Chapter 4 – He Says He's My What?
Previously on this disaster fic that hasn't been updated in over a year (sorry)
"No, you don't understan-ghk" Jaime again tried to move, but the pain in his body clearly told him not to, "He took them, he took Robin and Impulse"
A chill swept through the gathered heroes. Dread turned several faces into scowls, but Wally was pretty sure he was about to have a full-blown nervous breakdown and his face was anything but an emotionless scowl. If anything were to happen to Bart, he didn't know what he'd do.
"He gave me a message," Blue Beetle wheezed from his place on the floor, supported by M'gann, "He said to tell the Justice League that you'd soon learn why you should have never brought children into your fight."
For what might have been a minute, if not more, Wally stopped breathing. Fear had instantly pooled in his stomach at Jaime's words. A thousand thoughts stormed through his mind, all relating to one question: what was going to happen next? Wally knew of the Red Hood whom Bart had known in the old future, but that might as well have been another world. Another universe. It was impossible to say whether the Red Hood they were presently chasing was even the same person – it was just a codename after all. Everything Bart might think he knows could be completely irrelevant this time around. And Bart. Wally had no idea what Bart would do. As his superhero name said – he was impulsive. For all anyone knew it could have been Bart's impulsive nature that had led to his capture. And as far as Wally understood, Bart had considered the future's Red Hood to be family, which would certainly cloud his judgement. It was influencing Wally's decision making, and he'd never even met the man in the future.
Wally was drawn out of his racing mind when Artemis placed her hand on his shoulder; at the very least it reminded him to draw air into his lungs.
"We'll find him," she whispered in his ear, unaware that that was only one of a thousand problems causing Wally grief and anxiety. Regardless, the pair turned their attention back to the very shaken Blue Beetle, and the other gathered heroes.
"Did you notice anything else," Nightwing was asking, "Anything at all. No matter how small, it might give us a clue."
"Did you hear him say anything else," Batman inquired in his gravelled voice. Wally realised that the Dark Knight had moved away from the group, appearing to inspect the burning warehouse from afar. The Bat's silhouette against the fire shaded his brooding with a fearsome anger. Wally knew full well what a Robin in peril could do to the experienced vigilante.
"Actually, y-yeah," Jaime stammered, "I don't think he meant for me to hear it, but the Red Hood was talking to himself, something about past mistakes and he might have said something about forgetting. I don't know if that means anything, or should mean anything…"
As Jaime trailed off, Batman disappeared into the night without so much as a word.
The remaining heroes regrouped at the Watchtower to afford Jaime the medical attention he required. They needed to debrief after the disaster that mission had been.
Wally felt himself slowly becoming agitated when so very little was being done to find their missing comrades. But at the same time, he knew exactly why they weren't moving –they didn't even know where to start. It was like the Red Hood was suddenly going off script; like his motive had changed. None of their intel matched up to his current movements. Everyone was on edge. And so Wally didn't think he was entirely at fault when he yelled at the assembled heroes before storming off like a toddler.
It wasn't long before Dick found him.
"It's going to be ok Wally," Dick said solemnly, "We'll find them. We'll find Bart, we'll find Tim, we'll bring them home."
"That's not what I-" Wally cut himself off with a huff, not sure what to say, still concerned with secrecy, "I've been worried about what Bart might do. He's been wanting to find the Red hood since I got back, and not just because it's what the team's been doing."
"Why?" Dick's brow creased with a frown, his confusion written plainly across his face, "Why would Bart of all people care about a new villain? Does he want to prove himself? Or–"
"No nothing like that," Wally sighed and ran a hand down his face, before throwing caution to the wind, "In the timeline Bart came from, he knew a man who used the name Red Hood."
"What?" Dick stared at him in bewilderment, "who was he? Did he–"
Wally held up a hand.
"It won't be anything you can think of, because honestly, it doesn't make much sense at all. The basics of it are that he was just another prisoner in the camp where Bart grew up. From what Bart's told me, it sounds like they were pretty close. He never gave Bart his real name before he… died. But that's not even the weird part. This future Red Hood, he said that you and Tim were his brothers."
