Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chapter Fourteen: One Bad Joke

Chapter Fourteen: One Bad Joke

"Yo! B! Where's my toothbrush?"

"How would I know? It goes in your mouth!"

"Well you're packin' everythin' in the bathrooms!"

"I didn't get to it yet!"

"Well why don't you get to it?"

"Will you two shut up!?"

Both boys looked down the hallway to see Raven glaring at them with vengeance in her eyes. Zipping their lips, Beast Boy and Cyborg switched places from the hallway and the bathroom and began packing without argument. Raven sighed. This would be worse than traveling to Azarath and back with only a car to get you there. Starfire came out from around the corner, confused by the earlier yelling. Raven shook her head at her, a clear sign that whatever the yelling was about, it was pointless.

Starfire shrugged with a smile and asked her, "I am sure that this will be easier once we get into the T-Car, friend Raven."

"I hope so Starfire," Raven told her as they both began walking to the front with the few bags they had already packed.

"I can not wait to see friend Robin again," Starfire told her, "It has been nearly a month. Why, is not the day of Hallows Eve coming the up?"

Raven looked at her, baffled for a moment and then answered, "Oh, Halloween, yeah, it's coming up. Maybe, what, four more days? At least the boys won't be able to go ballistic for candy this year if we're in Gotham."

It was quiet for a moment, until Starfire begged the question, "Raven? Have you ever been to the City of Gotham?"

Raven sighed and shook her head, "I have only heard. And while the city seems to stand high in the dark, I do not believe it is a city even I would enjoy living in."

Starfire felt her arms tense, but resisted the urge to swallow hard. If Raven didn't like something, it couldn't be good. And Robin had gone willingly? Well, perhaps not willingly, but he had volunteered. It was somewhat... disturbing, unsettling for her. They placed their bags down and went to go finish packing as did Raven. But Raven didn't get as far as Starfire did.


Raven turned to see Red X standing in the corner. She glared at him. It had been too much work to keep an eye on him, so against their better judgment, they had decided to let him roam around on his own, provided all top security rooms were locked, double time.

"What do you want?" She asked bitterly.

Red X knew that she wasn't in the mood for this, but he had to ask someone and the other boys weren't going to be of any help at the moment. In addition, Starfire had taken a distinct dislike to him, threatening to tear out his eyes if he stalked her outside the bathroom while she was taking a shower again. She must have gotten sick of being hit on. Raven was perhaps the one person who hadn't had the urge to throw him out the window... yet.

"I'd like to know what on earth I'm supposed to do until you Titans get back. Do you even know when you're getting back?" He asked, still with that same smugness, but in an almost tentative way at the same time.

She sighed and answered, "We've left you the fridge. We're locking you in. If you need to get out, call Cyborg. Order pizza if you run out of food."

"Gee, thanks for the concern," Red X answered.

"Aren't you a big bad boy?" Raven sarcastically handled.

"Oh, taking up name-calling, are we?" Red X prodded.

Raven turned and glared at him, "Watch it and don't you dare step out of line because if you do, I'll make sure you regret it."

But before Raven attempted to retreat, Red X started back and she felt her head begin to pound. Fortunately, just then Beast Boy showed up, suitcases in his hands.

"Raven?" He asked, looking between the two, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," She barked and was going to leave when he asked her something

"Hey Rae, wait! Please tell me you have less stuff than Starfire has in your bathroom?"

"I don't have much, Beast Boy," She sighed gently, but still with a warning tone in her voice.

"Alright, well, guess I should say thank you at least," He commented.


"'Cause your makeup bag is probably going to be considerably lighter than Star's," Beast Boy told her and added, "Not that you need it, you know."

Beast Boy laughed a little, but sensed awkwardness and quickly continued down the hall and around the corner. Raven watched and then sighed. He was trying to be nice. She knew it. And in a weird sort of way, he was. If only he could rid her of her migraine. And then she noticed that Red X was still standing there, with the worst sort of look in his eye. She instantly teleported to the roof and levitated in a meditation position. But before she could begin her incantation, someone interrupted.

