20: Ironing out our Differences
Chapter Twenty: Ironing out our Differences
As Iron Man, Tony was used to being fired upon. He was also used to the bad guys he fought being a little bit more – what was the word? – normal.
Why was he surprised that Gotham’s criminals were different?
There was the one guy with the big gun and a fish bowl on his head. A fish bowl. On his head. What the hell was that about?
Then there was the woman dressed in what looked like vines and leaves. Not a bad look, in his opinion, but the way they seemed to slither around her like they were snakes was just creepy.
And then there was the guy with the burlap sack over his head and the other one in a suit with coat tails and a cane. A scarecrow and a penguin?
He wasn’t seeing anything that he needed to be afraid of, that was for sure, but when J.A.R.V.I.S. told him that Batman was on the communicator, he decided he had better hear what he had to say before he made any definite decisions on the loony foursome.
There was a brief silence. “The man with the weapon calls himself Mr. Freeze. The suit he wears is environmentally controlled. He can’t live outside of a subzero climate. The weapon emits a ray of freezing cold that solidifies on impact.”
“Not a problem,” Iron Man stated. His sensors told him that the Tumbler was right below him in an alley, out of site of the foursome who was standing in the middle of the street like they owned the place. From his vantage point, he could see no one else around. Even tapping into cameras around the area, he could discern no others waiting in the wings. “Why are they out here? Waiting for us? Like they knew we were coming.”
“They know I am, but not you,” Batman said at length. “The woman calls herself Poison Ivy and she can control plant life. Scarecrow has a weaponized hallucinogen in vapor form and the Penguin, I believe, has bombs in the form of mechanical penguins, but I suspect he has more tricks up his sleeve.”
“When Freeze starts firing that weapon of his, you better let me handle it, sunshine,” Tony told him.
“Alright,” Batman answered. No argument! No ‘stop calling me that” or anything expressing his displeasure in the most minute way. Tony was speechless. “I’ll go in first. Like I said, they don’t know that you are here.”
“Gotcha. Just give me the signal. And don’t do anything stupid until I get there.”
“I’ll try,” was the gruff response and then communications ended.
Tony didn’t like this. It smelled of a trap and something else. Of course it was a diversion: he knew it and Bruce knew it also, but maybe Iron Man being here, and if the hope was still true that it was not known to the bad guys that he was, would give them time to take care of these clowns and find that Pit before Ra’s al Ghul had a chance to use it.
“Hold it right there, Batman,” Mr. Freeze said, his ice ray pointed directly at Batman who had come strolling out of the shadows as if he had nothing to worry about from the four standing before him.
“Such bravado is not usually your style,” the Scarecrow stated. Freeze did not like Dr. Jonathan Crane. Freeze, before the accident, had been a scientist – a real scientist – and thus he did not hold psychology to much credence. Besides that, he thought the man an insult to what little providence his profession held. He was as insane as those he had sworn to help, if not more so.
Freeze did not want to be here. He wanted to be with his dear Nora, but Ra’s al Ghul had said that he was more needed here, with these buffoons, to make sure that the process was not disturbed. Freeze had reluctantly agreed.
Anything to have the love of his life, the meaning of his existence, back with him. To see her smile was worth more than anything in this world to him.
He had no quarrel with Batman, but he would stop Ra’s al Ghul before he could heal Nora, and thus he must be stopped.
“Whatever it is Ra’s al Ghul wants you to do, you need to rethink it,” Batman said. He was just standing there, as still as the shadows he had just stepped out of, but it was still unnerving.
“I cannot do that, I am afraid,” Mr. Freeze said. “Thus you leave me no choice in this.” And he activated the freeze way.
It should have frozen Batman solid. That is, if it had reached him.
The freeze ray had no effect, however, on what landed between Freeze and Batman.
“Is that a robot of some sort?” The Penguin actually took a step forward, seemingly mesmerized by the gold and red armor.
“Not a robot,” Iron Man said. “Not per se, at least.”
“You were supposed to wait for the signal,” Batman stated from behind him.
“We never discussed what the signal was supposed to be,” Tony snapped, turning his head around to glare. A glare that could not be seen because of the helmet but he made the effort anyway. “And how about a ‘thank you’ for saving you from being a batscicle?”
“Vine,” Batman said flatly.
“Vine?” Iron Man had absolutely no idea what the hell he was talking about. “What vine?”
“Sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S.’ voice sounded inside the helmet. At that very moment, something wrapped tightly around one of Iron Man’s ankles.
