The girls' night out had been a riotous success. They'd managed to break a new record - in just under five hours, six separate establishments had called the cops on them - and they were celebrating with a table full of steaming Chinese food.
Al ducked as a spring whirred past her face. "Watch it!" she giggled, shooting a sideways glance at the pair of off-duty cops camped out in the corner.
"I'm almost done," Techie insisted, most of her attention on the half-disassembled spray of electronics in front of her. "This is going to be even better than last time!"
"You mean last time, when the batteries ran out and he and Poison Ivy almost killed us? That kind of last time?"
Techie glared at her, unaware that a red wire had woven itself festively through her fluffy black hair. "Smegface."
Al drew a clean chopstick from a nearby unused pack. "Of course you realize, this means war."
"Have at you!" Techie declared, picking up a handy screwdriver.
"Ah-ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! HA! Thrust!"
Chopstick met screwdriver in a mighty, splintery crash above the entrees.
"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."
"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die." They bounced in their chairs, jockeying for the high ground and trying desperately to disarm the other with as much flair as possible.
The Captain, with a chunk of orange chicken pinned between two chopsticks, was jerked out of her thoughts when a wildly flailing elbow smacked into her ear. "Guys! Guys! You're scaring the straights, okay?" she hissed, pointedly reminding them of the cops in the corner. "Is there any way we can do this tomorrow?"
Techie and Al ceremoniously crossed their 'swords' one last time and settled back into their seats. "What's up, doc?" inquired Al.
"Nothing. Just...the baby," Captain explained, forlornly examining her bite of chicken.
"She'll be fine."
"Squishy likes her! Well, she likes Squishy..."
"He'll take good care of her."
"I know..." Captain said, letting the uneaten chicken fall back onto her plate. "It's just that..." Her gaze drifted out the window. She stiffened, dropping her chopsticks. "Aiya! Squishy?!"
On cue, their burlap-clad boss pounded past the window. "That was him, wasn't it?" Al asked, checking for her tire iron.
"Of course that was him!" Techie snapped, grabbing a double handful of remote control innards and stuffing them back into place.
The mighty burlap blur was followed by a green one clutching a wailing baby. "Eddums!"
"Kitten!" Captain screeched, vaulting the table in one mighty bound. (If asked later, she would have insisted that mighty bounds were better when the array of weaponry on your belt caught on the tablecloth and dragged your entire dinner onto the floor.)
The three henchgirls tumbled toward the door, Al in the lead. They managed to avoid colliding with too many diners on their way to the exit, although a waist-high ceramic vase learned a valuable (and fatal) lesson about being used as an impromptu grapnel point.
They stampeded through the foyer of the restaurant, blitzing past waiting families and shocked hostesses. As they neared the door, Al threw her arms out to stop herself from colliding with the next man in the surprise footrace - Mr. Freeze. She managed to skid to a halt in the doorway just in time for the other two girls to slam into her back. They wedged tightly into the frame, unable to go forward or backward. As he passed, Batman's cape whipped Al in the face.
"Captain, move your arm - "
"Get your foot off of my elbow!"
"Hey!" A furious male voice sounded directly behind them from the kitchen. "You didn't pay!"
As one, the cops in the corner rose to their feet. "Come on, girls. Let's just -" The cop frowned. "Were you three at the arcade this evening?"
"It's them!" the other one confirmed, rubbing a freshly blacked eye. "That one tipped the claw machine over on me!"
Techie dug her booted heels into the restaurant's carpet and shoved. They popped out of the restaurant like peas from a popgun and joined in the chase. The cops grabbed their jackets and sprinted after them, puffing and shouting into their radios for backup.
The strange parade screamed down the street. The Scarecrow, in the lead, gasped for air under his mask and swore as his glasses steamed up again. He ripped the mask off and stuffed it in the top of his roughly sewn pants. It almost immediately fell out again and rolled away, forgotten.
Behind him, Eddie clutched the screaming, red-faced baby tightly as he sprinted along in his ragged socks. Kitten, with her face pressed firmly against his left ear, howled like a wolf on a bullhorn. Her angrily kicking legs caught him once, twice, thrice in the abdomen, and he fleetingly wondered how expensive vasectomies were nowadays.