"So why would I regret it?" Red X asked.

She opened just one eye, while wondering how on earth that guy could do that, "You're already pushing the line..."

"Then why haven't you kicked me out?"

"Because... I'm torn..." Raven finally answered, "Azarath, Metrion…"

Red X raised a brow and waited for an answer. There was none but she continued to chant, so he pushed for it, "Why?"

Raven continued, "There is something in you that I can't decipher."

"Like what?"

"Your nature. Your actions, motivations..." Raven closed her eyes and focused, maybe this would help… "You've been predetermined with good intentions, but something... something changed you. You know not what is right and what is wrong, as though it has been suppressed. And thus the evil and good within you are a muddy mix that I have trouble separating."

Red X looked taken aback, but replied, "You think this mumbo jumbo speech is going to make me change or something?"

"No," Raven answered.

"Then why are you telling me?" Red X inquired.

"Because you asked me. Now if you're only going to waste my time, leave," Raven told him; she had to concentrate…

Surprisingly, Red X laughed, "Alright, touché. So you don't know where I'm going to lean towards, so you wait. Nice to know that that part of me will still work on you Titans."

He sighed as he laid down on the ground while Raven levitated. She was trying to ignore him and wasn't doing a very good job at it. And yet she had to. Her head was aching. Going to Gotham. It was such a bad idea. She could feel it. Or maybe it wasn't so much a bad idea as it was going to a place like…

"So, you like him?"

Raven opened an eye, "Who?"

"That dork, Beast Boy?"

Raven's eyes snapped open and she hoped that Red X didn't see. He didn't, but Red X knew that he had hit something.

"I… I don't really have that privilege," Raven answered.

"It's a privilege to like that guy?" Red X asked, "Man, does he have an ego."

"No, it's not him or anyone, it's me," Raven told him, "You'd understand if you'd ever seen me… lose it."

"I bet I'd survive," Red commented, his attitude cocky.

"Don't push it, X, you really just don't know when to stop," She told him.

Her head was pounding. She didn't want to talk. She had to chant. Her head…

"So what's Robbie doing in Gotham anyway?"

"Working," Raven answered, shutting her eyes shut tight.

"And why can't I come?" He asked.

"For that reason," Raven told him.

"That's not a very good rea..."

"Shut up!" Raven yelled.

Red X jumped back as he saw two more eyes begin to grow from her forehead while her breath became ragged and dragged out, in pain and almost a sick delight. It lasted but a few seconds, until Raven regained control. Red X watched as Raven cowered, her hood completely hiding her face, unsure as to how to react.

Finally Raven offered explanation, "Something... something bad... is about to happen... In Gotham..."

She breathed heavily and Red X tentatively took a step forward, but Raven held out her hand and announced, "Learn your place. Do not interfere."

"Alright, alright, chill," He answered.

With that, Raven disappeared into a drift and back to her room, leaving Red X alone on the rooftop. He strode over to the rooftop entrance.

'Learn your place.'

'Don't interfere.'

What was he? Chopped liver? Whatever Raven was going on about, he didn't care. There was no way the Titans were doing this to him. Besides, whatever was going to happen in Gotham, it couldn't be that bad...

Could it?

Red X shrugged it off, as it made no difference to him, and walked down the empty hallway.


Water dripped from the ceiling and onto Ollie's jacket. Perfect timing. Of course as soon as he got out of the plane something would drip on him. At least it wasn't some present left by one of Bruce's flying friends who liked to nest on the ceiling. He brushed it off and continued to pay attention to Batman who was comparing the message and codes to that of Diana's and the rest of the JLA's.

"Diana, please tell me again why I had to come here," Oliver asked.

"It wouldn't be so painful if you'd quit whining, Arrow," Wonder Woman informed him in a hushed whisper.

