“Not now! NOT NOW!” Arsenal shouted at the
sophisticated metrological equipment on the control panel. His worst fears were
being confirmed in front of his eyes.
Arsenal peered through the windscreen of the
Waynetech Prototype Inter-dimensional Craft (WiPIC), creases forming around his
eyes. His prayers weren’t being answered today. The gale force winds increased
in intensity. The designated pilot had been monitoring the conditions all
afternoon, watching a weather depression develop into a tropical storm on this
distant world that was destroying Earth. The winds a few kilometres east had
just peaked above 73 mph, which meant technically, it was a category one
hurricane. Worse still, it was headed for Roy’s team.
Arsenal shook his head as he considered his
predicament. He was sitting in the small cockpit of the WiPIC, in a dimension
parallel to Earth’s, being battered by cyclonic winds, while waiting for the
precise moment he was to collect his squad. “And things could be worse, how?”
Roy swallowed and his thoughts drifted to his
daughter still on Earth. The beings of this dimension were trying to absorb
Earth. The damage so far was considerable. Earth’s heroes had attempted to
fight back, but without explanation all powered heroes lost their gifts.
Superman was now an ordinary man, Wonder Woman an ordinary woman.
All hope appeared lost until Roy was
contacted by Dick. Nightwing was putting together a small assault team of
non-powered heroes to attack the alien world by travelling through a porthole
established by Raven… a tear in the fabric of existence. Roy had agreed
He had left Lian with Donna and joined
Nightwing along with Batgirl, Robin, Red Robin and Batman. Nightwing seemed to
be behind this idea to attack off planet but Batman was clearly in charge.
However, Nightwing and Batman had been at odds over Dick’s insistence they take
Bane. Roy had thought the idea of taking the man who had crippled Batman was a
bad idea and agreed with Batman, but it turned out the reason Batman was
against it was because he felt Bane may be better placed to protect the people
of Earth should the Batsquad fail. Clearly Roy had missed the memo about Bane
now being an ally, not an enemy.
Ultimately, Nightwing had won the argument
pointing out the off planet squad may need some strength and Bane was the
strongest non-powered man on earth. Batman conceded and the six foot eight,
400 pound giant became the seventh member of Batman’s team.
Thus, five hours later, Operation
‘Magnificent Seven’ – a title Roy had given to Batman's seven man strategy
to save Earth – had launched and entered the alien dimension via an unstable
porthole created by Raven. To all’s surprise, the alien world looked like
Earth. It sounded like Earth and it felt like Earth but with two major
differences. All fresh water on the planet had been drained from rivers,
streams and lakes and collected in one huge dam. The water was then used to
‘irrigate’ the land at will through a sophisticated series of pipes. The other
major difference was the fact that the humans of this world had been wiped out
by the high-tech androids they had engineered to make life easier. The army of
androids lived like humans but were intent on destroying every other planet in
existence by absorbing it into their own. Why? They shared their creator’s
thirst for domination.
Roy had wanted to be on the ground in the
thick of things, for waiting about wasn’t his strength. However, after an in
your face argument with Batman, Dick had stepped between them and said simply,
“We need to know you’re here to get us home. You’re the best pilot on the
team. We can’t afford for you to be injured out there. It would condemn us all
to death. You’re the only one who can fly the WiPIC though that porthole
without blowing us up.” Hence, Arsenal was the designated pilot.
Dwarfed by nature, the small craft shuddered
as the swirling elements accosted it. Mother Nature on this world was letting
those foolish enough to be outdoors know she was unhappy. Arsenal had warned
Batman the weather may turn, but the Bat-team only had one chance to carry out
its mission -- storm or no storm. Time was running out for Earth… for Lian.
Arsenal switched on the light above his head
and checked his watch. Afternoon it may be, but day had turned to night in the
last twenty minutes. He cursed. He had to leave now or his squad would drown.
As Roy flicked off the lamp, he caught a
glimpse of his own expression reflected in the glass. Any attempt to delude
himself into believing he wasn’t worried was shattered. Roy had forty minutes
to fly to the pick-up point and collect his team. The fact that a hurricane had
chosen this moment to hit couldn’t figure in the equation.
