Friday, December 15, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Eight: What You Wouldn't Do

Chapter Thirty-Eight: What You Wouldn't Do

The muggy air outside seeped through the cracks in the windows. The cracks weren't there from age, though. They were there because Joker kept throwing small rocks at them. He'd claw at the walls of his cell and whenever a good piece would fall out of place, he'd throw it a million times at the glass. He wasn't trying to escape, he was just trying to cause some property damage. It amused him, what could he say? Though to be honest, he was the only one it amused. Two Face, who could hear Joker's maniacal laughter through the vent, was particularly tired of it and annoyed that the Joker hadn't found another way to bug the caretakers of the residents of Arkham Asylum (for the criminally insane).

Insane was right.

Joker continued to throw the rocks at the window. He had become quite good at aiming them through the bars that kept him from the window itself. His laughter continued. A stream of 'Ha's, 'Hehe's, and combinations of the two. Sometimes, he'd almost lose his breath and consciousness he was laughing so hard. How that was possible, Two Face could only assume it was because this was the Joker that was doing it. He hoped though, that Joker would lose consciousness soon enough... but he shortly admitted to himself that that was probably a hopeless notion.

Two Face snarled, "Joker! Shut up!"

"Hehaheheee," Joker replied through the vent, "Don't tell me you're jealous 'cause I'm havin' some fun, Harvey?"

Two Face attempted to remain composed, "You know, I know having fun is your field of expertise, but the noise you're making is quite... undesirable for those of us who... are more concerned with other things..."

"Haha, oh yeah, you're still brooding over getting taken in by the Bat's bird brat," Joker brought up.

Two Face lost it, "SHUT UP!"

And of course, Joker didn't and continued to mock his practical cell mate, "How dare you tell me to 'shut up' Two Face old boy! We go so far back!"

"As if," Two Face growled.

Joker made a comedic 'batter up' swing and let a small rock fling through the bars. It shattered a small hole through the glass and continued to sail outside.

"Heehee, hope that hurt someone," Joker mumbled, "Teeheeheehahee..."

"At least I wasn't stupid enough to gain the attention of Batman and the entire police force!" Two Face remarked back.

"Harvey, Harvey, Harvey," Joker said, "I'm hurt, that was intentional."

"And when is your payoff coming then?" Two Face asked, "I would have thought that you'd bust out by now."

Joker crossed his arms, "Well, excuse me for being a little slow on the escape plan. I'm working on it!"

"You should have had one before you got caught," Two Face remarked.

"Listen, you want to go, Dent?" Joker asked.

"Crawl through the air vent and the pleasure'll be all..."

Suddenly something shot through Joker's window and it shattered into a thousand pieces. Joker covered his eyes, but upon regaining his sight, Two Face heard him begin to chuckle again.

"Well, well, well, perfect timing," Joker laughed while picking up the same rock that he had thrown out the window moments earlier.

"You two bicker like an old married couple," Slade said, while holding onto the wall and setting up small explosives on both windows.

"What are you doing here?" Two Face inquired.

Slade would have normally smiled, but at this point, he wasn't really in the mood to do so, "I have a job for you two."

"I work for no one," Two Face quickly snapped.

"I'm not saying you'd be doing it for free," Slade answered, securing the explosives to the bars, "I'll free you from Arkham and get you to your area of town, Two Face."

Two Face raised a brow, interested, maybe...

"That's no incentive for me," Joker remarked, "I'm almost out of here and besides, you were supposed to do that for me ages ago. What happened there?"

"I was a little... distracted," Slade stated carefully, "Though I think you'd have fun doing this Joker."

"Doing what?" Joker spat back and Two Face listened.

Slade glanced at the two of them through the windows, "I need a sufficient... distraction. I need chaos to rule Gotham tonight. And who better than 'The Clown Prince of Crime' and 'Harvey Two-Face Dent' to create it for me?"

"Chaos?" Joker asked, "You've got my attention!"

"Several Justice League members as well as the Teen Titans are in Gotham tonight. I want you to terrorize this city. Big time," Slade smirked, "Your supplies will be waiting for you at these locations along with directions to specific getaway routes."

Slade tossed them each a slip of paper, "There should be more than enough men and supplies. Keep the change."

A count down began on the explosives. Joker and Two Face looked through the vent and then at the lowering numbers on the TNT. The Joker started laughing while Two Face began to smirk. This, he thought, might actually be a bit fun.

The counters reached zero and a muffled blast tore through the windows of their cells in Arkham Asylum. Alarms didn't even blare, though. Joker and Two Face got out from behind the beds and looked out to see two cables aimed in separate directions with a harness on each. Joker's smile widened.

"Beat you to the bottom, Dent!" He yelled and jumped onto the harness and out of the Asylum.

Two Face watched Joker bounce up and down on the cable, not even bothering to attach the harness to himself. He had to hand it to Deathstroke. He knew how to seal a deal. Attaching the harness to his belt buckle, Two Face took a running start and leaped off to catch the rest of the harness and slide quickly down the cable line to freedom. Now this, this would be fun.


Beast Boy was busy tapping his foot on the steel floor of the Batcave. He couldn't believe that he was thinking this, but he was bored stiff. He was in one of the most secret, most secure, and coolest superhero bases in the world. And he was bored. For the last hour, after Batman's confusing and ridiculous explanation of how he was somehow still alive, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Cyborg had been going through files, emergency procedures and debating over where Slade might be hiding or planning on doing next. As for the other three Titans, Raven was meditating and attempting to sense any signs of danger, Starfire was working with Alfred to take care of the Manor's security, and he... well, Beast Boy really didn't have anything to do.

He tried to pay attention and put in his two cents with Cyborg and the others, but he ended up finding that most of it really wasn't a conversation. Alfred had already put the Manor's security on the highest level of alert, which was displayed on the right monitor while Batman was positive that Slade wouldn't take such a humiliation standing down. Wonder Woman worked on setting up a relay system between Titans Tower and the Watch Tower while Cyborg was downloading information on Wayne Manor's primary defenses, designs that Luthor had made for his Sonic Cannon's technology (a nice find that Batman had made), and a detailed map of Gotham City from the Batcave's system.

Superman and Batman were taking the opportunity to discuss possible defenses, neither of them really agreeing on anything. Therefore, there wasn't much to do, especially on Beast Boy's end. How on earth could he possibly be bored?! It was sort of irritating... He stopped tapping his foot and put his head in his hands. Seriously, dude... And the idea that Slade was still out there gave him the creeps. It made him antsy. So he did the only thing he could think to do. He walked over to Raven.

"Uh, hey, Raven?"

Raven opened an eye and said nothing. Beast Boy pulled at his shirt's collar, "Uh, hehe, um, hey, you uh, you don't think it's a bad idea, do you? Just sitting' around here and all... I mean, Slade could be..."

"He's not here," She said, "I'd sense him."

"Uh... uh, huh, well..." Beast Boy said, rubbing the back of his neck, "Alright... if you say so..."

He began to walk back to his spot. He should just sit down and chill. Maybe he should just talk to Superman and Batman about... Then again, they looked kind of busy. And by busy, he meant intimidatingly angry with one another. For a moment, he pondered over who he thought would win in a fight between the two of them when something bright and round caught his peripheral vision. He gasped and turned to a darker corner of the Batcave. Nothing. Though he could have sworn... He stepped a bit closer and slowly a single eye came into view.

He screamed, "RAVEN!"

"What?" She yelled back and looked up.

"Raven!" He called.

"Quiet," She said.

"Huh?" Beast Boy asked, only to see everyone looking at the two of them like they were crazy. Well, particularly like he was crazy. Though it didn't take long for them to ignore him again.

"Listen, Raven, I just... I just saw, what I could swear was an eyeball in the corner over there," He whispered and pointed to where he had seen the eye.

Raven glanced over and saw nothing, "You're seeing things. Slade's not over there and certainly no one else is."

"But, but Raven..." Beast Boy stuttered.

"Batman," She called, "How secure is the cave?"

"One hundred percent," He answered, before returning to work.

She had to admit, he really was blunt... "See, now don't bother me again."

"Friend Raven, is something the matter?" Starfire asked, floating over with a tray of medicine.

"No, Beast Boy's bored and seeing things. The dim light is playing tricks on him," Raven told her.

"Look, Raven, I know what I saw," Beast Boy said, a bit angry now.

She glared at him, but upon seeing his reaction, she softened her demeanor slightly, "Then maybe it was a reflection of someone else's eye. The walls of the cave are as wet as a lake."

Beast Boy's frustration lowered a bit at the suggested explanation, "Maybe..."

"Oh, yes, it does make sense when you put it that way, friend Raven," Starfire said, "Tamaran often has waterfalls that produce the same effect on the walls opposite them."

"Alright, I get it, but that was seriously creepy," Beast Boy stated... "What are you doing?"

"Oh," Starfire answered, "I am delivering this up to Ms. Leslie. She requested it to help friend Robin."

"Oh, alright. Guess we'll see you when you get back down," Beast Boy said.

Starfire smiled and went on up the stairs to the Manor. She flew up to the exit and upon entering the Manor itself, landed and walked the rest of the way. She felt like she should while here. Somehow, it was a bit weird, being in Robin's home, where he lived before he moved out to Titans Tower. It almost invoked some sort of respect out of her, too, like she would her own home as well. She climbed the staircase in the front and followed Alfred's instructions to find Robin's room. Soon she found what she believed was the right doorway. The Tamaranian knocked gently and then opened the door only to find Catwoman leaning against the door, blocking her way.

"Um, excuse me, Ms... Woman of the Cats, but I have medicine to give to Robin. May I please enter?" Starfire asked.

Catwoman looked at her with an eyebrow raised before standing up straight and answering, "Sure, kid, go ahead in."

Starfire smiled and walked into the room. She saw Leslie waiting by a door, but saw no sign of Robin. Leslie smiled and answered the evident question on Star's face.

"He's just cleaning up in the bathroom, dear," Leslie told her.

"Oh," Starfire replied, now understanding.

Just then the door by Leslie opened and Robin came into the room, a robe over his shoulders and a pair of shorts on.

"Oh, hey, Starfire," Robin said upon seeing her.

"Hello, friend, I brought you some remedies," She said, holding up the tray.

"Thanks," He said.

Then Starfire noticed, "Um, friend, why is your mask on?"

Robin smiled, "Not taking any chances. If I end up in a fight, I want Robin to be in it, not Dick Grayson."

"Alright then, well at least let me see if there's anything we missed," Leslie said, gesturing for him to take off the robe.

Robin didn't argue; Leslie was a doctor before anything else after all. He removed the robe and Leslie scanned for any signs of scrapes or bruises that she had missed earlier. For the most part, he looked pretty cleaned up. At least he hadn't needed any stitches, though he had several bandages scattered across his back and chest. It didn't surprise Starfire too much, after that explosion and seeing the mess he had been when they had found him. Still, it reminded her of the time that Robin had been seeing hallucinations of Slade due to inhaling the modified dust that had been hidden in Slade's mask.

Leslie however, noticed something that disturbed her on a higher level than his injuries from the explosion. On his upper arm, there was a string of bruises... they matched the pattern of a set of fingerprints, as though Robin had been gripped by the arm and dragged multiple times in the course of the last few weeks. He couldn't see them, and there weren't any more Leslie could find, other than tell tale signs of fights that Robin had been in, so she said nothing and made a mental note to talk to Bruce about it later. Still, it was a clear indication, especially to Leslie, that Slade had to be a horrible person.

She handed Robin a loose t-shirt and he put it on while she took the medicine that Starfire had brought up. She set aside a small amount of pills and filled a glass of water from the sink so that Robin could swallow the meds. Afterwards, she ushered Robin into bed, not wanting him to strain himself any further. Starfire watched quietly, but with sympathy like any of the Titans would. Catwoman remained silent the entire time and barely acknowledged what was going on.

