Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Five: Connections

Chapter Thirty-Five: Connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Excuse me?" She asked, astonished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"Huhh!?" He yelled.

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

"Wade DeFarge."

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

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

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

"Who?" Wade asked.

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

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

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

"I swear!"

"Then where is she?" Red X asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Luthor?" Starfire asked.

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

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

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

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

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

"Your weakness?" Starfire asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Huh?" She asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It is Slade!" Starfire exclaimed standing up.

"Who?" Superman turned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What was wrong with him?

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

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

But... wasn't it wrong?

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

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

"Robin?" Slade let himself in.

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

He couldn't think straight...

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Can you stand up?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very interesting.

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