Disclaimer: Batman and related characters are the properties of DC COMICS. This is an original fan fiction story, not written for profit and not intended to infringe on their copyright.
Dedication: To WOOLF, my soul mate.
By: Shannyn Grayson Ivy
Nightwing tried in vain to clear the fuzziness in his head. He could hear the screaming and moaning of others, who like him, were trapped. Trying to stand proved to be more of a challenge than he would have originally thought. 'Okay maybe I'll just lie back down for a bit'. The damp stone flooring chilled him. As his eyesight cleared he shook his head to rid himself of the hallucinations that he feared he must have been having. 'This isn't real! This can't be happening!'
"Relax Nightwing. I'm going to take good care of you."
Nightwing's eyes grew larger as he felt the Doctor injecting him with something. Trying to fight him off proved useless as Nightwing realized he was chained to the floor.
"Wha...what did you just do?"
"You just volunteered to help me with my experiments Nightwing."
Nightwing felt the serum as it burned through his veins. Helpless to stop it, Nightwing pulled with all his remaining strength on the chains that held him. The scream that left his lips surprised him. All he could hear was himself screaming as he collapsed. The Doctor only watched and laughed as Nightwing's body began to wrack with convulsions.
Nightwing's return to consciousness was a painful one. He had never felt such agony. His entire body ached and burned as though it were literally on fire. Disoriented, he had no idea how long he had been out. Rising, a wave of nausea bombarded him.
"Well, well, look who's awake. You don't look so well Nightwing."
Nightwing saw the opportunity and took it. Getting as close to the doctor as possible, he gagged, making himself throw up. The result was poetic justice as the doctor's shirt and pants became coated with the inner contents of Nightwing's stomach. As the doctor cursed and tried to clean himself, Nightwing noted the surroundings. He had been moved from the basement of the lab he had been entrapped in earlier. They were now in a house of some kind, just the two of them. The people he had seen earlier weren't with him. The only chain that he was bound to now was around his neck. Clawing at it, he finally snapped the latch open and was freed. The doctor had gone down the stairs, no doubt to change. Nightwing forced his body forward. The element of surprise was all Nightwing had and he knew it wouldn't last long. He could hear cursing and water running as he snuck over to a window. Unable to open it, he groaned as he realized what he must do. Taking a running leap, Nightwing broke through the glass, landing with a resounding thud on the pavement below.
'Okay. I'm not going to try that again anytime soon.' Dick Grayson managed to pull himself up from the pavement just as the doctor came running outside, with shotgun in hand. His first and only instinct was to run, although he had no idea where he was going. The doctor gave chase but didn't stand a chance of catching his quarry. Dick ran through the woods with speed and skill and only one thought on his mind.
'I've got to find Batman'...
"Any word yet Oracle?"
Batman's stressed voice boomed across her speakers. It didn't surprise her, he had been checking in every few minutes for the past two hours. She had told him she would let him know if she found out anything. He apparently wasn't prepared to wait for her reply.
"Nothing yet Batman. I've called for backup as per your request."
"Copy that. Batman out."
Batman looked into the worried eyes of his young partner. He had nothing to add that might bring the boy comfort. Three hours ago the two were on rounds of the city when Alfred emergency paged him. Filling him in quickly that his son, Officer Dick Grayson hadn't made it to work. No one seemed to know of his whereabouts. In fact, once Batman started checking he had found that no one had seen Dick since the night before. He could have been missing for close to twenty-one hours. Batman and Robin had been searching Bludhaven franticly without a clue as to where Dick could be. Batman wasn't even sure if it was Officer Grayson that had come up missing or if it was his alter ego Nightwing.
"Let's go. Flash and Arsenal are meeting us at Nightwing's lair. Superman should be there soon too."
Robin looked at his mentor in mild shock. Batman did not ask others for help. This was too weird.
"You're scared aren't you?"
Robin's blunt question caught the vigilante off guard.
"Nightwing can handle himself." The grim voice muttered.
Shooting his grappling hook into the night, Batman left Robin standing alone.
"Dick hold on, we'll find you." The teenager whispered. Robin shot of his grappling hook in the same direction as Batman. Determined to make good on his promise.
"Oracle! Where is Superman?"
This time Batman's thunderous voice made her spill a cup of coffee. Luckily for him it wasn't hot.