Earlier, when she had entered, Dick had nearly attempted to attack her before she pulled up the Bat-communicator that Bruce had given her earlier. It was only when he had heard Bruce confirm that she was indeed on their side (at least at the moment) and was to be keeping watch for him, that Dick really calmed down. Actually, no. He quit trying to incriminate her. But he did continue to glare at her for quite some time. At one point, when he had replaced his mask, he then realized that Bruce had told her who they were. His head had snapped over at her and if possible, his scowl turned worse. Leslie, however, quickly returned his attention to mending his injuries.

Since then, Catwoman had taken to ignoring him and just keeping an eye out for anything unusual. Leslie and Starfire decided to stay until Robin fell into a light dose. They wouldn't have to wait very long, as all of the medicine only sped up the process and Robin was already extremely tired. While Leslie paced here and there while waiting, Starfire sat by Robin's side. She was the only one that Catwoman really watched. Perhaps it was the earlier title that she had given Catwoman (Ms. Woman of the Cats), but she was a little struck by the girl's character.

As they waited, Catwoman noticed Starfire slip her hand into Robin's. Her eyes were soft and she had a warm smile on. She was happy... And that's when it really hit Catwoman. Robin... Robin was a teenager. And these two, they must, well, be into each other. She couldn't see Robin's expression, but the fact that he continued to hold Starfire's hand was enough for her to recognize it. And by the looks of it, unlike most teenage couples who didn't know what they wanted or were dating for the fun of it, they probably were some of the few... who really cared about one another...

Leslie leaned over and tapped Starfire on the shoulder. Robin was asleep and they both headed for the door. Leslie nodded at Catwoman and Catwoman nodded back. They left and the door clicked behind them as it was shut. It was just her and Robin. She walked around the side of the bed and double-checked that Robin really was out of it. He was. And his hand was in the same spot where Starfire had left it. She grabbed the chair and brought it over to the other side of the bed where she could be between the door and the windows.

She sat on it backwards and pulled off her own cowl. Selina shook loose her wavy black hair and leaned her chin on the back of the chair. Man, it was hitting her. Like, when did he turn into a teenager with love interests? The last time she saw him, she only saw that he had grown a few inches. It didn't really click for her that the bratty kid in booty shorts had grown up in more ways then one. He was still a little annoying, but... Wow. She looked out the window. The view was absolutely beautiful. She could see Gotham to one side and then the cliff that led to the ocean on the other. The moon was full and gleamed despite Gotham's attempts to hide it from existence. Batman was right, Gotham never slept. It's lights were always there to sparkle for the stars.

She was barely getting over the shock that Batman was Bruce Wayne... and she had practically dated both of them! How did she not notice? Well, as Batman, Bruce did drop his voice a couple octaves... But they were both such good kissers! How could she not notice? How could she not tell? She shook her head and decided not to debate it anymore.

She remembered finding Batman that one night it was snowing and he had taken her back to the Batcave, not really explaining anything. The fact that Robin wasn't with him didn't register at first; he hadn't been with Batman much the past year anyway. As they rode in the Batmobile in stealth mode, she attempted to get some sort of explanation out of him. He hadn't said anything.

Upon entering the Batcave, he stopped and opened the doors to the Batmobile. She still had no idea of what to expect. She asked why she hadn't seen him lately. She asked why he wasn't talking. She asked if there was something really... And then he had taken off his mask and she was finally just as quiet as he was. Bruce Wayne. And then he answered her questions. He also asked many of his own. Neither Dick or Robin, whichever alias they were talking about, no one actually knew if he was alive. And he needed that. The trouble with it was that he had to maintain a low profile, which was particularly hard to do after a while. He rarely was able to visit the Batcave itself and he couldn't fight anyone who would go blathering on about 'It's the Batman!'.

That's where she came in. He asked her, as a personal favor, if she would help him.

Well, when the richest man in Gotham, the Dark Knight, and a potential love interest reveals to you their identity and asks you to do them a favor, you say yes. She had come to understand since why he had kept it a secret from her. He did it with everybody. It was strictly a need to know thing. Only if you were lucky, like she was, he would trust you enough to tell you.

She had received a Bat-communicator and since then, she had worked to help him whenever possible. They'd meet at random locations scattered through out Gotham. Bruce's network was beyond anything that she had imagined. But the real surprises came as she worked with him. The subtle things that he did. She saw more of who he was. Why he did what he did.

Upon the day's discovery of the new enemy in their midst, she had seen how much Robin mattered to him. He wasn't just outraged because he had been outsmarted. He was furious because this person's, Slade's, sole intention was to hurt Robin. His only real family (outside of Alfred), one of the few that he had ever gotten close to... And that's when it finally fell into place for her, how much he cared about Robin, like they really were father and son. She could now understand why every time she and Robin had clashed, he never took sides and only separated them. He wasn't about to degrade either of them. He valued them both.

And if he valued Robin, she guessed that she could value him too. She still felt that he was a bit of a punk around her, but... if he was important to Batman, he was important to her too. And the kid was shaping up a little bit. A little. Selina sighed and smirked. Whatever. She was here now. What else was she going to do with her time, anyway?

The air turned on. She looked up at the vent. It was a little hot in here... What she couldn't see though, were the tiny nanobots (only a few of Slade's specialties) that had entered the room and had proceeded to fly over to the window. A few scouted, getting a good look at the room, and the table with the bottles of medicine by Robin's bed. Slade smiled. Wayne's security system, while at the top of the line, had some loopholes. He was sure that Batman knew where they were, too. He could almost consider this a thrill, if it wasn't for the situation at hand.

The one loophole that allowed for the easiest access to Robin's room was the window. If opened from the inside, it sent a message to the mainframe of the system, but it wouldn't sound any alarms. He noticed he had ten seconds. The nanobots pushed open the locks on the windows. Then, with a small kick, they opened the windows, which slid out of place, making a small creak. Selina looked up and noticed.

She got up and walked over to the window and looked outside. Up, down and all around. She saw nothing. Weird... She turned towards the door... was it a distra... Instantly, Selina felt herself being attacked and found herself in a choke hold.

"Rob..." She didn't get much farther as Slade placed a thick glue-like material over her mouth.

She elbowed him and was able to get out of his grasp. She pulled her whip from her side and let it unravel, going into a defensive position. Slade chuckled. She reached for the Bat-communicator, but he attacked her arm before she could get it. It fell to the floor and she had to instantly engage in fighting him. She could tell his style came from the military and it made her grateful that she had experience in kick boxing. For the most part, it was a matter of dodging one another's attacks. And they both did, equally well.

But Selina knew that she'd have to get to the Bat-communicator soon. She couldn't fight this guy on her own and by the way he was fighting, she knew it. Slade was motivated. His edge was his drive. And despite the fact that they were both in the height of physical condition, she knew that with only a few hits, she'd be down for the count and it would take her many more to knock this guy off his feet.

"I'm impressed, Catwoman," Slade whispered, "I didn't think it would take this long."

She glared at him and they went at it again. Down below, Alfred looked up at the monitor screen and saw the warning from the window being opened. He looked over at Leslie.

"You didn't open the window for him or anything, did you?" He asked.

Leslie shook her head and Alfred looked over to Batman, "Master Wayne, the window up in Dick's bedroom has been opened."

Batman's head swiveled so quickly, Alfred was surprised that he could move so fast with the cowl on. He was over at the screen in a second while the others looked up and over at him. Up at the top of the Manor, Slade knew that someone was bound to investigate the open window soon. There was no time to deal with Catwoman anymore. She was a furious opponent, almost like Adeline in many ways. That was probably the only reason he could do this. His experiences fighting Adeline gave him an advantage that Catwoman didn't know about.

Selina found herself weighing her options. If she woke Robin up, he'd be drowsy and Slade's attention would turn primarily to him. Who knew what kind of reinforcements Slade had up his sleeve? She remembered reading over the file Batman had found from Titans Tower that said he was a master at robotic technology. The idea of leading him safely down stairs after that sounded nearly impossible. She could just pick him up and run, but with the added weight, she'd be slow and Slade would quickly catch up to her. She had to call for back up. It was her only real chance.

Catwoman and Slade parted from combat and she took the opportunity to run to the fallen communicator. She turned it on. Yes! While she couldn't make an intelligible word, she could still scream. Batman saw the incoming call and put it on speaker. The sound of Selina's muffled scream was all he needed. Then the communication was cut off and Batman began to leave for the Manor when an incoming message came to the screen that Superman was near.

"Possible trouble at Arkham," He relayed.

"Stay here, monitor it."

And that's all he said. Wonder Woman looked over at Clark and he nodded. If he needed to, he could always get to the top of Wayne Manor in an instant. Batman, the Titans, and Wonder Woman rushed up to Robin's room, where things were not going as well as one could hope. Slade had broken the communicator and used Catwoman's fallen whip to restrain her arms to her chest. He pulled out a small sedative and plunged it into her mouth. Selina's eyes widened. No, no way would she go out like this... She used her remaining energy to force herself into a flip and out of Slade's restraint.

She did a one-eighty in mid air with her body and landed facing Slade, her fists up, but she saw that Slade wasn't worried. And then she knew why. Slowly, Selina fell to her knees and fell to the floor, losing sight of her surroundings. No... Slade walked passed her and over to the bed, where Robin was barely stirring. He grabbed Robin by the chin and looked at him.

"Wake up, Robin, it's time to go," He said.

Robin's eyes opened slightly and he squinted, but it wasn't long before he was fully awake and attempted to make a struggle against the intruder. Slade wasn't going to deal with this now, though. He held Robin's arms down against the boy's sides with one arm and immediately dragged the teen out of his bed. He barely caught sight of Catwoman's fallen form.

"Slade! No!" Robin yelled.

"I'll deal with your delinquency later," Slade said.

Robin struggled as panic began to rise in his chest. No, no, not again! Please, not again!

The door burst open and in came seven superheroes just as Slade pushed the door open further. It was beginning to mist outside and a clash of thunder and lighting shook and lit up the room, illuminating Slade's new policy, a hostage situation. Slade held a small hand blade in his hand and upon seeing where he was holding it, Batman growled.

"Slade, release him!" Batman yelled.

"You really are back from the dead," Slade commented, "I should have known that I'd have to kill you myself. But I won't be making that mistake again."

"Yo, Slade, drop him man," Beast Boy yelled.

"Unless you want to deal with seven very angry superheroes," Cyborg added.

Slade chuckled, "Are you sure you want to do that? Because... unlike you, I'm not too concerned..."

Slade rested the blade on Robin's neck, almost drawing blood and Robin shut his eyes tightly. He was still shaking. After all of this, he was still going to lose. They were going to lose. Slade... Slade was going to win. And that's what scared him. Somewhere, he heard Starfire and Wonder Woman gasp, Cyborg and Beast Boy take steps back, and Batman and Raven remained where they were, but at the same time, he didn't think their expressions would be very friendly either.

Batman held an arm out, ordering the others not to move as Slade continued, "…with roughing him up a bit. You see, if he can't talk, he can't speak out against me. It works out well either way for me. Though I'm sure that... you would prefer..."

Slade let the knife fall so that he could turn Robin's face towards his comrades, "That I leave him unharmed."

In the cave below, as Superman heard the ongoing conversation taking place upstairs through Batman's communicator on speaker, he began to notice incoming 911 calls all coming from two highly populated areas of the city. What was going on?

"Alfred, does Batman have any cameras to give us a visual of the area?" He asked.

"I'll bring them up right away," Alfred replied.

Something reached Superman's ears, like someone tripping on the steel floors. But everyone was upstairs, right? He felt someone tapping him and immediately turned to see who it was. Before he could determine who it was though, he felt himself involuntarily stiffen.


