Blue Smoke and Fears: A SpiderMan/Batman Elseworlds Tale

by Bruce Wayne activated a switch beneath the desk in his office at the WayneTech Building in Chicago. He waited patiently as the secret door to his custom-built exercise facility slid open. He entered and quickly changed from his blue seersucker suit into a T-shirt and comfortable gym shorts. He began his usual workout - - a series of acrobatic, martial arts, and pure physical fitness exercises. He was the Dark Knight, the Batman, when not trapped in the persona of Bruce Wayne, playboy-millionaire-philanthropist. After his exhaustive, but always satisfying, workout he took a shower and changed into his favorite tuxedo, the one Alfred had pressed for him before Bruce Wayne left for Chicago. Bruce Wayne had to make a public appearance tonight and he could not disappoint the female constituency of Chicago by dressing in anything less than his best fineries. Before leaving the gymnasium worthy of an Olympic training camp, he called down to Alfred so that the Bentley would be ready by the time he reached street level. He checked that his Batsuit was safely secured in the false bottom of his briefcase, for he had heard the Scarecrow was back on the streets and Batman knew from experience that the Scarecrow had a flair for appearing at big social events such as tonight's. Meanwhile, across town, in a Budget Hotel, Peter Parker was just finishing his own workout as only the Spectacular Spider-Man could - - doing sit-ups and push-ups while seemingly sticking to the ceiling of his hotel room. After his usual sets, he practiced his acrobatics and performed physical fitness exercises only a human spider could do - - body bending moves that would put some of America's best Olympic athletes to shame. He finished his workout, feeling tired, yet extremely satisfied. Peter Parker showered and put on his special event clothes, for tonight he was not just taking pictures, he was going get a short interview with the playboy-millionaire, Bruce Wayne. He checked himself in the mirror - - it wasn't a suit, but he looked snazzy enough. He made sure his Spider-Man costume was safely hidden away within the secret false bottom of his camera bag. He had a bad feeling there might be trouble tonight that would require an appearance of Spider-Man; Mysterio had escaped again and he might be drawn to tonight's event like bugs were attracted to light bulbs.

While Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker headed for the social occasion of the decade, two of the East Coast's most feared criminals were planning their attack on that very same event. The Scarecrow was Batman's nemesis and a master of fear gases. He was discussing the objective of their strike with Mysterio, one of Spider-Man's rogue gallery and a reject of Hollywood - - a master of special effects. “So friend Mysterio, are we going to go for the Machmer Diamond or are we going to steal the hologram laser crystal you‘ve been going on about . . . Or both?” Mysterio pondered the question for several seconds and then answered, “We will get both of them, Scarecrow. And along the way we will strike using blue smoke and fears.” The Scarecrow cackled beneath his mask, “Excellent, fears are my specialty!” Mysterio responded right back, “And special effects are mine,” as he tossed a small smoke pellet several feet away onto the floor and they both cackled as they watched it explode, blue smoke pouring out of the small incendiary device. They knew they would be quite a deadly duo and shook hands to complete their alliance. The day was nearing the end of daylight -- the sun was setting and the moon would be up in about two hours. The charity banquet was already in full swing. Men and women were dressed in their finest clothes. Most of the outfits worn tonight were probably bought just for this social occasion and then would mostly likely never be worn again. Bruce Wayne stood by the bar that took up most of one wall of the grand ballroom and observed the scene around him. Wandering through the dignitaries was Peter Parker, getting shots for tomorrow's Daily Bugle. This was not the kind of photography he was used to, but J. Jonah Jameson thought that Peter Parker would do a better job than some of the other photographers on his staff. Peter had also agreed to do it for double his usual rate and to his surprise, Jameson had agreed. So here he was, taking pictures at this grand event. Bruce Wayne could see that while the photographer that he knew was Peter Parker of the Daily Bugle (because he had checked the press list for tonight) was making his rounds, he too seemed to be alert for something to happen. Both men would be the first ones to be aware of something untoward happening, for Bruce Wayne was Batman and Peter Parker was Spider-Man. They didn't know that on this night their crime-fighting alter egos would soon be meeting each other.