"Stop shouting at me. Geesh! Superman is flying over both Bludhaven and Gotham trying to locate him. Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Yes." Came the soft reply.
He sounded so tired, so drained. Oracle almost apologized for yelling at him but he cut her off before she had the chance.
As Dick's friends began filing in to Nightwing's lair Batman was greeted with more worried stares. Again he had no words of comfort.
"Robin have you found anything yet?"
Robin sat, eyes fixed on Dick's laptop computer. He was trying to find something, anything that would give them a clue as to what Dick had been working on. Meanwhile, Batman was going through Dick's belongings looking for something to seem out of place. The Flash picked up a letter that had been lying on the computer desk. Batman glared at him until he dropped it. He obviously didn't want anyone looking through Dick's things but himself.
"The only thing that really sticks out is he was investigating a doctor or scientist. He refers to him as Dr. Creep-n-crawl."
"Between what he has at his apartment and here, all his Police uniforms have been accounted for. There's one Nightwing costume missing."
"Guess we're looking for 'Wing then." Arsenal chimed in. Batman greeted him with a glare as well. Looking at Flash, Arsenal just had to ask, "If he doesn't want us here then why did he ask us?"
"For him. I asked you for him." Batman stated flatly.
"Robin, tell me about Dr. Creep-n-crawl."
"Sounds like the guy is whacked."
"Okay Dick has a file on the guy but there's not much to it. Last entry was made last night at 10:42. Several homeless people and prostitutes have come up missing and Dick has traced them back to 'working' for this guy just before their disappearances. He was going to make a move on the guy last night."
"Where Robin? Tell me he logged in the location..."
In a quiet voice filled with emotion, Robin simply answered "No."
Superman had revised his searching sector since Oracle had informed him to check Bludhaven before Gotham. Superman continued his original search of clinics, hospitals and labs. X-raying every building was time consuming but he wasn't about to give up. Not only did he genuinely care about Nightwing, he also didn't want to be the one to tell Batman that his son couldn't be found.
At a lab on the outer limits of Bludhaven, Superman spotted something. His keen vision picked up Nightwing's costume lying on the floor of a ransacked room. By its side were his boots, gauntlets and mask.
"BATMAN! Come in!"
Batman shivered inwardly at the tone in Superman's voice. 'Please let my boy be alive' he thought for the millionth time.
"I'm here Superman. What have you got?"
It seemed to Batman that it took an eternity for Superman to answer. In actuality it was only seconds.
"I'm at a place called Crawlington labs. Nightwing's costume is lying in the floor. No sign of him though. I scanned the entire building and don't see him."
"Any signs of injury?"
Superman knew Batman meant blood. He just couldn't bring himself to say it.
"No but there is a dart lying here too. Has just a hint of blood on its tip."
"Check the building again, I'm on my way."
Superman was surprised how quickly the Batman joined him at the lab. Saying nothing, Batman thoroughly examined Nightwing's costume and the surrounding area. The costume itself was tattered, as though it had been ripped from his body. Superman noted that he seemed particularly interested in some stray hairs found on the costume. Gathering them and the dart into evidence bags, Batman quickly moved on to the interior of the lab.
"Looks like there was a heck of a struggle here." Superman observed. All the contents of the tabletop had been knocked to the floor. Broken glass lay scattered about. Batman went instantly to a splattering of blood, collecting samples. Superman was amazed that Batman still hadn't spoken. The next hour was consumed with the Dark Knight dusting for prints and gathering obscure pieces of evidence. Batman had almost completed the task when Superman called to him from another room.
Searching, he found Superman's persistent calling coming from the basement.
"What is it?" Batman growled.
"Looks like there were people kept here. Like, like animals! Apparently, they were chained to the floor."
"DON'T touch anything!" Batman barked his order. He had only to glance about the room to see that Superman's assessment had been correct. There were several chains attached to the stone flooring. The stench of urine and human waste was overwhelming. Moving carefully, Batman dusted the entire area for prints, stopping only to give Superman a menacing glare when he attempted to touch a syringe that lay abandoned on the floor.
"Oookay. I guess I'm not doing much good here. I'm going to continue looking. Let me know what you find here." Superman paused waiting for some acknowledgement from the detective. The acknowledgement never came. Batman was far to consumed with the task before him, and in fact, Superman wasn't even sure if Batman had heard him at all.
"We will find him Batman."