Slade had slowly begun to make his way with Robin to the window, the knife back in place. The look on Robin's face made Batman tense. He had never seen Robin so... terrified and he couldn't...

Then in an instant, Superman rocked out through the floor boards and yelled, "Slade!"

Slade turned to see the blue-eyed Kryptonian, but paused as he noticed something different... this wasn't Superman... at least, alone.

"Drop it! I know you wouldn't do it!" Superman told him.

Slade found himself actually angry for once, "Why you..."

"No, I know you couldn't do it! After what it put Mom through!" Superman said, leaving most of the Titans and Wonder Woman incredibly confused.

Slade and Superman looked at each other, though soon Beast Boy noticed. Slade wasn't looking Superman in the eye. Why..?

"Drop the knife!" Superman yelled, "Or don't you remember? Because I sure do."

Superman landed on the floor and suddenly slumped and regained posture. However, the essence of a soul protruded from him and took solid form. A teenage boy, about Beast Boy's age with curly blond hair appeared before them. He was a little short and quiet. From just this appearance, you'd never think anything special of him. But the fact that he could overshadow Superman was enough to tell you he wasn't an ordinary teenager and the bright purple and white outfit gave everyone the same idea.

"Wait, Jericho?" Beast Boy asked.

Jericho looked over at the Titans and nodded before looking back at Slade. Slade's eye narrowed and Jericho pulled down on the high turtle neck that he wore to reveal a deep scar across his vocal cords. Slade looked from the scar to the rest of the superheroes standing behind Jericho.

"Very well," He said, "Have it your way, though... if I'm not mistaken, you might have other matters to attend to."

The others looked confused until Superman confirmed what Slade had said, "Batman, reports are coming in about two..."

"Superman, Wonder Woman, take a Titan and take care of it, we'll handle Slade," Batman ordered, but neither seemed very willing to go with Slade just standing there with the knife still poised. At least he hadn't moved it since Jericho's appearance...

"Better decide soon," Slade taunted, "Or you won't have a chance to save either of them."

He jumped out the window with Robin in tow and immediately everyone went into action. Superman picked up Cyborg and Wonder Woman pulled Beast Boy out with her and they headed for Gotham. That left Batman and three other Titans and they didn't waste any time in chasing after Slade. Starfire shot a starbolt of light into the air, illuminating the roof of Wayne Manor. It was huge. And to make matters worse, there were thousands of places to hide in the dark and rain.

"Split up," Batman ordered.

They each headed in opposite directions. Raven glided over the rooftops searching for Robin's aura. That's probably why she found Slade first. Finding her center, she began to chant her incantation.

"Azarath Metrion Zinthos" She yelled and attempted to trap Slade within a cage of telekinetic energy.

But he slipped through the bars and threw Robin aright into her, both of them colliding into a glass window frame. Raven took most of the force of the collision and could barely crawl out after Slade picked Robin up again and continued on his way. Raven hit her locator button on her T-communicator and Starfire received her location. But before Starfire could get there, Slade felt himself being attacked by the third Titan.

Jericho jumped from a higher roof ledge and landed on Slade's back, attempting to choke him. Robin struggled to get free again. 'Just a little longer...' Jericho thought, 'Just a little...' He didn't get to finish the thought as he felt himself being kicked off of Slade's back and tackled to the ground. Jericho shook his head and looked up, confused to see who his attacker was.

"Didn't forget me, did you?" Red X smirked and that's when Jericho could have sworn... That voice...

'Grant?' He signed.

Red X pulled off the mask, revealing the face of another teenager, maybe a year older than Robin, but he resembled Jericho, save for the fact that he had blue eyes and his hair was straight. It stuck out thanks to the sweat that came from wearing a full facial mask and whipped around his head in the wind and rain. It was a well known fact within their family that Grant resembled his father at a younger age. He smiled.

"Miss me, little bro?" He asked.

Jericho remained shocked and in response, X kicked Jericho in the stomach and pushed him off to a lower ledge of the rooftops. Red X replaced his mask and jumped off to follow his brother. This was going to be good.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Reaching for Safety

Part Six: Family

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Reaching for Safety

He struggled in a thick darkness, the cold creeping and slowly attempting to latch onto his fingers and around his neck. His face stung as though he had been slapped. In flashes that came and went, he could see a bright orange mass and glowing red dots. His ears were ringing. He squirmed against the ooze that seemed to surround him like a huge amount of cobwebs.

The light hit his eyes and he squinted. Maybe he should just let them close. He could hear blurred sounds in the background. He just wanted to sleep... Wow, he was sore. What hit him? He squinted again and saw purple and tan skin... His thoughts stopped. He turned his head upwards. A face caught his eyes, which widened as clarity came to him.

"Star...?" He began.

He saw her surprised face turn to a smiling one. He felt her hand on the top of his head and realized that he was lying on a few chairs with his head on her lap. A blanket covered him. There was a clicking sound in the background.

"Where... where am... I?" He asked.

"We are in the Department of Police of the City of Gotham," She replied, and for the first time in a long time, he smiled at her version of the English language.

"What... what happened?" He asked her this time, still tense.

"The police arrived after the explosion," Starfire explained, "The out was knocked from you, but Superman and Wonder Woman were unharmed and soon found you before the police did..."

That's when Robin noticed, the mask was gone from his face, "They, no one... knows then?"

"I do not believe so," Starfire told him, "Superman and Wonder Woman insisted on staying here until the work of paper is done."

"Then... Slade is..." Robin started.

Starfire nodded, "I searched with Wonder Woman for an hour and could not find him."

Robin nodded, but felt slightly disoriented. He decided to try and sit up, hoping that Starfire couldn't detect his apparent shaken exterior. With some help from Starfire, he managed to do so, but his head still ached. Across the room, Gordon noticed that Dick was waking up and briskly came over.

"Dick?" He asked, "How are you feeling?"

"Little dizzy... and sore... but I'm okay," Dick said, not really registering everything.

Gordon nodded in understanding, "Are you up for answering any questions?"

Dick shook his head slightly, hoping to avoid any more discomfort, "Not... not really... but I will if you need me to..."

"That's alright, we can ask you later," Gordon said, "I need to deal with the photographers and news crew, but I'll be back soon, son."

Starfire nodded for him as Dick felt that doing so himself would force him to lie back down. Photographers... How in the world? Oh, of course, it was because of Superman and Wonder Woman, wasn't it? How often do superheroes other than Batman hang out at the G.C.P.D.? He then noticed that he was still wearing the torn uniform underneath the blanket. What a great front page that would be... He pulled the blanket over him more tightly. He shivered.

"Um, Dick?" Starfire said, "I called the others; they're on the roof to avoid... the photographers."

"Oh, thank you," Dick said, then let out what he hoped was a loose laugh, "I can't tell you guys how much I missed you... Who... who are they handing me off to this time?"

"Mr. Pennyworth; he is in the other room with a Ms. Leslie talking to Mr. Bullock. Everything can go back to the normal..." Starfire answered carefully, noticing Robin's rather hidden, but clearly despairing and sarcastic tone.

Dick smiled thinking back to how things were before this whole mess and then he frowned slightly. He attempted to block out the fear that tried to arise from the back of his mind, "Well, not everything... but enough."

There was silence for a minute before he thought to speak again, "Um, Starfire? What happened to Ms. Kane?"

Starfire furrowed her brows, "Ms. Kane was in the vicinity?"

He looked at her, immediately alert, "Yes, she, yeah, she was. You didn't find her?"

Starfire shook her head no and Dick continued, "Then where..."

And yet there wasn't an answer for him to receive. She could be anywhere... Outside the offices of the G.C.P.D., news crew continued to snap away and record everything that they could while Wonder Woman and Superman stood firmly rooted in the doorway.

"At this rate," Wonder Woman stated, "He'll be here any minute to blow this place up to the watchtower."

"Wonder Woman," Superman began, "It's not my fault that a squad of police cars had the sirens wailing behind us when we got here, so if we could focus on the situation at hand..."

It was amazing how persistent these people could be. Superman recalled that there was a code of ethics that they supposedly were to follow, but it seemed that those often were lost in the heat of the moment.

"Excuse me, but if you could back up," He called, trying to create some space, "The photos that you have will not do you any good because of the windows' coatings..."

"Like that will help," Wonder Woman muttered.

"Well, if you have any... suggest...ions..." Superman stuttered to a stop.

His eyes focused on an area of the crowd where people were parting. A tall man came into view and Superman's jaw dropped. He scanned him to make sure it wasn't a trick. Wonder Woman elbowed him in the side.

"Superman, could you help me for just a moment..."

"Diana!" He shot and then eyed the newcomer.

Wonder Woman looked over instantly at the sound of her name and then felt herself freeze. The man walked up to them both, looking at them apologetically.

"May I?" He asked.

Superman nodded and looked at Wonder Woman as though asking if he could go in as well. She nodded and they both went inside. The man found Sawyer talking on the phone to the hospital.

"How much of an emergency is this, officer?" Sawyer asked, "We're kind of strained here right now."

"Ms. Sawyer, listen, Ms. Kane, she was delivered here tonight! She's in the emergency room in critical condition, but..."

The man taped Sawyer on the shoulder.

"What, what is it?" She asked, irritated and then she instantly gasped, "You... you..."

"Where's Dick?" He asked.

"A... around the corner," She knew that her eyes were twice their regular size, but at this point, she felt that she deserved some slack.

"Thank you," He said and continued.

Most in the office began to stop and look. Silence came over the room. The man rounded the corner and saw Dick sitting next to Starfire in silence. He looked worn out and tired, and for once his spiky hair was down and flat. He noticed that the two held each others' hands out of immediate sight. He paused in his footsteps and felt guilt for not... doing anything. He couldn't wait any longer. It wasn't fair or just...

He finally spoke, "Dick."

The whole room froze. Dick tensed and felt Starfire's gaze look up and over him. He heard her gasp and very slowly, he turned his head and looked up as well. His eyes, he felt were deceiving him. This couldn't... How? He stood up, confused and hesitant to believe anything. The man felt himself smile upon seeing the obvious distrust, but also the earnest hope in Dick's face, something that would never leave his personality.

The man sighed and spoke, "Alright, I always wanted a husky when I was a kid."

The quirky secret that only they knew. Dick smiled, "Bruce."

Dick wasn't sure how, but he felt his feet move and he ran into Bruce's arms and buried his face in the man's chest. And for the first time, in a long time, Bruce returned the hug and held Dick tightly. Alfred and Leslie came out to see and Gordon watched in disbelief. The unbelievable had happened. Superman and Starfire smiled and watched the reunited father and son share a moment, a much-needed moment, in which they were only aware of one another.

Shock, regret, relief. A mixture of emotions, but neither minded. Bruce was alive. Dick was okay. That was what was important right then. That and nothing else. For an instant, Dick was free from fear. Nothing could harm him. Nothing. He felt... safe.

Finally, they parted and Dick questioned, "How... how are you?"

"Batman rescued me," He said, winking (code for 'I'll explain later'), "He kept me down in the Batcave for the last few months. Said he was tracking a lead and wanted me out of the picture for a while."

Bruce looked Dick over, "You look like a mess."

Dick laughed, and eyed Bruce's hair, which was not quite as long as it use to be, "I'm not the only one."

Bruce smiled, a rare occurrence and turned to face Gordon, "Commissioner, you look flustered."

Gordon slowly nodded, "A bit, a bit, it's uh, good to see you alive, Mr. Wayne."

"Ha, good to be alive," Bruce said.

"Yes, I, I'd think so," Gordon shook his head trying to regain a sense of normalcy, though considering everything, that didn't seem likely, "So, did I hear right? Batman kept you locked up for the past few months?"

