NEARLY A CENTURY AGO IN THE YEAR 2025, SUPERMAN SUDDENLY DISAPPEARED AND OTHER COSTUMED
HEROES FOLLOWED IN HIS WAKE. GONE WERE THE VIGILANTES WHO PROWLED THE CITIES AT NIGHT AND
THE POWERED BEINGS WHO FLEW THROUGH THE SKIES BY DAY. SYMBOLS OF HOPE HAD GIVEN WAY TO
SYMBOLS OF ORDER, AND THE WORLD HAD BECOME A VERY DIFFERENT PLACE. BUT IN 2112, A SON OF
KRYPTON ONCE AGAIN FLIES ABOVE METROPOLIS, AND A DARK KNIGHT ONCE AGAIN STALKS CRIMINALS
ON THE STREETS OF GOTHAM. HAVE THE HEROES AND HEROINES OF OLD RETURNED, OR HAVE OTHERS
TAKEN UP THEIR LEGENDARY MANTLES? MY NAME IS GERALDO CHUNG, AND I INTEND TO SOLVE THIS
Commissioner Mark Grayson had never had much use for the press. Some journalists did
have integrity, but they were few and far between. The rest were little more than
gossipmongers more interested in money than the truth, and he hadn't yet come to a
decision about the holo-novelist currently standing in front of him. "Geraldo Chung,
is it? Didn't you write that holo-novel about that cop-killer suspect in New York
City?" asked Grayson, who was leaning back at his desk, hands folded behind his head.
Chung responded with a chuckle. An older man in his sixties, he had the look of a
sixty-year-old bachelor. "Guilty as charged, I'm afraid, unlike Mr. Connor. I can
hardly believe that his case was dismissed. Are you a fan of my work?"
"Not as such," replied Grayson. "I do own a few of your crime-related
holo-novels. I must admit that there was some good detective work in there, and you tell a
good story. But you don't get much time for pleasure reading in this business."
"So people in law enforcement keep telling me, whenever I try to interview
them," said Chung, trying to break the veil of guarded hostility that always creeped
up when talking to cops. He was pleased to see that he'd managed to crack a smile out of
Grayson, but he knew that the Commissioner was far from finished sizing him up.
"I'm sure you didn't make your way all the way to Gotham looking for a
critique," said Grayson, trying to get down to business. "What do you
"You know, I have yet to run into a policeman who believed in small talk. All
they're interested in is facts, so I'll lay them out for you. I'm doing a new series of
holo-novels called 'Spandex Spotlight' about the costumed superheroes who are starting to
pop up everywhere."
"So you're here to do a story about the Batman?" asked Grayson, not much
liking the thought of yet another media circus wreaking havoc in his city.
"Not exactly. I'm here to find out why the Batman has reappeared and what his
agenda is, to discern his secret identity, and perhaps make it public knowledge. Are you
Batman?" Chung asked this so matter-of-factly that Grayson was only slightly taken
aback, but only for a moment. A deep, throaty laugh soon followed.
"I'm a police officer, not a vigilante. I don't take the law into my own hands. But
good luck with your investigation. If you do find out, then I'll be sure to buy the
When Chung ended his meeting with Commissioner, he was relatively pleased with himself.
He hadn't learned anything, but he hadn't expected to, either. The point was to let the
police know that he was in town so they'd keep out of his way while he conducted his
investigation. Besides, he'd already come to the conclusion that Grayson wasn't the
Batman. He had been seen with the Batman more than once, and he was far too high-profile a
figure. Besides which, he had yet to meet a police officer with the requisite imagination
to be a superhero.
Ennis Hobbs was somewhat agitated. The Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 25 company,
he was quite accustomed to meeting with famous dignitaries in all fields, including UN
representatives, but now he was nervous. He was about to have a private meeting with
Geraldo Chung, one of the greatest holo-novelists of his generation. Indeed, the idea of
sitting down to talk with such a famous author was quite unnerving.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Hobbs. Thank you for taking time out of what must be a very
busy schedule to see me," said Chung, easing himself into a chair across from Hobbs
in one of the many board rooms at Drake Industries HQ. A secretary brought in some coffee,
and he helped himself to some of the best black coffee he'd ever tasted. These corporate
types really knew how to live.