Somewhere on the outskirts of Gotham, the present Red Hood (who was in fact one and the same as the future Red Hood if only on a very different path) was plotting his next move. His real game plan was only just starting.
Jason parked his bike outside a decrepit apartment building just as the sun started to creep over the horizon, shining on the windows of the city's skyscrapers. He gave himself a minimum of 24 hours until Batman found him. Up to 48 if he was lucky. Regardless, it was more than enough time to put everything together. He had the element of surprise his identity would bring. He had the replacement. He'd left plenty of hints that even old Dickiebird could probably track him down eventually. He was only left with one outlier. One wild card. The kid speedster who knew too much.
The more time that passed since the young hero had called him a bat, the more unnerved Jason became. If the world's greatest detective hadn't figured it out, if the members of the light remained clueless, how the hell did some kid know the truth? What was almost as concerning was how little Jason could find on the kid through his usual channels in the short time since their encounter.
With these thoughts in mind, Jason strode into the hideout where his men had taken the young heroes. Inside a second-floor apartment, the pair had been tied to a set of old chairs; not the smartest idea if the chairs broke, but with the inhibitor collars still snug around their necks, Robin and this Impulse character weren't going anywhere. To Jason's pleasure, they were already awake, meaning it was time for his game to begin. He sent the guards outside needing privacy for what was about to happen. With a sinister grin, he fished a burner phone out of his pocket, watching his hostages intently. He was somewhat surprised that they hadn't said a word since he had entered the room, but no matter. Jason dialled a number, placed the phone to his ear, and after three rings, his pawn picked up.
"Red Hood," the calm, calculating voice of Ra's Al Ghul answered, "Do tell, why exactly am I hearing reports of an explosion in Gotham city, with you supposedly being to blame, when The Light specifically instructed you to stay away in the coming weeks?"
"Ra's! Let a guy explain before biting their head off," Jason exclaimed gleefully, all the while watching the expression on his replacement's face, "You see, I may have encountered a small, junior hero shaped problem."
Silence stretched over the line, but Jason was focused on the boy in front of him, wearing his old colours; bearing his old symbol. It was amusing how clearly you could see the wheel's turning in the kids head as he listened intently to one side of Jason's phone call.
"I do hope you have a better explanation than that," Ra's voice piped up from the phone.
"But of course, old buddy old pal, you see, I ran into a small bit of trouble, and now have acquired for myself Robin and a young speedster who's name I believe to be Impulse." Jason chortled, keeping up the ridiculous act he'd grown used to displaying when interacting with the Demon's Head.
"I see," the ancient man drawled, "that is… quite the predicament."
"Yeah long story, anyway, means I'll be a little busy for a while, so things are going to be delayed indefinitely. Sorry for the trouble"
"That does not matter Red Hood. I will simply take Robin and the other child off your hands, so you might continue the Light's work."
"Ah excellent, I thought you might have been so kind as to take them off my hands. There's no hurry however, I know you're a busy man."
"On the contrary, I already have men in the city, they'll be with you shortly."
"Always a pleasure Ra's"
"The pleasure is all mine."
Jason snapped the phone closed; only slightly concerned by the tone of Ra's voice through their conversation. He knew enough about the man's relationship with Bruce to not shrug that off. Regardless, if everything went according to his plan, it wouldn't end up mattering. Turning to look at his hostages, Jason saw that the replacement was displaying a pathetic attempt at the bat glare – it was ineffective to say the least. The speedster on the other hand was watching Jason with a surprisingly calculating stare.
"Now I don't want you as my guests getting too worried. I have absolutely no intention of handing you over to Ra's," and that go the desired reaction – confusion quickly laced the replacements face, but disappeared as soon as it arrived, "no, no. That guy pisses me off, I'm not doing him any favours. But he's doing me one."
"What do you want from us then?" the replacement bit out through clenched teeth, finally taking the bait and reacting to Jason's calculated taunts.
"Well, my dear replacement Robin," Jason consciously turned his tone dark, "for now, I simply want for you to stay exactly where you are. Soon all the players will fall into place, and finally old man Bruce will get what's coming to him."
Jason watched with contained delight as micro-expressions of shock filtered across the replacements face. There for mere moments before the young boy shifted his expression into a frown.
