Foreword: This takes place just before the episode "Haunted." Soundtrack is as follows. Sorry if some of the songs are hard to find or anything.
Scene One: VNV Nation - Tempest
Scene Two: Rurouni Kenshin - The Duel
Scene Three: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Velveteen
Scene Four: Big O - Sin
Scene Five: Stabbing Westward - Torn Apart
Scene Six/Seven: VNV Nation - Forsaken
Scene Eight: VNV Nation - Holding On
Jump City. A place somewhere on the West Coast of the North America, populated by around a million or more people. The population at large, however, was of little concern to him. The only members of it who mattered were all clustered together in a gigantic T out in the bay, brazenly standing like a watchtower. It cast a shadow long enough to reach the shore when the sun was setting, and its shape brought most people a distinct sense of comfort that couldn't be found any other way. It was even something of a tourist attraction, considering how many people came to the city just to have their picture taken in front of it, even on the mainland.
Personally, he couldn't stand it.
Chiefly because of the people who lived inside.
The Teen Titans.
In one fell swoop, they and a girl who was now little more than a statue had ruined his life. They had taken away his employer and best friend, and they had destroyed a robotic army that had taken him a decade to design and at least half as long to actually put together.
Granted, the robots he could replace. He still had the blueprints and even the initial prototypes to help him, after all. Unfortunately, with his employer and friend dead, he lacked the financial resources, or the underworld connections.
Men like William Randolph Wintergreen have a tendency to fly under the radar when it comes to the kind of rivalries shared between heroes and villians. When the Teen Titans dealt with Slade, they saw nothing but Slade. They didn't see the men and women who relied on Slade to make a living, nor did they see the families that had sprouted up around him.
It sickened him. To the point of addictions and obsession. He had started smoking now, and the bottle called to him nightly, though he did good to resist it. His obsession, however, was a far different matter.
Slade had been the most open employer that Wintergreen had ever dealt with. He was privy to every personal secret in the man's life, and not just because he'd known him before he became a world-class mercenary and, later on, an underworld powerhouse. One who craved the conquest and destruction of a city that had cost him an eye, and then came to desire the destruction of a team of superheroes. One who had wanted to be a father so badly that it had driven him insane, and eventually took his life.
As a friend though, Slade was somewhat lacking. Perhaps it had been some kind of misplaced bid to give his first would-be apprentice some dignity or privacy. Perhaps it had just been arrogance or maybe, just maybe, he had simply kept Wintergreen out of the loop for his own safety, but regardless...
There was one secret that Slade had either never uncovered or simply never relayed to him.
Of the Teen Titans, this much could be said: They're as brazen as the T-shaped tower they live in. Almost all of them have public identities. They don't really take much care in guarding them either, which is pretty understandable given that most of them couldn't hope to disguise themselves even if they'd completely altered their appearances.
Garfield Logan, alias Beast Boy. Victor Stone, alias Cyborg. Kory Anders, alias Starfire. Raven, alias... Well, she didn't really have an alias, as far as Wintergreen knew.
All of their real names, and with exception to Anders and Raven, their birthdates, hometowns and just about everything else, had been found with little more than search through the records of a few corporations and the government. The only reason the media hadn't gone berserk over it was because it was such common knowledge anymore.
But there was still an exception. One member who stood out like a sore thumb. Someone who did wear a mask. Someone who lacked phenominal powers, cybernetic prosthetics or even a mystical background steeped in foriegn cultures or the occult.
The most active member of the team's roster, and the most secretive as well. Robin could be seen all over the city at almost any hour, on any given day, with few, if any, exceptions.
If Slade had ever uncovered any of Robin's secrets, including his real name and identity, he had never told Wintergreen. It was one of the few secrets that had remained between them near the end. Even when William had been presenting Robin with the armor he would wear as Slade's apprentice, the boy had been allowed to wear a mask.
Swearing to himself under his breath, Wintergreen spat his cigarette burnt down to the filter over the edge of the bay bridge and turned towards the north end, where his car was parked.
"I'll get behind the mask," he thought to himself, "even if it's the last thing I'll ever do."