"Not at all, Mr. Chung. Actually, I'm a fan of your work, and meeting you is
something of an honor. And please, call me Ennis." He nervously extended a hand and
was quite elated when Chung shook his hand readily.
"Always happy to meet another fan, Ennis. And please, call me Geraldo." Chung
thought to himself that he'd lucked out. Interviews always went more smoothly with fans.
"Well then, Geraldo, what can I help you with?" Hobbs prepared himself to keep
from revealing any secrets related to his position at Drake Industries. After all, his
interrogator was an expert at investigation and detective work.
"I'll get straight to the point. Are you Batman?"
Then again, he could be wrong. Startled, Hobbs nearly spit out his coffee and was forced
to apply a napkin to his lips. "Are you nuts?!" As soon as the words were
spoken, Hobbs remembered himself and to whom he was speaking. "Excuse me, but did you
just ask whether I was Batman? What brings you to ask such an odd question?"
Chung studied the strange expression on Hobbs' face, which could only be described as
comical. His instincts suddenly told him that Hobbs was definitely not the Batman. Even
so, he deserved an explanation for what he agreed was an unusual inquiry.
"Well, I'm doing a new series of holo-novels about costumed superheroes and their
sudden reappearance. I was hoping to begin the series with a holo-novel on the
Batman" said Chung, warming upto his subject matter. "Divulging the Batman's
secret identity would be a big plus."
This answer did nothing to remove the comical expression from Hobbs' face. "That's
all very interesting, but it doesn't answer my question. Or perhaps I should be more
clear. What brings you to ask me this question?"
"Short answer? My research. 20th & 21st-century records indicate that the
Batman localized his activities in Gotham City. News reports on this new Batman indicate a
similar pattern to his activities. As such, I believe that the Batman is someone who
resides in Gotham City."
Hobbs was getting tired of repeating the same question, but he could tell that Chung
liked to keep his audience hanging. After all, he'd read enough of his holo-novels to
recognize the pattern. "But why me? Hundreds of thousands of people live in Gotham
"That's true, but not all of them have access to the kind of technology that the
Batman is known for using. All of his equipment appears to be custom made, suggesting that
he has access to his own factories, perhaps even privately patented technologies. A man in
your position has access to such technologies."
That was enough to give Hobbs pause. Where did Batman get his technology? "Even so,
Drake Industries isn't the only corporation in Gotham that develops and produces
technology similar to that used by the Batman. In fact, several other companies in the
area specialize in UN defense contracts."
"That's true, too, but of these individuals, only a few were present in Metropolis
when the Batman made his appearance there. The event was highly holovized, and it just
happened to be localized right next to a Drake Industries hoverlim. I believe you were in
Suddenly, Hobbs' respect for Chung's detective skills was renewed. "I do admit that
that's an amazing coincidence, but that's all it is. I can assure you that I'm not the
Batman. I was in Metropolis to help mediate a conference between Lex Luthor and Tim
Drake." He smiled as a joke occurred to him. "Next thing you know, you'll be
asking whether Tim is the Batman."
"Actually, I consider that a possibility. Don't you?" asked Chung, curious as
to what Hobbs answer would be.
Hobbs just laughed. "I've known Tim practically all his life. He's a good kid, and
he may be a little mixed up, but he's not crazy. He certainly doesn't have a deathwish.
Hell, he's dating a supermodel!"
"Maybe he does have better things to do with his nights," Chung conceded.
"Even so, I'll be asking him the same question later on. After all, even if he isn't
the Batman, that doesn't mean that he isn't funding the Batman's activities." Chung
finished his coffee before continuing. "Which brings me to my next question. Is Drake
Industries secretly sponsoring this new Batman?"
Hobbs straightened up in his chair and tugged at shirt to straighten it. "Speaking
as CEO of Drake Industries, I can assure you that no such relationship exists."
"Very well, then. Thank you for your time, and I hope I didn't surprise you too
much. Great coffee." Chung smiled, and Hobbs smiled back. If nothing else, the
experience had been interesting and had brightened an otherwise dull afternoon.