Superman flew from the building and couldn't help a moment of pity that washed over him for Dick's captors. When Batman got through with them, there wasn't going to be enough to scrape up with the proverbial stick and spoon...
Daylight glowed over the landscape of Bludhaven, making the ugliness of the city invisible. Many evils where hidden from the light of day. Batman knew this far too well. He had always made it a practice not to patrol during the hours of dawn till dusk. This day however, he made an exception. Combing the streets around the vacuity of the lab, Batman again came up with no signs of his son.
"Batman, come in."
"What is it Robin?"
"We are all back at 'Wing's place. What do you want us to do now?"
Batman couldn't help but feel bad for his young partner. Robin considered Nightwing a brother. The two shared a close bond. He honestly didn't know how Robin would take it if the worse happened.
"Get some sleep Robin. Find out who can stay to help us. Then divide them up into day and night shifts. Tell the day shift I want Crawlathon labs gone over with a fine tooth comb along with ANYTHING that Crawlathon is linked too. I will meet up with you tonight and we'll go over what we have. Try not to worry Robin. Knowing Nightwing he's probably... WHAT THE??"
Robin could hear the sound of squealing tires on the other end. He waited for an explanation, becoming more anxious by the second.
"BATMAN? What was that?"
"It's alright Robin. I think I hit a dog. I'm going to check on it, meet you tonight. Batman out."
"Well, what did the Batster say?" Arsenal quipped, trying hard not to show his concern for Nightwing. The two hadn't always been close but he had always known that 'Wing would be there for him. Now it was his turn to be there for 'Wing. No way, he thought, was he going to let him down.
"He said he hit a dog." Robin answered, his voice filled with disbelief. He couldn't imagine Batman losing control of a vehicle, let alone hitting a dog.
"About 'Wing kid! What did he say about Dick?" The Flash was famous for being impatient. This morning it was even worse than usual.
"Um, he said we keep working, all of us. NON STOP till Nightwing is found."
"Sounds like a plan to me! Let's get to it!" Arsenal chimed.
Batman took a moment to get a deep breath. He was dreading what he would find under the Batmobile. He mentally cursed himself for not paying closer attention. He didn't need this, not now. Dick would jump all over him if he found out he had hit a dog. Dick, ever the circus kid at heart, was extremely fond of animals.
"Easy. I'm not going to hurt you." Batman bent down and gently touched the canine. Looking closer he realized that it wasn't a dog at all, but a wolf. A huge, midnight black wolf. Realizing this, Batman started to pull his hand back only to have it licked by his victim.
"A tame wolf? You are a beauty aren't you boy? Hmm, no collar, maybe you're not so tame after all. I didn't hurt you did I?" Batman kept talking in a soothing tone, so he wouldn't frighten the animal any farther. He cautiously tried to stand the wolf on its feet and was greeted with a low mournful whine. As Batman removed his hands from the wolf's side he was shocked at the animal's behavior. The wolf carefully climbed up into Batman's lap and licked him several times in the face. Once Batman started petting him around the neck, the wolf lay his head down on Batman's shoulder and fell fast asleep.
"MY WORD!" Alfred Pennyworth stood perfectly still inside the caverns below Stately Wayne Manor. He couldn't believe his eyes as Batman carefully carried the wounded animal over to the med lab inside the Batcave.
"Leslie's on her way Alfred. Would you please assist her in fixing up our friend here."
"Where on earth did that beast come from?" Alfred gave the filthy wolf a disapproving glare.
"I almost hit him with the car. In fact, I'm afraid I may have bumped him with it. He needs care; just tend to him all right? I've got work to do." Batman turned away quickly, attempting to hide his concern for the son he had yet to find.
"What of Master Dick? Is there 'any' news sir?" Alfred followed Batman back to the main entrance of the cave, awaiting an answer as Batman pulled evidence out of the trunk. The two turned quickly as they heard a loud thud.
Batman was the first to reach the injured wolf.
"Hey there. You alright?" The animal looked stunned as it gazed back at him.
"He must have tried to jump down from the bed. It would appear that he does not want you to leave him." Alfred observed that Batman had stopped paying attention. All his being was focused on the animal before him.
"Master Bruce? What is it?"
"He has blue eyes Alfred. They're blue."
"Some canines do possess blue eyes Master Bruce."
"Yes, I guess you're right. It's just..." Batman let his voice trail off as he removed his gloves and gently petted the matted fur. The animal lay at his feet, seemingly content.