"Well, it was fine on my part," Bruce said, making sure to keep Gordon from thinking that Batman had kidnapped him, "He finally let me out after learning about Dick's condition."

"Well, that's uh, that's good to hear. We were planning on taking him to the hospital as soon as the papers were written up..." Gordon started when Alfred and Leslie came over.

"Master Bruce!" Alfred exclaimed, astonished.

"Hi Alfred," Bruce said, "Leslie."

Leslie brought her hands to her face, "Oh, Bruce, I can't believe it!"

Bruce shrugged as she ran over and hugged him. She pulled away back to Alfred and Bruce turned to Gordon again, "Commissioner, would it be alright if I took Dick home to Wayne Manor? Leslie is a highly capable doctor and I trust her that she can take care of him better than any hospital can."

Gordon looked between the four people surrounding him. From Alfred, to Leslie, to Dick, to Bruce. He sighed, "Well, I believe legally that shouldn't be a problem. And it's up to you whether he goes to the hospital, but we will need him to come in for questioning at another time."

"We're fine with that, right Dick?" Bruce said, putting a hand lightly on Dick's shoulder, just in case there might be a bruise there. Dick nodded.

"I'd check with the capes, too," Gordon said, "They've been like hawks since the incident and frankly, it might just be best to keep him here after what happened..."

Bruce looked over at Clark, who nodded, "It's alright on our end as long as we can tag along for a bit, just for security."

"I appreciate it... Dick, you ready to go home?" Bruce said.

Dick smiled and nodded, "Yeah."

"Alfred, would you bring the car around?" Bruce asked.

"Of course sir," Alfred said.

Starfire stood up and followed the four remaining to the front. Somehow, despite the photographers and news crew, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Starfire managed to make a path for Bruce, Dick, and Leslie, while simultaneously keeping people back. It was like they had become security against the papparazzi. Gordon already had men outside, however, keeping people back as they got to the car. The three entered while the three capes flew up into the sky. The four Titans on the roof met up with them.

"What's going on?" Cyborg asked.

"We are heading to the Manor of the Wayne's," Starfire informed them.

"So Alfred got the all clear?" Beast Boy asked, emerging from his hawk form to be caught by Starfire.

"No, Mr. Wayne did," Starfire smiled.

Raven hid her own, "I wondered why Dick suddenly felt so... positive, I guess."

Photographers snapped away, hoping for the shot that would be on tomorrow's front page. They already knew what the headlines would read. But strangely, that wasn't what made Dick feel... uncomfortable. It was being out in the open... Once they had entered the car though, Dick found himself unaware of the paparazzi and a bit more secure. Alfred drove the car like before. Leslie was in the front with him and Bruce in the back. No one asked any questions. They just let things be. Dick leaned against Bruce's arm, fatigue plaguing him. His eyes closed. Bruce watched him out of the corner of his eye.

It was... unexpected, Dick's behavior. After everything he had done... it could be deemed an incredibly self-centered action. And he should have realized what was happening sooner, but he didn't. In the past, he had realized that his work cost him relationships, friends... and yet there were always a few that stayed. How Dick managed to be one of them... he wasn't quite sure.

They arrived at Wayne Manor and Dick lifted his head up. They got out and were accompanied inside by the JLA and the Titans, all of which said something to their respective teammate from Gotham, before stopping in the main room. Bruce turned to Leslie.

"Could you take Dick up to his room and bandage him up?" Bruce asked.

"Wait a second," Diana demanded, "We deserve some explanations, Bruce. Right, Clark?"

Bruce looked over at Clark who gave a brief nod of agreement, "It would be rather nice..."

"Yeah, at least explain to us how you're not dead," Cyborg challenged.

Surprisingly enough, Bruce didn't glare down at Dick's teammate and sighed. "Very well, but considering Dick's condition, he needs to get some rest, so I'll make this short."

Despite hearing the word 'short', everyone present slouched a bit for the story. That's what explanations did sometimes...

"How, how did you live?" Dick asked, "I saw you... get shot... and then the fire..."

Bruce looked down at his ward and answered, "With some preparation and with Fox's help."

"Fox knew you were alive?" Alfred asked.

"No, he didn't, but he is responsible for how I survived the bullets," Bruce replied, "Military and police personnel already have bullet proof vests, but it's not a perfect design. It can still shatter and the shattering metal can kill for the bullet if you're really unlucky. Fox designed a light electric vest that when on, remedies this problem, using magnetics."

"Magnetics?" Diana asked.

"Essentially, it repels the bullet so that it slows down enough so that by the time it hits your chest, it doesn't have enough momentum to injure you," Bruce explained, "It does this at almost the speed of sound and starts to slow the bullets about a foot away from you. Once they hit you they're magnetically stuck to the vest. No harm done."

"But what about the blood? And I saw those things come... out... of your chest..." Dick said, resisting the urge to remember the images.

"That's the other part of the design," Bruce stated, "Fox knew that even if the design could save your heart or lungs, it couldn't save the rest of you. You can still die from a bullet in your thigh or arm and if your opponent doesn't see you bleeding, he's likely to keep shooting until he does."

"So you created... a fake out?" Raven supplemented.

"Exactly," Bruce said, "Inside the chest are compartments that release red fluid through a thin grate once the bullet is stuck to the plate. It's accurate thanks to sensors that detect the highest concentration of electrical magnetic energy. Each sensor has a corresponding side on the other side. It also releases the liquid, but in addition, it shoots out what could be mistaken as a bullet, creating the illusion that the bullet passed through the person's chest."

"And you were wearing this the whole time?" Clark asked, dumbfounded by how Bruce could call that a 'short' explanation.

"Yes, it's still too expensive for the military and... as always... I requested a personal prototype," Bruce stated.

"And you didn't get one for Robin?" Beast Boy asked.

"They take a while to make," Bruce told them, "I figured the most dangerous criminals would shoot at me to get me out of the way. If that happened, it would give Dick time to retreat. However, one was in the process of being made for you and should have been done by the end of that week."

Dick nodded, "And then the... fire?"

"Simple," Bruce said, "Vaseline. Or rather, a very dense thin concentration of Vaseline."

"Care to explain that one?" Diana asked.

"It's a little known fact that Vaseline will keep your skin from burning for one minute, two, max when next to a fire; it creates a barrier between you and the flames. I knew that we were dealing with a pyromaniac, so for a while, I'd been coating my face and hands in a very thin layer of it, just as a precaution, considering my social standing. Alfred noticed how it was affecting my skin negatively at one point, actually," Bruce summed up.

"Oh, yes, I remember that," Alfred trailed off.

"Since you didn't go to public events with me, Dick, I didn't give you any either," Bruce told him, "I used it only for work and public events...didn't save all of my hair, though."

The group glanced at his black hair which, as Dick had noted earlier, wasn't particularly straight and at some points incredibly short. It earned a few smiles before Bruce turned the conversation back to a more serious tone.

"Now, Leslie, will you take Dick up to his room and fix him up? I'll send someone up later," Bruce told her.

Dick turned to him instantly, "Wait, you still..."

"You'll get your answers, Dick," Bruce said, hoping to calm him down, "What I'd like you to do now is go up and get your rest."

The Boy Wonder glared at him for a moment, slightly agitated that he hadn't heard the whole story, but mainly it was the pit in his stomach that was bothering him. Leslie walked over and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Come on, dear," She said.

Finally, Dick nodded and began to walk up the steps towards his room. His room... it was... comforting, to say the least. The rest watched before Bruce immediately turned and headed for his study. The remaining heroes quickly followed.

"You think it's safe to leave him up there?" Diana asked.

"With the security system in this house, we have a few minutes of warning time before anyone can get to Dick's room," Bruce told her, "I have someone I'll send up within that amount of time."

"Who?" Beast Boy asked.

They followed Bruce down the staircase, Clark being slightly cautious after his and Diana's last visit there. The Titans' eyes scanned the place, this being their first time in the Batcave. They didn't have much time to look around, however, as footsteps alerted them to the presence of another person there.

"Well, did you get your kid back?"

All eyes turned to the newcomer who was dressed in a recognizable black skin tight cat suit. Half of those mouths dropped. The women kept their cool.

"He's upstairs. I'd like you to go up to his room and guard him for a few hours or so. I'll send someone to relieve you," Bruce said, loosening his shirt to reveal part of the Batsuit underneath.

"Fine," Catwoman said, "Have fun with the dead guy, everyone."

With that, she sulkily left leaving the JLA members and the Titans extremely shocked. Clark was the first to say anything.

"You let HER know before the rest of us that you were okay?" He asked, "Why did you even stay hidden in the first place?"

"When I became a target, I realized that these arson attacks were far from random. I started searching and found many of the victims had links to the Wayne family through financial means. Some were through charities, others contracts, but they all led to points of power in Wayne Enterprises, many of which were probably forgotten to most. Anyone who didn't have a business relation was in the way, so to speak," Bruce told them.

"So... it was about Wayne Enterprises?" Diana finished.

"Basically, that's what I originally guessed, anyway," Bruce stated. "On that lead, I figured that whoever was behind this was likely a business competitor who had been refused some sort of deal. Top of the list for that was Lex Luthor. That being said, it was to my advantage to let him think that I was dead as he'd be more likely to slip up."

"Um," Starfire started, "Excuse me for a moment, but did Luthor want something from you that would have been necessary to create that machine Superman and I fought in Metropolis?"

"That's exactly what it was," Bruce said, pulling up on the computer screens a design with the label 'Project Xenomineral', "This machine would take radioactive pieces of foreign matter and reconfigure it as solar energy. Luthor must have figured out how to instead increase the output of the mineral's energy instead of convert it to solar energy. In this case, it was kryptonite."

Clark resisted the urge to fume as Bruce finished, "I monitored who Robin's guardian was the entire time. Originally, I had planned that Alfred was to be his guardian, but when Adeline received guardianship, I wasn't too concerned, since we were cousins. I noted when his guardianship was given to Wilson as well, but I didn't see any signs of a Grant Wilson being any trouble. It wasn't until after Luthor's attacks on Metropolis that I realized that something wasn't right."

"Such as?" Beast Boy said sarcastically.

"I couldn't contact Robin when I tried to," Bruce said, pulling the mask on, "That never happens. He always has his communicator with him. I tried several times with no response. In the meantime, I searched up Wilson's history. His company records turned up fake, his name forged, and finally, Adeline's and my own will had been tampered with. When I checked those who had been killed, almost all of them had a link to my will or my parents' will regarding custody or guardianship of minors."

"Adeline's will was changed only in terms of Wilson's first name change to keep everything straight so that he could still claim custody of Dick," Batman continued, "Based on that and Adeline's disappearance, I searched for property records of Wilson's. He had more than you'd expect, to say the least. It looked like he owned a business himself."

"That's what Ollie found odd about him, too," Clark said.

"We found their location around the same time," Batman finished, "Slade had stored mass amounts of weapons below and I set a bomb up to blow it sky high. I got Adeline to safety and once you were present, I let the bomb run out of time. It wouldn't be enough to obliterate anyone, but it would provide a chance to separate everyone. I would have gone and gotten Robin, but you got there before I did. That being said, I took Adeline to the hospital and went straight for the Police Department."

"You don't mind that Slade knows you're alive now?" Raven questioned.

"No, I want him to know I don't die easily," Batman stated.

"So if I'm following you, we couldn't know you were alive because it would have given that information away then to whoever was behind the murders?" Cyborg asked.

Batman gave a brief nod.

"Oh come on!" Cyborg yelled, "This is... This is, really... I hate these ninja-like tactics!"

"Get used to it," Batman said, "I had Catwoman begin to help me a few weeks into December so that I could avoid the spotlight if I ever needed to go out."