Arsenal fired up the engines, struggling to
hear them over the roaring of the storm that was arriving with hellish
ferocity. Logic warned he wouldn’t get the craft off ground. Experience
insisted that even if he could get the machine in the air, keeping it there
would be impossible and entering the portal that would take them home would be…
but Roy couldn’t think about that.
Arsenal was on the edge of the hurricane, but
it was moving in the same direction he had to go and keeping in front of it was
going to take some creative flying.
An image of his team filled his mind. Roy
gripped the stick in front of him and pulled hard activating vertical thrust.
He would get the bird in the sky, collect his team and fly them home-- or die
Batman lifted his narrowed gaze to the
ravening sky. The single, monstrous cloud hanging over the land several
kilometres to the east was billowing out of control and heading toward him.
Today the traditional grey and black of his
uniform had been replaced by camouflage print. He still wore his cowl, gloves
and belt, but basically he was wearing fatigues… all of his team were so they
would blend into the background.
Batman glanced at his watch. Arsenal should
be on his way and while he was coming from the direction of the storm, Batman
He exchanged a brief nod of reassurance with
Damian who was crouched beside him. Robin was monitoring the area around them,
his rifle at the ready. They were all carrying laser rifles designed by Star
Labs. Batman hated guns of any description but these were the only weapons
that had proved effective in stopping the androids and so, reluctantly, he
carried it. So far he hadn’t needed to use it.
Batman and his youngest son had completed
their part of the mission and were now at the pick-up point -- the edge of a
narrow parcel of open land in the middle of a sparse forest. This spot alone
was suitable for the plane to land.
Batman had divided his squad into pairs to
lay explosives. Deliberately, he’d partnered himself with Robin. Damian was
still unpredictable, but Dick had refused to leave him behind. As a matter of
fact, Dick had shown a great deal of faith in the boy and Damian had certainly
lived up to it. He had carried out the most delicate part of the operation
acting as a decoy… the androids underestimating the human ‘child’. The boy had
easily neutralized the security guard, handed the uniform to Tim who had boldly
walked into the dam facility, disabled the sophisticated electronic security
and planted seven different explosive devices. Tim had then taken off to join
Batgirl, and Robin and Batman had then rendezvoused and returned here.
Movement in the brush to the pair’s left.
Father and son tensed - their weapons ready.
For a handful of heart beats they listened and waited. A soft whistle split the
silence. Batman and Robin relaxed. Moments later, Red Robin and Batgirl
“Hi,” Batgirl greeted with a tired smile.
Batman and Red Robin exchanged a nod as the
newcomers crouched next to their companions. “You’re four minutes early.”
“Everything went without a hitch, Sir,” Red
Robin reported, reaching for a canteen and taking a swig.
“You planted all of the charges?”
“Yes.” Tim peeled back his cowl and wiped his
hand across his brow. The air had become thick and heavy.
Batgirl peered into the building breeze.
“Weather’s turning bad.”
Batman studied it thoughtfully. “We just need
it to hold for another thirty-five minutes.”
Tim eyed Damian. “You okay?”
The latter lowered his rifle and flicked an
accusatory stare in Tim’s direction. Without prompting, Batgirl took over guard
duties. “I am wearing fatigues for which the notion of a ‘tailor’ is unknown. I
am squatting like a common criminal in a country that executes humans for
existing. One can only imagine what creative endeavours they have in store for
alien saboteurs. I am waiting for a pilot, who, if distracted by a female of
any shape, size or age, will be invigorated by his infamous animal magnetism
and likely disregard the trifling task of returning to collect us before the
water reaches our lower lips. And to top it off, after I completed my allocated
part of the mission, father plastered my visage with grease paint that exhibits
an aroma not unlike that of rhinoceros manure.”
The words eased the tension beautifully. Tim
“So where did you learn what rhino pooh
smells like, Robin?” Batgirl giggled.
“Tt,” Damian sorted.