MY NEXT INTERVIEW DIDN'T GO NEARLY AS WELL. IN FACT, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN AT ALL. ALUCARD
HOLMES WAS A MYSTERIOUS FIGURE IN GOTHAM. HE SAW FEW PEOPLE, AND VERY FEW PEOPLE SAW HIM.
ONE OF JUSTICE'S MAGISTRATES, THE MAN HAD A NOTORIOUS DISAFFECTION FOR THE MEDIA. I HAD
HOPED THAT MY REPUTATION WOULD SEE ME PAST THIS PARTICULAR BARRIER. THIS IS NOT TO SAY
THAT I BELIEVED THAT ALUCARD HOLMES AND THIS NEW BATMAN WERE ONE AND THE SAME, BUT I
HARBORED OTHER SUSPICIONS NONETHELESS. AFTER ALL, THIS NEW BATMAN HAD BEEN PROWLING THE
STREETS OF GOTHAM FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AND HAD NO DISPUTES WITH THE JUSTICE LEAGUE. IT
SEEMED OBVIOUS THAT THIS NEW BATMAN WAS EITHER WORKING SECRETLY ON BEHALF OF THE JUSTICE
LEAGUE OR THE LEAGUE HAD PLANS TO RECRUIT HIM IN THE NEAR FUTURE, BUT THESE QUESTIONS
WOULD GO UNANSWERED.
Sullen over his failure to arrange an interview with Alucard Holmes, Chung retired to
his hotel room. His datapad in hand, he ordered a few drinks from the hotel bar and
started going over the notes for his scheduled interview with Tim Drake. In the middle of
his second manhattan, just past midnight, a light on his datapad started flashing,
indicating an incoming message.
"Hello, Chung here. Who wants me?" It was probably a message from his
publisher, wondering how the research was going.
"Are you alone, sir?"
An odd question, thought Chung, wondering who it was. He noted the British accent and
wondered if it was yet another crank call from the so-called Jesus Christ Killer, rubbing
his nose in it yet again. The idea was dismissed almost immediately, the tone of the
message being too formal and respectful. Perhaps it was one of the hotel staff, but why
would they be using his private line instead of the one in his room?
"Yes. Who is this?"
"My name is Alfred, sir. Can you help me?"
"I'm not sure. Are you in some kind of trouble?" asked Chung, his flair for
the dramatic starting to catch up with him.
And Alfred had thought Master Tim was slow. "I'm being held prisoner by the Batman.
I can't leave the house, and I have no choice but to follow his orders! He verbally abuses
me at every turn and is always telling me to shut up! Please, can you help me?"
Skeptical as he was, Chung didn't think he had anything to lose by continuing the
conversation. "Why call? Wouldn't it have been more efficient to contact the
"Fine, then. If you don't believe me, then don't help me. Just leave me here to
wallow in misery. Have you no compassion?" asked Alfred, his tone reminiscent of that
used in daytime soap holovids.
"Let's just say that I require proof. Maybe if you told me the Batman's secret
Alfred sighed dramatically. "Don't you think I would if I could? Unfortunately,
I've been specifically programmed not to reveal that information."
"So the Batman uses psychological conditioning, eh? That's interesting. Well, then,
why don't you tell me how you got my private number?"
"I'd really rather not say." Actually, Ennis Hobbs had left a message warning
Tim about Chung's line of questioning, a message that Alfred somehow forgot to mention to
Master Tim, but that's what you get when you keep saying 'Shut up, Alfred.' He was bound
to start obeying the directive at some point.
"Next thing you know, you'll be telling me you're trapped inside a machine,"
said Chung, referring to an old joke that used to be placed on answering machines.
"Listen, it's been fun, but I've got work to do. I don't know who put you up to it,
but nice gag. I almost forgot the date." Chung cut the line and got back to work.
The calendar read April 1st.
Wayne Manor practically screamed old money. The architectural style of the building and
the estate had an age-old gentility that sharply contrasted with the gaudy modern palaces
of the nouveaux riche. Indeed, the drive from the gates to the front door had been most
pleasant and refreshing. After taking a moment to drink in the grandeur of the place with
the fullness of his senses, Chung took hold of the antique door knocker and tapped it
three times, and after a few minutes, the door finally opened.