"But the Catwoman was fine because she was on neither side?" Starfire asked.

"Yes," Batman answered.

"Do you think Slade will come after him again?" Superman asked.

"Probably, but as for when, I'm not sure," Batman stated, "I'd say sometime when Dick is still incredibly weakened."

"So... soon?" Raven filled in.

Another nod.

"I have set the estate on high alert, sir," Alfred said.

"Speaking of which," Wonder Woman interrupted, "Thanks for locking us out of the Batcave."

"You should know I have defenses like that," Batman told her, "But I do apologize, I was at another base of mine in the city, and thus those defenses were on a higher level than normal."

"Bruce," Clark said, "Please, never do that again."

"Good luck with making me do that," Batman said, and Clark could swear that if it wasn't for his demeanor, Batman would have been smiling.


The quiet monitor beeped away, telling her that her heart was still beating. In some ways, she wished that it wouldn't. Her body ached and her stomach seemed to have been lost at some point. At least the bed was soft. She was in a hospital, Gotham General Hospital to be precise... It was warm in the room, or rather, a good temperature. Not too cold, not too hot. She hoped that she could somehow just doze and slumber...

A breeze hit her face and she tightened her eyes. Did the vent just turn on? She heard footsteps, but something was wrong. There was no sign of a light being turned on. And the shoes.. had metal rims? A hand came to her face and suddenly she heard the monitor speed up a bit. Before she could open her eyes, though, she felt lips against her own. She wanted to panic, but was too tired to do so. Her eyes opened and she saw a figure, the outline was fuzzy, but she knew who it was.

He ended the kiss, "I promise, I'll fix this. I'll make up for tearing up our family. I'll give you one that you can finally have. I promise, Addie."

She wanted to tell him, 'no', but she could only groan. He moved a few strands of hair away from her face.

"Get better," Slade told her.

Adeline barely caught a glimpse of him as he climbed out of the window and into the night, off to do who knew what. She had to warn them. She had to get a hold of Batman. But she physically couldn't and it made her want to scream.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Six: Waking Up

Chapter Thirty-Six: Waking Up

Diana flew her invisible jet across the ocean, the water appearing to part for no reason. Gotham City was within five minutes. Time seemed to slow down. She was gripping the wheel tightly, despite realizing that it wasn't doing her any good. She let out a breath that she had been holding. Superman had called her twenty minutes ago and told her to meet him in Gotham with the intention of finding Robin and bringing him home to Jump. Apparently, he might be under the guardianship of a villain named 'Slade' who had come into conflict with the Teen Titans from time to time.

Even though she wasn't entirely convinced, she agreed to come. But just because she wasn't entirely convinced, it didn't mean that she was worried. Men could be extremely deceitful when they wanted to be. Like Ares or Zeus... And the name change circumstances led her to believe that this wasn't likely to occur by random chance. Something was wrong... She saw Gotham over the horizon. Finally.

Speeding ahead, she radioed in to the local Airport. Despite Bruce's death, she knew that the likelihood of her safely landing the invisible jet at Wayne Manor was highly unlikely. Plus, at least on the runway at the airport, her jet would be protected by her diplomatic status.

"This is Diana Prince, requesting permission to land," She called in to the local airport control.

"Diana Prince you are clear to land... we think..." the airport traffic controller replied.

"Thank you," Wonder Woman called and landed her jet, parking it off to the side and out of the way.

As she exited the jet, apparently appearing out of nowhere, she took to the sky to meet Superman downtown. On the north end of Gotham, Superman and Starfire found themselves entering the city that was just slipping beneath the blanket of night sky. Starfire found herself willing to speed ahead, though she didn't know exactly where to go. She wished that Superman would hurry on ahead. She could keep up...

"Are you alright?" Superman asked.

Starfire shook her head, "I am dreadfully worried. You do not know how far Slade will push the Titans to our limits, especially Robin..."

"I take it he is Robin's 'arch-enemy'?" Superman asked.

"I..." Starfire paused before nodding, "Yes..."

They flew in silence for a moment before Superman spoke again, "Don't worry. We'll get him out of there, if it is him... What does Slade look like?"

"He is always wearing a mask, so none of the Titans know how he actually appears without one," She stated, "But he only has one eye..."

"That's odd," Superman stated, "Wilson had two eyes... Maybe Slade is blind in one eye, so he just covers the other one."

Starfire shrugged when she saw someone else appearing to meet them in the sky, "Wonder Woman?"

Superman looked ahead and the three of them stood in the sky, "How was the ride?"

"Choppy," She said bitterly, "Starfire, right?"

"Oh, yes," Starfire stated, "It is nice to meet you."

Wonder Woman smiled at her and nodded, "I understand that you think Robin might be in trouble."

"Yeah, I wanted back up just in case," Superman told her, "We're going to Wilson's house. If they're there, then we'll see if we can handle this without causing an uproar..."

"Meaning?" Wonder Woman asked, not convinced.

"Meaning we try to talk to Robin and Wilson and at the same time try to gather evidence against or in defense of Wilson," Superman stated.

"Some plan," Wonder Woman remarked.

"It's more likely that they're not there," Superman said.

"In which case, I'm going to rip the handle off of the door and we'll let ourselves in," Wonder Woman remarked sarcastically.

Starfire looked between the two, worried, as Wonder Woman didn't seem to be buying the plan. Finally Superman nodded to end the silence, "Let's go."

The three shot straight for uptown Gotham. Below, most of the streets were empty, a surprise in some ways. They landed on the street in front of Wilson's townhouse. The lights were off and it didn't appear that anyone was home. Superman X-Ray-ed the place.

"No one's home," He said.

"Then let's let ourselves in," Wonder Woman said.

"Just don't break anything," Superman begged.

Wonder Woman rolled her eyes. They walked up to the door and Wonder Woman jiggled the door handle, only to break it. Superman gave her a look that said 'I just told you not to break anything'. In response, she kicked the door down.

"Diana!" He yelled.

"Oh give me a break," She said, "You don't do this when it's Luthor and if Dick's in trouble..."

Starfire passed them and called into the house, "Robin! Robin! Dick! Are you here?"

She flew upstairs. Superman and Wonder Woman watched her fly up before nodding at each other and going separate ways throughout the house. On the top floor, Starfire noticed the first door open and peaked inside. Instantly she recognized Robin's laptop on the messy bed along with a few birdarangs falling out of place from a duffel bag. Something was wrong. Robin would never be so careless... unless he was in a hurry. She felt her stomach drop. 'Robin...' She thought. Starfire got up from the floor and left the room. Superman met her at the top of the stairs.

"You find anything?" He asked.

Starfire nodded, "Robin... He was in a hurry when they left. His equipment is on the floor in plain sight. He would not do that unless..."

She stopped and Superman glanced inside with his X-Ray vision, "Makes sense... We have to figure out where they went, though."

Starfire nodded before continuing down the hallway to the second room. This one was bigger. The master bedroom. She glided inside. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but it was unsettling all the same. Then she noticed the door to the bathroom. She let herself in and saw that the bulbs had burned out a while ago. It was dark and there were no windows. She began to light a starbolt in her hand when she knocked her arm against the side of the sink.

Starfire pulled back her arm, massaging what felt like a bruise. Thankfully, she was more resiliant than a human being. But that was when she heard something fall to the floor as well. It hit her foot. Glancing down, she picked up the round object only to find a glass eye staring back at her. She gasped and dropped the eye to the floor again.

"What is it?" Superman asked.

"He was using a fake eye..." Starfire called, "It is him."

She flew out to the hallway, "We must find Robin. He is in danger, he is..."

Superman nodded and pulled out his com-link to the watchtower, "Green Arrow? Martian Manhunter?"

"Superman, what is it?" Martian Manhunter asked, "You sound distressed."

"Is Green Arrow up there?" Superman asked back.

"I'm here," Green Arrow answered, through what seemed like a mouth full of chips, "What's up Supes?"

"Remember that Wilson guy I had you look up? Do you have a list of places that guy owns or has lived at?" Superman questioned.

"Man, that's a lot of places," Ollie said, "He was in the Army, remember?"

"Then currently," Superman clarified.

"I'm on it," Green Arrow said, pushing himself over on the rolling chair to the first available computer.

"What's the urgency?" Martian Manhunter asked.

"I spoke to Starfire of the Teen Titans and we think that Mr. Wilson might be a criminal named Slade," Superman told them.

"Wow, you are always right about people, aren't you?" Green Arrow called from across the room.

Wonder Woman came up the stairs, holding a mask in her hand, "Is this what Slade looks like?"

Starfire nodded upon seeing the mask and Superman rubbed his temple, "I wish I wasn't always… Arrow... Look, can you contact Mr. Pennyworth and get him to fill out whatever legal documents he'll need to get Dick back into custody of whoever is safest?"

"Of course," Martian Manhunter asked, "Will you be needing any back up?"

"I've got Wonder Woman and Starfire here, I think we'll be alright," Superman told him.

"Very well, but if you need us, call," Martian Manhunter told him.

"Got it!" Green Arrow called, "He's got, go figure, seven places. Geez, why didn't I make the connection before?"

"Probably because you're you," Wonder Woman remarked sarcastically.

Green Arrow attempted to not take the insult to heart, "Well, missy miss, Wilson has five places or so, pricey too, not too far from Gotham. Actually, they might even be in it, don't know where the boundaries end... I'll send you the addresses and a homing signal. Good luck!"

"Will do," Superman said, "Let's go."

Starfire and Wonder Woman nodded, all three flying out of the house and off towards the direction presented to them on the com link. The downside to their rather quick departure was that none of them noticed that there had been a security system installed in the townhouse.

Back up in the Watchtower, Ollie and J'onn preceded to follow orders. Ollie started scanning the phone listings for Batman's contacts while J'onn began to search Gotham's database for the appropriate documentations needed to get Dick back into the custody of...

"Found him! Think he's still up at this hour? I mean, he's kinda gaining years isn't he?" Ollie called.

"Try him anyway," J'onn told him, "Thankfully with evidence against Wilson it's possible to attain custody of Grayson. Otherwise, this wouldn't be an option..."

"I figured," Ollie said, waiting while the phone rang.

Down at Gotham's Central Library, Leslie and Alfred sat over various books searching for something that could help them. They had been coming several nights a week hoping to find a loophole or something that could help them make sense of Bruce's will. So far, they had come up with a massive amount of documentation regarding the Waynes. It wasn't surprising, though, considering the Waynes' legacy in Gotham. That, however, had led them to sifting through piles of information night after night until they were kicked out when the library closed.

"Alfred," Leslie said.

"Huh?" Alfred asked, half-asleep.

"Your phone is vibrating," She said.

"Oh," Alfred said, picking up the cell phone that he had silenced upon entering the library, "Hello?"

"Mr. Pennyworth?"

"Yes, who is this?" Alfred asked.

"It's Oliver Queen calling, aka the big G.A.," Ollie said, talking a bit too casually for the former butler's liking.

"Um, may I ask why you are calling Mr. Queen?" Alfred inquired.

"Alright, Mr. Pennyworth, you're probably closest to Dick Grayson, right?" He asked.

"I... in what way?" Alfred asked.

"Well, look, we think Dick might be in a situation where he will need to be placed in another's custody very soon and we don't want him going to a foster home," Ollie began explaining.

"Wait, why?" Leslie asked, as she had been listening in.

"To make a long story short, Dick might be in the custody of one of those big... bad... super-villains," Ollie slowed as he saw J'onn giving him a look that said 'be at least a little gentle'.

"What?" Alfred asked.

"Yeah, so look, can we send over a few legal papers for you to fill out and have ready... like, yeah?" Ollie asked.

"Yes, yes of course," Alfred said, "I'll pick them up from Wayne Manor right away."