Meanwhile, in the alley behind the hotel, the two villains who had aligned themselves for tonight's planned heist reviewed their plan. The two men couldn't be more opposite . . . The Scarecrow was skinny and dressed like his namesake, while Mysterio was well-muscled beneath his gaudy costume. They waited for an opportune moment. Timing was everything and they would wait a little longer before going in. Peter Parker recognized the man standing at the bar to be Bruce Wayne. He headed over to the bar. Now's as good a time as any to interview him, he thought. “Excuse me, Mr. Wayne, I'm . . .” “Peter Parker of the Daily Bugle,” Bruce Wayne interjected. “Ah, yes,” Peter said, “I was wondering if you'd allow for a short interview?” “Certainly, Mr. Parker. Is that the only reason for being at this event?” “No, I'm also taking photographs.” Wayne nodded, noticing that the camera around the young man's neck was quite advanced and not in use by most news photographers. “So, Mr. Parker what do you need to know?” Peter reached into his camera bag and took out a notebook and pen. “You'll have to bear with me,” Peter said, “I usually don't do interviews, but it shouldn't take long – my boss wants the answers to a few quick questions.” “That's fine. What would the Daily Bugle like to know?” “Is it true that you're flipping the bill for tonight's festivities?” “Yes, WayneTech paid for most of it.” “What's your interest in a charity event like this one?” “I figured we could raise money for the WayneTech Foundation for Children.” “And what is that entity exactly?” “It helps to pay for advanced treatment of children who need technology

driven surgery, such as receiving pacemakers and the like.” “Mr. Wayne, do you yourself have any children?” “No, I'm still quite the bachelor, I'm afraid,” he replied. “Mr. Wayne, do you approve of the greater use technology is playing in healing the human body?” “Yes, Mr. Parker, I do think that technology will be the catalyst in finding cures for some of today's medical woes.” Peter looked up from his note-taking and smiled. “Well, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - - now all I need is some photos, sir.” “Shoot away, Mr. Parker.” Peter Parker put away the notebook and snapped some photographs of Bruce Wayne. “Thank you, Mr. Wayne. Enjoy the rest of your evening.” “My pleasure, Mr. Parker,” Bruce Wayne said, flashing a smile, “I have a feeling the excitement is yet to come.” As on that cue, there was a commotion on the other side of the room. There was a burst of blue smoke and when it dissipated, there stood the Scarecrow and Mysterio. Instantly, Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne mumbled goodbyes and headed for someplace to change into their costumed alter egos. “Dear people, we have no desire to harm any of you. We will just get what we came for and depart,” Mysterio said dramatically. The gathered people of society milled around and looked quite scared. “Yes, we only want the Machmer Diamond and the laser crystal. Stay out of our way and you'll be able to return to the festivities post haste,” the Scarecrow added magnanimously. Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker exited through the doors at either end of the bar. They entered a utility hallway of the hotel that was empty and dimly lit. This suited them both just fine. Bruce Wayne reached into his briefcase and took out the trappings of his alter ego, Batman; Peter Parker likewise reached into his camera bag and took out his Spider-Man outfit. Amid piled chairs and fold-up catering tables, the two heroes proceeded to change and did not notice that they were in the same utility hallway. Both

had their superhero garb on in under a minute. As they were beginning to don their respective headgear, they backed into each other. They spun and faced each other, both in a defensive stance. “Bruce Wayne is Batman? - - Peter Parker is Spider-Man?” they said incredulously at the same time. They eyed each other in their crime-fighting grab and pulled on the cowl and the mask, respectively. “So, how long have you been in the superhero biz?” Spider-Man asked. “Quite a while now. You?” “Only a couple of years,” Peter Parker replied. They both nodded and said together, “You ready for some action?” They nodded assent and headed for the nearest door, Batman on foot and Spider-Man clinging to the ceiling. “Bloody hell,” the Scarecrow exclaimed as he spied the entrance of the costumed heroes. Mysterio was about to break the display case holding the Machmer Diamond, but he too turned to look at the do-gooders' entrance. “I don't think that goes with your outfit, fish-bowl head,” Spider-Man said. “Scarecrow, this ends now,” Batman declared. “Scarecrow, implement Plan S,” Mysterio stated simply. The Scarecrow pulled a small device out of his costume and tossed it at Spider-Man. The pellet exploded upon impact with Spider-Man's body and gave off a cloying mist that was quickly absorbed through his skin. Peter Parker coughed and jumped down from the ceiling to land lightly on his feet. His head felt heavy and he was overcome with the irrational, chemically-induced fear of bats – that bats would hurt innocents. “Are you okay, Spider-Man?” Spider-Man looked over at Batman and thought, this Bat-Man is going to hurt