Princess Diana, Wonder Woman, somehow you listened to her if you were a guy. She was naturally a born leader and commanded respect. Her outfit would often glitter in the sun, reflecting the nation which she had begun calling home. Right now, her lasso glowed in the dark with power while the light hit her tiara and bracelets. She respected every woman and let them talk to her openly. Only in the JLA did she work with other men while the only men she saw as equals were Batman and Superman.

"You can stop the whispering, Diana," Batman told her, "It's just as distracting."

Diana was about to reply when Alfred called over the intercom, "Sir, shall I wake Master Dick?"

"Please do so, Alfred," Batman answered and continued on with his work.

Wonder Woman turned at the mention of Dick, an eyebrow raised at a still oblivious Bruce.

"You neglected to mention that Dick was staying with you again," She said, hoping to get a reaction, anything, out of Bruce.

"It was irrelevant to the JLA business," Bruce told her.

Wonder Woman looked at him sternly, "I do believe we are also friends, Bruce."

Batman only looked at her for a moment and went back to his work, so Diana cut in again, "So what's made you so uptight about this hacker that you need Kryptonian, Thanagarian, Amazonian, Rannian and all the other sources of technology in the world at your finger tips?"

"I'm trying to find some string, some trace of who left the message at the end where their code or original trace should have been," Batman answered, scanning over Oliver's own technology.

"What'd this message say anyway?" Diana asked.

"They had other plans," Batman answered, leaving out the first half of the message.

Wonder Woman's eyebrows raised, but she said nothing. That is until Oliver tapped her on the shoulder.


"Where's the bathroom in your see-through Jet?"

She was half torn in her answer while Oliver grinned his dorky smile right up at her. Meanwhile, Alfred was having just as much trouble trying to get Master Dick up and awake.

"I must, uh, insist Master Dick, ugh, that you get up," Alfred informed the sleeping teen between tugs to get Dick to let go of his bed sheets.

"Alfred, come on, with that stupid drag race last night…"

"I do not care what sort of shanagins you got yourself into last night, Master Dick, and quite frankly, neither does Master Bruce," Alfred told him, letting go of the sheets.

Dick raised his head in question, "Huh?"

"It's seven in the evening, Dick," Alfred explained.

Dick groaned. Now he was switching to Bruce's sleeping schedule. He'd been here too long. Way too long. And to top it off, he was tired. And all he wanted to do was sleep and go back to the dream he had been having. The one with his friends in it. The one with her in it and her beautiful sweet smile. But no, he was stuck here with Bruce and his obsessive, unnatural sleeping habits.

"I do believe Miss Diana Prince and Mr. Oliver Queen are present," Alfred added as a motivation.

Dick looked up at Alfred who had offered a brief smile. With that, Dick shot up from his bed and began to hastily get dressed to go down and see the Amazing Amazon and Emerald Archer.

Down below, the door to the cave opened from and Dick came down. As he raced below, he caught sight of Diana and Oliver and smiled. Diana attempted to show the same enthusiasm while Ollie easily surpassed Dick himself with a laugh.

"Boy Wonder!" He called up, "Where's the tights, kid?"

Dick smiled and jumped down the rest of the steps, "Oliver, Princess Diana, what are you doing here?"

Wonder Woman composed herself again and answered, "Dropping some samples of technology off for Batman from the watchtower. What are you doing here?"

"There's been a connection between crimes in Jump and Gotham, so I'm just here till we solve it," Dick answered.

"Did you grow a foot or somethin'?" Green Arrow asked him, pretending to measure the difference with his bow.

"Just a few inches, Arrow," Dick answered rolling his eyes, "How's Speedy? Haven't seen him lately with him working for Titans East."

"You and me both. He's been ignorin' me lately I think, probably mad at something. Told me last that he was dating some girl named Jade. Proud of him for that though, he needs a girl. Anyways, have I ever told you how I met Speedy? It was a close..."