Thunder rolled across the sky.
“I hope Nightwing and Bane get back soon.”
“Relax. If all has gone to plan, they’ll be
on their way,” Red Robin assured Batgirl.
Nightwing held his position. His nerve
endings were tingling and his heart thudding against the wall of his chest.
Android sentries had just rushed in Bane’s direction, but Nightwing knew better
than to react on emotion. There was a chance the commotion had nothing to do
with his partner and even if it did, Bane may be able to slip passed the guards
unnoticed. Nightwing couldn’t afford to respond until he knew the facts and
with the radio silence, he had to rely on what he could actually see and hear.
Dick chanced a look at his watch. They should
have started back to the pick-up point six minutes ago.
The shouting increased. Nightwing drew in a
deep breath and pulled the rifle firmly into his shoulder. It felt
uncomfortable. He didn’t like using such weapons, but the androids weren’t
‘alive’ and it was the only way to stop them. One blast and they temporarily
shorted out. So far they hadn’t been able to destroy them permanently.
From his vantage point, high on the dam wall,
Nightwing had a clear view of the small compound where androids had begun to
scurry about like ants.
Batman’s plan was incredibly simple. The androids
were electronic and electronics and water didn’t mix. Thus, the idea was to
blow up the dam wall which would effectively flood the android command centre.
The command centre was where the androids drew their power. No command centre,
no power. No power… hopefully, no androids. However, they wouldn’t know for
sure until they carried out the plan.
In the past Nightwing had fought to protect
Gotham and even the world, but right now he and his family was the only thing
standing between their universe and annihilation.
Batman appeared calm… as if taking it in his
stride, but Dick saw through that. He and Bruce were close again. It had
taken a while for them to realize that drifting apart had been a normal part of
any father and son’s relationship. Adolescence was now behind Dick and he and
Bruce had found a comfortable respect, friendship and trust.
As a matter of fact, Dick trusted Bruce more
than just ‘completely’. Completely only covered trust in a traditional sense.
Dick’s trust in Bruce was based on something far deeper and more complex than
he could ever put into words.
Of course, their relationship was a little
different to most fathers and sons. Bruce demanded not only total,
unquestioned loyalty from his boys but also the ability to separate their
personal relationship from their working one. On one hand they were family… on
the other, they were soldiers fighting in Batman’s war. There was no question
of the fact Nightwing would die for Batman, but then, he knew with certainty
that every member of the Batsquad would do the same… even Damian. A man
couldn’t buy that sort of loyalty -- or stupidity.
Dick grinned at the final thought -- a Damian
quote. He’d grown to love the kid… even though Damian wasn’t easy to love.
His thoughts drifted to the other members of Operation ‘Magnificent Seven’.
Dick felt closer to Tim than almost everyone. For the first time, he truly had
a brother. Stephanie he was still getting to know but she had come into her own
under Barbara’s instruction. Then there was Roy. Batman found it hard to have
faith in Roy but Dick knew Roy always came through in the end… usually at the
very last minute, but he always came through.
“Show time,” Nightwing muttered as the
shouting below ceased. Whatever had disturbed the guards had been dealt with.
He waited. Perspiration was dripping down the back of his neck. He’d noted the
change in temperature earlier. Arsenal had been right. There was one hell of a
A group of guards appeared between the main
set of buildings with a prisoner. Nightwing’s chest tightened. He sighted Bane
through the rifle scope. The huge man appeared unhurt, but there was a gun
thrust into his back and one under his chin.
Bane. Nightwing had insisted on bringing
this final member of the group. They’d had no idea what they were going to face
and strength may have been needed. That was something Bane had a lot of.
Batman had been hesitant, but Nightwing had been adamant and in the end, Batman
had trusted his judgement. Bane had pledged his life to save Earth for he had
a girlfriend who meant the world to him. Besides, Bane had his own code and
had proved true to it in the past.
Nightwing waited for his partner to make
eye-contact. The signal to attack had to come from Bane.
