"B-Batman?" Steve moaned, recognizing the man's gadget altered voice even through the grating buzzing in his ear. Both of his eyes were messed up, blurry, but the left one wouldn't open all the way, it took his tired brain a second to figure out it obviously had a lump growing there. "W-where-"
"One of my safehouses, don't try to move, your injuries are in a delicate state now and Beagle wouldn't take well to you bleeding over more of his nice, usually clean floor."
Steve almost chuckled but stopped himself. He tried to get a feel for the rest of his body but it all felt sort of... numb, and floaty. Whatever Batman was pumping into him, it was pretty damn strong. Memories of the fight flooded back, a brick shoved in his eye, something in his spine cracking in a way that couldn't have been good... But most important of all was the man who did it to him.
Willing himself to stay awake, Steve licked his lips and looked at the blurry black thing that must've been Batman. "That guy... Who was he...?"
"Someone you'll about soon enough, for the time being, I suggest you sleep while you still can."
Before he could try arguing against it, the black blur vanished without a sound. For a little while longer, Steve just lied there, breathing, listening to the beeping noise of a machine he must've been hooked up to. But the sound he heard while he fell back asleep wasn't from that, it was the screeching of bats somewhere above him.
"He's still calling, sir."
"Of course he is," Batman drawled as he slid into the main seat of the Bat-computer a short walks away from the medical bay. With a scowl across his face matching the one built into the cowl, he observed footage of the car pursuit, Deathstroke battle and any potentially relevant news footage of either one playing on a multitude of tabs across the massive screen before him. Some sped up, others deliberately slowed down.
It was a long applied practice of his, a very successful one that'd helped him solve more than several hundred cases. It was also something he did to pass the time, to keep his mind busy when he was feeling restless,... or nostalgic if you subscribed to Alfred's ways of thinking. This time, however, none of it provided anything worthwhile and it most certainly didn't help the foul mood hanging over him since the night before.
The fact Nicholas Joseph Fury, a decorated officer of the United States Army, a veteran of the Cold War era CIA, current Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and all around manipulative, lying bastard on top of his shit list as Jason called it was purposefully trying to talk with him. A conversation Bruce couldn't ignore, not unless he wanted to make an already problematic situation potentially worse.
He and the rest of Gotham knew full well what came of S.H.I.E.L.D. involvement here, he didn't doubt for a single second that Fury was somehow responsible for the Chitauri invasion which facilitated the presence of these weapons. It wouldn't be the first time he and his organization played with aliens. Though it pained him to admit, however, Batman knew this was something of an exceptional situation, this concerned Captain America and the possibility of him being dead.
The footage of the battle, what little of it was there, certainly didn't paint a promising picture, showing the leader of the Avengers and worlds first superhero, the one they know about, anyway, beaten down and rescued by the Batman, in broad daylight. If Fury or his superiors didn't receive some kind of assurance, who knew how they would respond to this. If they brought down the rest of the Avengers to Gotham,... The very thought sent a cold chill down Batman's spine.
With a slow, deliberate exhale of air, Batman went to the computer and through hundreds of secure communication channels designed to stump that insufferable moron Stark, he began connecting the Bat-computer to Fury's own, encrypted call. As the process completed itself, Batman tried very, very hard not to glance over at Robin's display case nearby lest his temper get the better of him.
"Batman," Fury said in a voice masterfully casually and commanding all at once. "Been a long time."
"He's alive, stay out of Gotham."
"Not good enough, I wanna hear from him personally."
"You'll get a recording of our conversation just now, that should be enough for you and that cabal you answer to."
Fury let out a long, controlled sigh. "Do you have a lead on these guys?"
"I will, before tomorrow morning, this ends," He sent Fury the recording kept by the cowl, useful for picking and going over chatty crook conversations when they couldn't shut up on stakeouts or during fights.
"You better be right about that, otherwise we'll have a bigger problem on our hands."
"I agree, it will be very problematic for you if more people dead in my city from your mistakes."
He finished the call, not bothering to waste a second more on Fury, the assurance was sent, now it was time to find a lead, any single one to end this before Slade struck again. The footage was the first step, piggybacking off of street cameras used by city officials, Batman tried following the bank robbers from the moment Rogers started pursuit until past the point Slade intercepted him. It hadn't worked before, the perps had some kind of technology which made the cameras fizzle out when they approached.
However, being attacked by Captain America all of a sudden made them afraid, and fearful idiots make mistakes, like not shortening out the street cams as they were supposed to. Even after Rogers and Slade started fighting, giving them ample time to recognize their mistake, it was too late even if they didn't know it yet. From the ways, they drove through and the intended direction, all signs pointed to the docks on the east end of Gotham.
It was a good start, but not nearly good enough. The docks were a vast web of dilapidated buildings, abandoned warehouses, run down ship construction sites, even with this rough idea of their whereabouts, it left hundreds of place for them to hide in.