By the time he had reached his car, it was raining. By the time he had climbed inside, he was soaked all the way through the dingy brown trench coat he was wearing, leaving his white shirt and khaki pants wet all over. He didn't care though. Rain had always been something of a comfort to Wintergreen.
It had been raining in Hanoi, when Slade had carried him out of a prison camp.
Without a word to himself, he had put the keys in the ignition and
A red motorcycle blazed by, complete with a black-and-yellow streak for a rider.
Wintergreen cursed and started the car in a frenzy, taking off after the blur at speeds that simply weren't even legal. Across the bridge, he chased after the ever-diminishing figure on the cycle, even as the rain continued pounding across his windshield. The wipers flew across his field of vision one a second, and the sense of the chase lead him to swerve almost uncontrollably around a sixteen wheeler as he tried to follow the cycle and its rider.
"Just a little closer," he thought to himself, hunching forward as the prey all but leapt from the bridge and into the streets. His sedan followed suit in a manner that didn't look physically possible, let alone safe.
Violently, the car hit the street and banked to the side, balancing on two wheels as a convertible blew by beneath it. The motorcycle was dead ahead, weaving between traffic like it owned the road and
The motorcycle slid to a graceful halt, and the sedan, still hurtling on two wheels, slammed to a stop next to it. Wintergreen was already yanking open the glove compartment to get his gun, shoving open the door and getting ready to take aim...
But it wasn't him.
The motorcycle was merely a Japanese racing model. The rider was just some dumb kid with too much money and an ugly yellow-and-black striped jacket on. His helmet didn't even match the one that Robin wore.
"... You got some moves, pops!" The youth shouted over to him after a stupified pause.
William sighed and shut both the door and the compartment, leaving his gun inside without ever having drawn it.
"I need a drink," he said to himself.
When he finally arrived at the bar, he didn't actually go inside.
Instead, he sat. Like he often did, he simply waited for nothing in the parking lot, hunched forward on the steering wheel. The horn had been disabled a few weeks ago, so it wasn't like he had anything to worry about other than charges of loitering.
Every time he got closer to the truth, he ended up farther away than when he had started on. As it had turned out, while he was chasing the youngster on a motorcycle, the real Robin had briefly been sighted downtown with the rest of the team, putting the brakes to a would-be bank robbery.
It was maddening, really. Even though information about the young man known as Robin was abundant, none of it pertained to his personal life.
It was speculated that he was around the age of 15. He had first been spotted around three or four years earlier in Gotham City, according to rumor. Back then, he was just the sidekick of the Batman, another enigma with legs. Physically, Wintergreen knew a good deal about Robin. He had seen the youngster up close, and was somewhat disappointed as a result.
Robin was short, only around 5'7". He was also thin for a crime fighter, with jet black hair that swept back and boasted the distinct scent of styling gel, though whatever he used was good enough to not look like it was the result of gel. He had no facial hair, his voice sounded somewhere between puberty and adulthood and his weight was surprisingly low for someone who had to fight superpowered maniacs on a daily basis.
About the only thing that Wintergreen truly remembered being impressed by was the kid's intensity. He was short, gangly and awkward, yes, but he had carried himself as if the world was balanced precariously on every single action he made. He had never spoken with hesitation in Wintergreen's presence, and he had never shown a single sign of weakness around him either though Slade mentioned something about the boy reaching a breaking point shortly before the collapse of their old headquarters.
"What would you do if you were still here, Mister Wilson?" He asked, more to himself than his dead friend.
What would Slade do, anyway?
It was such a simple question, and it had an equally simple answer: Strike out.
But using what?
For the longest time, Wintergreen sat and pondered over both question and answer. For every second that ticked by, the allure of the bottle continued calling to him, becoming stronger and stronger as time progressed...
But at last
"The prototypes," he thought, eyes bolting wide open as he sat upright.
"Of course," he said aloud, starting the car back up.
Some time later, the door into the garage of the one-bedroom house that Wintergreen had called home for the past two months slammed shut. The lights flipped on, and as they did, his entire life seemed to fall into a disarrayed focus.
Across the walls, on the floors, even the ceiling... It was all occupied to some extent by things acquired as a result of his years of work at Slade's side.