Freeze leveled his ice ray once again at the fleeing rogues in front of him. Then, unexpectedly, his hand opened and the gun bounced away. Since he didn't have a neck, he was able to spin his head completely around to spy Techie about ten yards away, brandishing that cursed remote control of hers. He growled and turned his attention back to the sidewalk in front of him. He'd chase them down sooner or later. After all, he didn't get tired. Not anymore.
As Batman ran, he was formulating plans to take down the rogues without hurting the baby. He had a fairly good idea of just who that baby belonged to, which made it all the more urgent to get it to some parents who weren't criminally insane.
The girls pounded along behind Batman. "Make him stop!" Captain ordered, hurdling a stray dog.
"You're lucky I was able to get him to drop the gun!" Techie panted, scrabbling to get the remote's innards back into place without dropping any of them.
"Stop or we'll shoot!" the cops commanded from the back of the line. But, of course, no one was listening to them.
The Gotham Plaza Hotel was a phenomenal building. From its early roots as a simple inn, it had grown and expanded until it had eaten up almost an entire foursquare of city blocks with convention centers, parking garages, luxury suites and private entertainment facilities.
The Scarecrow, half-blind with fogged glasses, scraped them clear just in time to see this paragon of luxury looming up right in front of him. He tried valiantly to stop himself, but his feet slipped on a forgotten plastic bag on the sidewalk. WHAM! He bounced off of the ancient brickwork, spectacles shattered into spiderwebs. Blood from his newly broken nose sprayed festively down his front as he fought to remain standing.
The Riddler, who was too busy running and trying to hold a squirmy baby to bother with little details like looking where he was going, saw the danger just in time to spin. At least he could hit the wall with his shoulder, instead of the baby -
CRUNCH! The Scarecrow made a surprisingly good landing pad. Well, at least his bony body was slightly less painful to run into than a century-old brick building. Eddie staggered forward, clutching the unhurt, howling baby. Crane, eyes crossed with pain, slumped onto a handy garbage can and panted miserably as he tried to stop the fountain of blood coursing down his shirt.
Mr. Freeze slowed down just in time to throw out an arm and clothesline the Batman. The vigilante dropped flat on his back, victim to the forces of inertia. "Now, Edward," Freeze said menacingly, trapping the Bat with one green-soled robot foot ground solidly into his sternum. "It's time to pay what you owe."
Kitten flailed and punched Eddie in the face. "Can it wait for just a second?" Eddie gasped, blinking tears out of his eyes. "I think she broke my nose." The Scarecrow muttered something incomprehensibly insulting from his perch atop the garbage.
Batman attempted to free himself with a sudden jerk backward. Freeze's foot pressed down harder into his ribcage as a gentle reminder that while he could stomp a hole right through Batman's chest, he had other things to worry about at the moment. "No waiting," he said evenly. "Now."
As his vision slowly unblurred, Crane suddenly realized that he'd chosen to sit in the midst of the people that had been chasing him for most of the night. He got to his feet as unobtrusively as possible and began to slink off to the nearest alley, hopefully unnoticed.
Techie thundered up to the group, the hastily-reassembled remote clutched in her hands. She triumphantly pointed it at Freeze's back and pressed a large red button. Freeze's joints trembled. Then, with a look of pure unadulterated fury on his face, he spun in a perfect pirouette. (Rather, his body spun quite prettily while his head glared ominously at Techie, promising only the finest in icy deaths without a word needing to be said.) One foot lashed out unexpectedly as Batman rose to his feet, catching him squarely in the chest. He rocketed backward and disappeared into the nearby alley.
As the pirouette slowed, Freeze jabbed a pointed finger toward the sky and cocked a hip saucily outward.
"Disco?" Al hissed at Techie. Techie ignored her in favor of pressing more buttons. His hands fluttered to either side of his face, where he began miming beaks closing and wings flapping. "The Chicken Dance!" Al cried, delighted, as Victor Freeze shook his robotic rump at the Riddler.