“Oh! That vine.” With a strength he had not expected, the vine whipped around, lifting him up off the ground and slammed him into the nearest wall. And then on the ground and then the ground again and then again. Just as it was about to slam him down once more, the vine was cut. He managed to get stabilized, landing on his feet, instead of his head. Looking from the bat-shaped projectile buried in the wall, the still twisting part of a vine on the ground, and finally to the two holes in the street, Tony muttered, “Why does being slammed repeatedly into the ground seem so familiar?”
“Are you alright, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. asked.
“Never better.” Though his armor had taken a pounding. There were dents here and there.
Thanks to the display inside of his helmet and the sensors he had placed when he upgraded the Bat armor, he knew where Batman was and what he was doing and vice versa. The sonar display in the cowl was very resourceful, allowing Batman to see Freeze, Poison Ivy, and the Penguin as they moved to surround them. The Scarecrow had disappeared, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still around waiting for the right opportunity.
“As remarkable as that armor is, how long do you think it can stand against my penguin bombs?” Pointing his umbrella, the Penguin began to laugh as dozens of the foot tall penguin shaped robots began to waddle out of the side streets, quacking all the way.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Tony said.
“He said ‘bombs’. So I imagine they do more than fire the weapons they are holding,” Batman stated. Standing back to back in the street, Mr. Freeze on one side, the Penguin, and his ridiculous robots on another, and Poison Ivy coming around to complete the triangle, they both contemplated a strategy. “Well, got any ideas?”
“Yeah, I have a few. One in particular.” The grenade launcher on Iron Man’s upper arm opened up and sent a barrage into the mechanical penguins. On impact, the grenades set off a chain reaction, detonating the bombs inside the robots, creating a loud explosion that shook the ground and blew the glass out of the windows of the surrounding buildings.
“My penguins!” Cobblepot screeched as he dove for cover.
“No more of that,” Poison Ivy cried and vines erupted from the ground, sending pieces of the street flying. The vines, moving so it was hard to count, attacked all at once, entrapping both Batman and Iron Man and holding them upside down over the mangled street.
“Any more brilliant ideas?” Batman asked, trying hard to move. He knew that the improvements Tony had made to his armor were the only thing keeping the vines from crushing as they tried to do before in Botanical Gardens.
“I came up with the last one. It’s your turn,” Iron Man suggested, much more calmly than he actually felt. Though doing little damage to his armor, the vines were thick and rather strong, holding him fast.
“Propulsion system,” was Batman’s 2-cents on the matter.
“Could you be a little more cryptic? Just a little bit. I don’t think that is too much to ask.” But Tony fired up the propulsion system. “J.A.R.V.I.S., full power to forward thrusters.”
“Of course, sir.” The robotic voice was flat, but surprisingly not as flat as Iron Man’s companion.
With a little strain, the propulsion system shot forward, pulling most of the vines apart, and the rest completely out of the ground. Screaming as if in pain, Poison Ivy collapsed on the ground and when she did so, all the vines went limp and lifeless. Batman managed to land on his feet, spinning on Mr. Freeze.
“Believe me when I say I do not want to harm you, Batman, but I have to keep you from stopping Ra’s al Ghul.”
“Why? What is he planning?”
“He promised he would give me back my wife, Nora. I had her suspended cryogenically until I could cure her. He swore to me that he knew how.” Mr. Freeze kept his freeze ray fixed on Batman, but made no move to use it.
Iron Man landed next to Batman, the already decimated area of street crumbling even more under his weight. He shook off what bits of vine still clung stubbornly to him. “And how did he plan to do that?”
Mr. Freeze stood still and silent for long moments, and then finally lowered the freeze ray completely. His face was unreadable, but there was a definite change in his demeanor. “He said that there is a pit, the Lazarus Pit, which could restore her. All he had to do was find it and she would be alive and whole again.”
“You sound doubtful,” Batman noted.
“Yes, though he has given me no reason to, I doubt his sincerity.”
“If he hasn’t found it, then why are you and your cohorts out here trying to delay us?” Tony asked, actually taking his helmet off. Bruce sighed inwardly.
“Ra’s al Ghul said that tonight he would find it, because he would have the means to lead him.”
“The means? Did he say what that was?”
Mr. Freeze shook his head. “All he stated was ‘through the eyes of glass and gypsy memory’ he would find the Pit.”
“Eyes of glass? Gypsy memory?” Tony shook his head in confusion, but noticed how Batman stiffened at the words. “What? What is it?”
“Richard. He needs Richard to find the Pit.”