"We need to make one thing very clear right now, though." The Old Man growled, poking his cane first into Dana's gut, and then Matt's chest. "There are a number of things you'll need to learn, the first of them being our main ten rules of conduct..."
Whooping as he flew through the air, Matt twirled and spun, marvelling at how fast his Robin suit could go. Terry was keeping close on his tail just in case, but tonight, the younger McGinnis got to chose the route for his flight practice.
Smirking as he got an idea, the kid suddenly deactivated the thrusters and dove straight down.
*That's intentional, right twip?* His big brother's voice crackled over the comm, sounding slightly anxious.
"Sure is!" Matt chirped back. "I want to see how fast I can go through the Cee Alleys!" By the resigned sigh he got in reply, the boy knew he had reluctant permission for his plan.
Turning his thrusters back on a mere ten feet from the ground, Matt ricocheted upwards, beginning his twisting, turning path through the old, closely packed buildings. Terry stayed a fair distance above him to watch, occasionally throwing in a suggestion for how to handle corners without losing so much speed, or a warning for the odd obstacle. Having so much fun, the younger boy almost missed the pitiful cries coming from one alley entrance that he passed.
Readjusting his position to slow down, Matt back-tracked through the shadows, seeking out whatever was making the sounds of pain. He ignored Terry coming for a landing behind him in favor of his search.
Finally, the eleven year old came across a small black and orange kitten with its rear paw pinned to the ground by a heavy metal pipe. Moving slow so as to not scare the critter any more than it already was, he took hold of the trapped leg with one hand and pushed the pipe away with the other. At first, the kitten tried to flee, but settled down once Matt cuddled it to his chest and started petting the dirt-stained fur.
He looked up as Terry approached. "Can we keep her? Please?"
"Sorry, twip," the teen said back as he knelt to also pet the tiny cat. "But you know rule ten."
Adding more strays to the family is only acceptable if they have no other options.
Dejected, Matt stood and sighed. "Fine. But do we have to take her to a shelter?"
"Nah, luckily for you, being a Bat means we have the perfect place to take stray kittens..."
Half an hour later, Matthew was awed to be sitting at the original Catwoman's kitchen table as she got him and Terry something warm to drink. The kitten was still on his lap, looking about with interest, her paw wrapped in a small bandage. Throughout the rest of the room, easily two dozen other cats regarded the new arrival with varying amounts of curiosity.
"And I can come see her?" Matt asked as Selina returned with three mugs of hot chocolate.
"Whenever you want to, cub." The old woman smirked. "Even when I'm not around, the cats know how to let you in."
Matt almost jumped straight into the fight. It would have been stupid, very dangerous, and deserving of a stern lecture from the Old Man, but he'd have ignored all of those happily if Dana hadn't grabbed his arm first.
"Rule nine!" She hissed.
Consider all possibilities and contingencies before selecting a course of action.
Huffing out a sigh, Matt looked over the situation more closely. Three gunmen stood around a group of eleven schoolkids, a fourth off to one side with his weapon pressed against the teacher's head. The ringleader was pacing back and forth on the opposite side of the warehouse, right by some deep shadows cast by the stacks of shipping crates...
"Got an idea," Matt whispered to the teen beside him. "If you snitch the leader without the others noticing, I'll make a noise to attract their attention, and then Terry can attack them from above when he gets here."
"Much better," Nightwing nodded her head. "I'll get into position, and we move as soon as Batman arrives."
Trying to swallow his fear without much success, Matt hurried through the vent system. Terry and Dana were down, his radio link to the Cave was out, and thanks to that lucky shot from one goon's mega-taser, his suit's usual capabilities were non-functioning.
"Rule eight, McGinnis," he chanted to himself in a whisper. "Remember rule eight."
The greatest weapons are stealth, speed, and reputation.
Alone, without weaponry or back-up, against ten heavily-armed bad guys, Matt made himself consider the positives: they didn't know he was without tech, they didn't know where he was...
...And they had no clue the sort of fury a kid his size could channel when his family was threatened.
After that night, those ten goons would forever fear the name Robin.
Matt and Terry were sparing in the Cave when their prank upstairs was triggered. They'd been hoping to get the Old Man with the bucket of slime, but from the startled shriek, followed by an even louder one of anger, it would seem Dana had opened the clock before Bruce did.
The brothers exchanged a nervous glances. "Do we stay, or flee?" Matt asked.
"Normally, twip, I'd remind you that we always hold our ground no matter the enemy..." Dana's voice carried down into the Cave, promising retribution at the top of her lungs. "...But since this is my girlfriend we're talking about, I say let's get the heck out of here. Rule seven, and all that."
Bats don't run, unless it's a tactical retreat from another member of the family.
They reached the car just in the nick of time.
"Slag, I'm beat," Matt moaned as he and his brother got back to the Cave from a grueling night. First, it had been a group of Jokerz causing chaos downtown that needed to be stopped, followed by evacuations from a factory that blew up, then a chase across the city after some high-tech thief on a hoverboard, and finally a bank robbery that was stopped before it really began.
"Same here," Terry yawned, pulling off his mask. "You wanna get a early morning snack, or just crash?"
"Crash, dude. Maybe even in my suit - I don't have the energy for anything else right now."
"Well, you better get the energy, short stuff," Max called out from where she was doing inventory on their supplies. "Can't head to bed before you get rule six done." Both the brothers groaned in protest.
Always restock utility belts and other arsenals upon returning home, regardless of the situation.