Green Arrow went into one of his tall tales as Dick only half listened. Diana however, felt her chest tighten. Once she was sure that Oliver was fully immersed in his story, Diana walked up to Batman and tried to make some type of conversation a reality. But before she could, Alfred came up to the Dark Knight.


"Yes, Alfred?" Batman asked the butler, who had followed Dick downstairs in the latter moments.

"Before I forget, you have an evening meeting October thirty first for Project Firewall, it won't go long though. And I must remind you to take care of your face sometime before you retire tomorrow for the day," Alfred lectured in a soft voice, sounding much like an overbearing parent.

Wonder Woman repressed a snicker while Green Arrow continued to rant on not noticing. Bruce merely rubbed his jaw smoothly. He turned away and continued to work, cutting off any chance for Oliver to hear any more of it.

She nonchalantly asked, "So, what's he mean about your face?"

"I just need to shave," Bruce told her, trying to get off the subject.

Strangely, as far as Diana could tell, Bruce was clean-shaven. She tried again to make conversation, "Dick's grown a lot in the past two years."

"I suppose," Bruce commented.

"Clark said that he's been trying to reach you," She continued.

"I've got my hands full," Batman replied.

Clearly, she wasn't going to get anywhere. Diana sighed as Ollie finished his story to Dick, who was beginning to question Ollie's memory, "You know, I thought that Speedy met you at a Native American reservation..."

"Yeah, yeah, that's where this all took place!" Oliver told him, "You worry too much about the details kid."

"You ready to go?" Wonder Woman asked him.

"As soon as you are, Babe," Green Arrow answered, receiving a punch to the arm, "Ow."

"We have to go, Batman. We'll call if we need you," Wonder Woman told him, "Oh, and call Clark if you get the chance. He's worried about some things going on in Metropolis."

"Hey, Green Arrow, can you hold up a minute? I need to get something to Speedy..."

"Dick," Bruce interrupted harshly, "They need to get going and you should have changed about five minutes ago if you were planning to go out tonight."

Dick lowered his head slightly, but with a bitter face and nodded, "Sorry, see ya guys later."

Oliver answered back, inwardly speculating, "Sure, kid, sure."

He wasn't quite ready to go now. As Dick left, Oliver was about to ask what that was about, when Wonder Woman held him back.

"We've got to get going. Call if you need anything Bruce," Wonder Woman told him and the two began to walk off to the Invisible Jet.

"Don't get involved, Oliver," She commanded.

Oliver snorted and whispered, "And please, tell me why not?"

"Just don't," She repeated.

"Diana, why?"

Finally, Wonder Woman stopped and turned to look at him as they reached the Invisible Jet, "Ollie, they just… I'm surprised Clark didn't bother telling me that Dick was here, but, Bruce and Dick… whatever's going on with them, they'll want us to stay out of it."

She began climbing into her jet, when Ollie followed and asked back, "Are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Going to get involved?"

Wonder Woman sat down in the jet and began to turn on the engines, "Only if they prove that men are as incompetent as they seem to be. Then again you already seem to do that fine without any other guy's help."

"Thank you!" Green Arrow added, jumping into his seat, "I'll take that as a compliment."

As the engines revved and the Jet began to emit long roars echo throughout the cave, Robin came out to watch. There was little to say, but he wished that he could have gotten up earlier. He heard Bruce talking to Fox over the phone, but didn't bother interrupting to say 'hi'. No doubt Bruce would tell him to do something else or question him about something he forgot to do.

"Yes, have it in my office in the morning… Yes, the prototype… No, no, you can continue making arrangements for the production..." He laughed, "No doubt the government agents will be… Oh? Alright. Well, thank you, Fox. I'll see you tomorrow, two good? Alright. Thank you."

"What was that about?" Robin asked.

"New prototype Fox is building," Batman told him.

Was it so impossible for the man to elaborate? Apparently so, considering he just continued typing and working on the technology samples.

"Would you look at some of these hacking tools?" Batman asked, "I'm only going off of what you described…"

Robin came up and watched the mini screens hoping that he'd see what he had seen four nights ago, but, "These codes don't match, Batman."

