Batman Family: Batwing
The Night Shift
by Starsky Hutch 76
Life hasn’t been easy for Jason Todd, alias Batwing, and the last couple of years have brought many changes. Now he has to decide if those changes will be permanent ones, or if he’ll choose a more common path for his future.
In most homes, midnight was an hour when citizens could safely enjoy the peacefulness of slumber as they lay nestled safely in their beds. In the streets of Gotham City, however, the night was long, dark, and frightening. Sounds that would scare the bravest of men to their very souls were commonplace. There were a few, though, who made the darkness their home, fighting the dangers that plagued the city.
Out of the night came one such champion, a figure as swift and agile as any bird of prey. On first glance, he would appear to be a figure who once roamed the Gotham nights for decades. But on closer inspection, he was far too young to be that person who had now been deceased for years. He was Batwing, latest in the line of Gotham’s defenders that had begun with that man whose costume his own resembled.
For the past two years, he had operated as the partner of the hero known as Red Robin. On occasion, the two would operate solo when Red Robin’s duties took him elsewhere. But even on the nights when he and Red Robin didn’t patrol these streets together, Batwing could be found keeping vigil. These streets had once been Jason Todd’s home, and he felt a certain responsibility to them.
Batwing perched on the corner of a roof and began to scan the dark Gotham night, but unlike most nights, he wasn’t simply looking for crime. He was also searching for answers. A stray cat who had somehow found its way onto the roof strolled up next to him, and he stroked it absentmindedly as he surveyed the streets below.
He watched as a group of kids his own age piled, laughing, into a car for a night on the town, and he grumbled to the stray as he petted her, “Look at them. What the hell am I doing up here? I should be having fun like them instead of wasting my time. For every one crook I put down, five more show up to take his place! This might be all right for Red Robin. Batman trained him for this his whole life. But is this how I want to spend the rest of my days? Other guys my age are going out on dates, going to parties, trying to get laid. I spend my nights just trying to not get myself killed, and it’s not like I’m making any difference. I mean… who am I kidding? All I’m really doing is trying to prove I’m not my father.”
Of all the criminals he had put away, the one face he’d always run into was that of his father. He wanted the chance to pay him back for all the suffering at his hands, both mental and physical. His mentor, Red Robin, had been more of a father to him than his real father ever had. True, he was a stern taskmaster, but he’d take stern words over having a cigarette put out in his arm any day. That had been Willis Todd’s favorite form of discipline for his son on nights when he’d had way too much to drink.
As he watched the car start up and take off, he realized he needed to be on his way as well. He leaped off the edge of building and launched a bat-rope, swinging the length from one building to the next. In the distance could be heard the same noises he heard every night: traffic noise, a barking dog, and the distant wail of a police siren. A third noise brought him from his waking trance: a nearby scream, loud and long.
He managed to pull out of his dive and landed on a fire escape. Taking out a small pair of binoculars, he scanned the area and pinpointed where the noise was coming from. He tracked the scream to a dark alley, where he pinpointed two figures. One was a scruffy male in his early twenties. The other was a woman in her mid-thirties dressed in a waitress uniform. From the looks of things, she’d picked the wrong moment to come home after working the late shift. He had been waiting for her.
“Fork over the cash, bitch!” the man snarled viciously as he stood over the frightened woman.
“I gave you all I had,” the woman pleaded. “You’ve got all my tip money! Isn’t that enough? Please, just let me go! Don’t hurt me!”
“Bad answer!” the lowlife growled, raising a gun toward her and taking aim.
Batwing leaped down from his vantage point to land between the mugger and his victim. “Walk away. This is your first, last, and only warning,” he said menacingly.
“@#^&* that!” the mugger barked. “And @#^& you!”
“Bad answer,” Batwing growled, imitating the mugger’s earlier remark to his intended victim as he delivered a swift roundhouse kick to the stomach. He followed it up with an uppercut that would have done Wildcat proud.
The mugger staggered back, dazed but still standing, as he leveled his gun and fired. Another crack of gunfire and another scream; the mugger ran into the night, scared, and Batwing scanned the alley. Normally, he would chase him down, but he had a victim to attend to.
“Are you all right, ma’am?” he asked, offering her his hand.
“I should be fine, but think my arm is numb,” she groaned.
Batwing looked at the woman’s arm to see a gunshot wound. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you,” he said reassuringly. He hit a remote signal, and the Batcycle moved to where they were.
Batwing sat outside as the woman was being examined at Gotham Memorial Hospital’s emergency room. He drew strange looks from people walking past him as he sat camped outside the door. The doctor emerged, analyzing a clipboard.
“How is she?” Batwing asked.
The doctor looked at the clipboard and then back up at the young hero. “Nothing to worry about, son. It was really just a scratch. Just a few stitches and some a shot to stave off infection, and she’s good as new. From what the police said, the real threat to her was handled before she ever got here. If you hadn’t gotten to her in time, then she wouldn’t be here now. Thanks to you, she’s OK, and so is her baby.”
“Baby?” Batwing said, wide-eyed.
“You mean you didn’t know she was pregnant?” The doctor said, bemused.
Batwing dashed into the room and found the woman half-conscious. “Hey,” he said, softly.
The woman stirred, and her eyes opened. “Oh, you waited,” she said, smiling weakly.
“Wouldn’t be much of a hero if I didn’t,” he answered. “How’re you feeling?”
“I’ve seen better days,” she groaned. “But I’m OK.”
“What about your child?”
“The baby’s fine. Still happy and healthy. “You know… I can’t exactly name a child Batwing,” she said. “What do I call him?”
“Jason,” he said, smiling.
“Jason. That’s nice,” she said, laying a hand on her stomach. “Thank you, Jason,” she said, placing a kiss on the boy’s cheek.
The sun finally rose over Gotham City. Batwing had spent the whole night patrolling the city, only to come right back where he started. He still could not believe that, a few hours ago, he was ready to put away his mask and costume to seek a so-called “normal” life. Such doubts were behind him now. Batwing was part of Jason Todd’s life, and he couldn’t deny that. Being there for that woman had made him put everything into perspective. It wasn’t about putting criminals away, and it wasn’t about making up for having a lousy father. It was about protecting people.
He quickly swung back to where the Batcycle was parked. He needed to rest before tomorrow night’s patrol.