someone - - I've got to stop him. He leaped at Batman and struck him with a left hook. Batman dodged the punch, but it still impacted part of his right shoulder. Bruce Wayne felt himself spin around and he almost lost his balance - - he had not expected such a powerful punch. “I knew it would work,” the Scarecrow cackled as he broke the display case that held the laser crystal, “let's take our spoils and let Batman and Spider-Man finish each other off.” The two super-criminals took the diamond and the laser crystal and secured them inside a padded box. Mysterio threw down a blue smoke pellet and turned to depart with the Scarecrow. Batman reached into his utility belt and quickly tossed a tracking device at the departing villains. It landed within the folds of Mysterio's cloak and stuck. “Spider-Man, you don't want to fight me,” Batman said as Spider-Man circled around him. Spider-Man threw another punch, as Mysterio and the Scarecrow headed out the door with their purloined prizes, both cackling evilly. Batman dodged the punch completely this time. He tried to think of a way to stop this battle with Spider-Man. Unfortunately, he had not packed any more Scarecrow anti-venom into his utility belt; he had immunized himself, but had not thought to bring more with him. Spider-Man fired a ball of webbing at Batman, which the masked man easily dodged. At some level, Peter Parker knew that Batman was not the bad guy and that Mysterio and the Scarecrow were getting away. But the fear that bats were dangerous would not leave him. Spider-Man hit Batman with a one-two punch. Batman blocked the first punch but the uppercut caught him on the chin. Bruce Wayne felt pain shoot through his jaw and was temporarily stunned. “Look, Batman,” Spider-Man said, “I don't want to hurt you, but . . .” Batman shook his head to clear the cobwebs and interjected, “The Scarecrow has dosed you with one of his fear potions. Spider-Man, I am not the enemy . . . Think about who is - - The Scarecrow and Mysterio are getting away, but I managed to get a tracking device on Mysterio.” “Tracking device?” Spider-Man asked, knowing what Batman was saying was true, but he still under the spell of the fear potion.

“Yes, Spider-Man. We can still get them. Fight the fear and end this battle.” Spider-Man stood still, forcing himself to control his breathing. The Scarecrow's fear pellet struck me and now out of fear I am attacking Batman - - but Batman is not my enemy, Peter Parker thought to himself, his confusion slowly fading away. “Batman, tear off you bat symbol,” Spider-Man said, at once understanding the nature of the fear that was driving his present actions, “its bats that the Scarecrow made me afraid of, not you specifically.” Batman looked down at his chest, grasped the bat-oval, and tore it away from his costume. Spider-Man watched the bat symbol fall to the ballroom floor. His mind began to clear and he said, “That did it . . . I don't feel the urge to strike at bats anymore.” “Good, then let's get after them,” Batman replied. The two heroes told the party-goers to notify the police. Batman and Spider-Man then went back to the utility hallway and retrieved his briefcase and his camera bag respectively. Batman pressed a button on his utility belt and across town, the Batmobile zoomed out of its hiding place under the Chicago WayneTech building. Spider-Man watched as the Batmobile came to a stop beside them in the hotel's parking lot. He gave a low whistle and remarked, “Quite a ride you have there, Batman.” “This old thing,” Batman replied, “This is one of the early models . . . you should see the one I drive in Gotham City.” The cockpit opened and the two heroes leaped into the Batmobile and sped off into the night. Batman activated the tracking device and the radar screen in the dashboard lit up and showed a moving blip on the traffic grid. “Good, Mysterio doesn't realize he's being tracked,” Batman said, smiling, “We'll be able to follow them right to their hideout.” “My “spider-sense” is picking up the signal, too. Your device must be on the same frequency as the trackers I use.” Although the two villains had a head start, the Batmobile quickly caught up

