Twenty-Four hours later, the break finally came. While keeping tabs on Robin during some kind of training exercise, he received a call from J'Onn, requesting his presence up at the Watchtower.
"What have you got?" he asked, joining the Martian in one of the labs.
"This technology is nothing short of amazing," J'Onn answered, his gaze locked on the screen in front of him.
"Did you find a cure?" Batman asked, a touch of impatience in his voice.
"There is no cure," J'Onn replied. "There only way to get rid of these things is to destroy the source. I was, however, able to come up with something that will counter the effects."
He pressed a button and a tray with four small vials filled with blue liquid slid out. "Inject the Titans with that. If the probes are activated, it should delay the effects, hopefully, long enough to destroy the source."
Batman nodded, putting the vials safely in his belt. "Thank you, J'Onn," he murmured as he turned to leave.
He paused in the doorway as J'Onn asked, "Are you sure you don't wish to involve the others in this?"
"Positive. Your involvement is more than enough. Thank you again." He swept from the room, heading quickly for the hanger. At last, it was time to strike.
Robin was in the middle of a meditation exercise when a huge explosion rocked the building, drawing a startled gasp from him. "Robin, find out what that was," Slade ordered over his comm link.
"I'm on it," Robin replied, jumping to his feet and running from the room. He rushed into the main room and skidded to a dead stop, surprise and fear filling him.
"The Titans," Slade murmured in his ear, his tone causing Robin to shiver.
"I'll handle this," he whispered, swinging into the rafters before the team spotted him.
"See that you do. I would hate to have to push that button."
'Yeah right,' Robin thought, then shouted, "Titans!" staying in the rafters so they couldn't see him.
"Robin!" Starfire cried, her gaze searching the room. "Please, we need to speak with you!"
"You shouldn't have come here! You have no idea..."
"Dude!" Beast Boy shouted, "We know!"
Robin paused in his movements through the rafters, his heart jumping a little more. "What?"
"We know about the nanomachines," Raven replied and Robin drew in a sharp breath, eyes widening.
He dropped down on a pile of crates so they could see him, aware of the androids gathering in the shadows. "Then you coming here was even stupider!" he growled coldly.
"Robin, how could we not come?" Starfire said and Robin was starting to wonder where Slade's commentary was when Cyborg's next statement filled him with rage.
"We don't care what he did to us man! We just want..."
"You don't care? You don't care?" he repeated. "I care, you bastard! I care!" he screamed. "I am not going to watch him kill you! Not after what I've been through! And if you get past me, he will kill you!" He palmed some min grenades and added, "Which means I can't let you get through me."
Without giving the startled teens a chance to respond, he shouted, "Attack!" threw the grenades and launched himself into the fight.
Slade was in another part of the building, working on his project when the explosion occurred. 'Hmm, we're either under attack or one of the droids blew something up again,' he thought in annoyance. Moving to a security monitor, he frowned when he discovered it had been knocked out. Pressing his comm link, he murmured, "Robin, find out what that was."
"I'm on it," came the immediate response.
Slade quickly went to work in bringing the backup security online and when the images of his guests filled the screens, a smile crept across his lips. "The Titans," he murmured, aware that the comm link was still open.
"I'll handle this," Robin whispered and Slade heard the tremor in the boy's voice.
"See that you do," he answered, putting a threat in his tone. "I would hate to have to push that button."
No sooner had he said that than the monitor he was watching shattered, followed quickly by a cut in communications. "Slade!" a voice growled and he spun around, watching as a demonic form detached itself from the shadows.
A smile crept across Slade's lips, replacing his surprise. "Well now, isn't this a pleasant surprise. I can't tell you how much of a pleasure it is to meet you, Batman."
"You kidnaped my son, Slade," Batman snarled. "Turned him into a criminal...forced him to hurt his team. The only pleasure that's about to be had will be mine as I rip your throat out."
"Come now, Batman," Slade purred, "There's no need for violence. You've obviously been watching...I would think you'd be pleased with what I've done with him. He's so much more focused...efficient. And I haven't even begun to tap his true potential."
"And what's that?" Batman growled as the pair began to circle each other, "Assassin? Did you plan to make him kill for you?"
"Up to him, but I'm fairly certain he'll slip into it in his own time." Slade's smirk was visible in his voice. "Though I wasn't expecting that to occur for some time. However, bringing the Titans here tonight may accelerate that theory."
The time for talk was over. In a sudden flurry of movement, Batman attacked and Slade met him head on. The pair fought viciously, neither willing to surrender Robin to the other and it wasn't long into the fight that Slade began to see why this man was so feared and where Robin got his spirit from. The Bat's skill was perfect and deadly...everything Slade had hoped to mold Robin into.
