Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Circumstances

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Circumstances

There were only so many things that could register in his head when Robin first woke up. The first of many was that he was sore till no tomorrow. Robin groaned as he stretched as best as he could. That's when the second thing registered, his feet. Clenching his teeth, he sat up and pulled his foot forward and saw it was caked with dry blood and swollen. He wasn't looking forward to what this would lead to. Robin looked out the window and saw that the sun had risen slightly, but a fog still covered the land as the leaves remained wet and damp. That didn't improve his mood.

As he looked outside, he tested the window. It seemed sturdy enough on the edges. He pressed his hand against the glass and that's when he noticed it, the electric field on the other side. There went a very simple escape attempt. Suddenly the door opened and the bright light from the hallway streamed into the room, halted only by a figure's presence. Robin turned around to see Slade in full uniform standing in the doorway. He frowned instantly.

Slade walked forward and said, "Morning."

Robin said nothing. Like he had to.

Slade rolled his eye and looked down at Robin's foot, "You want to take care of that?"

The teen glared at him, but said nothing. Slade wasn't going to take this sort of insolence and instead grabbed Robin by the arm and proceeded to drag the boy from his room. Slade wasn't about to wait now, was he?

"Let go!" Robin yelled, struggling to free himself.

"Oh, now you speak up," Slade said sarcastically.

They passed through a couple halls before Slade opened a lab door and shoved Robin inside. Robin stumbled inside as Slade shut the door. In the center of the room was a chair with an incandescent light illuminating it from above, giving it a ghostly disposition. Slade walked over to it and motioned for Robin to sit down. The teen eyed the chair suspiciously. It didn't help hearing the water running in the background and seeing a tray of tools being brought into view.

Slade looked up at him seeing that he hadn't sat down yet, "Do you want that glass out of your foot or not?"

The boy winced and grudgingly sat down in the chair. That was when he realized his mistake. Instantly, clamps emerged from the chair and pinned his wrists, waist, and legs to the chair. Robin looked up at Slade and then at the clamps, all the while struggling to get free.

"What is this, Slade?" He demanded to know.

Slade watched as Robin struggled fruitlessly. He bent down and found Robin's ankle, which he held tightly. Robin looked at him extremely confused and panicked.

"There's no need to be worried, Robin," Slade told him.

"I beg to differ!" Robin yelled, "There's always a reason to worry with you around. Let me out of here! You can't keep me..."

Slade chuckled, "You still seem to have the wrong idea in your head, Robin. Perhaps I haven't been clear."

Slade looked at the traces of glass that dug into the sole of Robin's foot. Robin shuddered and shook his head. Slade released him and picked up the tweezers and pick.

"You don't have a choice in this," Slade said.

"Just because I'm your ward doesn't mean..."

"You never have," Slade said, as he gripped Robin's foot again, "This will probably hurt."

Robin fidgeted and squirmed, but despite this, he felt the shards instantly sting again and he cried out in pain. Slade let him. And then the pain died down, but left a dull ache in his foot and ankle. Robin dropped his head, panting.

"Why are you doing this?" He asked.

"I thought that I was helping you," Slade said.

"Without dulling the pain when I know you could?" Robin asked back.

Slade smiled under the mask, "Your insolence earned you this."

He gripped Robin's foot again and Robin realized what was coming next, "Stop! Don't!"

The glass began to move again and Robin screamed, "Ahhhhhhhh!"

The pained died again and Robin shook his head as he looked down at Slade, who seemed undisturbed by this, "You've never had a choice in this or any other matter."

Robin looked him in the eye as Slade stood up and carried the glass shards over to the counter.

"Once your parents died..." Robin brought his head up... his parents?

"You lost everything," Slade said simply, "And yes I know about them, Robin. It was all over the news, after all."

He walked back over to Robin who had taken to not looking at Slade. He wasn't going to do what he thought Slade was doing. Don't bring them into this... please...

"They loved you, didn't they?" Slade asked.

Robin wouldn't answer. Slade was taunting him. He couldn't let it affect him, couldn't...

"And when you lost them, you lost everything," Slade finished.

Robin looked up at him, "I didn't."

Slade shrugged, "You're angry about it, about everything."

Slade watched as Robin looked at him. He knew the boy was trying to figure him out, figure out what Slade was leading him to. Not that he could till it happened.

"You're angrier than I am."

Slade kept his surprise from showing. That was... good... he had to admit. Ah well, he only had so much time.

"But you can't do everything that I can," Slade countered and continued, "You couldn't save Bruce. You're stuck here. And you're trying to be something you're not made out to be."

He grabbed Robin's foot again and held a towel soaked in rubbing alcohol to his foot and instantly Robin felt the searing pain of the antiseptic burning into his skin. He kicked and shoved, shaking his head while biting his lip.

"I think I've said it before, but you can't save a city, when you can't save yourself," Slade finished, releasing Robin's foot and throwing the now pinkish-red towel back to the sink.

He walked over to the cabinet to pull out sterile gauze. Robin closed his eyes. How had Slade known about the... He shouldn't be so surprised. Slade had probably been the one to manufacture the dust anyway. Yeah, he was smart. Robin opened his eyes as Slade grabbed his foot yet again and began to wrap it in the gauze. It was tight, but loose enough to move around.

"So my question for you then, Robin..." Slade trailed off as he taped off the gauze.

He caught hold of Robin's chin and forced to boy to look him in the face, "Is this such a bad circumstance?"

Instantly, he released him and the clamps holding Robin down opened as did the door.

Robin looked around and then back at Slade, "Yes."

The teen wonder got up and began to sprint out. Slade stayed behind for a moment. While he wondered how many times Robin would do this and realize that it was a useless action, he had to admit, that went well for the first 'pep talk' so to speak. It was all about planting the seeds of doubt and letting Robin know who was boss right now. He'd get to the rest later. He left the room finally to follow Robin, not even bothering to run.

Robin on the other hand, did indeed run. He wasn't going to stay here and despite the fact that his foot was still swollen, at least it wasn't searing pain anymore. He ran down the hallways, often coming to dead ends or to rooms with little to offer. As he sprinted down the halls, he didn't notice an even lighter sounding footstep coming from the opposite direction until it was too late.