Through the scope, Dick spotted an android
guard speaking to Bane. Still, Bane didn’t lift his eyes to Nightwing’s
position. What was stopping him? Dick lowered his rifle and scanned the area.
Abruptly, the guard in charge slammed his
fist into Bane’s mid-section. Bane didn’t move. Rather, the deliverer of the
blow bounced back. Dick smirked. He remembered the same thing happening to him
six years earlier when he’d first met the huge man and been invited to ‘take
your best shot’.
Bane’s expression remained blank.
Once recovered, the android began to gaze
around before shouting, “Come out. If you do not do so, I will have this human
shot.” His voice wafted up to Nightwing. Dick’s jaw locked and he raised his
laser rifle again, but Bane still failed to give the signal. He had to know
something -- most likely that there were many more androids than Nightwing
“I will give you to the count of three!”
“Come on, Bane. Give me a sign here,” Dick
Dick kept his sight on Bane.
Bane lowered his eyes.
Nightwing drew in a short breath. Bane wasn’t
prepared to ask him to risk his life by revealing his position - Bane’s own
“You don’t need to ask, big fella.” Nightwing
shifted his aim and his laser rifle barked three times in quick succession. The
trio around Bane fell. Bane darted for cover, screaming, “Dozen below you!”
Nightwing lowered the rifle. That explained
it. Now they knew exactly where he was. Nightwing raced along the dam wall,
slung the rifle over his shoulder and descended the ladder, but as he reached a
large platform half way down, six androids raced toward him. His rifle needed
two minutes to recharge.
“Stop!” one android ordered. Bane, having
covered the distance at a speed an Olympic sprinter would be proud of, appeared
below and opened fire, while Dick attacked head on. Laser streams lit the air
in a short but fierce fire fight.
Batman held up his hand for silence. The
sound of faint, distant laser fire announced itself on the strong breeze.
Batgirl bit her bottom lip, looking at the
“They’re in trouble,” Tim murmured.
Batman lowered his hand. “Not necessarily.”
“I think we can assume our presence is
known,” Damian pointed out.
Batman glanced at his watch. “Nineteen
minutes.” In nineteen minutes the charges would go off and three minutes after
that, the valley they were standing in would be flooded. Of greater concern
though, was the approaching weather. It would destabilize the porthole Oracle
was holding open for their retreat.
“Should we… I mean… they may need help,”
Batman opened his mouth to comment, but the
laser fire ceased. All strained to listen.
“Whatever’s happened, it’s over,” Tim
Batman’s eyes narrowed. “They’re alive.” He
could believe nothing else.
Despite the situation, Nightwing felt calm.
The smell of blood harassed his nasal passages. He placed the rifle on the
ground as he crouched beside his fallen partner to search for a pulse. Bane had
been knocked unconscious by a blow to the back of the head during the
hand-to-hand skirmish that had followed the laser fight. The pair had been
out-numbered five to one, but now their enemy lay still. The androids had been
strong, impermeable and competent, but outclassed by the accuracy of Bane’s
blows and Nightwing’s aim.
Shouts from the compound reached Nightwing’s
hearing. He released his breath in a gush when his fingers detected a strong
thumping at the side of Bane’s neck.
“Bane!” Nightwing shook his partner. “Come
on. Wake up.” Blood seeped from the wound behind Bane’s left ear, matting his
dark hair. Nightwing examined the bloodied area and then checked his watch.
They had less than twenty minutes to get back to the pick-up point. Bane wounds
would have to wait.
“We’re in trouble,” Nightwing muttered.
Twenty minutes was enough time, but not if he had to carry Bane.
Left with no option, Nightwing roughly
dragged Bane upright and yanked him onto his shoulder. He grunted as he
adjusted his partner’s huge frame. He couldn’t help thinking, “if only it was
the other way around.”
The first few drops of rain began to fall.
The storm was only moments away.
Nightwing glanced at the laser rifles and
snorted. He had no use for them now. If the androids caught up with them and he
had to stop to fire on them, they wouldn’t make it back in time and that meant
their fate was sealed. When the dam wall blew, several trillion gallons of
water would mow down everything in its path. Thus, at this point, the rifles
would just be extra weight and Nightwing had enough to carry.