"Alright, thanks Mr. Pennyworth! G.A. out."

With that Ollie hung up and J'onn sent the documents to the manor. It took twice as long as normal, though with everything being sent, it wasn't a surprise to him.

Alfred closed the phone and looked over at Leslie, "I best get there as soon as possible."

"I'm coming with you, who knows how much paperwork they're sending you," Leslie stated.

They rushed out of the library before it was closing time for the first time in a long while. Their resources were still strewn across the tables as they had left them. The pages ruffled in the wind from the window opened above them. The sound of footsteps that started from the window and began making their way over to the shelf stopped. The guest looked at the open pages. Maybe this would be of some use...


Adeline's heals clicked down the oak floors of the hallway. She had already had dinner (for once, alone) for the night, but her stomach wouldn't settle. So to pull herself out of the slump, she had decided to walk to the kitchen and have a bowl of ice cream. At least the brain freeze would distract her from her constant impatience. She opened the fridge to find her favorite flavor on the side of the door. Peanut butter cup and chocolate. She rolled her eyes. Of course he'd have it. She had been the only one to actually like it, after all.

She grabbed the container and pulled a spoon and bowl from the cabinets. She served herself a scoop and slowly dug her way into it. She let the peanut butter stick to the roof of her mouth while she slowly paced around the room. She spooned a bit of ice cream into her mouth again when the door opened, revealing the other three residents of the estate.

"Wintergreen, could you prepare a light dinner for tonight?" Slade asked.

Wintergreen nodded and began to work in the kitchen. The other three, Adeline included, left for the dining room.

"Robin," Slade said and the boy looked up, "Go ahead and change, you worked hard tonight."

Robin nodded and left without a word. After his collapse around noon that day, he slept a little bit before getting up and going with Slade in the gym to develop some sparring techniques. It was only now that they had finished. As Robin left the room, Adeline turned her attention back to her ice cream, finishing it a bit... quicker than she normally would. Brain freeze plagued her for a moment before she set the bowl on the counter window that led to the kitchen.

"Your favorite?" Slade asked.

Adeline cast a glance towards him, "Sure. Why not?"

With that, she left the room. But after the door closed, she stayed in the hall and waited. She didn't have to wait long. Robin rounded the corner within minutes. He stalled upon seeing her.

"Ms. Kane?" He asked.

The slight indifference in his voice bothered her slightly. She wished he had said her name a bit more venomously, especially after... what he had seen the other day.

"Robin," She said, walking up to him, not knowing where to begin, "What... what happened in there? The other day? What did he say to you?"

Robin's mouth was left ajar as he stuttered, "I... what... what are you referring..."

"You do remember don't you?" Adeline asked him, "That fight in the main room the other night?"

"Yes," Robin replied, "I... I remember it."

"What did he say to you?" Adeline asked again.

Robin merely shrugged, wordless, though it was apparent that he was trying to respond, "He... Master said a lot of things..."

"Master?" Adeline repeated, "Why... why would you call him that?"

Robin looked at her in shock and confusion, "Because... because that's... that's what he is..."

Adeline's mouth fell, "Robin, Dick, why, how could... What about Bruce? What about Batman? How could you say that after everything that he did for you?"

"Bruce..." Robin repeated, he brought a hand up to his head.

That's when Adeline realized what had happened. In instances or moments in which a life is threatened, often to comply with demands that might seem unethical or inhumane, a person will suppress such urges for justice. Though she couldn't fathom Slade actually threatening Robin's life, all things considered, she could see Robin seeing Slade as doing such. And if something, an urge, so to speak, was repressed... it had to come from his memories of Bruce.

"Yes, Bruce," Adeline repeated, "I don't know what Slade said to you, but Robin... you've got to believe me, you're more than him."

Robin watched her, as though standing on shaky ground, "Him?"

"Slade. You're so much more than him. Batman would agree with me and he'd hate to see you in a situation like this," Adeline said, "You have no... I remember emails from Bruce where he'd praise you. They were quiet and subtle, but knowing him, I knew he was proud of you and cared about you."

Robin felt flashes of his memories enter his mind. Slowly, some were fuzzy, but they were coming back...

"Don't, don't throw your life away," Adeline said to him, "You really... you can beat him."

She looked him in the face, his mask revealing little to her. But what more could she say? She brought a hand up to her face as she took a step back.

"Just, think, think about what I said," She told him, before letting him go and walked in the opposite direction down the hall.

Robin watched her disappear around the corner. He looked at the floor in silence. Batman... Bruce... He started walking again.

'You're more than him.'

Her words echoed in his mind, relentless, unshakable... Somehow, he felt something that he dared not say. Maybe... could she be...



Inside the G.C.P.D. Gordon felt his eyes begin to drop. Despite what Barbara told him, the fact was that the long nights were getting to him. He opened the door of his office to see Sawyer, Bullock, and Yin outside. Sawyer and Bullock stopped arguing when they saw him.

"Heading out, Commissioner?" Yin asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," Gordon said, "Goodness knows, I'll collapse if I keep working in the office."

Bullock laughed and Yin and Sawyer smiled. Then the sound of the fax machine from Gordon's office alerted them. Gordon rolled his eyes.

"Of course," He said.

He put his bag to the side and went to read the fax. It suddenly got quiet. Gordon felt his stomach drop and his eyes began to grow.

"Commissioner?" Bullock asked.

Gordon turned around, "Sawyer, get me seven cars of men and the S.W.A.T. team."

"What's up?" She asked.

"I think we just found our serial killer," Gordon said, "It's Wilson."

"Wilson?" Yin asked, "As in, Dick Grayson's guardian Wilson?"

Gordon nodded, "Here's the address, it's on the outskirts of the city, off the islands. Let's move."

The four dispersed and proceeded to cars and to call those that they needed. Gordon got in his car with Yin and gripped the steering wheel as he turned on the car. Heading straight for the raised highways, Gordon surpassed the speed limit, following the quickest route.

This was so bad.


Inside the main room, Slade finished another email, satisfied. It was always good to keep up with others in his field. Robin sat at the dinner table, waiting without a word. Wintergreen opened the door and Slade thanked him, though he continued to work at the laptop.

Robin thanked Wintergreen as well, though he had somehow... lost his appetite... He kept thinking about Ms. Kane and what she had said. Bit by bit, things were coming back. Things that he hadn't thought about, no maybe, refused to think about, were coming to light. This, what he was doing and what was happening to him, it was wrong. He shouldn't be Slade's apprentice because... he didn't want to be. It was wrong. He knew it was.

He stopped moving his fork around his dish. New emotions suddenly burst into his system. He was suddenly very angry. Somewhat with himself, but mostly at Slade. What kind of sick... He started to cut his food with a knife. He knew that Slade was right behind him to the side. And he still thought that...

"Robin?" Slade asked.

'Fake it,' He told himself, "Yes?"

"Something wrong?" He asked, "You're not eating."

"Hm?" Robin turned to his dish and realized the same thing, "Oh, sorry."

"Don't be, but you should get some food in you, after what happened this afternoon," Slade told him, returning to take into inventory of the new supplies that he had stored in the basement.

Beneath the mask, Robin rolled his eyes. Yeah, sure. Whatever. Like Slade cared.

He took a few bites before returning to his previous thought process. Why should he be here? Why? He should get out of here. Do something... He was so angry and so humiliated. He wanted to pick a fight.

And hey, why not?

It's not like he had anything to lose.

"Is that all you care about?" Robin asked bitterly.

Slade froze. The tone and words that had come from Robin's mouth automatically alerted him to a rebellious spirit in the teen.

"What makes you say that?" Slade asked calmly, as though not hearing anything.

Robin stood up, "Well, I'm just a robot or something to you, right? All you care about is if I can do a job. You don't care about my morale, that's for sure, otherwise you wouldn't be training me for this sort of work."

Slade walked over to him, standing a good foot taller than the teen.

"I'm right, aren't I?" Robin asked.

Slade's eye narrowed and Robin took his chance. He thrust the knife forward, but Slade caught him before he could ever tear the skin and sent Robin flying across the table. Before Robin could move, Slade held his wrists behind him.

"Now what was that for, Robin?" He asked.

Robin twisted his arms and pulled free of Slade's grasp. Immediately he dropped to the floor and rolled out to the other side of the table. Slade watched as Robin rose to fight. Despite himself, he smiled, the thrill back. He could see the spirit in Robin's face. He didn't even need to see his eyes.

"I don't know, why did you kill that deer? Why did you kill Bruce?" Robin asked back.

Slade laughed, "I'm not sure if I should be happy about your enthusiasm or not."

Robin growled and lunged forward to kick Slade in the chest, but he was once again thrown across the room, to the windows this time. Instantly, the teen got up in a crouched stance, ready to dodge if necessary.

"Logically," Slade continued, "I shouldn't because you're defying me."

He moved forward and landed a good punch to Robin's gut. Robin landed on the floor, but rolled away and flipped up, standing right behind Slade, prompting a fist fight.

"However, your focus and drive," Slade said as he dodged and redirected Robin's attacks, "Impress me."

He caught hold of Robin's hand and his arm, locking him out of an easy attack. But then again, Robin knew life was never easy. He elbowed Slade in the ribs and kicked at his feet. However, instead of the older fighter falling alone, they both fell. Robin shook his head when he felt a hand gripping the back of his shirt. Slade wasn't letting him out of this one. Then something buzzed on his belt...

Out of the corner of Robin's eye, he saw something glint in the room's lighting. He reached and grabbed hold. No longer resisting, he let Slade drag him back only to use it so that he had a knee on top of his opponent's chest. He held Slade's left arm down as well. The knife that he had been using earlier and had been thrown across the room in the midst of the fight was in his hand, which he held above Slade, ready to plunge into skin at a moment's notice. Robin's face contorted, anger fueling him, but for once, he was thinking of how to win; how to beat Slade. It was the only way out...

But to his surprise, Slade chuckled, "You're darker than I thought, Robin."

Robin looked at him, confused and then he saw Slade eying the knife as he continued, "Are you really going to kill me?"

Robin looked at the knife and suddenly realized what he was doing. He dropped the knife and it clattered to the wood floor. Slade took the opportunity to push Robin off and stand up above him. Robin slowly stood up, edging away from the knife when he felt a harsh slap to the face.

"Don't you dare do that again," Slade told him harshly.

The teen felt another hard slap to the face. His moment of shock gone and now worry came into play. Such a great plan. Suddenly, he remembered why he didn't go picking fights often, especially with Slade since they nearly always ended badly. Slade grabbed him by the front of the shirt.

"You know better than that," Slade whispered, "Or do I have to remind you what happens when you defy me?"

Robin's eyes widened and he attempted to get out of Slade's grasp. This was bad. Outside of the Estate, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Starfire landed outside hidden in the woods. This was the fourth residence that they were checking. Luck was not on their side that night, it seemed.

"Anyone in there?" Wonder Woman asked, "At least the lights are on this time."

Superman X-Ray-ed the place and instantly found the fight unraveling in the main room, "It's Robin, he's in there!"

"What?" Starfire asked, "Is he..."

Superman's face turned to shock and Starfire got her answer, "Robin..."

"Come on, let's go," Wonder Woman said, "There's no time to waste!"

Superman nodded and the three flew up into the sky to enter through the roof. Inside, Slade felt an alarm buzz in his belt and looked up just as half the ceiling came down. Robin covered his face and as the dust settled, he saw two green orbs penetrate the smoke.

"Starfire?" He asked, incredulous.

Three figures emerged and Robin felt his heart lift for the first time in ages, "Superman? Wonder Woman?"

Superman spoke first, "We're here for Robin."

Slade's eye narrowed, "I figured."