"Alfred, see what you can do for him. If he's in good enough shape, I'd like to take him with me when I go back out."
"Well I must say I favor that idea above you leaving him here sir."
"It's a simple enough question dude!" Robin all but screamed at the wino. He had taken up residence in an abandoned building near the lab where Nightwing's clothes were found. "Have you seen ANYTHING suspicious lately?" Not for the first time in the last few hours did Robin start to get the feeling that he wasn't going to get answers. After scouring the streets all day in his alias as Alvin Draper and finding nothing useful, he was now back to being Robin. The change of costume didn't seem to have any effect on his luck or his mood.
"Lighten up kid! You've been around the ole Bat too long!" Arsenal placed a supportive hand on Robin's shoulder, trying to remind the youth that he wasn't alone. Together they would find Nightwing. Robin nodded and then forced himself to take a walk. He somehow felt it would be a fruitless effort, be he knew he had to try to get a better grip on his emotions.
"Now" Arsenal slipped the wino a fifty dollar bill, "Have you seen anything suspicious lately?"
Oracle's slender fingers flew over the computer keyboard, checking and eliminating possibilities as quickly as they came to her sharp mind. She checked the files of the Bludhaven Police Department, the hospitals, and finally the morgue. Glad that the search had come up clean she moved on, running a list of known Doctors in Bludhaven County. This was more time consuming. Continuing her search she also attempted to narrow down the general area that the missing persons had all been in. Finding out as much as she could about each missing victim, looking for similarities. She did all this while keeping in constant contact with the Flash and Arsenal, which had both been given a handy dandy Bat wrist communicator.
"Oracle are you there?"
"Of course I am," Came the anxious reply. "What have you got?"
"Found an old man that says he seen Nightwing last night."
Hitting a button Oracle spoke into Batman's earpiece.
"Batman! Arsenal found someone who saw Nightwing last night!"
"Patch me in to him."
Roy jumped as Batman's voice suddenly filled the otherwise deserted alley.
"Harper where are you?"
"Uh, I'm in an alley. Hang on... okay I'm off of Grant Street. Near a liquor store."
"Batman?" Arsenal wasn't surprised when no answer was given. Looking around and speaking to no one in particular he grumbled, "That little so and so Bat hung up on me."
Barbara Gordon jumped at Flash's excited voice. She had always liked Dick's friends, but since his disappearance she had gained an appreciative fondness of them.
"Easy Wally. You'll bust my speakers. Sloooow down and tell me what you have."
"Oh sorry Oracle! Batman assigned me to check out the residences of all the doctors and scientist on the list you created for us. I'm at a house off a deserted stretch of Macy Road; it's the home of Dr. Emile Dorian. No one answered the door but there's a two-story window that's been busted out. Under the window I found a necklace like the one that 'Wing wears sometimes. Has a half heart on it, with the words together forever. Half of together and half of forever are missing. I never could get him to tell me who he gave the other half to..."
Barbara sat still, memories of a happier time flooding her senses. Dick had given her the necklace on Valentine's Day, before he had left Bruce, Gotham and her behind. She had no idea that he still wore his.
"Oracle did you hear me?"
"Yes, anything else Flash?"
"There's some blood here and..."
"I don't know Oracle, it looks like fur."
Without warning Batman's voice boomed in on the line.
"Copy that Flash. Touch nothing! I'm on my way."
"Hey Roy, where'd the kid go?" Flash joined Arsenal in the alley, holding a list of some kind.
"Went for a walk to clear his head. Man he's upset. I knew Wingster was growing really fond of this kid but Donna was telling me they have gotten to be almost inseparable. What do you have there?" Arsenal pointed to the list Flash was holding.
"It's a computer print out. Seems to be a chemists Christmas want list."
"And here it's not even Christmas. Guy must start bugging Santa early. Where did you find it?"
"It was in a stack of papers at the lab. Thought it might be useful. Did you find anything?"
"Yeah, a wino that says he's been seeing people go into the lab, always at night, and never sees them come back out. Says he's heard a lot of noise coming from there too. Said it sounds like dogs."
"Yeah probably, and maybe people experimenting too."
"Man! Don't EVEN say that."
"Um, I left him at a house in a deserted area off Macy Road. I found Nightwing's necklace on the ground along with some blood. I had the feeling the Bat wanted to work alone so I split to find you guys."