The commotion from the compound increased.
The androids were mobilizing.
Dick turned east and started jogging – Bane
across his shoulders.
Nightwing lost all sense of time as he
focused on his task and forced his body to proceed. The minutes slid away.
The terrain was difficult and hilly and the
light rain was making the ground slippery.
He stumbled, going down on one knee, paused,
filled his panting lungs with air, and pushed up. His legs were trembling… not
with fear, but with exertion. He was running carrying more than twice his own
body weight and his muscles had started to protest.
Nightwing could no longer hear the androids
that had started in pursuit. He wasn’t sure if they’d called off the chase or
if the pounding in his ears coupled with the roar of the approaching storm, was
simply drowning them out.
His foot clipped a tree root and he went
down. Bane tumbled from his grip. “No!”
Nightwing crawled to his fallen ally. “Bane!
Come on, damn it. Wake up!” His demand was swallowed by the thunder rumbling
over him. Dick wiped the water from his eyes and looked at his watch. They were
now long overdue and it was only five minutes until the dam blew. They weren’t
going to make it, but then, he’d known that all along.
Nightwing shut his eyes. Alone, he would be
able to reach the pick-up point in time, but that was out of the question.
As soon as the chopper arrived, Batman would
order Arsenal to get the rest of the squad to safety. In that, Nightwing found
an element of comfort. The others would make it. Once the charges blew, he and
Bane would have less than three minutes.
Nightwing’s gaze fell on his partner. With a
growl of determination, he yanked his unconscious team mate onto his shoulders
and forced his fatigued legs back into action. He wasn’t going to sit and wait
for death to find them.
As he rounded a tree, he felt vibrations in
his chest, a sensation he’d experienced before – vibrations caused by the
“There he is!” Batgirl cried, pointing
through the light rain to the state of the art craft that had materialized
through the swirling black cloud.
Wind accosted the group on the ground. “I
take it back,” Damian murmured, his face splitting with a wide smile of relief
and admiration. He had criticized Roy’s ‘carefree’ flying style, but he was
witnessing something remarkable. There were few pilots alive who could fly in
weather like this… and those who could, wouldn’t dream of attempting it.
The group watched the craft close the
distance and descend. It shuddered to the ground, the engines slowing.
Batman slapped Red Robin on the back, urging
him toward the machine.
The door was yanked open to reveal Arsenal
smiling stupidly. “Gentlemen, the Earth Express has arrived.”
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” Batgirl cried
over the storm.
Arsenal winked. “You may want to hurry, kids.
I need to get the bird back in the air now before that storm catches up with
“Nightwing and Bane aren’t back. We heard
gunfire,” Batgirl informed the pilot. Arsenal’s chest tightened as he let the
Batman, who was the only one who hadn’t
boarded the chopper, checked his watch. “The charges go off in five minutes.”
Arsenal stepped down next to Batman. “They
should have been back two minutes ago. Should we break radio silence?”
“The moment we do, the androids will pinpoint
us and destroy us instantly.”
Lightening cracked open the sky above the men
and the wind lashed them. Batman directed his attention skyward as the heavens
opened. Rain drops the size of golf balls began to fall. It was clear to all,
their escape window was closing. If the weather became worse, escape may be
“Arsenal, what’s our window?”
“All but closed.”
“So we need to leave now?” When Roy didn’t
respond immediately, Batman turned toward him. “Arsenal?”
“Another few minutes and I won’t be able to
get off the ground,” Roy admitted, grudgingly. “The wind’s swirling up there
and getting stronger by the second. That portal is fifteen minutes from here
and is unstable. This weather is only going to make it worse. I have to enter
it in the centre. If we strike the side of it…”
Batman held Roy’s gaze, water cascading down
both of their faces. Roy felt mildly annoyed. He’d warned Batman the weather
“That bad?” There was a tone missing from
Batman’s voice… the Batman tone. That question was asked by Bruce
Wayne. They’d all known the risks and Batman had made it clear that they could
go back for no one. Each person was responsible for getting themselves back to
the pickup point.