A rapier acquired as a trophy from one of the few times that Wintergreen had accompanied Slade into the field. A trophy for a shooting contest where Wintergreen had actually bested Slade in the 500 meter range. A picture of Slade's wedding, wherein Wintergreen had been the best man. A picture he had taken of Slade, his wife, Adeline and their two children, Joseph and Grant. His god-sons. Further on though, were what he had really come for.
The blueprints for the first robotic soldier, and every one to come after that.
The first prototype itself was standing right next to them in shutdown, resembling a solid silver mannequin more so than an armed man in a costume. The second, which was really more of a special unit than a prototype, was standing next to the first. It was easily a head taller, and with the faceplate on, looked exactly like Slade's old uniform. In fact, it was the original companion piece to this one that had battled Robin during the first Red X fiasco. The third was, more or less, a standard 'Slade-bot,' though it featured a few nastier tricks than the normal version that had succeeded it. This one, for instance, came equipped with shoulder-fired plasma cannons and blades in its forearms.
The fourth, and last, of the prototypes was also the largest. It was easily too large to stand upright in the garage, and probably outmassed Wintergreen's car by a full ton and a half. It was the precursor to the headless killing machines that Slade had sent out when his second apprentice was taking control of the city.
Faceless, imposing and lethal. That summed up the prototypes better than anything else. With a small, yet growing smirk on his face, twitching and curling his white mustache upward, William Randolph Wintergreen resolved that these four robots would be his ultimate answer to the question that had plagued him since the destruction of the Factory.
Who is Robin? With that thought echoing in his ears, Wintergreen methodically went about the process of activating each one.
It had been midnight when he picked up on the transmission. While all the other Titans slept at this hour, Robin had been conditioned to never sleep any earlier than 1:00 AM unless he had a specific reason to do so. As they all slept, he was out patrolling the city for activity. So far, he had already halted two muggings, and now...
Now he was running head-on into what had apparently started out as a botched bank robbery and rapidly escalated into a full-blown firefight between a few policemen and what was being described as 'robot aliens with death rays,' or something to that effect.
By the time that he had arrived, Robin had come to the conclusion that robot aliens with death rays weren't the cause of the problem. For one, robot aliens tended to be decidedly uglier, and death rays didn't leave explosions in their wake.
As swiftly and silently as some kind of high-tech ninja, Robin had pressed the alarm button on his communicator, leapt from his motorcycle, launched a grappling hook and used it as an anchor to run along the side of a building to its nearest corner. From there, he had swung around onto a ledge, leapt off again and drawn out six bird-a-rangs.
Even as he was hurtling towards the ground at breakneck speeds though, he was assessing the situation.
There were four of them all total. One big, two small, the other only visible as a silhouette right now. Of the police, one of the three cars was in flames, another was on its side and the third was riddled with holes and smoking badly. All six officers were huddled behind the overturned one, and two of them looked to be injured badly.
Without though, Robin hit the ground in a crouching skid and threw all six forward.
Immediately, the second-smallest of the lot dove into the line of fire with a violently fast twist. Blades seemed to all but explode from its arms before it landed, leaving the bird-a-rangs to ping back towards Robin and harmlessly hit the ground.
Grimacing, he stood up, feeling the cape rustle at the backs of his arms and legs as he considered his next move.
And then the burning car outright blew apart not far away, shedding enough light on the quartet that he could actually make out the details precisely.
Recognition was instant.
"Slade," he said as distastefully as if he had been tasked with cleaning out a litter box.
Almost on cue, the missing fourth member of the group stepped into full view.
Armored plates on the shoulders, hips and boots. The well-honed build of a martial artist with no peer. Hands behind his back in the usual fashion, and that occursed mask that only left one eye exposed.
Robin felt his blood run cold.
Slade really was back...
"And now for the finale," William mumbled to himself, using a simple laptop to execute the command for the Slade-type to perform that almost trademarked good-bye before taking off towards Wintergreen's own location.
Even as the psuedo-Slade was fleeing though, Robin was already demolishing all three of the others. The goliath robot was downed with nothing but a set of spherical explosives. The original prototype needed nothing but a solid blow to the head from a staff weapon, which was promptly used to all but impale the second and wrench it in half against a wall. The Titan had quickly dispatched it before its suicide programming could even kick in, and then...