The Captain, whose chase had been slightly slowed due to an unfortunate run-in with two men carrying a box full of fresh haddock, slid to a halt just behind her cohorts. A selection of Gotham's finest seafood dangled unappetizingly from various folds in her clothes. "Stop that," she hissed, shouldering between her fellow henches. She edged around Freeze as he manically beaked the air with his hands. "Sorry," she muttered, trying not to notice his level-ten death glare burning between her shoulderblades.
Eddie was too busy with the baby to notice anything else. "Stop it," he pleaded, holding her as tightly as he could to try and stop her kicking and hitting him. As if she'd inherited his skill at escaping straitjackets, she wriggled free from each new hold and socked him in the face, sometimes with her fingernails out just to spice things up.
"Give her!" the Captain commanded.
"Take her! Take her!" the Riddler urged, all but throwing the baby at her mother.
The Captain turned, cradling the baby, and unthinkingly met Freeze's eyes. She flinched backward ever so slightly from the unexpected glare.
And then, surprisingly, the glare disappeared. "Yours?" he asked flatly, looking at the baby.
"Yes," she answered, avoiding a flailing foot with all the practice that half a year of parenting could give her.
He nodded once and deliberately looked away. Well, there was no better cue than that. The Captain, without another word, fled with the still-screaming child, leaving nothing but a faint fishy scent in the air behind her. The Riddler, freed of his burden, limped exhaustedly toward Al and Techie, hoping beyond hope that one of them had a spare pair of shoes tucked in their jackets somewhere.
"Almost got it," Techie muttered, smacking buttons frantically. With a skree of protesting joints, the Amazing Dancing Rogue froze into place with his chicken wings extended. "There!"
The cops finally caught up with the group. "Hold it right there," Black-Eye panted, holding his gun in a trembly hand.
Techie turned around, bright-eyed and smiling. "Like this?" she inquired, tapping on the remote. Freeze spasmed and began doing the Macarena. "Dammit! Not that!"
"I said stop or I'll shoot!" Black-Eye aimed at Freeze as he unwillingly placed his hands on his hips and began to shimmy.
Techie flicked the remote off. "Okay, okay," she said soothingly as Freeze came to a shuddering halt. "We're stopping, we're stopping."
"But what about Squishy?" Al muttered as she raised her hands.
A terrified scream rose from a nearby alley. "I think he's taking care of himself."
The Scarecrow limped away at full speed. Maybe if he hurried, he could make it to the subway -
Something large and extraordinarily heavy hit him in the back and lifted him off of his feet, sending him tumbling helplessly down the cold alleyway like an airborne bowling ball.
Crane and the mysterious projectile landed in a tangled pile of limbs just at the edge of the dead-end alleyway. It only took half a second to identify this particular black-clad menace to his professional life. The Scarecrow frantically scrabbled on the concrete, prying himself free from the semiconscious vigilante. He wasn't certain how Batman had wound up flying backward through the alley, but it could only mean bad things for him. He stumbled to his feet and lurched away.
Batman's hand on the back of his neck stopped him like a dog on a leash. He fell to the ground, gasping for breath, and valiantly tried to kick himself free as the vigilante yanked him upward. His shoulders hit the bricks with a painful slap of wet burlap.
Oh, great. He couldn't have just gotten a nice quick blow to the head. If he'd had any luck at all, he could have been neatly knocked out and woken up in Arkham's infirmary, where all the lovely pain medication was. No, no. Knocking him unconscious wouldn't have been fun at all, not when he could be violently interrogated.
Well, to hell with that. He didn't have a gas mask anymore, but he could hold his breath. With one frantic wheeze, he gulped air and slammed his fingers down on every toxin-release button within his reach. Fear gas puffed out in a dull red cloud from all the cracks and breaks in the battered piping that lined his costume from head to foot.
Batman's eyes began to glaze over in that well-known Going-To-Unhappyland way that Crane's toxin usually induced. One armored fist rocketed out and slammed into Crane's midsection, knocking the air right out of his lungs. Without thinking, the Scarecrow sucked in a gasp of pained astonishment and about fifty doses of fear toxin.