Arsenal inclined his head over his shoulder.
“That’s a hurricane. In about five minutes, we won’t be going anywhere. This
craft is incredible and I’m good, but…”
Batman exhaled noisily. Roy’s heart went out
to the other man. Bruce’s son was out there.
Arsenal set his jaw. “We both know we aren’t
leaving without Dick. Somehow, I’ll get this bird in the air once they get
Batman directed his attention to the area
Nightwing and Bane would come from.
Roy knew the drill… knew how a leader had to
think. The lives of two men against the survival of the squad. There was no
decision to make.
“We’ll give them two more minutes,” Batman
Roy peered into the jungle. “Come on,” he
Nightwing’s legs were burning, his lungs
aching and each step was harder than the one before. There was blood dripping
into his eyes from a cut he hadn’t been aware of. His head was throbbing and he
accepted that the wound must be the result of a blow he’d received during the
Nightwing didn’t know how far from the
pick-up point he was, but he could hear the engines over the storm, which meant
it was close. He couldn’t give up.
Red Robin felt sick.
“Arsenal, get ready.” Batman’s jaw was
locked, the three words clearly among of the hardest he’d ever uttered.
Arsenal swallowed, but nodded and darted into
Tim watched Batman pace. The seconds
continued to tick away. The engines began to build. He shook his head and
cursed softly, his expression pained. He understood the situation only too
well. If they left without Dick, he would drown. If they didn’t leave now,
they’d all drown. “Bruce, get in.”
Batman stopped pacing, staring into the
forest “They’re coming,” he growled.
“They aren’t going to make it,” Tim
whispered, his stomach churning. The words crystallized the situation for
“Red Robin, take command,” Batman shouted,
tossing Tim his rifle.
“Father!” Damian exclaimed.
Tim dropped his chin. He’d known this would
happen. While Batman would ensure the safety of his team, Bruce would
not leave without his son… even if it meant staying to die with him.
“I want this bird in the sky before the water
reaches it. Understood?”
“Yes, Sir, but…”
“With or without us. Is that clear?” Batman
Red Robin nodded, his damp eyes displaying
his horror. Batman thrust out his hand. Tim took it. They held the grip for no
more than a single second. Batman turned to Damian, his hand clamping on the
boy’s shoulder. “Look after them, Damian.”
“God speed,” Stephanie choked.
Batman turned and darted off into the wall of
As there was no trail, Batman didn’t know
exactly where his men would be. A few feet left or right and he may miss them
altogether. Batman counted on instinct to take him to Dick. He had to assume
one, or maybe both Nightwing and Bane were injured, otherwise they would have
been back by now. Batman weaved through the trees alone.
Darkness was spreading as the cloud blocked
out the sun. Rain continued to fall, thunder and lightning split the sky and
the wind built ferociously.
Nightwing’s paces shortened. He was
struggling to see and his weakened legs trembled with each step. He knew the
WiPIC hadn’t lifted off yet. On one hand, that was spurring him on. On the
other, his chest burned with despair. The others had to get out of here.
Abruptly, he was overwhelmed by a feeling a
Batman spotted Nightwing carrying Bane and
let out a roar of relief. They were only a short distance from the WiPIC.
Batman grabbed and held him on his feet.
“Give him to me!” he shouted, dipping his shoulder and rolling Bane onto it.
Nightwing sensed the vibrations intensify
through his chest. The WiPIC was leaving. He sank to his knees, physically and
“Get up!” Batman shouted. “I can’t carry you
both. Nightwing, get…” A series of explosions echoed above the storm. The dam
wall had blown. “GET UP!”
Nightwing lifted his head, sweeping his hair
from his eyes. “Plane’s gone, Bruce. You should be on it with Damian and Tim.”
Bruce stared down at his son. He had sensed
the WiPIC rise too. It was too late. He had led Dick to a foreign world to
The ground began to shake. A wall of water a
hundred feet high was on its way… and they had nowhere to go. Their fate was
Abruptly, the rest of the Batsquad exploded
out of the trees.
