Dusk is the first chapter of the Black Guardian.
[Santa Prisca | Six Months Ago…]
A young child sits in an alleyway at night. Dirty water rushes past her feet, drenching the one sock she wears. Suddenly, something drops into her lap. She looks, to see something wrapped in cloth. As she unravels it, she sees the bread, then the vegetables and small snacks along with it. The girl looks up at the man who handed it to her, “Thank you Mr…”
“Bane. Call me Bane.” The man looks down at her. A mask covers most of his face. The eerie metal cover gives him a terrifying appearance that scares the little girl, who remains happy only because of his act of kindness. His voice is deep, with a strong English accent, an echo caused by the mask extending the aura of terror. “It’s my pleasure.”
[Wayne Manor, Gotham]
“Mr Wayne, you have a visitor.” Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce’s loyal caretaker, guides the visitor in, a tall bald man, into what Bruce called the Meeting Room.
The man smiles when he sees Bruce Wayne sat at the end of the long, wooden table. “Hello Mr Wayne, I’m Shaun Walker.” He pulls out a chair and sits down. “I have a trade proposal for you.”
“I’m sorry, but could this wait another day? I’m currently waiting on some news from the hospital.” Bruce was lying through his teeth, he was just uninterested in what Shaun had to say.
Shaun pulls out his phone and checks the time, “This won’t take long, I promise. But if you’re certain you can’t talk about it now I’d be happy to arrange another time.”
Wayne sighs heavily, then takes a few moments to think about it. He realises it would be best to listen and replies, “Fine, I guess I can talk.” He leans forward, resting his arms on the table, “So, what’s your trade proposal?”
The man takes a deep breath, then begins to speak, “I represent the Porter Foundation, an organisation dedicated to scientific innovation. However, we are currently in the testing stage of an important, but highly experimental procedure. We have all the licensing fully established, however are yet to meet one requirement put down.” He pulls out a number of papers and slams them onto the table.
Bruce takes the papers and begins to read, “You need morphine.”
“Yes. Our experiments could be extremely painful, and the medical board requires us to have morphine at the ready in case an accident does occur.” The man smiles, revealing his slightly yellow teeth.
Looking over the documents, the Wayne Enterprises CEO replies, “Everything looks in order. I can have the order shipped out as soon as the money is in the Wayne Enterprises account.” He stands and walks out, “Alfred, please escort Mr Walker out. I’m going for a nap.” He enters the main hallway and starts up the stairs.
“You can be a real asshole, you know that right?”
Bruce looks up to see Dick Grayson, the inhabitant of the mansions’ east wing. “What did I do this time?”
Dick spins a small rod in his hand, “You act like a complete douche around people, when in reality you’re the nicest guy I know.”
“It’s necessary.” He sighs as he reaches the top of the stairs, and turns right.
“No, it’s not.” Dick hurries over to him, “I get that you want to keep Bruce Wayne as far from Batman as you can, but you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re the same person! Batman and Bruce Wayne share a body, share a mind!”
The billionaire pulls out a remote from his pocket and presses a button, a bookcase up ahead sliding on hidden rails to reveal an elevator door. The two enter the elevator, Dick pressing the button to go down. “Dick, I’m sorry but I can’t. We’re not the same. Batman is…different.”
The doors slide open, and the duo step into the basement of the manor. The underground room has a wall that has fallen away and part of the floor collapsed into a giant cavern. “Take this place, the Bat-cave…”
“Don’t call it that, it sounds like a cheesy comic book thing. Call it the Cave, or the Bunker, or something along those lines.” Bruce stops at the edge and looks down at the smooth steps leading to the floor of the cavern several metres below.
Following a heavy sigh, the adopted son of Bruce continues, “You spent two months down here, only stopping to eat, sleep, and have the occasional business meeting.” He chuckles, “That was just the stairs. Two months of you carving them out of the rock to make them perfect. Talk about overworking. Or was that Batman?”
“That was my work, for Batman.” He begins to descend on the stairs, with Dick following behind.
Angered, Dick yells, “You’re Batman!” He jumps off the stairs and lands on the dry rock below. “When do I get to join the crime-fighting? I want a turn!”
Thinking of all the possibilities, Bruce gives a simple answer, “When you’re 18.”
“I’m 17 now…barely…but still! You’re too protective of me! My parents died, same as you. I’ve been trained as a fighter, same as you. I’m competent! Besides, with your gadgets, I’d be even better.” He imagines them fighting together, helping each other in the field, “Batman and Nightwing!”
“Nightwing? Why Nightwing?” Bruce looks at him, a questioning look on his face.
Dick remembers his days in the circus, and his stage name, “It’s the name my parents gave me…you know…for the family act. It seems like nonsense, but it has meaning.”
Not wanting to upset Dick, Bruce grabs a bat-shaped blade and flicks it into the rock near the boy, “Just in case you need a weapon.” He smiles, “In case this city needs a Nightwing, you have access to whatever you need, as long as you’re not reckless.”
A great smile on his face, the teenager speaks, “Thanks Batman, it means a lot.”
“Mr Sionis, your four-o’clock appointment is here.”
“Thanks Ms Kerry, send him through.” The young-looking Roman sits in his chair, a number of documents spread out across the desk in front of him. The door opens and a tall, muscular man enters in a white suit, similar to the one Roman wears. “Good morning Mr White.” Roman stands and drags his desk out of the way, revealing a hatch in the floor. “You’ll be meeting him through here.”
The man smiles, “I’m actually meeting the man in the mask. Oh how great it feels.” Roman opens the hatch and waves Mr White into it. As the businessman descends down the ladder, Roman closes the hatch and sits back in his seat.
“And so it begins.”
Warren White reaches the bottom of the ground and looks around the room to see nothing but a single door at the end. “This is Warren White here to see…”
A husky, frightening voice interrupts him, “I know who you are. I know you’re here to see me.” The laugh is even more frightening, with a cackling sound to it. “Am I to understand that you’re here wanting part in the plan?”
“Yeah, guess you could say that.” He looks around, to see nobody, “Are you…?”
“The Black Mask?” The voice is behind Warren, who quickly turns, coming face to face with the blank white eyes of the man, who wears a black mask over his face. “Yes. That’s me.”
The masked man answers, “The white? Yes, some find it rather unsettling. Don’t worry, they’re contact lenses. Put in to conceal my true identity. Do you want to know a secret?” He puts his finger to his lips.
“What…what secret?” He was disturbed by the Black Mask’s eyes, even knowing they were lenses.
The man quickly grabs Warren’s throat, but not so tightly that he chokes, “There’s a price that comes with working for me.” He smiles, “Are you willing to accept?” Mr White nods, too scared to talk, “Then we shall continue.” He lets go and approaches the door across the room, “Come through here.”
The room is small, with a surgical bed and equipment on the side. “You’ll need a few…let’s say aesthetic changes…if you want in. Are you still willing to accept?” To this, Warren shakes his head, still struggling to speak. “Oh well.” The Black Mask pulls a baton out of his trouser leg, having somehow concealed it, and smacks Warren across the face, knocking him unconscious, “You accepted already.”
Bane stands in Roman’s office. He hears muffled screams and the familiar laughter of the Black Mask, and smiles himself. However, the mask he wears makes it near-unnoticeable. “Another of Gotham’s shining stars falls. The sunlight is nearly over; dusk will be soon to follow.”