"Hello. My name is Geraldo Chung, and I'm here to meet with Tim Drake. I believe
he's expecting me." He had to crane his neck up and adjust his glasses to see an
older gentleman of dominating height who had only just begun to go gray.
"Yes, of course, the holo-novelist. Tim just called to say that he's running a bit
late, but he should be back shortly. He asked me to entertain you until he arrived.
Pleased to meet you. My name is Clark." A powerfully-built man, his mild manners
contrasted sharply with the rough-and-tumble manners that his size suggested.
Taking Clark's hand, Chung noticed the vice-like grip. "Thank you. How do you know
Mr. Drake? Are you his butler?" he asked. Clark wasn't exactly dressed like a butler
or manservant, but he could have been a bodyguard or something.
Clark just narrowed his eyes a bit. "Not exactly. Would you like something to eat
or drink?" Chung noted the skillful way in which his question was dodged, something
that he'd only known policemen and journalists to pull off so smoothly. But Clark was too
polite to be a policeman.
"No, thank you. What line of work are you in?" asked Chung, trying to press
"Nothing at the moment. Actually, I'm retired, and staying with Tim while I decide
what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I've been thinking about writing my
"Are you a friend of his, then?" asked Chung, trying to get a better
understanding of the nature of Clark's relationship with Tim Drake.
"I don't really know Tim that well. Not yet, anyway. Actually, I was a friend of
his grandfather, although the difference in our ages kept us from socializing too much.
You could say that I'm staying with Tim as a favor to his grandfather."
That made sense. After all, what does a man as young as Tim Drake know about running
such a large estate? "I'm sorry if it seems like I'm prying, but I wasn't always a
holo-novelist. I started out as a reporter, and old habits die hard."
Clark smiled as if in understanding. "So what brings you to Gotham? I've spent a
lot of time reading recently, and your holo-novels are quite informative. Please, have a
seat," said Clark after he'd led Tim's guest through several rooms to the parlor,
where he uncorked some brandy and filled two glasses.
"I'm starting a new series of holo-novels about costumed superheroes, and I thought
I'd start with a story about the Batman," said Chung, easing himself into a
comfortable chair and accepting the brandy offered. "Don't mind if I do."
Clark turned his head ever so casually as if he heard something, but Chung heard
nothing. "That must be Tim. I'll leave you two alone to discuss business. Is there
anything else I can help you with before I leave?"
Chung hesitated momentarily. "Well, there is a question I've been asking everyone,
so I might as well ask you, too. Are you Batman?"
Somewhat stunned by the question, Clark smiled. "You know, I think I can honestly
say that I never expected to be asked that question. No, I'm not Batman, but thanks for
asking. You've made my day." Chuckling to himself, he left the room.
Tim rushed up the stairs. He hated being late for appointments, and he didn't like
looking unprofessional in front of the Man of Steel, who still treated him like a kid. He
suddenly had a mental image of himself running through the doors of his house yelling,
'Mom, I'm home!' and slowed down to a respectable pace, straightening his clothes and his
Recomposed, he opened the door to the parlor and walked. "Hello, Mr. Chung. I'm
sorry I'm late, but I had some things I had to attend to. I hope I didn't keep you waiting
"Not at all, Mr. Drake. Your friend, Clark, kept me very entertained." Chung
extended his hand, and Tim took it.
"I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to meet you, Mr. Chung. My father was a big
fan of your work," said Tim, gesturing for his guest to be seated again and taking a
chair across from him.
"Thank you. I was very sorry to hear that your father had passed away. My
condolences on your loss. Richard Drake was a great man." Unlike other times that he
had said these words, Chung was being sincere, and Tim could tell. Thinking about the
number of autographed holo-novels his father had owned, Tim wished he'd taken the time to
appreciate them as much as his father had.
"Thank you for your concern." Tim smiled, glad to have made the famous
holo-novelist's acquaintance. He poured them both some cognac before continuing. "So
what brings you to my door?"
"The same thing that brings me to Gotham. I'm doing a new series of holo-novels on
costumed superheroes, and I'm starting with a story on this new Batman. So I'm here to ask
you: Are you Batman?"
Tim nearly spit out his drink. "W-w-what did you just say? Did you just ask if I
was Batman? What would make you ask me such a strange question?"