Robin fell back, his head pounding. He rubbed his head and opened his eyes to see another person opposite, also on the ground holding her head. Robin's eyes widened at the site of her.

"Ms. Kane?" He asked.

Adeline looked up at him in shock, "Robin, The Robin? How..."

Robin looked behind him and got to his feet, offering her a hand up, the automatic reaction kicking in, "Ms. Kane, we've got to get out of here. Come on..."

He began to run in the same direction, but stopped as his hold on her hand slipped. Robin looked back to see Ms. Kane standing still, looking at him sadly.

"Ms. Kane?" He asked.

Adeline bit her lip. Her head still hurt from running into him, but one question kept coming to her mind, "How do you know my name?"

Robin gaped at her. Why wasn't she moving or trying to get away? Didn't she know about Slade?

"Ms. Kane, we've got to... Why aren't you?" Robin began, when a figure emerged from around the corner and his chest tightened in response.

Slade came forward and Ms. Kane turned around, "I see you two have met, or rather, re-met."

"Slade, what game are you playing at?" Ms. Kane asked, "And what is Robin... Did you say, 're-met'?"

Adeline looked over at Robin, who had taken up a fighter's stance, ready to fight Slade if need be. But that's when it hit. The hair, the facial structure, working out, the timing...

"Dick?" She asked, the bewilderment apparent on her face.

Robin looked at her and after a moment, gave a brief nod. Adeline gaped at him as Slade stepped forward.

"I do believe that I wasn't finished with you yet, young man," Slade said, stepping forward and grabbing Robin by the arm, despite Robin's protests.

"Slade, what are you doing?" Adeline demanded.

"My ward and I have to have a little talk, if you don't mind, Adeline," Slade explained.

Robin was so out of the loop, "Wait, why's Ms. Kane here? What's going..."

Slade smacked Robin across the face, startling Adeline, but not enough to keep her stunned for long. Instantly, her hand curled up into a fist and she aimed it directly at Slade, but he caught it easily and forced it to the side.

"Now, now Adeline," Slade said.

"Don't you dare..." Adeline began.

"Dare what?" Slade asked, "If my facts are straight, it's not exactly your place to make any demands."

Robin looked up. He was both confused and impressed. Impressed at the fact that Adeline had just taken her shot at Slade without hesitation. Confused as to what Slade was talking about.

"Ms. Kane...?" He started, "What's she doing here? She's not dead?"

Slade looked down at Robin and then between the two, "No, she's been here the entire time."

"The entire...?" Robin looked over at Ms. Kane, "But I thought... Ms. Kane, is that true?"

"Dick it's not that easy..." Adeline asked, suddenly furious, "Slade, you sly..."

"Call me what you like Addie, it's not going to get you anywhere," Slade interrupted, "Now if you don't mind, Robin and I have to discuss his attitude issue."

Adeline looked like she was about to say something, but stopped, holding her tongue as Slade walked past her.

Slade once again picked up Robin by the arm and released Adeline's fist, "We'll join you for dinner tonight."

Robin pulled and tugged against Slade's grip, to no avail as he watched Adeline disappear from site. Adeline stood frozen in the hallway, trying to comprehend what had just happened. Dick was Robin? What was Slade doing? Whatever it was, it couldn't be good. And Robin's face... what must he be thinking? Adeline brought a hand to her head. Things couldn't get much worse. But that's where she was wrong.

Robin felt his feet slide out from underneath him as Slade dragged him down the hall, "What was Ms. Kane doing here? I thought that you, hey!"

Slade opened a door and tossed Robin inside, slamming the door behind him. Robin looked up to see a small glass window in the door and ran to see what Slade was doing. Was he just going to leave him here or what? But then again, he was the hero here. He should be rescuing her from whatever craziness Slade had imposed on her. He ran to the door and banged on it loudly.

"I want answers! I thought you killed everyone! What's Ms. Kane doing here?" Robin yelled through the door.

Slade walked over to a small panel and without much interest answered, "I never said that I killed everyone, Robin. Ms. Kane is here because I extrapolated circumstances. I couldn't kill her, but I needed her out of the way in order to gain custody of you."

"That means... I'm not your ward! Ms. Kane's still my guardian!"

"She's been declared dead, Robin," Slade clarified, "Therefore, you are my ward."

Robin looked at Slade through the window, "Why's she staying here? Why won't she leave? Doesn't she know about you?"

"That is none of your concern," Slade said, bringing a gage up in level.

"What are you doing?" Robin demanded to know.

The teen looked inside the room. What was this place? Everything was made of wood, a deep oak. The walls, the furniture, with small one inch pieces cut out letting air vent in... Or out. In the center was a pit of rocks on the floor with a small sink surrounding them and sometime between the time he had been shoved in here and now, Robin had begun to... perspire...

"Slade!" He yelled.

"Don't worry, Robin," Slade told him, "You won't be in there for long. This is just a consequence of your behavior earlier."

"What?" Robin asked. What was Slade getting at?

"I will not tolerate rudeness," Slade explained, "I'll be back in half an hour."

With that, Slade walked off and out of Robin's site. A red light turned on and Robin turned to the center of the room where the rocks. Was he... in a sauna? He walked towards the rocks and held out his hand, instantly feeling the heat coming from them. He backed away, tentatively, but somehow he wasn't too worried. Slade had put him in a sauna. How bad could it be? He slid down onto one of the benches to wait. Bruce had taught him how to deal with this sort of thing before and he'd been fine. They'd gone to the equator for that one. Robin shook his head. That had been fun, somewhat. The sights were nice, apart from the temperature.

He decided to lie down. Additional body heat from close contact wouldn't help him, not that he thought he needed to do so in the first place. He glanced over at the center pit of rocks, watching how they began to glow, when suddenly, the fountain sprayed water on top and a mass amount of steam filled the room. Robin turned away as the steam came his way. He felt the blistering hot air hit him and he made an effort to not be affected by it. And so went the pattern.

After what felt like hours of passed time, Robin finally looked down at himself, which was now a challenge since he was slightly dizzy from a headache. His shirt and pants clung to him because of his sweat and he could feel his hair grab his neck. As he tried to move, he felt the bruise from the night before tingle with pain. What was Slade trying to do? He could just about promise that Slade had been turning up the temperature, but at this point, the more forefront thought on his mind was how to stay cool. He debated taking off his shirt, but at the same time, he wondered if it would be better to keep his sweat on him rather than let it evaporate quickly.

