to stay to what he knew best: the shadows. It seemed like a lifetime ago that he had chosen and designed the identity of the Batman. His reasons for doing so had slipped his mind in the bubbling cauldron that anyone else would call near insanity. But to him it was normal; it was such a part of him that he hardly noticed it anymore. So when Alfred, Dick, and Tim had said he was acting strange, he couldn't tell. This was who Bruce Wayne was and is, and he had accepted it. He never expected anyone else to be able to.
He found himself back where he had started an hour or so ago, crouching on a rooftop as he overlooked the city. But where he had been enjoying the Gotham night and allowing his thoughts to roam back home, this city offered him neither option. His eyes were fixed as if watching some illegal activity taking place, but there was no movement to be found. The Bat simply scanned one area, looking for movement. But there was nothing, even the sounds of the busy city all around him seemed to be hushed. Batman stood now, but his eyes were still locked upon some unseen target, where they would remain for another fifteen minutes. Even his breath had seemed to stop. Was he even sure what he was looking for?
But finally, Bruce's head rose to glance across the skyline and all he found was emptiness. How could a city so large and busy be so empty? He did not have the answers nor did he wish to know what they were. He only knew that something very wrong had happened and that things felt like they would never be the same. Exhaling slowly, he had decided that it was time to do what he came to do and get back to his city before the night got much later.
Batman secured his jumpline and slowly descended to the ground. There was no one else around at this time of night other than light security and frankly, he was sure a lot of people were too filled with grief to continue to stare at the remains of what was once proudly apart of the famous New York City skyline. He had been avoiding coming here, despite donating large sums of his fortune to every organization he could in an effort to help in some way, especially when punching the threat in the face wasn’t the direct answer. He felt he couldn't face the demons of the present just like he hated to face the ones of the past. But he knew that the Bat would never allow him to run from his fears, and that is why he stood amid the wreckage of the World Trade Center now.
Many times he found himself atop one of the Twin Towers when in New York City, and the thought that he was now standing among its remains chilled him to the bone. But he knew he had to come, if not for him, for all those that have ever been lost to a violence of any kind. It was times like this that enforced the fact that there was a Batman, the fact that a Batman was needed, and the fact that Bruce Wayne needed to be the Batman. He had to stay true to the values of America, and mostly to the value of justice. That is why he continued to don the cape and cowl nightly, to make those that wish to hide from justice pay dearly.
The Batman stood in silence for a few seconds longer, noting to himself that he still had to stop by the Pentagon next time he was in the DC area. He shot off another grappling line and was gone into the NYC night, his next destination unknown. What words he thought or spoke afterwards were of little importance, for Bruce had spoken loud and clear before he left the Trade Center ruins.
He had left two single roses lying amidst the rubble.