---- THE SHATTERED TIME ----
It had been quite some time since Robin had heard from the Chief of Police.
Vigilantes though they were, he and his fellow Titans had established a fairly good relationship with the city's police department. It was almost an unspoken agreement that the Titans were unofficial members of the police force themselves, although neither group interacted very much with the other. Each let the other be, still relying on each other's strength and support to keep the city under control, but working independently for the most part.
It was a small surprise then when Robin received the transmission from Chief Barret himself. Robin took a seat in front of the video screen, nodding in recognition as the officer's face appeared. "Afternoon, Chief. It's good to hear from you again."
The older gentleman nodded back, keeping his expression serious. "Afternoon, Robin. I'd say it usually depends on what the news is, as to whether or not it's good to hear."
The Chief was a distinguished man in his late forties, his dark hair lined with gray and more than a few wrinkles showing on his weathered face. Two rather large ears poked out from the side of his head, in contrast to the rest of his thin features. Deep eyes were set above a long nose, and a graying mustache was trimmed neatly above the stern mouth.
Robin frowned at the officer's statement. "Is something wrong, Chief?"
"Hard to say," Barret answered, leaning back slightly in his own chair. "We got a call late last night from an old lady named Ms. Malcolm. You wouldn't happen to know her, would you?"
Robin shook his head.
Chief Barret nodded, unsurprised at the answer. "Didn't think so. She lives downtown in an old house by herself, and last night she found a dead body in her basement. That's the reason I'm calling. I think you might want to come downtown and take a look yourself."
Robin's eyebrows shot up. A dead body? That was something the homicide department usually took care of. He and the Titans were fighters—they dealt with living criminals and illegal activity as it was happening, not murders that had taken place days ago.
Seeing his silent reaction, the chief gave a tired half-smile. "I know what you're thinking, and you're right. This isn't something I would notify you about. But let's just say this is an exception."
Nodding slowly, Robin agreed. "Do you need all of us there?"
"That's fine," Chief Barret replied, "I'll explain more when you arrive. The body is being held in the Lain Street Hospital morgue. Meet me there in an hour."
Cyborg drove the T-car, as usual, while Robin followed on his Redbird cycle. When Cyborg had built the T-car, he'd only made room for the driver and four passengers; since Terra's arrival, there wasn't enough space for all six Titans to squeeze into the custom-built vehicle.
At the moment, Terra was sitting in the passenger's seat next to Cyborg. She glanced into the backseat, feeling a pang of sympathy for Starfire, who had been banned from riding in the front seat of the car after playing with the buttons one time too many. Right now the alien girl was stuck in the center, the only barrier between an over-exuberant shape shifter and a telekinetic empath who was rapidly becoming annoyed.
Eventually one of the seatbelts came alive, enshrouded in black, and began wrapping itself around Beast Boy's mouth (which up to that point had not once been silent). This led to a heated argument between Raven and Beast Boy, with frequent interjections from Cyborg telling them not to damage anything in his car while they were fighting.
Terra was quite relieved when they finally reached their destination.
Robin led the way into the hospital, and the entire group of teens was immediately greeted by Chief Barret, who had obviously been waiting for them. He gave them all a quick nod and greeting, then turned to escort them down to the morgue. As they drew away from the crowded bustled of the main hospital floor and down to the more deserted basement halls that housed the morgue, Barret began to explain, speaking especially to Robin.
"The body has been dead for no more than a day. Male, probably mid to late thirties. Cause of death was blood loss from a fatal wound." The chief paused, shaking his head. "Poor guy had a hole in his chest the size of my fist."
Robin raised an eyebrow, looking up at the officer. "Forgive me, Chief, but none of this is sounding very exceptional. Why did you need us here?"
Barret moved to open a door marked with the number forty-eight and gestured for the group of teens to move through. "Robin," he asked, a strange note in his voice, "Do you have any close relatives?"
