Bruce Wayne was only slightly nervous as he entered Tony Stark's office. He knew that Stark owned roughly two thirds of Manhattan, but was largely unintimidated by his rival's financial success. Following Wayne Enterprises' corporate takeover of Gothcorp and its subsequent liquidation of all the company's assets with the exception of their military endeavors, Wayne had been approached by Pepper Potts to discuss a possible partnership between Wayne Enterprises and Stark Industries. Wayne had agreed to meet with Stark, and now he was ushered into the billionaire's office. His first impression of Mister Stark was that everything he had heard regarding the man's narcissistic tendencies had been greatly underexaggerated. The first thing he noticed upon entering was a large framed poster of Iron Man. Since Stark had revealed his identity to the world, Stark Industries' profits had skyrocketed. Stark meanwhile was narrowly examining the man who stood before him. He could tell that Wayne was a man in the prime of his life, a perfect physical specimen with a keen mind and a fat wallet to match. Stark was the first to speak. "Well, Mister Wayne, my time is very important. You know, Earth's Mightiest Heroes' sort of stuff. A superhero's work is never done. What can I do for you?"
"I was approached by Miss Potts to discuss a potential business partnership for mutual benefit. Since Lexcorp and Hammer Industries have recently merged, it is in the best interests of both of our companies to cooperate in producing the next big thing in military technology."
"Yeah, no thanks, pal, I've got bigger fish to fry. Namely a vibranium-covered robot called Ultron."
"Your tech with my ideas could give us an advantage that would put us decades ahead of anything that Lexcorp and Hammer Industries could manufacture."
"Not interested. I don't need you. I can totally handle anything Hammer Industries can dish out and Lexcorp isn't even a blip on my radar."
"That is of course, your decision, Mister Stark, but when your company starts disintegrating beneath your feet, don't come crying to me."
"Trust me, Mister Wayne. I won't."
Several hours later, Wayne was in the Batcave, far beneath Wayne Manor, doing research on Stark and his company. After reading numerous articles, Wayne had discovered that while publicly, the company had never been more prosperous, it was secretly on the verge of bankruptcy. Wayne also discovered that while Stark Industries had attempted and largely succeeded in downplaying some of its less-than-ethical methods of dealing with competitors, it was still covertly barraged by allegations of underhanded measures. Wayne's reverie was interrupted by the entrance of his faithful butler, Alfred.
"Pardon me, sir, but a Miss Potts is on the phone for you. She wished to know the outcome of this afternoon's meeting with Mister Stark."
"Thank you Alfred," Wayne said, rising from the Batcomputer and accompanying Alfred to the elevator. Reaching his study, Wayne picked up the receiver and said, "Miss Potts, I must apologize for keeping you waiting."
"It's quite all right, Mister Wayne. I was wondering how your meeting with Tony went." "Let's just say that it does not appear Stark Industries and Wayne Enterprises will be doing business together any time soon."
"That bad? I must apologize, Mister Wayne, and I assure you that Tony was not thinking clearly if he blew you off and I will certainly try to make him understand that this arrangement will be beneficial to both companies."
"Thank you, Miss Potts," answered Wayne, hanging up.
Dusk found Bruce Wayne crouched in his Batsuit in the bushes outside Stark Tower. He fired his grappling gun and began to climb the building. Finding the room he was searching for, Batman removed a device from his utility belt which cut a hole in the glass, allowing him entry into the room. A startled Tony Stark appeared as alarms went off and a British accent sounded, "Intruder alert. Main workshop security breached."
Tony Stark said, "Thanks, J.A.R.V.I.S. I'll take it from here. Call out the Mark 43." Instantly, metal plates appeared and joined themselves around Stark's body. Within thirty seconds, he stood before Batman decked out in a complete suit of Iron Man armor.
"Impressive, Mister Stark," Batman rumbled in the deep voice he used to disguise his own.
"Who are you, what are you doing here, and why are you dressed like a flying rodent?" Stark demanded.
Batman responded coolly, "I'm Batman. I'm here because I know about all of your company's underhanded dealings that you've done your best to sweep under the rug."
"And what do you plan on doing about it, Batman?"
"I know based on my research that all of these deals were made without the consent or knowledge of the company's current CEO, Miss Virginia Potts."
"Leave Pepper out of this!" roared Stark. "How I run my business is my affair, not hers."
"The point is, Mister Stark, come clean to the news media about your secret schemes or I will go to the authorities with what I know. And that will mean not only the end of your precious company but the end of the Avengers, which receive most of their funding from you."
"You've got some nerve busting in here wearing kevlar and steel pajamas and telling me how to run my company," growled Stark. Suddenly, he lifted his arm and prepared to fire a repulsor at his unwelcome guest. In the same instant, Batman pulled a small device from his belt. The tension between the two was immense. Tony fired his repulsor as Batman dodged and hit the button on his device. Instantly, Stark's armor crumpled to the floor, completely drained of power. He gasped out, "What - what did you do?"