"What are you talking about?" The kid replied tonelessly to no avail, "Who's Bruce?"
"Drop the act Timothy," Jason reached forward and grabbed the young Robin by the chin, forcing him to look into the soulless eyes of the red helmet, "I know more than you could possibly imagine. About you. About Bruce. About Dick, Wally, Artemis, and so much more. Which reminds me…"
Jason trailed off and released Tim's jaw. With calculated movements, he turned his attention to the other young hero in the room. He drew himself up to full height in order to loom over the strange kid.
"You see," Jason all but growled, "Timbo here I know plenty about but you, speedy boy, you're a mystery. Popped out of nowhere less than a year ago, and as far as the records show, you're not a member of the extensive West-Allen family tree of speedsters. So, that leaves me with the question of who on Earth are you?"
Tim could feel the dim surge of panic he was barely holding back grow with each word the Red Hood spoke. The things he knew about the identities of multiple heroes alone made his heart stutter; add to that being tied to a chair, an inhibitor collar around his throat, and no clue where he was besides most probably still being in Gotham, it was definitely only his training that was keeping Tim together. Only when the masked man turned to address his comrade did Tim realise just how uncharacteristically quiet Bart was being. Looking to his face he saw an intense, focussed expression that was rare for the speedster who was staring down the Red Hood like he wasn't in the exact same position as Tim.
"I have a better question" the words exiting Bart's mouth carried none of his usual cheery tone, and those that followed only brought Tim great confusion, "do you still have that white streak in your hair?"
Before the words could properly enter Tim's brain, the Red Hood had surged forward to grab Bart by the throat, and Tim could have sworn the man was emitting an aura of rage that quickly filled the space around them.
"How…" the infuriated villain drew in a deep, shaking breath, his voice taking on a tone that made Tim's fight or flight response kick into overdrive despite his inability to do either at the present time, "How, the fuck, do you know that? Who the hell are you?"
"I'm Impulse, although I was Kid Flash there for a minute, but at the moment just good old Impulse at your service" the recognisable jovial voice was there until terror gradually entered Bart's tone as the hand around his throat flexed and tightened while he rambled, "But really my name's Bart – Bart Allen. I'm from the future.
"Bart," Tim hissed in warning at the secrets slipping out from the young hero. Didn't the Red Hood already know enough? Bart continued to ramble with barely a glance at Tim.
"Well, a version of the future. One that doesn't exist anymore."
"Bart!" Tim tried again to no avail. He started to tug against his restraints. While the Red Hood was solely focussed on Bart, it was his best chance to make a move.
"So yeah, I know a thing or two about you Mr scary Red Hood. For example, your favourite author is Jane Austen, you're allergic to peanuts, your favourite colour is actually blue, so I've never understood the whole Red Hood thing," confidence was slowly seeping back into Bart's voice as he continued to talk (to Tim's frustration – at least he'd nearly gotten one arm free of the rope), "you hate swimming for reasons unknown, you're a Bat but I already told you that, (hey that rhymed!) you really love chilli dogs, and you stole the tyres off the Batmobile."
Tim's head shot up at that comment. He had thought that maybe Bart was just making stuff up to antagonise their captor, but that… that was something only the Batfamily knew. Dick had told Tim when he was still training and had asked about what kind of person Jason was. It was the first time he'd seen any of them smile while talking about his predecessor – the fallen Robin. But in front of him, hand still tight around Bart's throat, stood a man that was terrifying. One that they knew so little about, and it couldn't be true…
"But you're also kind," Bart was still rambling, but the man he was talking to was deathly still, "you care about the little guy, you persevere no matter what life throws at you, you're a hero, you're–"
Bart abruptly stopped talking as the Red Hood suddenly moved, withdrawing his hand from Bart's throat, only to place it on his head instead, harshly gripping his hair. Bart visibly winced but kept staring the Red Hood down. Behind his back, Tim continued to loosen the rope around his wrists having finally gotten one hand free – no matter what Bart had inadvertently revealed, they were still being held captive by a dangerous man and needed to escape. Still watching the Red Hood himself, Tim saw that his stance was one of contemplation – be that what his next move would be, what he was about to say, the words Bart had said or all three at once.