He heard the fountain turn on again for another steam cloud to engulf the sauna. Robin's eyes shot open. Of course! The fountain. Rolling off of the bench to the floor and onto his knees, Robin pulled his shirt off and tentatively crawled over to the fountain. The next time... He put a hand down to the ground to steady himself, his other still holding his shirt. Now he knew what it was like being stuck out in the middle of a desert. He heard the system turn on and he quickly sat upright, holding his shirt in front of the fountain's mouth. The hot water sprung out and caught in his shirt and Robin smiled. As it turned off, he brought his shirt up to his face.

That's when the smile disappeared. Gasping, Robin tossed the shirt away from him and across the room. It was also blistering hot and he didn't know which one was worse, the air or the water. But not even this revelation proved to be the worst or the most shocking. Within ten minutes, Robin was sure of it, he actually preferred the drenched T-Shirt to the room's temperature. It was getting to be that bad. What kind of... What was Slade trying to prove with this? That he wasn't to be rude? Well yeah, that was doing a fine job of it now. The only thing that he was certain of at that moment was that he was learning how to hate Slade's guts all over again.

Robin kept his shirt on top of himself, dabbing his face when need be. It was an odd sensation, to be baking in the midst of such moist air. He stayed on the floor, not moving unless he had to while his face became a deep red. Just when he was wondering how long he had actually been inside of this place, the door swung open and the boy wonder felt a breeze of cold air hit him instantly, chilling him. He looked up to see Slade walking into the room. For a moment, they didn't say anything to one another. They just stayed there, looking at the other.

Eventually Slade shrugged, "Do you want to get out, or should I leave you in there for another couple hours?"

That did it. Instantly, Robin got up and walked out of the room. He was extremely cold, shivering now and even his hot shirt wasn't doing him any good as he pulled it back on. Glancing to his left, he saw a small pad next to the room. He squinted and jumped back when he saw it read 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

"What are you trying to do to me?" Robin demanded to know.

Slade glanced over at him and grabbed Robin by the shirt, dragging him back over to the room. The boy wonder resisted, causing his feet to dig into the ground.

"Slade, stop!" Robin stopped as Slade looked him in the eye.

Robin felt his stomach drop.

"Revise that tone of yours," Slade told him coolly, the words hitting Robin hard.

And though he didn't want to, he did, "What, what was that?"

"A sauna room, but on an extremely high level," Slade said, "You were only in there for an hour and a half or so."

Robin felt his jaw drop, but he soon brought it back up. He wasn't going to let Slade get away with throwing him in there AND seeing his shock. So Slade wanted him to be more respectful. Big deal. It seemed that Slade was pretty lenient anyway. For a moment, Robin considered what complying would invoke. Sure, he wouldn't be put back inside of a human oven, but would Slade get worse? Probably. Would he get worse anyway? Again, the answer was 'probably'.

Slade looked at Robin, watching as the boy realized what was going on here and his current situation. Releasing him, Slade turned his attention to the pad and turned the sauna room off. Robin stood, not looking at him, which was fine. He wasn't too concerned with it. He nodded over to the right and walked off. Within seconds, he heard Robin sigh and follow him. They walked back to what had become Robin's room, where Slade opened the door and allowed for Robin to walk inside. A nice set of clean clothing was on the dresser, but other than that, it was all the same.

"Dinner will be in an hour. Here," Slade said, tossing a small card over to him, "It will get you out and into the bathroom across the hall."

"I thought that you said that I was only in there for an hour," Robin responded, dinner being the last thing from his mind.

"I never said that you woke up early," Slade clarified, "One hour."

Robin glared at him as the door shut behind him. He looked down at the card in his hand. Well... he was hungry... He grabbed the clothes and used the card to open his own door. Glancing around to his left, he noticed a door open. The bathroom, of course. He walked down and looked inside. Pretty plain, nothing special. But then a thought hit him. If he was already out... Dropping the clothes, Robin ran down the hall only to find a dead end. He had been sure...

The boy wonder sprinted down the opposite end only to find that the other side was also closed off. So the card didn't just open the bathroom and his door. It also closed off any exits. Nice... Practically sulking back to the bathroom, Robin did realize that he did feel rather disgusting, considering that he had been sweating for at least an hour in the sauna. Closing the door, Robin took a shower and got ready for dinner. At least while he was in the shower he could quench his thirst that had arisen from being in the sauna for so long. Just as he finished combing out his hair, he heard a knock on the door. But of course upon opening it, he saw no one that he wanted to see.



"Dinner," He announced.

Robin glared. Oh yeah, long time no see. He had met Wintergreen when he had been Slade's apprentice before. Robin hadn't hated him, but somehow, knowing that he was helping all of this move along didn't make him like him much either. Robin strode back to his dresser and threw on the sweater before coming back, ready. Wintergreen walked down the hall in front of Robin and just when Robin didn't think that the halls were going to end any time soon, they reached a set of mahogany doors.

Upon opening them, his eyes caught the giant room where he had been last night. The fireplace was going and the long dining table was set for three. The first person he caught sight of was Slade, of course, but off to his left by the windows was Ms. Kane. Slade had changed into semi-casual clothes while Ms. Kane was wearing a long black skirt and a red blouse. When she turned to see the source of the sound, Robin saw her stance stiffen, like she was uncomfortable.

"About time," Slade said, without much interest, "Shall we?"

Robin looked over at the table as did Adeline. Slowly, they both walked over to their seats, Robin on Slade's left, Adeline on his right. Slade sat at the front of the table casually, when he snapped at Robin. The boy wonder looked up at Slade confused when Slade pointed at his eyes.

"No masks at the table, Dick," His tone laced with satisfaction.

Robin looked at Ms. Kane across from him and then, carefully, slowly, removed the mask to reveal his blue eyes. Adeline repressed the urge to swallow hard. It was him. She had been hoping that it wasn't. Wintergreen brought out a delectable set of dishes which were mostly eaten in silence, but was murderous for the two guests. The only sounds came from forks and knives hitting the plates and the occasional clatter of the glasses on the table. Slade was the only one who didn't seem to mind it. And it seemed that it would remain that way for the whole meal, until near the end when Dick finally spoke.