Chung just shrugged. "I've been asking everybody in Gotham the same question. So
far, I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer."
"I see. So you don't necessarily believe that I'm Batman?" asked Tim, hoping
that this was the case. His fingers were crossed behind his back.
"Actually, I honestly believe that you're the most logical candidate, based on all
of the evidence available," said Chung, pulling out his datapad.
Tim was certain Chung could hear the wheels clicking as he tried to think of a way out
of this situation, or was that just Alfred? "You said 'new Batman.' What makes you so
certain that this isn't the same Batman who disappeared in the early 21st-century?"
Chung chuckled and smiled. "Well, the old Batman was a master detective who ran in
the same circles as the Justice League. He fought off alien invasions, super criminals,
and whole criminal organizations. This new Batman hasn't done anything but stop the
occasional mugging and rape. That's probably why the police haven't intervened yet. He's
sticking to small fish in a big pond."
Ouch. Tim turned his head and winced. He wanted to do more, but fear tactics just
weren't up his alley. They weren't up Clark's alley, either. "Is that true? I haven't
really been keeping track of Batman's activities. But that still doesn't explain why
you're pointing the finger at me."
"Well, I'm convinced that this new Batman is someone who lives in Gotham and has
access to vast financial resources and advanced technology. You're at the top of that
short list. You also happened to be in Metropolis when this new Batman made a solo
appearance there, not to mention that he appeared when your hoverlim was attacked."
Tim was starting to believe the old adage about no good deed going unpunished. This guy
had done his homework. "That was just a coincidence. You could just as easily say
that Ennis Hobbs is Batman. He was there with me, but I'm pretty sure he's not Batman,
"Yes, I've spoken with him already, and I agree with you. He's also much too busy
running Drake Industries to lead a clandestine lifestyle. You, on the other hand, don't
have many responsibilities. In fact, the society pages are starting to call you a
Damn it. He knew he was going to be punished for not going out with Shannon Mitchells
more often. After all, it was just plain wrong not to date a supermodel as often as you
could. In more ways than one. "I'm just don't have as much time for socializing now
that I'm the head of the Drake household." He did what he could not to look sheepish.
Chung tried to look sympathetic as he continued with his deductive reasoning.
"That's another thing. This new Batman made his first appearance after your father
passed away. My psychological consults tell me that vigilantism sparks from some kind of
tragedy, like the death of a family member. I'm sorry, but all of the evidence points to
"And that's what you're going to print in your new holo-novel?" asked Tim, who
predicted that no one would find fault with Chung's detective work.
"I'm afraid so. Naturally, I never expected an admission from you, and any
protestations that you aren't Batman wouldn't mean much. My book isn't so much about who
the Batman is so much as who I think he is and why. Unless you can provide me with an
airtight alibi, I'm going to have to go with my instincts and the facts. Thank you for
taking the time to see me."
As Chung made to leave, Tim admitted defeat to himself and decided to take it like a
man. "Well, I don't have any alibis. After all, I pretty much live in this house
alone, except for Clark and the computer, but it was still a pleasure to meet you. I also
have to admit that the evidence you've gathered even has me convinced. Almost." Tim
chuckled weakly. "Will you at least let me drive you back to your hotel?"
Chung smiled. He still wasn't completely convinced that Tim was Batman, but his gut told
him that Tim was a good kid who meant him no harm. "I'd like that.
The drive back to the hotel was rather uneventful. Tim was sullen and quiet, and the
view wasn't much to look at, now that night had fallen. Shadows creeped over everything in
sight, transforming the city into the backdrop of a dark, puppet show. A scream or two
filled the night, soon followed by the thunder and flash of gunfire.
"Hit the brakes!" yelled Chung, pointing out the window.
Tim's eyes followed Chung's extended finger to a scene where a gang of young boys was
beating three young girls into submission. Apparently, the shots had been fired into the
air to frighten them. Their intentions were obvious.
"My God! Those girls are barely old enough to be in high school! Drake, can't you
do something?!" asked Chung.
Tim clenched his fist and his teeth, wondering what he should do. The spare costume was
in the trunk, but if he acted, the game as they say would be over. But if he didn't act...
"Look!" yelled Chung, pointing out the window again.