Suddenly,  Robin felt himself being pulled back and held by Slade. He struggled, but this time, Slade knew that they were in the middle of combat and wasn't holding back in the slightest.

"Robin!" Starfire yelled.

"Starfire-" He started, but was cut off.

"I don't see any reason for me to comply, though," Slade told them, "You see... I've been searching for years, for the perfect apprentice. And since then, Robin's been the only one to meet all of the credentials. He is both physically capable...

He gestured to Robin. Their attention centered on Robin's form and toned muscle. The three heroes felt their stomach drop and Robin shivered.

He grimaced as he felt Slade grab his chin, "And mentally ready, for such training."

Superman growled, "You twisted..."

"I'm only doing the same thing Batman did," Slade commented, his voice clearly unconcerned.

"How dare you," Wonder Woman said, "Batman never..."

"Took a boy in solely for the purpose of training him to fight?" Slade said, "Stop before you embarrass yourself."

"Let him go!" Starfire yelled, "We out number you and are not afraid to fight you..."

Slade eyed her, "The only Titan present; why am I not surprised?"

Robin watched, desperate to free himself. Slade smiled beneath the mask, "I suppose I understand your concern."

Robin suddenly thought of Ms, Kane. Where was she? On the opposite side of the estate, Adeline had heard the sound of the roof collapsing, but wasn't sure what the sound was. It had disturbed her slightly, but she hadn't paid any heed to it until she saw a cloud of dust outside of the window. What was going on? She left and began running down to the main room. She turned a corner when she heard her name.


"Who..." She started, but was cut off.

"It's time to go."

She eyed the figure slightly, but nodded and followed them as they led the way. It wasn't Slade, so how much did she have to lose? Back in the main room, the three heroes stood across from Slade, having made no sudden movements to start up a fight.

Finally Wonder Woman spoke, "Give it up, Slade. You're outnumbered."

"Really?" Slade said, pulling something out of his belt.

It was a rock that glowed green. Wonder Woman repressed the urge to roll her eyes. Great. Just great. Why did Superman have to announce it to the whole world that his vulnerability was Kryptonite? Just why? Because Lois Lane asked him, that's why. Sheesh...

"I think it's two on two," Slade said, noticing Superman beginning to feel sick.

"Two on..." Wonder Woman started.

"Robin, take Starfire," Slade whispered.

"No!" Robin yelled.

"Do it or I kill your other loved ones," Slade told him.

"Leave him out it!" Wonder Woman demanded.

Superman held his head, the loud shouting beginning to give him a headache. He could hear sirens from far away and there was also this annoying beeping sound that was increasing in speed coming from... below? He used his X-Ray vision and searched below only to find explosives. There was no time left.

'Oh no.' He thought.


They all went flying as the blast erupted and destroyed the house. Slade lost his grasp on Robin and they went into different directions. He screamed briefly before hitting the hard wet ground and rolling until he hit the side of a tree. The force of impact made him dizzy, though he could see red and blue lights to his right and could hear the crackling of burning wood. The others they had... to be okay... He lifted his arm, but found no energy left in him. No... His hand dropped and the teen wonder lost consciousness as the estate blazed and burned.

End Of Part Five

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Five: Connections

Chapter Thirty-Five: Connections

The stiff smell of pine seemed frozen in the air. But it was nice… in a way. In another, it didn't matter. Robin climbed over a few rocks, following closely behind Slade. There was a mist covering the woods while the only sounds came from the sticks that they stepped on - if they stepped on them. For the most part, they were each equally silent. Robin didn't know why they were out here in the first place, but he didn't say anything.

Adeline was behind them, not much so caring where they were going or how much sound they made. Her intense anger at Slade had returned and while her first instinct had been to stay at the estate, upon hearing that Robin would be coming with Slade, she immediately volunteered to come. Slade had no objections. Even if Robin had given up on her, she knew that wasn't a reason to stop keeping an eye on things, especially after everything that had happened and Robin's... sudden change. She wasn't going to stand by and let things happen. She couldn't afford to because at this point, who else could she rely on?

So out of the three, only one of them knew what they were doing out here. He liked it that way, too. Slade glanced to his side to see Robin behind him. Not trying to run, not struggling, just obeying orders. He smiled.

"Robin, let's see how well you can trail me," Slade said and Robin looked up; Slade turned to their third party member, "We won't go far, Adeline."

With that, Slade was off. Or rather, they were off, as Robin's actions were almost immediate. As Slade blazed through the forest, Robin ran and darted through it just as easily. A bit less forcefully and more on the swifter side, but that was how Robin did everything. Slade moved so that he was maybe seven feet ahead of his apprentice. Glancing back, he watched Robin's motions.

There was... something. Something that he couldn't place that felt... off. It was probably because Robin hadn't been out in a good month. Finally, he found a rock formation and landed on it, stopping in his tracks. Robin was by his side in half a second, standing up straight and staring downward at the ground. Slade looked to the side, his own adrenaline rushing.

Robin looked up at him and Slade chuckled, "You don't let yourself lag behind, do you?"

The Boy Wonder was about to shake his head once, but instead he looked at the ground when they heard a familiar voice behind them as Adeline ran to catch up.

"You call that 'not far'?" She asked.

"I never said that you had to follow us," Slade replied, "We would have come back."

Adeline rolled her eyes, "I don't doubt that you would, but I'm not about to lose either of you."

Slade glanced off into the distance, "Do you think that you could be a bit quieter, Adeline?"

"Excuse me?" She asked, astonished.

"Shh..." Slade whispered, while waving the Boy Wonder over, "Robin."

Robin followed without a word, as he and Slade walked down a small edge into a stream bed. Standing on the sandy mud, Slade pointed ahead of them, where upstream a fawn stood grazing, lapping the water with her baby next to her. Robin watched them with some interest, though he couldn't help but wonder why Slade had brought his attention to them. That's when he saw Slade slowly bring out a gun from his pocket.

Robin's eyes went wide, "What..."

Slade showed him the gun model, "Normally, I'd use something larger, but this works just as well."

He held it out to Robin who looked at it like it was a foreign object. Above, them, Adeline leaned over, watching in shock. Slade smirked and placed it in Robin's hands and suddenly, for reasons Robin couldn't quite discern, he felt himself go stiff. He felt Slade cover his own hands and bring the gun up to eye level and out.

"Take a shot," Slade said, "It's good practice."

Robin looked over at him, entirely at a loss. What he... Take a shot? Why did this not feel right? Why couldn't he? He felt his finger jam in the gun, making him nervous. He took his fingers out of place and shakily tried to put them back in correctly. Slade looked up at the fawn and the baby and then down to Robin, who was obviously was having trouble. Perhaps this was moving too quickly...

He placed a hand on Robin's shoulder and Robin looked up, panicked, "It's alright."

"You can take a shot when you're ready," Slade said, taking the gun from Robin.

Suddenly, Robin began to feel relief as the gun was taken out of his hand. But it was cut short with a sudden 'BANG'. Robin looked up to see that Slade had taken aim and fired. Up ahead, the fawn had fallen into the stream and the baby had taken off scared. Blood began to trickle down the stream until it reached Robin's hand, and he fell back as Slade walked ahead to clean the deer enough to carry it back to the estate.

Once he did that, Slade glanced back to see Robin still sitting in shock. He walked back and held out a hand and Robin knew that he was to follow. The mastermind went back to the fawn and lifted it up over his shoulders. Robin watched. He felt that he should say something. Apologize, explain, but he couldn't. And Slade could tell. He could tell that Robin was struggling. He chose to leave it for now.

From across the way, Adeline watched, her eyes narrowed at the dead deer. She had never liked the fact that Slade was a hunter, but as long as she wasn't present, she was normally fine with it. But there was another thing on her mind: Robin's behavior. And she knew that it was on Slade's mind as well. The three began walking back to the Estate. Adeline glanced up at the two in front of her every now and then. She knew that Slade could tell that Robin was uneasy and that there was something different about him. 'Well, good,' she thought, 'Good.'


Outside, the crisp air beat against the residents of Gotham, most just trying to get to work. As it was early in the morning, most were half dazed and still tired from the night before. It was no surprise if one was bumped into. In that way, it was an advantage to be fairly large in stature. Thus Wade DeFarge was one of the few lucky ones who could make his way through the crowd. He was done with this city. Long done. No money, no point, it was a stupid job to take. In a lot of ways, he didn't understand why he took it in the first place. The anonymous were always bound to give you trouble.

Wade crossed the street towards the monorail line which would take him to the airport. He walked around to the elevator where he saw a sign hanging from the side reading 'Out Of Order'. Great. Now he had to take the stairs, which was only about four stories worth of climbing. He could do it. sure, but in the mood that he was in, he really didn't want-

"Huhh!?" He yelled.

Wade felt himself being slammed against the wall of the alley he had walked passed previously.

"Wade DeFarge."

"You picked the wrong day to mess with me," Wade said, before twisting out of his captor's grip and turning to land a punch.

However, his attacker was quicker and for some reason, in a fouler mood than he was. Grabbing him by his shirt and throwing him to the ground, Red X picked DeFarge up and rammed him into the wall once again, holding him there.

"Where's Ms. Kane?" He demanded.

"Who?" Wade asked.

"Adeline Kane!" Red X yelled, "I know you're Ravager, DeFarge, what did you do to her?"

"I didn't do anything! I haven't seen her in years!" Wade spat.

"Don't lie to me!" Red X hissed, "What did you do to her?"

"I swear!"

"Then where is she?" Red X asked.

"Do you think I keep tabs on her?" Wade yelled back, fighting off the headache he was getting.

Red X glared at him, so angry that he couldn't make sense of it, "Who did you work for?"

"Some guy, I don't know. I hate you anonymous lot, you know, I do," Wade rambled. Red X threw him to the ground.

"You only killed Wayne. So whoever got to Adeline was probably the person who killed everyone else..." Red X said, mostly to himself.

"Why did you take the job?" Red X inquired, finally turning his attention back to Ravager.

"Like I'd tell you," Ravager spat.

Red X kneed him in the stomach and Ravager repressed the urge to chuck his lunch, "I don't know, you've told me a lot already..."

"Fine! It was Deathstroke! Deathstroke was gonna kill Wayne and I got to it before he did!" Wade told him, "I hate that man, I hate him!"

"Yeah, yeah, go get some therapy," Red X said, beginning to walk off.

"Hope Adeline's dead, you rat! I hope they're all dead!" Wade yelled.

Red X stopped cold in his tracks and turned around, "You're going to regret getting on my nerves."

Wade's malicious grin suddenly fell from his face. Ten minutes later outside the G.C.P.D. Wade was tied up to the front steps, a red X keeping him there tied securely. He looked up to a building rooftop to see a smug look on Red X's face.

"Told you, you'd regret it," Red X said, walking off.

"RAT!" DeFarge screamed from below, but Red X ignored him.

So Deathstroke was involved. That meant that he was probably behind the other killings and probably behind... Adeline's disappearance, assuming Red X's logic made sense. He had his suspicions for a while now, anyway... In that case, there was no way that he had killed her. Just, no way, but why would he make her 'disappear' for a lack of a better word in the first place...? The police had said that Adeline was related to Wayne and Adeline had been working on securing Wayne Enterprises as well as taking care of... Red X's eyes widened. No way... But hadn't Deathstroke always... Despite the thin possibility... Why would Deathstroke want anything to do with Wayne's kid...?

It was time to go back to the archives. He would make sense of this because in no way was he just going to sit idly by without knowing just what exactly was going on. He smirked. Action, mystery, danger; he was beginning to like Gotham.