Robin stopped mid-stride, taken aback by the sudden, personal question. He had never disclosed any family relations to anyone—not even the rest of the Titans knew if Robin had immediate relatives. It was not something he thought about much, and certainly not anything that he would disclose. He had learned quickly that when pursuing the course of a vigilante, hiding true identity was often very necessary.
He was spared the need to answer as Barret shook his head and waved him on. "Sorry, I know it's none of my business, and it shouldn't be. But I don't know how else to explain it."
"Explain what?" Robin demanded.
They crossed the threshold and moved into a small room. The still form of the body lay on a hard table, draped in a white cloth. Chief Barret moved to pull down the covering from the face. "When the autopsy results came back, all of them—the blood type, DNA tests, fingerprints—came back as you, Robin."
The figure was as the chief had explained earlier—a male in his mid to late-thirties, his body tall and muscular, the pale face framed by shoulder-length black hair.
As she caught a clear glimpse of the body, Starfire gasped audibly. Her eyes grew wide and transfixed, and she began trembling.
Robin was still stunned by what the chief had just said. "What do you mean, all the tests came back as me?"
Barret took a step back so the Titans could inspect the body more closely. "Like I said, we took blood type, DNA samples, and all that. And you know we have your records on hand, Robin. They all matched. Everything scientific says that man can only be one person—you. But we all know who you are, so I have no idea how to explain it."
Cyborg had been studying the facial features of the dead man. "He looks like you, Robin."
"Yeah, an old you," Beast Boy piped up. "Like he was your dad, or something."
"That's not possible, and it still doesn't explain the test results," Robin answered.
Chief Barret was glancing at each Titan. "None of you have seen him before, then. You don't know who he is?"
Now Robin understood the Chief's earlier query about his relatives. "I'm sorry, I'm as confused about it as you are," Robin sympathized. Upon turning to face the officer, he saw Starfire out of the corner of his eye. The frightened look on her face alarmed him. "Star? You okay?"
When she did not reply, Robin turned back to Chief Barret. "Ah, do you think we could have a few minutes?"
The chief nodded, agreeing quickly and moving towards the exit. "Just let me know when you're all ready to leave, and I'll send someone down to lock up."
"That is Nightwing!" Starfire blurted when Chief Barret had gone. "He is you, Robin, he is the you that I saw when I fell into the future and the drifting had happened!"
As everyone gaped at Starfire's outburst, Terra placed hands on hips. "Okay, I'm ready for an explanation."
Ever eager to please, Beast Boy quickly launched into long-winded, hard-to-follow detail. "Okay, we're fighting the bad guy, right? Some whacked-out dude who calls himself Warp and comes from the future with these weird time-portal thingies. Anyway, he comes in to steal the stuff, but he totally gets busted because we were all waiting for him! So then he fires off all these techno gadget whatchamacallits from his future place, and beats the living daylights out of everybody! Except me, of course, since I was onto his little scheme..." Puffing up his chest and grinning like a weasel, Beast Boy took a deep breath to continue explaining how he had saved the day, but promptly found himself cut off as Raven explained properly.
"During one of our battles, Starfire accidentally fell through a time portal and went twenty years into the future. She made it back safely, as you can see, but while she was there she had encounters with all of our future selves."
Beast Boy stood, a vein pulsing in his neck as he glared venom at Raven for stealing his spotlight.
Starfire was shaking her head. "I do not understand how Nightwing can be here, or why he has been killed."
"Do you think Warp had something to do with it? He's the only one I can think of who would be able to cross time barriers." Cyborg reasoned.
"But Warp's gone," Beast Boy argued. Then he grinned, having thought of something funny. "Heh, he's history! Get it?"
The terrible pun was ignored by his teammates, who were lost in thought.
"You've gotta be kidding me," Terra looked insulted at the explanation her teammates had offered. "Time travel is impossible!"
Robin gave a somber half-smile. "You'd be surprised at the impossible things we've managed to do."
His statement was followed by a long moment of silence. Finally, Cyborg turned away from the body to face the black-haired teen. "What're we going to do about this?"
Shaking his head, Robin moved to put the cover back over the body. "I don't know yet."