Suddenly, the gang was in a panic. They were firing into the sky as a man leapt down
into the alley from the rooftops. He was dressed all in black, and he would have been
invisible in the shadows if not for the bright red image of a bat emblazoned across his
"Batman," uttered Tim in what Chung assumed was awe, not surprise. "Take
us closer!" he yelled to the driver.
Landing in the middle of the gangmembers, Batman was in rare form. He rained a flurry of
blows on the young hoods that disarmed them and knocked them unconscious simultaneously.
And when one of them pointed his gun at the girls and started to fire, Batman was suddenly
standing between the girls and the trigger-happy gunman. The bullets just bounced off
Batman's chest as he leapt at the would-be rapist and murderer, his charge slamming the
young punk into the wall with an audible thud. Soon, everyone in the gang was
incapacitated or unconscious, and the Batman was the last man standing.
Seeing that the danger had passed, Chung raced out the door of the hoverlim towards
Batman as he helped the young girls to their feet. "Please! Can I have a word with
you? Who are you? What do you want?" asked Chung, out of breath and yelling at the
top of his lungs.
The Batman just turned an icy glare on him and seemed to be looking right through him.
"I am vengeance. I am the night! I AM BATMAN!" With that, he ran into the
shadows and just as suddenly, the red bat symbol on his chest was visible on the roof,
running from rooftop to rooftop, away from the scene of his latest battle.
Disappointed, Chung stopped when he reached the girls to catch his breath. Pretty soon,
Tim was calling the police and checking to see if the girls had been harmed. "Don't
worry, you're going to be alright," said Tim, looking up into the night sky in
The rest of the drive to Chung's hotel room wasn't nearly as exciting or eventful. The
girls were taken to the police station to have their statements taken, where their parents
would arrive to pick them up. Tim walked Chung to the door of the hotel to make sure that
he was alright before taking his leave.
"Well, I guess you have a pretty airtight alibi now," said Chung, trying not
to look too embarrassed.
"Don't worry about it," said Tim, smiling. "Like I said, you almost had
me convinced. But that Batman was really something, wasn't he?"
Chung exhaled softly in wonder. "He was so much more powerful and majestic than I
had imagined..." he said, replaying the scene in his mind. Then suddenly, the wonder
was gone. "Even so, this puts a big hole in my story," he said gloomily.
Tim smiled sympathetically. "Don't worry. I'm sure you'll think of something. Good
night," he said, extending his hand once again. And once again, Chung took it. Drake
Industries could still be financing the new Batman, but he decided not to press the issue.
Tim was a good kid, and he had been through enough tonight.
"Good night, and thanks for seeing me to the door." They both smiled and
turned away from each other, Chung headed for his suite, and Tim headed back to the
hoverlim. He stepped inside to find Clark waiting.
"So that was you in the Bat costume tonight?" asked Tim, climbing into the
driver's seat. "Thanks. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't showed up
when you did."
Clark smiled. "Don't mention it. You'd be surprised how often superheroes have to
do that for each other, to keep their secret identities secret. It happens all the time,
and chances are that you'll be returning the favor one day," said Clark. Then his
smile widened. "Before you knew it, I was putting on the costume and saying, 'This
looks like a job for Batman!' Hahaha."
Tim didn't get the joke, but he laughed with Clark all the same. "I am vengeance? I
am the night? Do you really think Batman is that cliched?" asked Tim.
IN 2112, A BATMAN ONCE AGAIN AROSE TO PROWL THE STREETS OF GOTHAM. THE IDENTITY OF THE
ORIGINAL BATMAN HAS REMAINED A MYSTERY FOR OVER A CENTURY, AND IT WOULD SEEM THAT THE
IDENTITY OF HIS SUCCESSOR WILL REMAIN A MYSTERY AS WELL, ONE THAT DETECTIVES MORE SKILLED
THAN THIS HOLO-NOVELIST WILL HAVE TO DECIPHER. BUT THE MOTIVES OF THIS NEW BATMAN ARE NO
MYSTERY AT ALL. HE IS A FORCE FOR JUSTICE, FOLLOWING IN THE TRADITION OF HIS PREDECESSOR,
AND GERALDO CHUNG WISHES HIM WELL. GODSPEED.