Growing up in Gotham City, you got used to a lot of things and not many of them good. Throw a dart and any one of them would make your life miserable: horrible weather all year long, run-down schools, barely enough jobs to go around and the occasional drive-by gang shooting. Still, it was much better nowadays crime-wise, after Batman's warning two years ago. The Freaks weren't running around anymore.
But one of the good things about Gotham, maybe the best, was everyone's love of football.
It didn't matter which side of Gotham you came from, what else you believed in or what color of your skin you had: the Gotham Knights football team got everyone together. Especially when they were up against their biggest rivals, the Metropolis Meteors, which was happening tonight at Gotham Stadium.
That was half the reason why both rookie and senior police officers, George Keaton and Kyle Wagner were grinning as they made the morning patrol through the Gotham Village. One of the oldest and wealthiest neighborhoods of the city. It left them free to go to the big game that night while some other pair of poor shmucks would deal with the post-game party. Or riot if the home team lost.
They'd never live to know either way. A stray bolt of blue energy cut through the doors of a nearby bank and blew them up along with their car.
"Morning Director Fury."
Steve heard his footsteps the second his feet touched the ground, even though the ruckus of people ordering, waitresses chatting and kids playing all over the diner. When they weren't busy talking about Captain America showing up in their neck of the woods. Most people probably didn't know this, but everyone had a sort of rhythm to their walking. Subtle little nuances that made even soldiers marching together leave a distinct sound Steve found useful when sneaking around, or when he thought someone was sneaking up on him.
A practice Steve made a habit of using these last few weeks as he traveled cross country, seeing the new America, heck, America period for the first time in his life. Before they parted after the Battle of New York, Fury advised him to keep on guard and Steve did just that. If he hadn't, someone would've made off with his shield almost immediately.
He put the menu down and saw Fury standing next to his table, half-smirking at him. Steve couldn't help but find it funny, seeing him, director of a spy agency in a black suit and scary eye patch standing in a Louisiana diner. It sounded like a bad joke Tony would make, or rather, will make when Steve tells him about him sometime.
"Mind if I sit down?" He said while sitting down. If Steve's appearance made everyone excited, then the hushed whispers of him apparently inviting a guest made the room a powder keg ready to blow.
"C-can I get you fellas anythin'?" The waitress, a cute looking redhead Steve's... normal age asked them, not quite managing to keep from staring at him.
"Bacon and eggs for me, ma'am, thank you."
She wrote it down and backed away to the kitchen, almost knocking down her co-worker for watching Steve over her surroundings.
"How've you been, Cap?"
"A lot better then I was before New York, oddly enough," Steve answered him honestly. The first months of his return were spent either exhausting himself in an old gym or half-heartedly catching up on the past few decades in an apartment S.H.I.E.L.D. had provided for him. "Who knew it'd take another war for me to get out of that apartment you set up for me?"
"Conflict tends to give us a new perspective, makes us see things a little differently."
Steve nodded at the truth of that. "And I'm assuming another one's about to start?"
Fury's half-smirk vanished, replaced by a grim look that probably made his friends and enemies both scared of him. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out one of those phones they had nowadays and slid it over to Steve.
It was playing something, footage, if Steve remembered right, from inside a bank. It looked normal at first, people going about their business, nothing out of the ordinary. Soon enough, a group of men, about 10 of them, stormed into it out of nowhere and took the guards out with tubbed guns.
The rest of the people there either went down on the ground or held their hands up. Most of the group kept the people inside under control while a single man, holding a duffle bag big enough for a rocket launcher, went to the vault and pulled something out of the bag.
Steve recognized it immediately, everyone on the planet would.
"Chitauri weaponry," Fury confirmed it as if he really needed to. "Operational too."
The gun capable of blowing cars apart did just that to the bank vault, even back in the old days, it would take explosives to do something like it. Now? With who knows how many advancements made? It must've been easier to just get their hands on codes. Unless you had a portable alien gun to blow it to pieces.
With the vault blown to pieces, the crooks went inside and stole as much as they could before the gunner started firing off into the street. The footage switched to that, showing a police car get blown up from the first shot, more along with blown-up shops followed it.
"When did this happen?" Steve leaned back into his seat, handing the phone over to Fury.
"Yesterday morning in Gotham City."
"Gotham?" Steve had heard a little about it, mostly through the Wayne Enterprises and Stark Industries rivalry Howard had talked his ear off about during their time together.
"A real nasty place with one of the highest crime rates in the whole US of A. The kind where it's expected for your kids to find a dead body on the street on the way to school."
"What!? How is that possible?" Steve stared at the man across from him.
"Generations of slowly accumulating corruption on the higher level causing increased levels of poverty to everyone lower on the food chain. Throw in a dozen crime families setting up shop, the police force rotting away and the deaths of many, good hard working people trying to fight that and you get a mess like Gotham city. If it wasn't for The Batman, believe me, it'd be much, much worse."
"Back in the early 90s, a good 15 years before Tony became Iron Man, the worlds first superhero after you and Wonder Woman showed up: The Batman of Gotham City. The city had been at the mercy of goons like Carmine Falcone and his mobster buddies for years by then, ever since Thomas and Martha Wayne were gunned down in Crime Alley. The criminal element, with no one to fight them off, consolidated an incredible amount of power not just there, but even as high up as Washington D.C.
"Batman tore all of that down, the mob couldn't threaten or bribe or blackmail him like the rest since they had no idea who he was and they sure as hell couldn't kill him. Piece by piece, he, Jim Gordon from the GCPD and then-District Attorney Harvey Dent ripped the mob to pieces over there in just over a year. Gotham City looked like it might actually go someplace but down for the first time in years."
"Not in the least," Fury's half smirked came back when he noticed Steve's eyes widen. "He's no super soldier Cap, but he's as close to one as you can get with years of training and dedication. Combine that with a vast assortment of military-grade equipment and vehicles and you've basically got a one-man army."
"But if this Batman's so effective, how is Gotham still having such a rough time? Why wasn't he listened as a candidate for the Avengers Initiative?"
Fury's expression softened momentarily and imperceptibly but Steve couldn't for the life of him figure out what he was seeing crack the man's grim demeanor. Nervousness? Grief? Regret?
"Let's just say..." Fury sighed. "I made a mistake a long time ago with Batman, the kind that's ensured he and I will never be in the same room together that doesn't involve him caving my skull in."
"And anyone else from S.H.I.E.L.D I'm guessing, which is why you want me to go there."
"That's right, though you've been under our care and watch for almost a year now, you're not a part of the organization in an official capacity. That alone makes you the only person I can trust this to who won't have to worry about finding these crooks and Batman."
"There's Wonder Woman and Superman," Steve pointed out.
"Superman's heart is in the right place but he's still finding himself out there, plus his and Di's abilities would mean a probable escalation the likes of which I'd prefer to avoid."
There's something he's not telling me, the super soldier noticed another imperceptible shift with Fury, a knowing look in his eye that he couldn't figure out just like before. Not that it changed anything, weapons of this scale being used by anyone, least of all crooks, was a threat to every decent person anywhere, not just Gotham. They had to be stopped as soon as possible.
"Guess I'll be missing breakfast," He left his seat, leaving two hundred dollars on the table as he and Fury exited the diner. Already, the operatives alongside Fury had secured his belongings and motorcycle into the back of a black van. Turning towards the Director, he asked. "How fast can you get me to Gotham?"
"5 to 6 hours. More than enough time for you to read up on everything else you need to know and get there when night falls. That's when he'll be out hunting."