Batman marched down the subway tunnel from the O'Brien Street station. The door into the tunnels below was propped open and the stairs lit by halogen lights on a portable stand. The boy guarding the steps never had a chance to yell when the cape swirled around him.
Two soldiers accosted him further down the twisting path and one opened fire with his automatic rifle. Batman evaded his fire and pounced on him. The man's grip slackened on the rifle after he took a punch to the head. Batman tackled his running partner. The cement knocked out the soldier.
One more bend and the catwalk Selina had found in the building permits was on the left. He walked out onto it confidently, and metal clanged behind him. Industrial steel grating blocked that exit.
Heavy boots vibrated the bridge over rushing water below. Batman turned to face his opponent. The halogen lights above spot-lit the tall, bald man wearing combat fatigues exposing his muscular arms and a mask of metal tubes that covered his mouth and nose. His meaty hands held the straps of his primitive flak vest. Batman growled out the name that the newscasters hadn't tied to the Stock Market Attack yet. "Bane."
"Let's not stand on ceremony here," Bane's distorted voice paused, "Mr. Wayne."
That confirmed what he suspected from how they focused their earlier attacks on Bruce Wayne. They stepped toward each other as Bane's army lined the balcony around the arena. Batman's fists struck Bane's torso first, forcing Bane to step back. Batman struck again and again, but Bane absorbed the blows to his chest and jaw.
Bane seized Batman's left fist and stopped the punch. "Peace has cost you your strength." Batman didn't have a chance to land his right fist before it was caught. "Victory has defeated you." Bane forced the knuckles of Batman's glove against his teeth and kicked him.
Batman regained his footing and blocked the next punches Bane threw. He followed with a head butt cowl to skull, but it didn't faze Bane even as the large man stepped backwards. He remembered Gordon reduced to begging for help on a hospital bed. Batman slugged his jaw and growled with the one, two punches.
Bane absorbed the blows, and then countered with a shove that knocked Batman against the catwalk's railing. He grabbed the railing on the other side and kicked Batman's chest. The force of it sent Batman somersaulting over the railing. He turned in the air and unfurled his cape. It slowed his fall onto the grating-covered concrete floor. Bane grabbed a dangling chain and climbed down only using his arms. He seized Batman before the vigilante stood and swung his armored back into a metal column.
Batman broke free of Bane's hold and they traded blows again. Batman grunted with each one he threw and grunted when Bane's punches landed. Bane did not make a sound other than his breathing, and that was lost under the foaming water. The waterfall sprayed droplets into the air. They caught on his armor and rivulets ran around the Kevlar plates.
Bane broke free of the hold Batman had on his neck. His punch drove Batman to the ground. Batman rolled onto his hands and knees, the soaked cape not moving with him, and Bane's boot caught him in the stomach.
He felt that through the armor. He pulled himself up a set of metal steps, took his stance on another bridge over the channeled water, and growled at Bane who strolled up the same steps.
Bane effortlessly ducked the punch Batman swung and buried an uppercut right where his boot had kicked. Batman doubled-over. Bane's next slam straightened Batman up again, and then he kicked Batman off the bridge.
Batman landed on the metal grating nearly a yard away from the steps. Alfred was wrong; he didn't want to fail. But he had never faced an opponent as relentless as Bane. He hurled his flashbangs at Bane.
The mercenary remained still as the mini-explosions went off around him. Batman used the time to climb to his feet. "Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated." Bane sounded amused as he came down the steps. "But we are initiated, aren't we, Bruce? Members of the League of Shadows."
Batman surged forward.
Bane ducked the blow, shifted up, and grabbed Batman's throat. He hauled all of Batman's weight into the air with one hand. The armor held against the grip. "And you betrayed us," Bane continued as he walked forward, carrying Batman.
"Us?" Batman rasped. "You were excommunicated by a gang of psychopaths." He pulled at Bane's fingers.
Bane's fist pounded into Batman's side harder than his earlier punches. He threw the armored vigilante against the concrete retaining wall holding the water. "I am the League of Shadows. I am here to fulfill Ra's al Ghul's destiny." He extended his arms with his declaration.
The destruction of Gotham, never. Batman charged forward with a yell. He knocked Bane onto his back and pounded.
Bane grabbed Batman's head and head butted the cowl before tossing him aside. "You fight like a younger man," Bane said as they both climbed to their feet. "Nothing held back. Admirable but mistaken."
Batman hit the EMP emitter on his belt. The arena's lights blinked off.
Bane let out a sarcastic sound of appreciation. "You think darkness is your ally." Batman silently circled his opponent while Bane continued speaking. "You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it," Bane announced as he slowly circled, "molded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man, and by then it was nothing to me but blinding!" Bane snarled the last word as he seized Batman's throat again.
Bane dashed Batman's head down against the concrete at the same moment one of his men fixed the lights. "The shadows betray you because they belong to me." Bare knuckles landed against the cowl again and again until it cracked along the forehead and temple.
Bane stood and strolled to the center of the arena again. "I will show you where I have made my home whilst preparing to bring justice." Batman blinked away the blood and water as he looked up at the foundations of the Wayne Enterprises building. One of Bane's men tossed Bane a detonator that he easily caught as he looked down at Batman. "Then I will break you," he said as he pressed the button.
The primer cord sparked as the ignition ran up the columns and into the concrete above. A muffled explosion was followed by louder blocks of raining concrete. "Your precious armory gratefully accepted," Bane said as his men climbed through the hole into Applied Sciences. "We will need it."
Batman panted where he lay, marshaling his strength. This surprise was all he had left. He had to make it count.
"There's nothing up here but Daggett's thief!"
"What!" Bane bellowed. "Bring her to me!"
Selina must have followed me. And Bane will kill her. Batman pushed himself off the concrete slope. The men above and the men below aimed their rifles at the masked woman sliding down a rope. He stepped toward Bane.
"Ah yes!" Glee filled Bane's filtered voice as he turned. "I was wondering what would break first." He tossed the detonator aside.
Batman swung his arm back for punching momentum. Bane easily dodged the swing and followed with another uppercut to Batman's stomach that forced him to double over. A blow to the back of his head sent him to grating floor again. He pushed himself up.
"Your spirit?" Bane grabbed Batman's shoulder and thigh and lifted Batman above his head. Batman flailed and kicked. "Or your body?" Bane threw him down and his lower back connected first. The armor cracked, pain flared along his entire spine, and he was face down on the grating again.
"No!" Selina screamed. He wanted to scream at her to run, but not even his mouth cooperated with him.
"Where is the armory?" Bane demanded.
"I don't know! Nobody does; he arranged everything. And you killed him." Selina's voice hardened.
Heavy footsteps vibrated closer. Most of the cowl peeled free from his head. "He's not dead yet. Bring them both."
Four hands lifted his body off the ground by his arms. The surge of pain through his spine brought darkness.