“Come on!” Robin screamed as he and Red Robin
dragged Nightwing to his feet and Batgirl grabbed Batman’s arm and urged him
forward. “Arsenal’s hovering above the ground read to go!”
The shuddering beneath their feet increased,
accompanied by the building rumble of trillions of gallons of water approaching
at the speed of a freight train.
Between them, Red Robin and Robin half
carried, half dragged the energy sapped Nightwing, while Batgirl helped to
steady Bane as Batman ran.
The roar of the water grew as it closed the
The Batsquad broke through the trees and
dashed to the WiPIC, its engines almost at maximum speed.
“Go! Go!” Robin yelled as the group leapt
aboard. He turned to shut the door and found himself staring at a tidal wave.
“My God!” The water had caught up with them!
He shut his eyes instinctively and his
stomach dropped as the WiPIC ascended sharply. He held his breath, knowing this
was the end.
“Whooooh!!!” Batgirl shouted. “Arsenal,
Robin blinked. They’d made it… by only
inches, but they’d made it. Below, the valley disappeared in a seething
cauldron of white water.
“Buckle up back there,” Arsenal ordered. “We
aren’t out of this yet. First we have to outrun this hurricane and then enter
that unstable porthole.”
Nightwing’s head lolled back against the
chair. His legs, back and shoulders were numbed with throbbing pain. Someone
fastened his seatbelt. He opened his eyes and Batgirl smiled at him, the girl’s
eyes sparkling with adrenaline. “Your head’s cut. Do you want some water?”
The chopper lurched and she tumbled to the
“Buckle up!” Batman shouted, dragging the
girl to her feet and shoving her toward a chair.
Nightwing looked sideways to the cot Bane was
being strapped into. “How is he?” he shouted over the motor and storm.
Batman turned and despite his obvious
concern, smiled. “Still breathing, thanks to you.”
“Concussion. He’ll need X-rays,” Red Robin
informed the others as he conducted an examination as best he could as he was
violently thrown around. “Breathing’s regular and heartbeat is strong. He’ll be
okay. I need a blanket.”
Batman grabbed one and helped to wrap it
around the wounded man. Then, he ordered Red Robin to put his seatbelt on and
did so himself, taking his place beside Nightwing. “You hurt?”
“Can’t think of a spot on my body that isn’t
aching,” Dick murmured. “Bane weighs a tonne.” The chopper shook violently.
Bracing himself as the craft was tossed like confetti in the wind he asked,
“Did it work?”
“Red Robin?” Batman shouted.
The young man flicked the switch on the
computer panel next to him. All held their breath. The smile that filled
Tim’s face told them what they needed to know. “No android signals in
this area. I think… I think it's working. As that wall of water
covers all land it should wipe every one of them out."
“We saved Earth,” Stephanie shouted. “My
Dick shut his eyes, finally relaxing.
Barbara and Alfred were safe. Lian and Donna were safe. All of the other
people he cared about on Earth were safe.
“Let me look at your head.” Bruce swivelled
in his chair, removed Dicks’ mask and using a handkerchief, dabbed an inch long
cut above Dick’s eyebrow. There was an egg under it, evidence of a blow.
“I thought the rule was every person was
responsible for getting back on their own,” Dick murmured.
“The rules don’t apply to me,” Batman
declared in a deadpan voice.
“Oh? Why?” Dick asked.
“Because I’m your father and I make the
Dick smirked. “Yes, Sir.”
For fifteen minutes the group held on as Roy
fought the controls.
No one spoke.
The absence of conversation was eerie and
while all had faith in Roy’s ability, each understood their chances of survival
were slim at best. More than once, the craft plummeted suddenly, only to ascend
just as rapidly. The occupants were tossed about violently. At times, it felt
as though the aircraft was going to be torn apart.
Batgirl shut her eyes. She tried to swallow
but the lump in her throat didn’t allow it.
Tim glanced at the girl and placed his hand
Damian gazed out the window into the swirling
darkness. Would he live long enough to truly get to know his father?
