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.

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