The chase was on.
As the rain poured down on Jump City in bucketloads, Robin hunted the false Slade, and William watched every second of it from cameras placed all over the robot. He watched as the two made it up to a rooftop, and then leapt from one to the next, going in a chain all the way across the city. The robot was programmed quite nicely, considering the amount of weaponry that Robin kept throwing at it. It was really miraculous that the two didn't blow the roof of a few of the buildings that the chase lead them to, but eventually...
Eventually, as with all things, the chase was over. Wintergreen looked up from the laptop, standing within the open doorway of a small exit onto the roof of the old Factory.
First, Slade arrived. As Wintergreen had intended, the robot slid to a halt about thirty feet in front of him, then turned around. Exactly as he had guessed, Robin came to a stop not far from him, whipping out the bo staff and extending it in a flash of metal.
"I don't know how you survived, but"
He felt a small tinge of satisfaction as thunder drowned out the rest of whatever contrived declaration Robin had to say.
With that, Wintergreen put down the laptop and reached into his trench coat.
The Slade-bot executed its suicide initiative as planned.
With speed and violence, the robot and the hero waged a war. Robin lead in with a swing of his staff, Slade ducked underneath and lashed out with an uppercut. The youth parried the attack away with an elbow and backhanded the robot in the process, only for Slade to hit the ground on both hands and one foot and
The crack of metal on bone was enough to send a jolt through his spine. A spray of red flew from Robin's lips and into the rain clogged night air.
The Boy Wonder hurled straight up, forgetting his staff and rolling into a backflip even though his lower jaw was starting to bruise at the chin.
With that, he dropped back down and Slade sprang up to try and meet him with a one-two elbow-punch combo. Robin stopped the first with a knee to the bicep, caught the arm with both hands and landed on one foot. What happened next defied Wintergreen's ability to describe but somehow, Robin used the very leg he'd blocked the blow strike with to swing up under Slade's arm, behind his neck and flip him forward in a spin.
Almost as if choreographed, the youth leg go and the robot skidded forward, leaving Robin to catch the staff, twist around and
Robin fell down with a scream as three rounds nailed him in the chest. Even though he was wearing bullet proof clothing, the slugs from William's revolver had caught him off-guard completely. A few seconds later, the boy was heaving back up to his feet, only to be sent back down again with a fourth bullet into the stomach. Even though kevlar was enough to diffuse the impacts, the force was still agonizing, and Robin was like anyone else in this situation: Almost helpless.
Almost. "Who are you!" He demanded, flinging a bird-a-rang from nowhere at Wintergreen's head. The old man simply tilted out of the way and the bladed projectile stabbed into the doorframe behind him.
"The better question," he began, using the English accent he'd been born with for the first time in months. "Is who are you?"
Robin stammered back on the ground, hurling another bird-a-rang on impulse. This time, Wintergreen blocked it, using the very rapier that he had gotten so many years earlier. The two weapons collided and sang, leaving the projectile to fall lifelessly nearby.
"What are you talking about?" Robin hissed, back to a wall as he tried to get up again.
Wintergreen responded with two bullets this time. One to a leg, one to a shoulder. Robin let out a scream and curled against the wall, still not bleeding, but no longer in any capacity to use his acrobatic talents to get out of this.
"Who is behind the mask!" William finally shouted. "WHAT IS YOUR NAME!"
This time, Robin said nothing. He simply twitched and seethed, trying to use the hip-high wall to help himself up on an obviously numb leg.
Wintergreen snorted and tossed aside the empty gun.
"If you won't tell me, I'll just take the mask off when you're dead and look for it by face," he stated bluntly.
Tired legs on the order of sixty-seven years old pounded with one last surge of life, carrying Slade's only true friend forward on a mission of both revenge and obsession. As the distance between them closed, Robin finally looked up, just in time for the two to make eye-contact and then...
Wintergreen felt his heart skip.
As the sword closed, Robin pushed off the wall and shot out an arm, bypassing the rapier entirely and grabbing William's wrist. With nothing but a grunt from effort, the youth's body gave out in the direction of his wounded leg and shoulder, using the momentum to pull Wintergreen with him and hurl him into the air.