He placed his utensils down and looked at Slade and then Ms. Kane, "I'd like an explanation, if it's not too much to ask. How do you two know each other? And why are you here?"

"I believe it's pretty self explanatory," Slade answered, cutting Adeline off.

She glanced at him, "No, it's not really. I'd like to know what Dick is doing here and what game are you playing, Slade."

Dick looked up at her and then at Slade, surprised that she had been so blunt and unaffected by him. Slade finished his bite before looking up at her, "You've been declared dead, Adeline. Dick has become my ward, thanks to your will," Slade said, "As I said, self-explanatory."

"That doesn't answer my questions," Dick muttered.

Slade glanced over at Dick and got up from his seat. Dick straightened up and held his arms up in defense, but it didn't really do any good when Slade grabbed his shoulders and forcefully pushed him into the back of the chair.

"Hey!" Adeline yelled, "Stop it! I… Ah, Dick, you've… you've been Robin this whole time?"

Robin looked between Slade and Adeline and nodded slowly. She swallowed and looked up at Slade, "And you… that's why you wanted? What are you going to do to him?"

"Nothing for you to worry about, Adeline," Slade said shortly.

"Don't I get any say in – Ow!" Slade pushed Robin's chair in, pinching his fingers that had been on the arms of the chair.

"Don't interrupt," Slade inserted.

"Let me go!" Robin yelled.

"Slade Wilson, let him go," Adeline said fiercely.

They looked at each other for a moment, both as stubborn as each other, their eyes never wavering. Robin felt the tension in the room, but tried to keep a calm steady pace. Adeline glared at Slade coldly while Slade watched her with reluctant admiration. Finally, he began to chuckle and released Robin from his grip, who instantly got up and backed towards the door he had entered from.

"What is she doing here?" Robin said, after making sure it was safe to talk, "I thought you killed everyone… And if you know Slade… why would you stay?"

They quickly glanced at each other, Adeline angry, Slade irritated. Eventually, Adeline relented in continuing their glaring contest and turned her attention back to Dick, trying to find the right words to explain it.

"Dick I…"

"We have an agreement," Slade inserted, "That's all there is to it."

Dick stared at them incredulously, "An agreement…. An agreement?"

Adeline started again, "Dick, it's not as simple as you think…"

"It's not as simple as I think?!" Dick yelled, "You're letting him… kidnap me legally by staying here and out of the GCPD's eye! All for some… stupid agreement? Yeah, I think I get it just fine."

Dick turned to leave and stormed out. As much as he hated the estate in general, he was at least grateful that Slade had given him a room to go to. But his actions panicked Adeline. After shooting one last angry glance at Slade, she raced down the hall to find Dick.

"Dick! Dick, wait!" She called as she saw him up ahead.

She put a hand on his shoulder, which he immediately shook off and spun around to face her.

"What?" He asked harshly.

"Dick… Dick, I…" Adeline started, but seeing the malice made her pause. She was going to hate telling him this, "Dick… Please, understand… The agreement… It has to do with, with one of my sons."

Adeline paused and waited for Dick's reaction, not looking up at him. She knew exactly what she had just said. She was choosing one of her sons over him. What a heroine she was. And yet his reaction… Surprised her.

"He… knows about one of your sons?" Dick asked.

She looked up at him and nodded. Dick looked at the floor. So that's why… "And he won't tell you unless you stay here?"

She nodded again.

He was slow to respond, but deliberate, "Alright… I understand."

"Dick, I don't, I don't want you to think that your safety doesn't concern…"

"It's alright," Dick cut her off, holding his arms up to pause her sentence, "I can take whatever Slade throws at me. I have before."

"But it's not… it's not fair to… I mean, Dick, I'm sorry…" She finally stated, because she was. She couldn't express that enough.

Dick looked at her, a seed of pity in his chest, "Don't be. It would have happened even without your involvement. Slade would have made sure of it."

Adeline nodded slowly, but somehow, the weight and guilt in her gut wouldn't subside. Finally she looked up at him, suddenly seeing a side of him she had never seen before. The level at which he was handling this… Like an adult, and yet he was still just a teenager… It amazed her.

"You're… you're probably right, but, still, I'm really, really sorry Dick…" She said, "I'll help you however I can."

The teen nodded at her, "Thank you."

He turned to continue back to his room, hoping that it would be a quiet evening for the rest of the night.

Adeline watched him and heard him call back, "See you in the morning."

"Okay…" She whispered.

She sighed. What a kid…. She never knew… It amazed her. However, when Dick was out of sight and out of ear's range, that's when she heard the slow clapping. Turning around swiftly, she saw Slade coming out from around the corner. Her feelings of relief quickly vanished.

"Impressive," Slade said.

"What are you trying to do, Slade?" Adeline asked venomously.

Slade laughed, amused by her personality and how predictable she could be at times, "Is it a crime to be a spectator?"

"No, but it sure is egotistical," Adeline answered.

Slade smiled and walked up behind her, "You're not that mad at me."

Adeline folded her arms and replied looking away, "That sure is up for debate."

The mastermind sighed and relented, "Adeline, listen, I regret having to be…"

"Deceitful? Underhanded?" Adeline filled in the blanks as she turned to face him, "Yeah, so am I."

With that, she stormed off down the hall. Slade watched her go before calling back to her, "Addie."

At that, Adeline froze and her face hardened. She whisked around to look at him angrily, but before she could say a word, he had already continued.

"It's not as bad as you're making it out to be," Slade said.

"Oh sure it isn't," Adeline lashed out sarcastically, "And don't call me 'Addie.'"

She turned and continued down the hall, trying as hard as possible to be unperturbed by his antics. But all the same, she was and she was horrified by it. Amazed and confused… She shook her head as reached her own room. What a mess, what an utterly disorderly mess. And somehow Slade seemed to see this whole mess as something organized. Though she didn't see it herself, she was sure it was, too.

Adeline didn't know why Slade wanted Dick —Robin. Robin. She… she was going to have to get used to that. Wait, did that mean that Bruce had been… Batman? Adeline felt her eyes widen. That was certainly a… huge possibility. She felt her legs go weak. Her own cousin… But still, why Slade had wanted custody of Robin eluded her. She knew that they had both worked out in Jump City and had probably and undoubtedly clashed. But what about the rest of the heroes out there? Why Robin?