"Is it just me, or do those stupid rules always come up right when I don't want anyone to remember them?" Matt grumbled as he shuffled over to the weapons room for more batarangs and tie wire.
"Felt the same way when I first started this job," Terry mentioned, pulling down the box of explosive patches. "But that was before a night when I ran out of tools to use. Not fun in the slightest, twip."
Eyes wide, Matt nodded, and quickly replenished his suit's supplies.
"Some people just never change," the man chuckled darkly as he glanced over to where Matthew sat, bound to a chair. Taking a deep breath, the kid was glad he didn't have to fake his fear of the situation; he was a terrible actor.
The two McGinnis brothers had been out for a day at the park so that each could spend some time with his friends. Then, practically straight out of a cheesy, oldtimer's film, a man showed up out of nowhere to slap a chloroform-soaked cloth over the boy's face and pull him into a van parked nearby. Matt distantly remembered hearing Terry's panicked shouts before blacking out.
Now, he'd been tied to a chair in some dank basement, nervously waiting for either a ransom to be delivered or his big brother to come smashing through the door as Batman. If Matt had been in his Robin suit, he'd have been free and heading home in minutes upon waking up. Even without the high tech gadgetry, he could probably undo the knotted ropes around his wrists with a bit of subtle patience.
But, rule five loomed in the back of his mind.
Secret identities are to be maintained at all costs.
So, unless the goon was about to kill him, Matt couldn't in good conscience escape by himself.
He'd never felt so relieved as when his kidnapper went to answer a knock at the door, opening it to reveal Batman's glowering face.
"...bin? Are y...ing up yet...? Oh, please wake up!" Groaning, Matt blearily opened his eyes to see a young, tear-stained face hovering over his own. "You're awake!"
Picking his head up, the crimefighter saw that he and the girl, whom he distantly remembered rescuing from a burning building, were trapped in a small underground space.
"Wha' happ'n'd?" He mumbled, mind still foggy.
"You got me out of the apartment, but then when we landed outside the ground fell!" The girl, who had to be around five or six, told him in a scared voice. "Are we gonna die?"
"What? Oh, no, probably not. I mean, we couldn't have fallen that far." Matt tried to offer her a reassuring grin, but even he knew it fell flat. The child startled to sniffle, more tears falling from her eyes. Shifting from his prone position to one that was more or less sitting up, Matt pulled her into a tight hug.
"I want my mommy." She cried.
"Yeah, I know what you mean." With all the rock and metal around them, the boy doubted he'd be able to reach anyone over the radio link. Digging out sounded good in theory, but if the roof of their little air pocket caved in, he didn't put good odds on their survival chances. Much as he hated to admit it, Matt knew the two of them would have to just sit tight and wait. He could hear the Old Man's voice in the back of his head, too, reminding him of why that was the best course of action.
Take no unnecessary risks to your own or civilian lives.
Just over an hour later, as the pair of children were dozing off, the walls of the space started to shake and quiver as someone dug down to them. That was the first occasion that the new Robin got to meet Superman.
"Seriously?" Matt asked in a tone of disbelief. "Our regular suits are trashed, so we have to carry these fossils around?"
Sighing, Terry forcefully tucked the compact loop of cartridges into his little brother's hidden backpack pocket. "I know it's a little more low-tech than you're used to, but these things still have all the necessities in case of an emergency. And thanks to all that acid stuff we got hit by last night, the Old Man's putting rule three back into play, at least until we get the suits repaired."
Never leave home without a utility belt.
"...I don't have to take one of those dorky domino masks with me too, do I?"
"There's one already in the belt."
Matt sighed and grabbed his backpack. "Fine. But if I have to end up using those things, I'm gonna be a laughing stock and you know it."
"Hey, I had to go old school once to stop an AI that stole the suit, and you don't see anybody laughing at me, do you?"
"You had to- wait, what! When did this happen?!"
And so, as he took his little brother off to school, Terry got to regale him with the tale of Batman versus Robert Vance, the evil computer program...
"You- You-!" Matt couldn't even form the words with how enraged he was. The boy growled as he kept slamming his strength-enhanced fists into the man, pounding him into the floor.
"R-rob... *cough* Robin. Matt!" Not until his real name was used did the kid realize his target was down for the count, unconscious and bleeding heavily. Breathing hard, Matt restrained his fury long enough to turn and look at his brother - his broken, tortured brother, who wasn't even in uniform when some criminals thought it'd be fun to play 'kidnap and beat up the random pedestrian'.
"R- *cough* rule two." The young man said in a raspy voice, coughing as more blood trickled out of his mouth.
Grudgingly releasing his anger, the boy stood, activating the beacon for the Batwing to come to their location, then set about patching up some of his brother's worst wounds.
"Hey..." The three college students looked up from their studies at Matt's sudden voice. "The Old Man said there were ten main rules to being a Bat - but I don't think I've ever actually heard what the last one was."
Both Dana and Maxine blinked, neither having noticed before, but Terry merely smiled. "Alfred always has the last word." He said.
"Who?" Matt's eyes followed his brother's gaze, to where a posed photograph of the old Wayne family sat on a shelf. In it was a very young Bruce, standing in between his seated parents. In the background of the portrait was another gentleman in a formal outfit, smiling softly at the trio.
"Alfred Pennyworth. He was the one to raise the Old Man after the older Wayne's died." Terry began to focus on his work again as the others continued to stare at the picture. "He was also the one to come up with the other nine rules."