"They don't even resemble…"

"No, nothing like it. It was nothing like the Kryptonian or Thanagarian stuff. This person was human. They used techniques specific to our systems, to any…"

Batman looked at Robin and he got the point to quit talking now. Sitting down, Robin folded his arms and waited to be spoken to. Yes, he was all dressed up as Robin and there was nothing that Batman wanted him to do but sit and wait for instructions.

He didn't have to wait long.

The alarm rang throughout the cave and the bats above screeched at being woken up early. The Bat Computer's screen automatically switched to one of Batman's many cameras to see balloons in the air over the Wayne Oil Refinery. And then the speakers turned on and any bats who hadn't been disturbed now were.


"Joker… Robin, move!"

He didn't have to tell Robin twice and they both were in the Batmobile speeding away to the Oil Refinery. The streets became blurs and Robin wondered how on earth it was that Batman could drive this fast and this accurately. A certain threat to Speed Racer for sure. And then he remembered that he was learning to do this as well. He was shaken out of his daze when the Batmobile screeched to a halt. He jumped out to see dozens of air balloons in the air, apparently carrying jack in the boxes, all turning slowly.

Cops surrounded the area led by Bennett and Yin. They all pointed their guns at the mad man, but none of them fired. They were ready, they had him surrounded. But the laugh sounded at their near terrified faces. Seeing the Dynamic Duo, the cops let the two come forward, as though they were the SWAT team, because they basically were. Before going past the line, Batman was stopped by Bennett.

"We got your back, Batman," He told him, "If you need us…"

"I'll call, but don't let your men doing anything without my go ahead, Bennett," Batman said from the corner of his mouth, his voice gruff, but direct.

"Bats! You're late," Joker teased as Batman and Robin walked forward, "Did bird-boy here hold you up?"

Robin took out his bo-staff threateningly. Everyone tensed, but Joker only laughed, "I can see you've grown a couple inches, kid, but please, don't flatter yourself."

Robin seethed, but suddenly was aware of another threat. Joker had been out in the open. But he held his hand behind his back and there was a huge tank on his thin lanky back.

"So how are you going to stop me this time, Batman? Aren't you going to try and…"

"Batman," Robin whispered, "What…"

Joker took out a pistol and hit two of the balloons above. Instantly, they released a liquid which poured down towards the Dynamic Duo and another towards a police car. They both dodged the threat and looked back to see craters where the liquid had landed.

"Acid, Joker?" Batman asked, "Don't have any new brilliant ideas lately?"

Joker laughed, nearly choking, "Batman, you know I always have something new for every show!"

Joker brought forth a large red button and they all knew that those were bad. Batman watched as he hit a trigger and suddenly, clown robots emerged all carrying tanks of liquid on their backs.

"See here Bats, here's the dilemma. You see those air balloons? They're here to advertise my new show. They're going to go throughout Gotham and explode with laughter all through out for announcements…" He let the Dynamic Duo's eyes widen before continuing with a laugh, "But, that's not all. You see, I just keep feeling like Gotham doesn't laugh enough, so I'll be adding my special laughing gas to well, their gas!"

The Oil Refinery… if that laughing gas was released nearly all of the Wayne connected gas stations in Gotham would be contaminated in minutes and if that gas got into the tanks of all of the cars, it would release the laughing gas into the air with the exhaust. And there was a pretty good chance of that happening considering that Wayne Gas was the cheapest around Gotham: a dollar per gallon. Yeah, Bruce had been working on solving that problem with Fox, too.

"Choose wisely, Bats, you can't hope to keep the joke from everyone. Now be a deary and allow these fine young bots into the refinery."

"Where'd he get this stuff?" Robin asked.

"Doesn't matter now, on my mark…" Batman whispered.

The robots made their way to the Refinery's wall. As soon as one of them opened the door, Joker turned, but for only a moment.