The feeling of soft sheets met her fingers as she twisted her head from side to side, eventually grabbing the sheets in her fists in an attempt to get a grip on her surroundings. Though she really couldn't do that if unless she opened her eyes, now could she? Starfire wearily managed to bring open her eyes to meet the bright white light in the room. Slowly, they adjusted and she found herself in a room with the walls made out white crystal. Even the bed, all crystal. The red, blue, yellow and white sheets were the only things that held any color. She sat up and held her head. Where was she?

Starfire pulled the sheets aside and instantly felt a chill in the air. She hovered over to a hook where a blue robe hung and draped it over herself; it was cold... She glided over to the door and twisted the knob. Hopefully there would be allies nearby... A few hallways down, Superman stood in the main hall talking to Ollie over the JLA com-link.

"Sorry, Supes, but I really got nothing on this Grant guy. Born and bred Army man, though his income seems to be a bit above average, but then again, he was in a special unit division. The only thing that I could find that was a bit weird was that he randomly changed his name at some point. It was originally Slade or something..." Green Arrow informed him and then upon seeing his comrade's disheartened face, added again, "Sorry, man. Don't worry though, we'll all figure this out."

"It's all right," Superman told him, "Thanks again, Ollie."

"No prob, and hey how's the Tamaranian holding up? I heard about what happened in Metropolis," Green Arrow asked.

"She seems to be recovering well; she's strong," Superman told him, "I better go check on her, see if she woke up or not."

"Alright, Ollie out," Green Arrow said and the line disconnected.

Superman grimaced. Another dead end... well, there would always be another lead... at least, he hoped... He turned at the sound of the door opening to reveal a confused Starfire, but upon seeing him, she relaxed. He smiled and walked over to her.

"Princess Koriand'r of the planet Tamaran," He said, bowing slightly, "On behalf of my people of Krypton, I welcome you to the Fortress of Solitude. Are you feeling better?"

Starfire brought a hand to her chest and nodded, knowing the formalities, "Oh, yes, I, thank you."

"You're quite welcome," Superman said, "You took quite a hit back in Metropolis."

Starfire smiled modestly, "Oh, no more than what could be expected..."

"Well, thank you. Luthor might have gotten away with that thing otherwise," He told her gesturing to a table for them to sit at.

"Luthor?" Starfire asked.

Superman grabbed a newspaper from the table and handed it to her. The title read "LUTHOR CAUGHT!" below the Daily Planet's logo. The article was by a woman named Lois Lane. She scanned the article that went on about not only her defeating the machine in Metropolis, but also businessman Lex Luthor's part behind the contraption and his probable reasons for creating it.

"So... it was Luthor who had that machine built?" Starfire asked.

"Apparently. Doesn't surprise me though," Superman told her, "We've thought for weeks that something might be up with him."

"He must have been the one to steal Cyborg's technology designs!" Starfire stated, "They were stolen a while ago!"

Superman nodded, "It looked familiar now that you mention it... What I don't get was how he got his hands on Kryptonite."

"Your weakness?" Starfire asked.

"Yes and an irritating one at that," Superman told her as she nodded and held her hands, "But something tells me that you were not just in the neighborhood..."

Starfire shook her head, "I... I was originally going to go to Gotham. To see if I could... find Robin, convince him to come home..."

"You're not the only one worried about him," Superman said gently.

"Then why is no one doing anything?" Starfire asked, standing up, "I cannot ask my friends for they are part of it and I do not want them to take offense, but I do not see the point in just waiting! Why... why are humans like this...?"

She sat down and held her head in her hands, "I do not understand..."

Superman watched as Starfire brought her hands down and hugged herself, "May I offer a possible explanation?"

Starfire looked up and he continued, "They're all just as worried, but humans especially, they look to those who have many qualities that they admire for leadership and guidance... I guess that's why Superheroes provide such a … beacon of hope, as Wonder Woman would say. Perhaps your team, and my own, are just at a loss without their leaders."

"But are you not the leader of the League of Justice?" Starfire asked.

Superman shook his head, "Batman was the real head. He led us in almost everything. Not everything is about having superpowers."

Starfire smiled, "I know. Robin... He would prove so capable that we almost forgot that... I would sometimes forget that he was human... But what do we do now? We do not have our leaders, so do our teams remain lost?"

The Man of Steel stood up and leaned against the chair, thinking, "No. I will not let that happen to the JLA and I don't think you will let that happen to the Titans."

"Huh?" She asked.

"You were originally going to Gotham to find Robin, right?" Superman asked, "I think you're right. He needs to be with you and the Titans. It's not good for him to stay in Gotham."

"But I do not know where to find him," Starfire said, "I only know that his new guardian's name is Grant Wilson..."

"Have the Titans and JLA compared notes at all?" Superman asked out of the blue.

Starfire thought, "I do not think so, if you are inquiring about Robin's current situation."

"Hmmm... Do you have a way of knowing if your team would have anything on Mr. Wilson?" Superman asked.

Starfire flipped out her communicator and typed in the search bar 'Grant Wilson'. After loading she looked up and shook her head, "We have nothing on such a man... Why do you ask?"

Superman shook his head, "I went over to meet him the other day and... well, I don't think that he liked me very much. I can't say I got good vibes from him either and I think that aside from Robin's own preference to stay in Gotham for his mentor's work's sake, convincing Mr. Wilson to let Robin move back to the west coast would be our greatest challenge in getting him back with you and the others."

"Oh..." Starfire stated, "I... I have not met his new guardian. Do you have any other reason though to suspect that he would create that kind of block the road?"

"I had Green Arrow look into the guy's background," Superman told her, "He's an Army man, once he was in a special units group, but other than that, nothing. The only thing that seemed out of the ordinary was that he randomly decided to change his name to Grant from Slade."

Starfire felt her stomach drop and heard her heart pounding in her ears, "Sl... Slade?"

Her heart began to race as Superman answered, "Yeah... why?"

"It is Slade!" Starfire exclaimed standing up.

"Who?" Superman turned.

"Slade! He is... Robin is in danger! We must get to him before it is too late!" She yelled floating into the air, leaving the robe behind.

"Wait, wait, who's Slade?" Superman flew up as well, "Come on, the exit's this way..."

"Slade is the one criminal in Jump City that has caused the Titans the most trouble," Starfire explained.

They entered the arctic air and both shot straight for the east, "So how bad is this guy?"

Starfire bit her lip, "He... at one point, he took a particular interest in Robin and forced him to be his apprentice. It would... this is all starting to make the sense. He... he must have wanted to become the legal guardian of Robin."

"And to do that, he figured out who he was and got Batman killed off, all without raising suspicion by killing multiple people in order to make it appear random," Superman finished, "We're not taking any chances. I'm calling Wonder Woman. Call the Titans, and tell them to meet us in Gotham."

Superman took out his own com-link. On the beach of Themyscira, Diana was sparring with Artemis. Putting the match on hold, she pulled out the com-link.

"What's up Superman?" She asked quickly.

"I need you to get down to Gotham right away," Superman told her.

"What?" She propped her staff into the sand, "Why?"

"Because, I've just spoken to one of the Teen Titans and we have reason to believe that Robin is under the guardianship of a psychopath."


Robin stumbled into his room. His legs felt weak and he could feel his arms shaking as he propped himself up on his dresser. Looking into the mirror, he could tell his vision was blurred. He had managed to appear presentable up till when he had been dismissed after they had gotten back to the Estate from hunting. However, once he had gotten out of Slade's sight, he started to feel sick. He rested his head on the dresser.

What was wrong with him?

He took in a few quick breaths while the cold wood of the dresser cooled his forehead. 'Come on, come on, you're okay...' He thought to himself. As soon as he felt that he could stand up straight again, if but a little dazed, he brought his head up, but his arms instantly felt weak and gave out. His legs fell with them and he landed in a heap on the floor. He continued to shake and twitch, unsure of what was causing him to do so...

Slade said that it had been okay. His master had said that it had been all right... He held his head. How could he have been so stupid? It's just pulling a trigger... What kept him? Why couldn't he? Was he weak? A disappointment? Yes... he must have disappointed his master, but how? How could he have allowed himself to do such a thing?

But... wasn't it wrong?

Robin rolled over on the floor, shutting his eyes tightly. He couldn't think straight. One side of him told him what was obvious. Follow his master. That was his role, his obligation for everything that Slade had ever done for him. The other side kept nagging at him. It was almost a different side of logic. Something... suppressed...? But why would he have ever suppressed anything... He felt like screaming.

He tried to find the ground and get over to his bed, but his sense of balance was somehow compromised, and he felt himself land face first on the floor, though it felt like a wall... He heard something, someone knocking...

"Robin?" Slade let himself in.

The light revealed his apprentice lying on the ground almost oblivious to his surroundings, "Robin?"

He couldn't think straight...

Slade knelt down and took Robin's shoulder's as the teen continued to hold his head in agony, "Look at me."

Robin only continued to shake. Slade repressed the instinct to be surprised and instead did what he could do calm Robin down. He noticed a cold sweat on Robin's brow and held him around the chest to repress the shaking.

"Robin, what's wrong?" Slade asked in his ear.

The words were gargled in his ear. Robin tried to regain an understanding of his surroundings. Where was he? What was going on? He could feel someone holding onto him... Slade? But he had disappointed him... failed him...? But Slade was there to make sure he was okay, so how could he think that Slade hated him? Slowly, Robin began pull himself back. He still felt conflicting premonitions about the earlier incident, but at least... at least he wasn't in trouble...

Slade felt Robin's breathing relax and decided to speak again, "Are you all right?"

Robin slowly nodded, now able to hear again, though still slightly dazed, "Yeah... I... I'm alright..."

"Can you stand up?"

"... think so..." Robin did so and leaned again on his dresser.

Slade got to his feet as well and watched, hoping... Robin's lips were pressed tightly together and he seemed unsure of himself... Robin turned to look him in the eye and Slade found himself feeling slightly... caught off guard, because the boy in front of him was most certainly confused at the sight of him.

"I'm... sorry... Master, for my collapse..." Robin managed, biting his lip at the end.

Slade nodded, "It's fine, but get some rest, you probably just strained yourself too much today."

Robin nodded and walked over to the bed and Slade left the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the door close and Robin pulling back the sheets. Everything today. Everything, as perfect as it was, he should have known that it was too good. He went into main room and slammed the doors open, furious. Robin hadn't been holding back while racing. Even before this whole thing began, they had been evenly matched for the most part in racing through various obstacle courses. No, what Slade had noticed was Robin's lack of style, his lack of enthusiasm. He raced because he had been told to, with no thoughts outside of how to complete the task at hand.

And thus Robin hadn't collapsed in his room due to overworking himself. He had collapsed because of something else and Slade was willing to bet that it had to do with an inner turmoil. The brain never really forgets anything, only represses, and yet one's entire body is wired to obey the brain. Obey... There's only so much one can take and apparently, somewhere in there, perhaps Batman's influence wasn't out of the boy's mind. Slade let out a low growl and slammed his fists into the dining room table. He heard someone behind him chuckle.

"You seem mad, Slade," Adeline said, a small smile on her face.

Slade turned to see her, the mask showing no emotion. But Adeline knew. She knew by his stance.

Slade laughed and regained his cool, "Frustrated, is all."

"Oh?" Adeline asked, "Why? Problems... with Robin?"

Slade's eye narrowed as Adeline walked up to him and continued, "What's the problem? He not turning out as you had hoped?"

"Is that the best you could come up with Adeline?" Slade asked in response, "I've only just begun."

"Oh..." Adeline said as Slade walked past her towards the exit, "Like Batman did seven years ago?"

Slade paused momentarily and turned to her, "As if Batman could ever stop me."

With that he left for his own study, leaving Adeline by herself. At least it wasn't a total loss, talking to him. After all, by saying that Batman couldn't stop him, Slade had essentially admitted that Batman was still a factor. She smiled. Interesting.

Very interesting.