"From the future you say?" The man leaned in to Bart's face, whispering harshly, "That is an interesting claim. Do you know what that means for me? You see, you may think you know me, and you may even know certain details about my life I'd prefer were kept private. But I don't know you. And that makes you dangerous – a danger to my carefully laid plans."
The Red Hood swiftly drew his gun from its holster and shoved the barrel under Bart's chin in one fluid motion. Fear was once again present on Bart's face at this violent turn in their predicament, but Tim had finally freed both his hands and decided it was now or never to make his move.
As quickly as the Hood had produced his gun, Tim shot up from the chair he had been bound to and delivered a harsh kick to the man's ribs that didn't exactly send him flying but was enough to get him away from Bart. The shock didn't last long on his opponent who had rapidly regained his composure. Tim drew himself into a fighting stance, preparing for what was to come, but rather than countering the attack, the Red Hood simply reached into his jacket pulling out something small.
Sudden pain flooded Tim's veins as the collar he'd forgotten around his neck flared to life – a stupid mistake that would cost him his only chance. He crashed to the ground, a harsh scream tearing from his mouth at the pain.
"Robin!" he vaguely heard Bart calling, but it barely registered to Tim.
And just as quickly as it began, the pain ceased, and he was left with only a dull ache throughout his body. But that was only a short reprieve as boots appeared in Tim's blurred vision and he was rapidly pulled up by the collar to come face to face with the Red Hood.
"Now why would you think that was a good idea replacement?" the man leered before twisting Tim so his arm was behind his back in a painful grip, "Unfortunately I need you alive for what comes next, but if you plan on surviving that, I'd play nice from here on out."
Tim was pushed towards the door, barely holding himself up with the electricity that had seared through him still leaving an effect on his head. The man – Red Hood – Jason – whoever he was opened the door. The guards from before were still outside and were quickly ordered back into the room.
"Now whatever you do," the Red Hood implored of his men in an exasperated tone, before pointing at Impulse, "don't let him escape. I need him to stay exactly where he is for the time being while I deal with Robin here."
Hood passed a controller that Tim guessed was for Impulse's collar to one of the guards before pulling his other hostage out of the room. Tim knew it was a bad thing for them to be separated but didn't have the energy to do anything about it. His head was still spinning as he was marched down endless hallways before being shoved into another room that was near pitch black from the lack of windows. Considering how far they'd walked, it was surprising they'd never left the building. Shoved to the ground, Tim felt more than saw his hands being locked into handcuffs in front of him. Giving an experimental tug he heard the telling rattle of the cuffs connecting with some sort of pipe.
"Now replacement," a silhouette was all that Tim could make out of the man kneeling in front of him, "I know you're a bit of a detective, take after dear old Bruce and all that, so I have to ask if you've put the pieces together?"
The question hung in the air between them like a dead weight.
"Are you Jason?" Tim finally asked in a harsh whisper.
"Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner."
"But why? How? I don't understand."
"Not yet replacement," Jason patted Tim lightly on the head, "we've gotta wait for dear old dad before we discuss that. You just don't try any more escape attempts and I'll make your stay here as comfortable as possible."
Jason tugged the collar around Tim's throat as a reminder before leaving the room. The door was shut, and the lock audibly clicked into place, leaving Tim along to his racing thoughts. One thought was prominent – he really hoped Bruce got here soon.
So yeah, it's been a year. Whoops. I have excuses, they're all kinda boring this time around. Last time's delay was cuz of a nervous breakdown, this time I just had to be an adult with a full-time job and life being busy. Don't grow up, it's a trap.
Anyhoo, for the first time my next chapter does not yet have a title – I'm torn between two and I'll decide which one suits best once it's finished. Also, I'm making zero promises about when the next chapter will come out – sorry. This story's only got about 2 or 3 chapters left and it's all planned out so it will be finished one day. With any luck I'll get to do lots of writing over the Christmas holidays, but we'll see, I didn't last year after all.
Until then, peace out my people! Leave a comment if you enjoyed my trash or feel like yelling at me for being bad at updating :)