Batman threw a cement bomb at the door, blocking Harley, and went for the Joker, careful to stay away from the laughing gas, while Robin leaped up towards the sky. The balloons began to float off. Throwing a birdarang, Robin hit his target, but destroyed electrical equipment in the process. Now that he looked at it, the balloons were all going off on dangerous courses. Great. Batman had his own problems, too. Joker was not easily dismantled.

"So why'd you bring the bird boy back, Bats?" Joker quipped as he dodged, "Am I too much to handle?"

"This isn't a game, Joker," Batman ignored the comment.

"Of course it is," Joker retorted, "You can't hope to win it all, either."

Yin and Bennett hid behind their cars, the rest of the cops with them, crouched and waiting for any opportunity. They couldn't shoot the bots – otherwise the gas could be released and Gordon would never forgive them. Yin kept her head above the car looking for any opening. Anything. Anything! And there was nothing.

"Agh," She groaned, "This is pathetic. It's one guy!"

"Bats will handle it Yin, don't worry," Bennett told her.

"I'm sitting back here Ethan," She shot when an opening caught her eye, "Come on!"

She ran off around the blockade, leaving a confused Ethan in her wake, "Wait, Yin! Aw, come on!"

With little choice, Ethan ran off behind her while above him Robin leapt from pillar to pillar towards the balloons. Once above the Refinery, Robin leaped into the air, catching hold of one of the air balloons, which began to drop rapidly with the added weight. As he attempted to open up the box, the acid began to seep out. Robin kept moving, his nimble fingers trying to pull out the box of acid, but then…


The wires holding the box cut as the acid burnt threw them. Locked in combat, Joker looked up and laughed while Batman's eyes widened as his ward began to fall. Robin screamed and came within ten feet of the ground when something caught him.

"Huh?" Robin looked below him at the dark plate that hovered above the ground.

A boom sounded with a roar and a pillar nearby the refinery fell onto several of the robots, crushing them.

"Well, that was easy."

It was time for Joker to be shocked, "Who…"

Four teenagers stood or hovered above the fallen pillar, eyes glowing and cannons lit. A green one, the shape shifter. A hooded one, the mistress of magic. A flying one, the alien powerhouse. A cyborg, the half man, half robot. He had heard of them, Robin's team, but he'd never heard of how fierce they actually could look if they tried. He'd have to put them into time out.

Cyborg stepped forward, "We're the Teen Titans. I don't think we've met."

"No!" Joker yelled, pushing Batman to the ground, who had been distracted by the Titans' arrival.

Robin jumped to the ground, "Cyborg, Beast Boy, take the remaining robots. Starfire, Raven, take the balloons!"

They split up while Robin rushed ahead towards the Joker with a Bo-Staff. The problem that the Joker always presented was his nimble and thin stature, making it difficult for Robin to get a good hit as the Joker constantly dodged him.

"Oh, now Bats' got a whole gang of kiddies," Joker mocked and grabbed Robin's Bo-Staff, "How cute."

Putting knee to Robin's gut, Robin stumbled and the Joker laughed. That is, he laughed till Batman gave him a good punch to the jaw, his bones cracking. Above, Raven and Starfire were having their own difficulties. Raven couldn't touch them without making the balloons sizzle and explode while Starfire couldn't hit them without the acid exploding over the field.

"Azarath Metrion Zinthos!"

The balloons themselves began to come close together. As soon as they were close enough… Starfire let loose a large starbolt. The boxes began to fall into one of Raven's shields, effectively containing the acid while the balloon pieces flew everywhere. Starfire turned only to find one hitting her in the back. She began to fall dazed. Robin was the first to notice.

"Starfire!" But that got him a punch to his skull from the Joker.

Starfire's eyes fluttered open and within seconds, she realized what was going on. Instantly she flew back up into the sky, ready for the next batch of balloons. Meanwhile, Beast Boy and Cyborg were having their own trouble with the robots who now that they were blocked from the outside, couldn't get in unless they climbed. And they did. As Beast Boy and Cyborg approached, a few turned towards them to create a barrier and attacked, skillfully.