The alley walls grew higher, arching into the sky to form an old, abandoned chapel. The bitter winter air turned hot in his mouth, laden with the dust and mold of the holy walls as they fell victim to the forces of nature. The burlap costume was gone now, replaced with a too-small wool suit that choked him with its horrid smell of rotted meat. Small, alone, and so terribly frightened, he looked upward, hoping for help, hoping for salvation.
A black cloud overhead became a flock of crows. They arrowed down through the hole in the roof, pinning him to the ground as he screamed and screamed and screamed...
The standoff outside the Gotham Plaza Hotel was going much better than the cops had expected. Freeze's robot body seemed to have seized up, the Riddler was too exhausted to put up much of a fight, and two of the three troublesome girls were obediently holding their hands up and giving each other significant looks. True, with only two cops to hold the four of them, it was unlikely that they were going to be able to do anything more useful than keep them from moving - but with a squadron of backup on the way, who needed to do anything but wait?
Yes, the standoff was going well - that is, until the fear-crazed Batman hurtled out of the alley like one of the Four Horsemen who had forgotten to set his alarm. Batarangs and assorted other weaponry scythed through the air, landing on every bit of vulnerable rogue that they could find. The glass surrounding Freeze's head pocked ominously as the bat-shaped projectiles slammed into it, sending the tiniest of cracks snaking across his vision. A well-aimed bola caught both Al and Techie around the midsection, tying them together into a furiously swearing bundle on the sidewalk. Eddie, attempting to run away on his numb feet, tripped over them and faceplanted on the sidewalk, accompanied by a fresh barrage of batarangs.
And then Batman, eyes nearly glowing red with the force of fear-fueled hate behind them, noticed the two trembling men aiming guns at him. Cape flaring, armor gleaming in the soft lights of the nighttime street, and a look of pure psychotic horror on his face, he lunged toward the cops with the clear intention of disarming them (and not necessarily by merely removing their guns). As any red-blooded American would do when faced with a few hundred pounds of charging fury, they ran for it.
Techie kicked herself free of the remains of the bola as the forces of justice chased each other away. "Everyone okay?" she asked, rubbing a batwing-shaped welt on her cheekbone.
"Fine," Al muttered, testing her ankle to make sure it was merely sprained instead of broken.
"Peachy," Eddie groaned, not bothering to move from his spread-eagled position on the cold concrete. A soft, childlike whimpering echoing from the nearby alley told them more than they needed to know about the Scarecrow's current condition.
"Come on," Techie said, pulling the unwilling Riddler up from his oh-so-comfy resting place. "Let's get you two home."
Al disappeared into the alley, returning with the trembling Scarecrow draped limply over her shoulder. "See if we ever let you babysit again," she scolded her boss as she carefully walked him down the street.
"Good," he muttered indistinctly.
"What was that?" Al asked sharply.
He gazed blankly past her. "Good birds," he mumbled thickly. "Nice birds - aaaaagh!"
"C'mon, Squishface. Let's go home and have a nice warm cup of antitoxin." The group shuffled off into the depths of Gotham, looking somewhat like a pair of lovesick upright octopi out for a stroll.
Freeze silently watched them go. Then, with one hand clamped over the holes in his face mask, he began the long stalk back to his own lair. He still felt the burning need for revenge lurking sullenly inside him, but it didn't seem quite so urgent now. After all, following the Riddler meant following...them...and trouble clung to them like gum in hair.
Besides, there was always tomorrow. With grim plans trailing through his head, Freeze lurched toward home.
Author's Note: I blame this on repeated listening to Yakety Sax. Also, since I've sorta got a Kitten of my own now (okay, he's not the Riddler's lovechild, but hey - maybe that's for the best) it's too easy to put babies together with the Batverse.
I tried to keep this as in-canon as possible. (Of course, that would have been a lot easier if the relevant gaps in the CATverse canon had been filled in...hint, hint...) I also tried to have this done two weeks ago, but unexpected trips to the ER and sudden surgeries do tend to put a dent in my free time.
So, Captain, Al and Techie - merry Christmas, happy New Year, and thanks for all the fish.