She sat down. Her head hurt, but she knew she'd figure it out eventually. She always had. Off in another corner of the estate, Dick sat down on his bed as well and lied down, trying to get some rest. Well, the first day was done. That was good. While Ms. Kane's and Slade's connection was still a mystery, he could only assume that they had met in the past, maybe when Ms. Kane was in the U.S. Army. When that idea hit, he had a very hard time at first seeing Slade as a soldier. And yet it made sense the more he thought about it. He could see Slade as a soldier. If anything, that's what he had always been, other than a ruthless terrorist, of course. And it only sparked more questions…

The only one who seemed to have all of the answers was Slade and Slade knew it. It gave him a certain sense of pleasure knowing that, too. In the main entry hall where dinner had taken place, he sat at one of the couches, casually finishing some files on a lap top. Closing it, he went over to one of the cabinets to put it away. Inside were a few books, flash drives, and various other memorabilia. He took out a small leather bound notebook and opened it, when a small slip of paper slid out and onto the floor.

He bent down to pick up the small square sheet and brought it up to the light. The one silky side faced him and he saw the photo's occupants gaze back at him. It had been the middle of the summer. They had been down at Washington DC's mall and the day had been hot, so he could see traces of sweat on their figures. One person, the woman, had her arms wrapped around the man's neck as she leaned on his back. She was smiling as he held her arms with his hands. He was smiling too. Slade put the old photo back inside of the journal and walked back over to the couch to write.

He took a pen and scribbled down a short paragraph, as his time for this tonight was short. He closed it quickly and returned it to its proper place. He looked back over at the doors that led to the rest of the estate. It had gone better than he had expected and that could only keep his plan right on track.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Truth Be Told

Part Five: What You Can Take

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Truth Be Told

Dick grabbed his shoes and thrust the door open, jumping to the sidewalk as quickly as humanly possible. It was almost unreal to him, that a moment ago, he was thinking of relaxing for the night and then suddenly all of that was gone and was replaced by the fury of an adrenaline rush. He quickly put on the mask and pulled his belt around his waist, clipping it into place. He felt the cool air whipping against his bare arms and the numbing sensation taking place at the ends of his fingertips and toes as he ran down the wet streets. He ran past the corner and turned, taking the shortest route to midtown Gotham.

He could see his breath slide past him in puffs of white air while his lungs turned into refrigerators as the hair on his arms and neck began to stand on end. The mask deflected the cold air from his eyes, but the rest of his face wasn't immune to the cold. He grabbed his communicator from his belt and turned it on as he kept running.

"Titans! Titans!" He yelled, but when he didn't get a reply, he looked down to realize that the T-Communicator was dead. How...?

He felt the urge to panic.

Robin continued to run down the long streets, refusing to stop for anything. His nose was beginning to turn red as were his ears. But the adrenaline kept him going and the fear of Slade chasing him fueled that as well. Robin looked behind him to see no one, but he wasn't going to take that chance. He didn't know that Slade still hadn't left yet, that he was planning on taking his time. Robin pulled out the Bat-Communicator this time, hoping that someone, anyone would hear him.

"Alfred! Superman! Someone!" He yelled, but again there was no response.

Robin growled in annoyance as he kept running. He was getting close to a main road into midtown that crossed a bridge when he felt a staggering pain as he stepped on a sharp piece of broken glass in the road. Robin tripped and looked down at his foot. Biting his lip, he wrenched what glass he could out of his foot, but in doing so realized his foot wasn't only bleeding from the glass, but from other cuts he had received while running.

He couldn't keep running, but he had to... that's when Robin spotted a yellow car parked at the corner. Robin got up and started to run over to the taxi cab. He knocked on the window, startling the driver, who looked at him in surprise.

"Can you take me to midtown?" Robin asked, pleading, "The police department?"

The cab driver looked him over before quickly nodding yes. Robin threw himself into the backseat as the driver took off for the central hub of Gotham. Robin groaned as the heat began to affect his skin and dissipate the numbing cold. He pulled his foot up to look at it closely. It was bleeding in several places. He had been in such a rush to get out of the house that he hadn't bothered to even put on his shoes. As they crossed the bridge, Robin cleaned what he could of his feet even as the ends of his pants chilled his ankles.

He wondered where Slade was. He knew that the man had to be coming after him. He wouldn't just let him get away. That's when it really started to sink in. Slade had been here. Slade had been part of this. Slade had...


Robin looked outside and saw a few cars behind them, three cars getting thrown into the air as a fire ball erupted from behind them. Robin felt his stomach drop again. Pulling on the shoes that he had grabbed, Robin left a hundred in the cab as he got out. They weren't going to be moving anywhere. He started running, ignoring the pain in his feet and instead focusing on his goal, his target. The police department. Gordon, Yin, Sawyer, anyone, someone would be there that could help him. Or rather Dick Grayson. Maybe not Robin, but certainly Dick.

As he ran, Robin heard another explosion catch hold of several more cars behind him. And then another. And another. And another. On the last one, Dick managed to catch sight at what was causing them. Tiny bombs. The explosions continued to rip through the center of midtown while Robin wondered why it couldn't be raining now instead of earlier. Party goers and citizens alike screamed as others abandoned their cars. Meanwhile what was abandoned was torn to shreds. He couldn't stay here. The sooner he was out of here, the better... Robin passed by Wayne Tower, construction still underway as lightning ripped across the sky and thunder hit the city like tsunami of sound. Then a thought occurred to him: the monorail!

Robin looked up and saw one coming. He kept moving while grabbing a birdarang line from his belt. His eyes dodged around as he looked for Slade, the source of this chaos, but he couldn't find him. He kept running, continuing his pace, readying himself for the tug of the monorail... when he heard a little girl scream. Robin's head shot around as he spotted a four year old girl screaming and crying, lost from her parents in the sea of panicking adults. And she was right in the bombs' pathway.

The Teen Wonder looked up at the oncoming monorail and then at the little girl. He didn't have much of a choice. Racing over to the girl, Robin shot the line out to a nearby flagpole and connected it to his belt. Another bomb went off. He was seconds away. Almost... Robin caught hold of the girl and lounged forward as the cable line went taught and pulled them away as another bomb exploded mere feet away from where they had been moments previously.