But Ras wouldn't call him Detective if he gave up so quickly.
Rogers' intervention provided another clue: the Freeze Blast. Almost a lifetime ago, he and Victor had cataloged much of the technology and its functions. Though the Freeze Blast was never completed, there was little reason to doubt it would've functioned similarly to the rest of Victors old Mister Freeze tech.
Utilizing a specially built, heat resistant, subarctic temperatures generating suit, Victor's weaponry were directly tied to or in some cases, built into it. They needed to be, the cold generated contained or generated inside them could only be sustained by linking it to another, comparable source.
Once detached or removed, they only had enough power to last maybe an hour on their own and that was if you weren't using it. Victor intended to rectify this mistake by installing portable power generators so he wouldn't have to waste precious cold power running all of this but thankfully, they'd cured him before that particular feature was installed.
This meant the crooks needed to keep these Freeze Blasts in storage relatively close by, around half an hours drive to and back whatever target they picked if they didn't want it to run out. The storage itself would need to be specially equipped with containers capable of keeping such cold temperatures active at all times.
Taking all of these parameters into account, Batman put the data into the Bat-computer and watched as a massive, multi-layered map of Gotham city progressively shrank to the one place meeting all of these criteria: the Birds Nest Warehouse.
Penguin used it to store vast amounts of ice shipped over to Gotham he used for the Iceberg Lounge's various assortment of ice-related statues and decorations. All of them taken from the Arctic and other freezing places around the world. Though, with that lung cancer bothering him, the place was basically abandoned, as so much of Penguin's holdings were.
That was one part of the problem solved, but the other,...
The lift to the cave suddenly whooshed upward and promptly came back down with Alfred and a tray of food and coffee coming back with it. He crossed the distance between them with his usual, army rhythmic pace and placed the tray near the keyboard.
"Thanks," He said, drinking almost all of the coffee at once. All this talk of cold and ice made the warm taste all the sweeter.
"I assumed you'd need it, extra strong too, I suspect I won't be seeing you in bed until tomorrow at the earliest."
"Like I told Fury, this ends tonight."
"You don't sound too sure of that."
He sent a sideways glance which Alfred answered with a raised eyebrow, daring him to refute that. Instead, Batman sighed, leaning back into the seat.
"You're right, the situation is more complicated than I anticipated."
"Because of Slade Wilson."
"Right, his involvement clearly indicates something larger at work here. It takes a lot of money and knowledge to hire him, meaning these crooks have wronged someone powerful."
"Someone who potentially has other weapons of alien persuasion at their disposal?"
He grunted affirmatively. "Slade won't talk, no matter what I do to him in the highly unlikely event I could capture him long enough for an interrogation."
"Perhaps you might with master Rogers here to help you."
"Rogers is the other problem," Batman finished off the coffee and went for the sandwich next. "His abilities are incredible, even his healing rate is substantially faster than I ever could have imagined. By ten o'clock, he could already be back on his feet. Doesn't change the fact he might be a liability for me."
"His performance against Deathstroke was-"
"Pathetic, the greatest hero the world has ever known taken apart like any other common street thug," Batman chewed the sandwich down with a grimace. "If I bring him along, he's liable to get killed or become a hostage."
"And yet if you somehow keep him here, you may lose regardless."
He grunted affirmatively again. "I've been in a similar spot before with Slade, remember the night just before I met Jason?"
"Yes, as I recall, Deathstroke was hired by Black Mask to bring down an operation of the Spider. You both just so happened to arrive there at the same time and I had to spend the rest of the night stitching up a particularly ghastly looking sword slash across your back."
"That was just me, Slade and the Spiders goon, regular weapons, Slade's sword notwithstanding and I almost got killed."
"Now you'll have to do it again with alien weaponry and a super soldier thrown into the mix," Alfred tsk'd. "Yes, quite a situation we've found ourselves in this time, sir."
"There's a solution for it," Batman said, his grimace somehow getting worse as he tapped several keys on the board. The map of Gotham vanished, switching over to footage of Roger's fight with Deathstroke. "See for yourself."
Alfred adjusted his glasses, leaning over to the tab and examining it looping over, and over again. His eyes momentarily narrowed before widening. "Bugger me," He whispered, pulling back and glancing between it and Bruce next to him. "Can this be?"
"It is, Rogers saw me perform that move, only saw it, and was able to perform a backward jump kick with perfect accuracy."
"This goes beyond simple photographic memory, sir,..."
"This is the realm of the superhuman, the ability to watch and copy movements, executing them with the trained ease of a master without practice,... I can see why some many people wanted to make more of him..."
"So," Alfred said, his gaping mouth shifting over to a smirk. "What you're telling me is-"
"Yes, Alfred," Batman sighed, willing himself to not even glance at the display case nearby again. "I'm going to train Captain America."
A/N: You guys didn't think I'd forgotten about this, did you?