Perhaps Robin had intended to just throw him headfirst into the wall or even just drag him to the ground, but in the haze of pain and numbness in his leg and side, the youth had put too much effort into it. Wintergreen gasped, but failed to scream as the rapier flew from his hand, and he in turn flew over the edge of the building and pulled into a half-flip.
The ground came faster than he'd anticipated.
First he heard the sickening crunch of bones on concrete, then nothing.
Sometime later, he opened his eyes to find himself staring blankly up at the cloudy, raining night sky, with nothing but his own obsessions to keep him company. His body was numb from the waist down, and his chest hurt everytime he took even the slightest of breaths. He could taste blood in his mouth, coppery and familiar. Though he could no longer move his broken arms and shoulders, he could clearly feel a squishy, warm tingle on the back of his head as it lay against the concrete.
And above him, between the clouds and the ground he lay on, stood the source of his obsessions.
"... You're alive," Robin whispered out, only barely audible against the falling rain.
"H-... Who... Are you," Wintergreen rasped up to him, gurgling out a bit of blood both before and after.
"I can't tell you," Robin answered, faltering to his knees next to him.
"Please," Wintergreen begged, trying and failing to turn his head towards the youth stared down at him with... Pity?
"Then... Just... Show me your face," he asked, finally managing to tilt his head a bit, even though it brought a wet squishing sound with it.
For what felt like a small eternity, Robin and Wintergreen stared at each other. During that time, it almost looked as if the Boy Wonder was crying for him, but William was certain that it was just the rain. After all, his own eyes were stinging enough for both of them.
"... Alright," the youth finally said, reaching up with an almost unlimited amount of hesitation before grasping the sides of the flimsy mask that kept his identity a secret to the outside world. A few seconds later, Wintergreen barely registered the sound of some sort of adhesive giving way, and the mask was gone.
With what felt like the last of his strength, the old man smiled.
"Your eyes... Are just like his," he sputtered out before laughing, even though he was choking on his own blood to do it.
Robin slowly put the mask back on, but by then, recognition had dawned on him as well...
"You were Slade's butler, weren't you?" He asked. "That's how you had access to the robots..."
Wintergreen's chuckle faded away. The man's eyes slid to a pained close and then...
"I suppose... It was only a matter... Of time..."
The last thing he ever heard was thunder booming overhead.
"His name was Wintergreen. He was Slade's old servant," he had told the others when they had finally arrived on the scene a few minutes later to find Robin with his cape removed. It had been laid out over the dead man's body like a cover.
"I think he came after me for revenge, or something. Either way," he had trailed off dimly, motioning to the body with an almost limp hand. "He won't be looking for it anymore."
It hadn't been long after that before he had climbed into Cyborg's car, centered between Raven and Starfire as the lot of them battered him with questions. With a kind of numb stillness, he had explained everything he knew, carefully ignoring the detail of his mask's removal. Cyborg had informed the police on the way home, and by three in the morning, they had finally arrived at the tower.
Shrugging off Raven's attempts at on the spot therapy and Beast Boy and Cyborg's jokes, it was almost too much to even allow Starfire to accompany him up several floors and to the door into his bedroom. Once there, she had tried to hug him, and he had half-heartedly returned the gesture. After that, he mentioned the need for sleep, stepped inside and quietly thanked the door for sliding shut, locking six times and giving him privacy from all the prying eyes, questions and concerns.
While he truly did care for the other Titans, he needed outside help, and there was really only one source for it at this hour. One source he trusted, and one source he knew would be there no matter what.
Slade had been blessed with a man like Wintergreen, he mused, but so had Robin.
Peeling off the mask and his soaked costume, he had changed into pajamas and another mask, then got out a black cell phone and dialed in a long-distance phone number.
A minute later, he spoke.
"Hello, Alfred? I need to speak with you..."
For those not paying enough attention to the series, or simply not informed about the comics, William Randolph Wintergreen was Slade's assistant in the original Teen Titans comics. He appeared in one episode of the cartoon series back in season one. I always wondered what happened to him, and inspiration struck last night as I was trying to sleep, so... Here ya go.
And his last line was taken from the comics. It was too good to pass up.