Robin looked down at the girl, who was slightly dumbfounded as to what just happened. The monorail passed him and Robin watched as his one quick ticket out of here disappeared. He lowered himself and the girl down gently and let go of the line. He didn't have time to help her find her parents unfortunately, but he left her with an older couple. It was the best he could do. Robin ran out of the center of midtown and continued towards the police department. It took him a good twenty minutes before he took another small break.

For the most part, it was quiet, but that didn't mean that Slade wasn't there. He knew he was. Somewhere... Robin leaned against a wall, breathing so hard it hurt. He rested his head, closing his eyes when a light hit them. Robin opened an eye to look up to see Bat-Signal, coming from only a block away from the alley way he was in now. Robin breathed a sigh of relief. He could make out the street and the lights on inside of the GCPD. He saw Gordon on the roof, waiting for Batman to come like always as though nothing had ever changed. He was right there... right there!

He began to run again. But he maybe got five feet before Robin felt an intense, striking pain streak through his back as though it had been broken by a car. He tripped and fell forward as he gasped in pain, tumbling to the ground and rolling a few times until he was back on his chest, unconscious. The teen lay there, in the alley way, seemingly forgotten for a moment, as though he was just supposed to be there when a flash of lightning ripped through the sky again and one could make out a loan eye watching him. He held a baseball bat loosely in his hand.

Pulling it up to eye level, Slade casually looked at it, "Well, that was handy."

Tossing the bat aside, Slade came forward and looked down at Robin, who didn't move as the metal shoes came closer to him. Slade stood in front of him and waited as a limo came up behind him. Somehow, it always managed to catch his attention above all else, Robin's look when he was unconscious or sleeping... his face always held remnants of innocence. The irony in that, he noted, was very real. Wintergreen unlocked the doors of the limo and Slade took his cue.

Pulling Robin's hands behind him, Slade cuffed them tightly with sturdy pieces of rope. Feeling gloved hands on his wrists was enough to get Robin to wake up slightly, despite the agonizing pain in his back. He groaned as Slade gently lifted his head in order to place a gag around his mouth. Robin looked up and though he couldn't see Slade, he could see Gordon, waiting on the roof. No... His head was placed on the ground and he felt his legs and feet getting tied together as well. No...

A mumbled groan barely escaped him as his eyes were covered. Robin felt Slade picking him up and that's when the panic kicked in. He attempted to struggle, to move, to get free, anything. Anything... But he couldn't fight through the pounding headache. Slade placed Robin inside the limo, taking the belt from the teen in the process. Robin saw the light dim from in front of the blindfold as he heard the car door getting shut behind him. He called out again. He was so close... How could... The pain in his back shot through him again and he moaned.

Outside, Slade walked around to the front to talk to Wintergreen, "Take him to the estate. I'll meet you there."

Wintergreen nodded and rolled up the window as the last remnants of the clouds carried out their threat and began to fall once more. Slade stood in the alleyway when he felt his phone vibrate. Looking at the caller ID, he picked it up casually.

"Wilson," He said, "Hello, Commissioner. Oh yes, every thing's going quite well. Dick's doing just fine... Yes, actually, we're going to be going out of town for about a month for my business. That is alright, isn't? Thank you. Take care, Commissioner, take care."

He ended the call and looked up at the Commissioner on the roof. It was enough to make him smile as Gordon went over and turned the Bat-Signal off. He had noticed, and so had others, that the signal was on less and less often now. Perfect, just perfect. Slade turned away and strode down the alleyway, making his way to the estate.

Inside the limo however, Robin was having a less than perfect night. He slowly was able to start moving again, though hardly without feeling the pain in his back. But that certainly didn't mean that he wouldn't try. He attempted to kick the doors, or what he thought were the doors and he screamed through the gag. Soon though, he started to cough as his cold lungs refused to continue giving him the necessary air to do so. He kept rolling in the back kicking, which was about the only thing he could do. The panic had receded and was replaced by worry and dread.

At one point, Robin just stopped all together. He couldn't do it. He was hurt, tied up, and above all, tired. What could he do anyway? What power had he had in the past three months? He hadn't had any. He had been constantly shipped around without a say and worse yet, now that he knew that Slade was involved, somehow, he knew that he had never had much of any control from the beginning. Robin lay back in the limo on the floor, waiting. Waiting for what would happen.

He felt his gut sink even further. The Titans, what would... why didn't they answer? Would Alfred notice he called? Where was Slade taking him, anyway? The unanswered questions lingered in his mind. How had he not seen this? How? He was trained by the world's greatest detective and he hadn't been able to figure this one out? Suddenly, Robin felt the ground shift upward and he realized that they had to be going over a bridge. He hoped that they weren't going outside of Gotham. He hoped for his life that they weren't. But soon, he heard less and less of the commotion of traffic.

Even then though, his attention was soon turned away by the sharp hit he had taken to his back, where he could swear a large bruise was forming. He gasped as he felt it take shape. Then, the road changed in texture and Robin felt the limo bump against what he thought had to be loose gravel. They must have been getting close... at least, half of him, the part that was hurting hoped so. The other half felt dread wash over him. He wished that he could tell how long they'd been traveling, they being him and whoever was driving.

Suddenly, the car stopped and Robin could feel the car being shifted into park. He heard the car door open behind him and the cold rushing inside. He shivered, but the dangerous reality came back to the forefront of his mind when he felt metal hands gripping his arms and legs, lifting him out of the car. He recognized his captors as Sladebots, for lack of a better name. The carried him over what he thought had to be the road to an entrance. Around him, he heard the wind race through the branches of trees and the fair few leaves that sting clung to their homes for dear life. Where was he?

Almost instantly, the entrance way opened and the Sladebots carried him inside where instant warmth hit him. The Sladebots carried him through the hallways or what Robin could only guess were hallways until they entered a new room, where Robin could hear their footprints echo and the sound of crackling flames. They dropped him to the floor and he grunted. Blinking, Robin realized that there was light coming in this room, more so than the others. It wasn't much more, but it was enough to make a difference. He wasn't going to stay down though, not just waiting.