"Dude!" Beast Boy yelled.

"What?" Cyborg said between ducking attacks and punching his opponents.

"Did I mention that I hate clowns?"

"Not too fond of them myself right now, B," Cyborg replied.

"Hey, how'd you get…?"

Cyborg let out a quick sigh of relief when finally Beast Boy used his brain and turned into a snake, effectively squeezing the robot. He would have laughed save for the fact that these robots seemed to come out of nowhere to replenish the dwindling inventory of robots. Cyborg himself was getting tired of all the idiotic robots, too. Their crazed faces were disturbing and they had the most flexible bodies he had ever seen. This was just plain creepy.

"Alright, that's it!" With a yell, Cyborg maxed out his sonic cannon, destroying the wires inside the robots and making them useless, "Boo yah!"

As they began to eliminate the robots, Joker was the last threat. They could still lose. Not that Yin or Bennett could tell considering that they were too busy going around and climbing the wall that surrounded the Refinery so they could get behind. It was dead quiet save for the explosions they heard near the front. As Yin got up and Ethan fell over and onto his back, she scanned the area.

"Tell me again why this was a good idea?" He asked.

"I thought you liked being in on the action, Bennett!" She remarked.

"Yeah, but Ellen, this is not what Bats told us to do," Ethan replied.

"We're just positioning ourselves, Ethan, no biggy," She said.

"Yin, come on, this is just…" But he was cut off as something fell and hit the floor. They both looked over to see a large oil container roll towards them to a stop.

Ethan gulped, "Didn't you say earlier that this place was… uh, empty?"

"Harley, Joker must be working with her," Yin reasoned, "let's go."

Running down the lots, the two soon caught a glimpse of a shadow. Someone else was here. Then soon hit a fork in the road and they both looked left and right. Where had they…

"You go left," Ethan told her.

"You go right," Ellen responded.

Taking out their guns and tranquilizers, the two split up. Ethan ran around a corner. Somehow, something didn't feel right. It was really quiet. He knew that he was close to the action. There were still 'booms' and 'bangs' that he could hear from here, but still. It was closed off, remote, like a dead end.

"Well, well, well," A voice came from the darkness. Ethan looked up and pulled his gun out towards the disembodied voice.

"Who are you?" This wasn't a woman. This wasn't Harley.

"Now why would that matter?"

"Why don't you come out, ya coward?" He asked.

"Very well, but you'll wish I never had."

Slowly, a man emerged from the shadows, though they seemed to cling to him as though he were the Shadow-Thief. But no, this man wasn't Hawkman's problem. He was someone else. He'd seen him, but where?

"You've certainly saved me the trouble of tracking you down. Now, Bennett, you have two options. You leave Gotham, or die," Slade said, barely above a whisper.

"You're, insane… Why do you care if I'm here?" He asked.

Slade laughed, "Sorry, that's for me to know. Now, do me a favor. Choose before your partner comes back or I kill you both."

This man was crazy. Crazy, he had to get out of here, "Don't think so!"

He shot his gun where Slade had been, but missed and Slade quickly disarmed him and pinned him to the wall. Slade took out a match and picked up Bennett's gun which had fallen to the floor.

"You're a fool, Bennett."

Ethan's eye's widened as Slade lit the match and dropped it into the gun. This was so bad. Out front, things were barely improving. Between both Batman and Robin, the Joker was obviously getting tired, but the Joker was playing their emotions with ease. Come on though, how could he not? He used his own momentum to push the Dark Knight to the ground. Robin yelled and began to use his bo-staff to dodge and hit Joker where he could.

"You're pathetic bird-boy," Joker spat, "Why don't you fly home?"

"Please – that joke's so old," Robin quipped, "Got anything new?"

Joker smiled, his mangled teeth shining with his own spit and blood. Batman's eyes bulged as Joker knocked Robin to the ground and pulled a gun. No. Robin's blood froze. The world froze. Joker laughed.