to the van they were driving that night. Batman stayed well back from the truck, he didn't want to be spotted, even though the Batmobile effectively blended into the darkness. The van turned onto a deserted road that ran between a series of old warehouse buildings. The last one on the left had garage doors that opened at the van's approach. The van entered that building and the doors closed behind them. Batman and Spider-Man climbed out of the Batmobile and made their way over to the warehouse. Spider-Man effortlessly climbed the wall, spider-style and Batman climbed up a well-placed Bat line. The windows were remarkably clean and the two heroes could see their adversaries getting out of the van. “Well, my dear Mysterio,” the Scarecrow said, “It looks like we got what we wanted, the laser crystal and the diamond, and with any luck those two do-gooders have pounded each other to paste.” “Unfortunately, I suspect that they did not finish each other off,” Mysterio said, “Spider-Man has a keen mind that wouldn't be that easily controlled by your fear gas.” At that cue, Spider-Man and Batman crashed through the upper windows of the warehouse and landed nimbly on the ground in front of the two villains. “The gig is up, Mysterio,” Spider-Man stated, “You might as well give yourself up and avoid a fight.” Mysterio looked over his costume and found the Bat tracer within the folds of his cape and turned to Scarecrow, “You fool, you let them find us!” Scarecrow stared incredulously at the small tracking device in Mysterio's hand and sputtered, “It's not my fault that he was able to tag you!” Batman stepped between the two villains before they could attack each other. Spider-Man went into the van and retrieved the stolen diamond and laser crystal. “Well, Batman,” Spider-Man said, “It looks like blue smoke and fears aren't enough to stop us.” Batman heard the police cars and let Spider-Man do the honors of webbing the two villains up. The police took them away and retrieved the box containing the stolen diamond and laser crystal.

Batman said, “Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker had better get back to the party or people might get suspicious.” Batman and Spider-Man returned to the hotel and changed back to their civilian clothes in the utility hallway. As they quietly re-entered into the ballroom, Bruce Wayne said, “Good working with you, Spider-Man.” “Likewise, Batman,” Peter Parker replied, “And don't worry, I'll keep your secret if you keep mine.” “Of course,” Bruce Wayne said, smiling, “We super-heroes have to stick together.” They rejoined the party-goers who were now ordering drinks and discussing the two heroes who saved the day. Suddenly, Peter Parker realized that he hadn't got any pictures of antics of the Scarecrow and Mysterio, “J.J. is going to kill me,” he muttered. “Cheer up, Mr. Parker,” Bruce Wayne said, “At least you got your interview with Bruce Wayne.” Peter Parker smiled weakly and said, “Yeah, thanks for that, but J.J. Jameson is still going to kill me for not getting any photos of tonight's robbery.” “I'll call him and praise your interviewing skills and tell him that you weren't in the ballroom when the villains struck.” Peter Parker was impressed by Bruce Wayne's generosity and gave a genuine smile, “We superheroes are going to stick together, right?” “Indeed we will,” Bruce Wayne said, “And thanks for your help.” “Sorry about attacking you, Batman and your costume being ruined. . .” “Not to worry, Spider-Man,” he whispered, “My bat emblem will probably end up for auction on the Internet and next time I'll watch for that uppercut of yours.” Peter Parker nodded and took out his camera and went and took pictures of the police examining the broken display cases. At least I can get some shots of the damage, Peter thought to himself. Bruce Wayne got a drink from the bar and thought, a damn good

thing that kid is on the right side of the law, or Spider-Man would be one hell of an opponent. Peter Parker silently wondered if he'd ever meet Batman again. He was impressed by Bruce Wayne and his costumed alter-ego. He wished that someday he'd as respected as the Batman (he could always hope). He snapped some more pictures and then waved goodbye to Bruce Wayne before departing. Bruce Wayne raised his glass in salute and silently wished him luck. Bruce Wayne had a feeling that Spider-Man didn't really need any luck - - he and Peter Parker were both well suited for the life of a hero.