"Electromagnetic pulse, Stark. It temporarily drained all power from your suit." "J.A.R.V.I.S., quick, armor reboot!" "Armor reboot sequence not responding, sir. My signal appears to be jammed." Looking at the figure glowering from across the room Stark muttered, "That's...not good." "I've made my point, Mister Stark," said Batman. "You have 72 hours to comply before I go to the authorities." Then, he abruptly turned on his heel and vanished into the night. Stark lay on the floor, unmoving. Finally, he said, "J.A.R.V.I.S., try the armor reboot again." "Armor reboot sequence already in progress in anticipation of your order, sir." Within seconds, enough power had been restored to allow Stark to extricate himself from the armor. He began mentally reviewing all that had just taken place. Then, he decided that if he could be defeated that easily by a stranger in metalized spandex, he needed to improve his arsenal to be ready in case it happened again. He immediately went to his workshop and began to tinker. About one o'clock the next morning, J.A.R.V.I.S. remarked "Sir, might I suggest that you get some rest and resume first thing tomorrow?" "Can't J.A.R.V.I.S., there's too much at stake." Suddenly, Stark felt something tapping him on the shoulder. He turned around to see his robot assistant DUM-E threatening him with a fire extinguisher. Tony grabbed the offending object from the robot and placed it back on the shelf, saying, "How many times have I told you? Fire extinguishers are NOT toys. They are NOT to be played with. If you douse me again when I'm not on fire, I'm going to donate you to a community college." If the robot had had a discernible head, it would have hung it with shame as it whimpered pitifully. Just then, the door opened and Pepper entered. "Tony, you've had enough work for one night. Bed time." Realizing that he was completely exhausted, Stark allowed the beautiful redhead to escort him to his room. After Pepper left, Stark collapsed and slept as he never had before.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne was back in the Batcave trying to see what other dirty laundry he could dig up on Stark. He found little useful information and decided to call it a night.
Dawn found Stark back in his workshop taking a sledgehammer to a plaster wall with a vengeance. As he had numerous times before, he told his robot assistants, "Get ready for a major remodel, fellas, we're back in hardware mode." The day passed quickly enough for Stark, but he felt confident that if his masked visitor paid another nighttime call, he would be ready for him. Sure enough, Batman showed up and warned Stark that he had only 48 hours remaining. He pulled the EMP device from his belt but Stark's armor remained resilient. Suddenly, Stark activated his boot jets and slammed into the Caped Crusader with the force of a jackhammer. The two heroes grappled, locked in deadly combat as they flew through the air, ending up in Central Park. "Thought you could outsmart me twice, did you?" teased Stark. "Well, I've made some improvements since last we met." "I see that," Batman responded. Through sheer brute force, the Dark Knight managed to extricate himself from Stark's grasp and escape.
Wayne returned to the top secret lab he maintained beneath Wayne Enterprises' corporate headquarters and met his technological guru, Lucius Fox. Fox grinned and said, "What brings you here?" "I need a new toy, Lucius. One that can stop a flying man with lasers in his chest and hands." "What about trying your Batbot, Bruce?" "I hadn't thought of that, but I certainly should have. Just in case, can you start working on something else for me?" "Absolutely."
The following evening, Wayne, wearing his Batbot armor, smashed his way into Stark Tower once again. Looking at the devastation around him, Stark sighed, "Okay, I didn't really NEED an office anyway. I see you've brought a new playmate. Let's see how it holds up in combat." As he said this, Stark remotely summoned his Hulkbuster armor. The two robot titans grappled, finally crashing through a window and activating their boot jets. The two crashed to the ground and the Batbot began to systematically rip apart the Hulkbuster. Finally, Stark found himself lying on top of a twisted pile of metal. He forced himself to say, "Wow, Bats, I'm impressed." "I warned you Stark. Twenty-four hours. Call a press conference or I call the police." Realizing that if he persisted, he would find himself in financial ruin, Stark conceded. The next day, Stark called a press conference and revealed that his company had not been entirely ethical in its dealings. Reporters mobbed Stark while Wayne smiled to himself from the back of the auditorium. As he turned to leave, he found himself staring at Pepper. The redhead pulled him into a corner and said, "Why'd you do it, Bruce? You could've destroyed Stark Industries and effectively monopolized the market. But instead, you allowed your largest competitor to get off scot-free. I just don't get it." "It's because Tony Stark taught me something," answered Wayne, "He taught me two very important things: never underestimate your opponent. And..." he paused. "And?" prodded Pepper. "And anything he can do... I can do better." Pepper rolled her eyes as Wayne grinned and left the building in satisfaction.