Grunting, Robin attempted to push himself up to his knees. It was certainly not the easiest thing he had ever done, but with one last final shove, Robin somehow managed balance himself and keep himself on his knees, when he heard clapping in the background. Instantly, Robin went rigid and still. It didn't take a genius to figure out who was applauding him. It soon stopped and he heard them walk forward.

"You know... I was wondering when you would figure it out," Slade said, "It was almost getting boring."

Robin remained silent, it wasn't like he could say anything through the gag anyway. Slade walked to the front of the room where a large fire was burning in the gray stone fireplace. He looked up at the stuffed heads of his various prizes and sighed before turning back to the teen on the floor in front of him. He looked at Robin, who he could tell was waiting instinctively for something. What the boy wanted? He didn't know and he didn't quite care.

"But maybe that's why I was becoming a little sloppy," Slade said and walked over to Robin, removing the blindfold from his masked eyes.

Robin shook his head and got a good look at where he was. It appeared to be a house. A log cabin styled house. Large, stately. A retreat from the cold in many ways. There were three long leather couches in the area and several glass and wooden tables by their corners while a small table stood behind him. To his left was a plasma TV screen and nearby that was a computer. To his right, he could see a long dining table with a closed window frame, which he supposed led to a kitchen.

Behind him, Robin could hear the wind hitting the side of the house and he could see closed windows keeping it out. Above, the roof crisscrossed and from it's center, a chandelier made out of deer antlers hung from a iron chain. The floor was mostly bare and wooden, but the area in front of the fireplace where Robin was, was carpeted. The items within the room were certainly costly, but never something that could be overpriced. But despite the elaborate setting, Robin could see the locks, the keypads in the corners of the room. Slade had made this place a fortress.

Slade chuckled as he saw Robin look around, "Get used to it, we'll be here for a while."

Through the gag, Robin deliberately sent a muffled question. Slade smiled and walked back to release the boy from the gag. Robin took a sharp intake of breath, eager for fresh air, but instead, the potent smells of burning wood and heat did little to make the air seem fresh.

"Do you think you'll get away with this?" Robin demanded to know.

The very question... Slade turned to face his ward face to face, "You're seriously asking me that, Robin?"

Robin looked at Slade, confused and Slade chuckled, "I've been planning this for three and a half months. Do you think I'd leave a detail such as getting away with this to chance?"

Three and a half months? Robin felt his eyes widen. It had been Slade? This whole time...

Slade had manipulated the wills. Slade had hired the robber. Slade had killed all of those people. Slade had...

"You killed Bruce?" It was the first thing out of Robin's mouth for a minute and with it, his eyes stood shocked and baffled.

Through the mask, Slade sighed, "Well, yes and no. I did hire Ravager out for that job. But we really have Lex Luthor to thank for that one."

"Luthor?" Robin questioned and Slade realized he would have to explain.

"Luthor hired me to kill Bruce Wayne, but it wasn't till I did the research that I found a few pictures of Dick Grayson," Slade told him, "And once I knew who you were, Robin. It was simple to figure out that I was dealing with the Batman."

Robin watched as Slade walked over to the stone fireplace.

"And that's when I decided to get more than just a paycheck out of this job," Slade said, walking back in front of Robin.

He put a knee to the ground and grabbed Robin by the chin forcing the teen to look directly into his one eye, "I decided to get you."

Beneath the mask, Slade smiled as Robin's eyes widened and he attempted to launch himself away from his captor's grip. 'No... this wasn't happening...' Robin thought. Slade let Robin go and got up, facing the fireplace with his hands behind his back, a natural stance for him.

Robin shook his head as it clicked in his head, "You killed Bruce!"

Slade sighed, wondering if they would have to go over this again, "I think we've already established that."

"You killed him! You killed..." Slade spun around and glared at Robin, forcefully ending Robin's sentence mid-scream.

"It would have happened either way, Robin. It wasn't my idea," Slade said.

Robin looked up at Slade in surprise as his fury and rage had suddenly been bottled up with not one to turn it on. He wanted to let Slade hear it. To hear how much he hated him. How low and how despicable he was, but something inside of Robin stopped him from ever getting that far. Was it the hurt or the fear that had come back into his mind?

"What do you want with me?" Robin asked.

Slade closed his eye and answered simply, "What has it always been?"

Robin shook his head, "No... No! No! No!"

He suddenly lost balance and fell head first onto the floor, but continued to yell, "I'm not going to be your apprentice! I'm not! Not now, not ever again!"

Slade spun around and grabbed the boy by the hair and pulled him back to his knees, "You don't really have a choice in the matter, Robin."

He let go and Robin continued, "I won't do it! You killed Bruce! You can't keep me here!"

"I can't?" Slade asked, "I do believe, I'm your legal guardian, am I not?"

Robin looked at him oddly, when Slade continued, "Oh, wait... I'm sorry, I'm your alter ego's legal guardian."

Slade ripped the mask from Robin's face to reveal Dick Grayson's desperate and frantic eyes underneath. He took off his own mask as well to reveal the face of Grant Wilson. It was all so much to comprehend.

"How...?" Robin asked, unsure of what else to say, to ask... his head hurt from all that was happening, coming into place...

"It's easy to change your legal name, Robin," Slade explained, "Slade, Grant, it's not that big of a change. I already knew Adeline and, despite the additional persons that came with her inclusion, replacing portions of Wayne's will with his parents' to include her... well, I'm sure you remember the hacker from two months ago. All it takes is a little chaos for no one to realize that someone has gone in and updated a few bits of information."

Robin watched as the mastermind kept his back to him, wondering what Slade would say next, "I don't care about that! You're insane and I'll never be your apprentice! You can't make me!"

"You should care," Slade said calmly, "Escape and your identity... let's just say it would be worthless."

Dick attempted to keep a stiff face, as though he wasn't worried, but Slade continued, "And even without that, escape would be futile, to be cliche'. You're in the middle of a forest and... I know it well enough to be able to bring you back."

Dick watched as Slade turned to face him, to see what sort of expression was plaguing the Teen Wonder. Dick just stared at him. All of this time. It had been Slade, his rival, his arch enemy. And he had never stopped to really consider... Had he never wanted it to be Slade? Was he looking for some sort of scapegoat? No. He hadn't been. Had he avoided bringing Slade as a possibility up? He didn't know.