Bane stirred, awaking to a reassuring pat
from Tim. The disoriented man closed his eyes secure in the knowledge he was in
Bruce tried to keep pressure on the cut above
Dick’s eyes, but was failing miserably.
“Portal ahead,” Roy shouted. “If we don’t
make it, I just want to thank you all for saving my daughter.”
The plane plunged into the quaking and
shrinking porthole. There was an explosion of light and sound and the WiPIC shook
so violently Dick was certain it was going to shatter into a million pieces.
Abruptly, the excessive shuddering stopped.
The outside noise died without warning.
All froze and listened.
Above the sound of the engines and the
pelting rain, they heard another sound coming from the cockpit. “I’m singin’ in
the rain. Just singin’ in the rain. What a glorious feelin to have outrun a
“Arsenal!” Batman shouted.
“Are we home?” Batgirl asked, peering out the
window at the rain.
"Are we sure it worked?" Bane
“Confirmation from Oracle. Operation
‘Magnificent Seven’ has achieved its objective. The android world is no longer
a threat… and that is good old fashioned Earth rain out there,” Tim confirmed.
“We made it.”
“Am I the best, or what?” the happy pilot
called. “Le Pilot. No, Superpilot! No, no. Pilot Supremo!”
“We’ll never hear the end of it,” Stephanie
“He’s entitled,” Batman murmured. “Even I am
willing to admit, he is ‘Pilot Supremo.’”
“So we’re clear?” Tim confirmed, unbuckling
his seatbelt. He moved directly to Dick who raised his hand. Tim gripped it
firmly. “Thought we’d lost you.”
“Thought you had too,” Dick agreed, unable to
keep his eyes open as relief amalgamated with fatigue.
“How are Bane and Dick?” Roy called.
“Alive,” Bane responded. “I will never
forget what you did for me, Nightwing.”
Damian rose and scrutinized Dick. “I am
pleased you made it. It would have been most unfortunate if… well, if…”
Dick smiled, though his eyes remained
closed. “I do believe you would have missed me, Damian.”
The boy snorted.
Bruce patted Dick’s shoulder with great
affection; hugged Tim briefly, swatted the back of Damian’s head and smiled at
“Father, please. Must we engage in such nauseating
displays of affection?”
Bruce winked and then pushed personal
feelings aside. “Red Robin, assist me in tending to Bane. Robin and Batgirl,
Nightwing needs some attention. That cut is still bleeding. Get him out of
those wet clothes, lie him down and buckle him into that other stretcher. Wrap
him in a blanket. I don’t want him going into shock. Then change into dry
“Hey look! It’s Superman,” Stephanie cried,
waving out the window.
Clark gave the thumbs up signal as he was joined
by Green Lantern and Red Tornado.
“Looks like everything’s returned to normal
thanks to us,” Damian announced.
“Amen to that, Robin. I can’t wait to hug my
daughter tonight,” Roy shouted happily.
“Take us back to base,” Batman ordered.
“Your wish is my command, boss. Ladies and
gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We will be setting down at Waynetech
base in approximately fifteen minutes to what should be a well-deserved heros'
welcome. Please take note of the no smoking signs. Should masks fall from the
ceiling, place them over your nose and mouth, breathe deeply and panic. For
now, sit back and enjoy the in-flight live entertainment by Moi. Join in if you
know the words.”
Under the setting sun, framed by a glorious
sunset and escorted by dozens of the powered heroes, the small WiPIC headed for
home, gently swaying from side to side in unison with Roy’s exuberant, off-key
"I’m singin’ in the rain. Just singin’
in the rain. What a glorious feelin’ to outrun a hurr-ic-cane."
© October 2011 Aussie Nightwriter : This relates only to the creative property in this story. The distinctive way the story unfolds, the specific dialogue and unique situations are mine. I acknowledge that some of the characters and settings belong to DC comics and thank them sincerely for turning a blind eye so I can borrow them. (g) No infrigement of copyright was intended and no profit has been made from this story... so, please don't sue me. It wouldn't be worth your while.