"Say night, night, birdy," He said with a giggle.

This was it. It was over. Actually, it would have been, but somehow, Batman got to Joker's arm first and as Joker pulled the trigger, the bullet shot up harmlessly into the air. Batman quickly disarmed the Joker, while Robin regained a sense of what was going on. He kicked Joker to the ground and Batman restrained him with cuffs.

"Don't. Ever. Try. That. Again," He seethed.

As Joker laughed, Batman slugged him knocking the mad man unconscious. Raven and Starfire finally dismantled acid filled balloons and the robots ceased to come after Beast Boy and Cyborg. All at once, the cops started cheering and whistling at them. The Titans beamed. They had made it. Their first victory in Gotham! Robin went over to the Titans as they regrouped.

"What are you guys doing here?" He asked, half excited, half confused as Starfire gave him a hug, "I thought I told you to stay in Jump!"

"Dude, you're not getting rid of us that easily, 'sides, Cyborg wants to compare notes," Beast Boy elaborated.

"Notes? What?" Robin asked.

"Same night Gotham had that weird hack job, I had one myself. Someone stole and copied all of my files. Figured it's time that we get out here and start really working on this case," Cyborg told him.

"We're staying in a hotel as aliases," Raven explained, "A little easier for you, we thought."

Robin smiled, that is till he saw Batman walking off towards the cops without even saying 'hello' to Robin's team. He nodded over to the guys and they followed. Batman wouldn't even face him as they followed.

"Batman, I, uh, you, um, these are my friends, the Teen Ti…"

"We'll talk about this later," Batman told him, shocking Robin beyond all belief.

He had… done something wrong? Again? Again!? What? What was this guy's problem? He was never good enough! Or, it could be the team. Whatever it was, it was his fault. It was always his fault. He felt an anger begin to burn when Batman stopped to talk to a nearby cop.

"Where's Yin and Bennett?" Batman asked a cop and Robin stopped.

"I, uh, they're over… I thought…"

A loud yell interrupted him and gave him his answer, "SOMEONE! ANYONE! PICK UP! COME ON!"

Batman instantly grabbed the man's radio, "Yin, what…"

"It's Ethan! He's… he's…"

"Where are you?"

"I… I'm behind the warehouse, warehouse N," She managed.

Batman wasted no time and quickly ran towards the warehouse around back. Robin followed quickly, knowing that Batman was worried. About what, he wasn't sure. The Titans, though confused, followed. Batman ran to the top of the warehouse and didn't have to look far when he saw traces of smoke rising from a side of the building. Jumping down a shaft between crates, he found Yin kneeling, her hands on the ground, trying to keep it together. Robin and the Titans rounded the corner, but none of them expected to see what they did.

Batman stood in front of them, staring at a wall. Three imprints where bullets had landed and blood splattered across the wall. Below, a ring of black soot from a fire and Ethan's gun lied on the ground nearby. Shot and incinerated. Yin felt tears dripping down her face. She cried. It was her fault. If she hadn't been such a complete idiot, action-obsessed fool… Robin swallowed. Ethan… Batman's fist began to tremble. Ethan had been Bruce's friend since they had been in elementary school. Oh no. Robin held his breath when Batman turned, angrily glaring at him, the scowl on his face radiating power and rage and somehow, all of that he felt was directly aimed at him for unknown reasons. He felt like he had to say something, anything, but he didn't know what.

He could only try, "Batman… I…"

"Just get to the car," Batman ordered, "All of you."

While the rest of the Titans backed up, Robin stood still, shocked, causing Batman bark louder, "Now!"

They didn't need to be told again. They all left, though Robin hesitated. The glare on Batman's cowl told him to go though. As he left, he felt Batman's marked determination. This had just become personal. Ethan was dead. He was dead. And it wasn't Joker. It was someone else. They couldn't let this murderer strike again. He didn't think Bruce could handle it.

He didn't know if he could handle it.

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