But here he was, explaining the entire thing. The whole plan. The robberies. The killings. The hacker's part. Everything. He was the mastermind. The head behind it all. The man that had plagued the Titans since practically day one. It had been Slade. And now, he was finally seeing Slade without the mask. For years he had wondered if he would ever recognize the man and now that he did, he wished he couldn't. That he didn't know that it was Grant Wilson, formally Slade Wilson. Not that big of a difference. Not much at all. He was still missing an eye. The right one. Like always...

Finally, he asked a question, "You've always been 'Slade'?"

Slade turned and saw the bitter reality setting into Robin's face. He replaced the mask onto Robin's face and as he put his own back on, he answered simply, "Yes, my name has always been 'Slade'."

Robin dropped his head slowly, looking at the ground as the ties on his wrists and legs kept him from running off. Then again, he didn't think he could run even if he tried; who was he kidding? Slade walked around behind him and watched as the teen began to face reality.

"You take this the wrong way, Robin," Slade told him, "You ought to be thrilled. We start training tomorrow morning."

Suddenly, Robin felt the same fear that had always hit him and the panic that came with it, "What?"

Slade turned around and answered, "Did you think that I would wait?"

"I'm not doing it! You can't force me to do anything!" Robin yelled.

But he didn't get the chance to add to it as Slade lunged out and landed a solid kick to Robin's ribs, causing the Boy Wonder to fall over to the side, his chest starting to bruise. He gasped and his faced scrunched up as his lungs reacted felt the sudden impact. Slade stood over Robin with little sympathy.

"I'd suggest that you change that attitude of yours, Robin," Slade said, his voice dangerously close to being called angry, "Like it or not, you will be my apprentice and, as I've said in the past, you'll learn to like it."

Robin bit his lip, but managed to look Slade in the eye before Slade turned and snapped at the doors. They opened and a few Sladebots came in and grabbed Robin by the arms. They started to drag him across the floor, when Slade held out a hand, motioning for them to stop. Slade grabbed Robin's ankle and yanked the now bloody shoe from Robin's foot and examined it as Robin gasped in pain. Slade saw the remaining glass within the skin and the cuts that marred it.

"We'll have to take care of that," Slade said, "Take him to his room."

Robin began to struggle against the Sladebots, but it was no use, "You killed Bruce, Slade! I won't do it! You can't make me!"

The doors shut behind the screaming teen and Slade was left alone in the room. He went over to the dining table where he took a swig of a drink Wintergreen had left, hoping for an upswing in energy. He walked over to the windows that he had coated to not allow outsiders to get a good view, and watched the rain fall. It sounded worse than it was, out in the woods. He liked it like that though, that sort of sense of danger.

He looked down through his mask and found himself realizing that he hadn't gotten the chance to wear it in a while. It was good to have that opportunity back. He pulled off the mask and looked at it. It really was all about fear, wasn't it? A game like that, that only relied on scaring others, he could play, easy. But he liked a challenge, he always had.

And so it had finally come. It had been easy to set up the pieces, just time consuming. He had been ready. It was Robin who he had been waiting for. Slade had known that the revelation of the truth behind the past months would have been a shock and instant repulsion for Robin, but he could overcome that. He had every advantage. It was now a matter of not getting overconfident... Though he had to admit, things had worked out well so far.

Slade smiled.

He finished his drink and went over to a small trash bin to dispose of it. He had had the advantage of being off the radar. But that had all changed. He could now move in on a full frontal assault, taking every strategic move he could to get what he wanted.

He would have Robin as his apprentice and no one was going to tell him otherwise.

Slade walked over to the computer and put into hibernate mode, before leaving the room as the fire continued to crackle. On the opposite end of the estate, Robin struggled against the Sladebots, hoping to free himself somehow... somehow. Robin started to roll his eyes when a door opened and he was tossed headlong into the room. He grunted, but felt the Sladebots lifting his wrists and suddenly, he was free from his bounds. If only he could actually move...

Slowly, Robin pulled his arms to his front, surprised at how sore they were and how stiff they had become in maybe an hour's worth of time... The door shut behind the Sladebots and a small light came on inside of the room. Robin held out an arm to cover his eyes. He gasped and managed to somehow get to his knees again. This room was smaller than the last room, but it was big enough. At least there was a bed...

Robin dragged himself over to the bed and rested his head against it. He wasn't sure what was hurting more. His head or his body in general. With so much going on... He pulled himself up on the bed, wanting rest, but his mind wouldn't let him come anywhere near it. The images kept coming back. From before.

The probes inside of his friends. The feeling of the uniform he had to wear. The constant beatings and how he couldn't relax. He was always tense. Always worried. And then every time after that, Slade had grown to seek him out from the rest to extract some form of revenge. He had never said this to anyone, but that's what it felt like. All of his suspicions had seemingly been confirmed when the dust incident had occurred.

It was like Slade had infiltrated his mind and had been able to say exactly what would freak him out, scare him, petrify him the most. At some point, Robin had even wondered if he was dreaming it all or not... Kind of like right now. Robin felt like he was floating, but falling. His friends flew out of his grasp while Bruce's gravestone crumbled. And above him, Slade's symbol created a cage that kept him from escaping. And then her voice...

"If you are truly evil, than go ahead, do what you must."

Not again... Robin turned to see Starfire opposite him, screaming in pain. Not again... Robin fell to his knees as Starfire disappeared. He felt just as helpless as before. No one knew what Slade did to him, the type of things Slade made him relive. Every failure, every imperfection, every dissatisfaction... Robin opened his eyes and gasped. It was still dark outside and the rain kept beating on the roof. He saw from the corner of his eye the ever threatening weather clash against the growth of nature. And he knew he couldn't break open the window. He knew it perfectly well.

The Teen Wonder yelled and got up, running at the door with all his strength. He slammed into it and banged against it with his fists over and over again before finally falling back to the ground. His breaths came in quick now. It was all happening again...

A massive headache came on and Robin brought himself back over to the bed, where he went back to rest. He could only wait, couldn't he? Wait for whatever it was that Slade was planning. It wasn't like he could do anything now, anyway. Robin shut his eyes again. He had to sleep, rest, whatever... He couldn't let Slade win. Not after everything. Not after what he had put him through before and certainly not after what he did to Bruce. Bruce...

He couldn't fail him.

He knew it would kill him if he did.