"Let's catch up to the bat. He's getting our help whether he wants it or not!"
Talking into a tiny recording device, Batman made his way around the two-story house. He noted everything from footprints to incoming mail, not yet picked up by the owner. The garbage can hadn't revealed as much as he hoped but he had been able to ascertain that someone was eating a huge amount of meat, steaks to be exact. He also noted that no bones were thrown into the trash, only the packaging that the meat original came in. Watching silently was a serious pair of blue eyes. Eyes that grew more concerned the longer the Batman took. As he was finishing up his research, Batman did not hear the stealth quiet of the pack as it approached him. He had no idea of the impending danger but two blue watchful eyes knew immediately.
Turning, Batman realized that he was surrounded by a pack of angry, hungry wolves. The pack itself consisted of seven, each with teeth bared. Making no move, Batman could only watch as his companion, the midnight black wolf came to his aid. The pack was on the black wolf in moments. To Batman's relief the animal more than held his ground, biting far more than he was bitten. Using the distraction to get to safety, he quickly made a run for the car. His companion leapt at a stray wolf that tried to block Batman's path. Once inside the car, Batman easily found what he was looking for, a gun and tranquiller darts. Taking out three of the canines before the gun jammed, he was then jumped by two snarling wolves in the pack. His loyal companion was there to serve before he had time to register what had happened. Fighting off the others, the black wolf kept himself in front of the Batman at all times. The seeming leader of the pack, a huge grey wolf with yellow brown eyes, watched as the black wolf bravely stood his ground. He seemed to be waiting for his enemy to tire. As the black wolf defeated the others, one by one, the grey made his move. Jumping at the black's neck, the grey went for the kill. Batman spun around and landed a kick to the grey's head with enough force that he let go of his prey. He then turned on the Batman and was on him in seconds. The two wrestled on the ground with the Batman putting his hands and arms up to protect his face and neck. The weary black wolf made another faithful attempt to save the Batman. With lightening speed, despite his injuries, the black wolf tackled the grey, grabbing his throat and biting down hard until the other no longer struggled.
Backing away from the severally injured grey wolf, the black came face to face with the Dark Knight. As he bent down to see the extent of the black's injuries, they both heard the Flash run up carrying Arsenal. The situation looked dire to the friends as they observed a blood soaked Batman in front of a huge black wolf. Arsenal quickly drew his bow, releasing the arrow before Batman could stop him. Batman heard himself scream "NOOOOOO" and with no time to think, he acted on instinct. Lunging forward he threw his body between the arrow and the wolf.
"Oh my God!" Roy whispered, rushing to the Batman's side.
"Oracle! Get Superman to Macy Road, FAST! Batman has been injured and I don't think running him back to Gotham is such a good idea" Wally screamed into the arm communicator. He watched with a feeling of helplessness as his friend knelt beside the detective. A pooling of blood had started to collect at his side. The two were surprised when the wolf came and lay down beside him, placing his head on Batman's chest.
"Better get animal control out here too. Got several injured dogs here, although they look like wolves. What would wolves be doing in the city?" Wally asked, talking fast into the wrist communicator, not really expecting an answer.
"Help's on the way boys, do what you can for him and keep me informed. Oracle out."
Superman arrived within seconds but they feared that even that might be too long. Batman was losing far too much blood and his breathing was raspy and extremely audible. The arrow still lodged in Batman's lung was taking its toll. Superman instantly had his cape off, covering Batman in an attempt to keep him from going into shock. Scooping him up gently Superman flew towards Gotham City. The Flash grabbed his partner Arsenal who was experiencing a bad case of shock himself. The pair went as fast as the Flash's super-speed would carry them. They arrived at the Batcave just behind Superman, who had already deposited Batman and had left again to pick up Dr. Leslie Thompkins from the clinic in Gotham.
Alfred was bent over the Batman, undressing him and applying IV's and monitors to his unmoving form. Flash noticed that Arsenal kept pacing and mumbling that he was sorry. The arrow was meant for the wolf. Why Batman would perform such a seemingly suicidal move was beyond them. Batman began to stir, slowly at first and then with determination and force.
"Everything is alright sir. I am here. Please Master Bruce, lie back." Alfred Pennyworth gently pushed on the Batman's shoulders trying to persuade him to obey.
"Alfred, find him. Find Night... wolf."
XXXXXXXXXX To be continued…