The man had more determination than Slade had ever seen before which, as the fight progressed, began to turn into a problem. He felt something crack and pain explode through his arm as he was thrown into a concrete pillar. He ducked just in time to avoid a kick to his head, but wasn't able to avoid the blow to his stomach.
It was entirely possible he wasn't going to win this, he realized as he rolled away and came to his feet, throwing several explosives at the Bat, who disappeared somewhere in the smoke. Well, it was time to fight dirty. The remote to trigger the nanomachines appeared in his hand and he shouted, "Enough!"
When no attack came, he said, "I won't insult you by believing you have no idea what I've done to the Titans. Therefore, you know what will happen when I press this button."
A low laugh came from somewhere on his right. "Go ahead," Batman hissed, now somewhere on the left. "It's not the Titans I'm concerned about right now."
Slade narrowed his eyes. The Bat was up to something. Either he had already pulled something off right under Slade's nose or he was bluffing.
"You've lost, Slade," came the growl from somewhere behind him now. "With any other choice, it might have worked. But you lost the second you set your sick mind on my son."
The remote suddenly exploded in his hand, prompting a cry of pain from Slade, who clutched his hand and spun back around in time to receive a devastating blow to his head. He fell to the floor, stunned and struggling to regain his senses. Cold air caressed his face and he wondered about that for a few seconds before his eyes widened in realization and his hand flew to his bare face.
Scrambling to his feet, a little woozy from the head trauma, he spotted his broken mask on the floor and Batman coming straight at him like something out of hell. Thinking quickly, he pressed a button and several of his drones appeared from nowhere, intercepting the Bat. Knowing it wouldn't take him long to go through them, Slade turned and fled, disappearing into the darkness and the hidden escape route. He had been defeated, for the time being at least. He would go to ground and recover, then come back for Robin with a plan for the Bat. But for now, Batman could have him.
The broken bodies of drones littered the floor, making maneuvering a little difficult but doing nothing to slow the Boy Wonder down. The drones didn't matter. All that mattered was defeating the Titans and finding out where Slade had gotten to. There had been no communication from him for some time now, which concerned him for he didn't know what that meant. He had to defeat the foursome fast and find his master. He was pretty sure he could convince him to abandon this lair for another and avoid killing his friends.
His former friends, he reminded himself. Despite the fact that they knew about the probes, it was too late. He belonged to Slade now. If they had found out earlier, maybe they would have had a chance, but not now. Slade possessed too much of his mind for him to openly rebel and side with the Titans.
So he fought. He fought more viciously than he ever had before...to defeat them for their own good, ignoring their pleas to stop...their attempts to reason with him. Why didn't they understand? They helped bring this down with their belief that he would ever willingly betray them...
Just as he was about to deliver a devastating blow to Cyborg, a familiar voice rang out, sharp and commanding and demanding obedience. "Enough!"
Instantly, the fighting stopped and all eyes turned to the nearby entrance to the room, watching as something sailed out of the shadows, landing near Robin's feet. Robin drew in a sharp breath when he saw what the object was. It was Slade's mask...broken.
"It's over, Robin. Stand down."
His eyes snapped up to the entrance and he watched the last person he ever expected to see step into the dim light. "B...Batman?" he whispered, taking a step back.
"We contacted him after you broke into the Tower," Cyborg said from behind him and Robin quickly maneuvered himself so he could see both parties. His mind was going a mile a minute, his gaze moving from Batman to the broken mask as he tried to work the situation out.
"You...You're saying Slade's gone?" he asked quietly, raising his gaze to watch Batman's nod. His gaze moved back to the mask, hand clenching and unclenching. Slade was gone, just like that. No, it was far to easy...it just couldn't be that simple. This was Slade after all...
Ah...Robin understood now...this was a test. Slade was testing him to see what he would do in a situation like this. The Titans were probably holograms and Batman was probably one of Slade's droids. A grim smile touched his lips. He wasn't going to fall for it. He was going to pass this test and please his master...
With a savage scream, Robin attacked, drawing a startled exclamation from Starfire. He dimly heard Cyborg say something about letting the Bat handle it before throwing all his concentration into the fight.
The droid was an amazingly realistic version of Batman. Slade must have studied him carefully at some point in order to program the droid so well. If Robin didn't know better, he's have thought he was fighting the real thing. Hell, he even had the scent down!
The fight lasted all of eight minutes before Robin was slammed into a wall and rather effectively pinned. "Dick Grayson!" his opponent hissed and Robin froze at the use of his real name.
Before he could say anything, 'Batman' was whispering in his ear. "When you were ten, you got a snow racer for Christmas. When it was time to come in, you begged Alfred for one last ride. He gave in and you ended up crashing it and getting buried in the snow. You were sick with a cold for a month."
There was a quick pause and then, "Every April Fools, you try to pull one over on Alfred and he never falls for it."
Robin's eyes had grown impossibly wide. There was no way Slade could have known all that. His real name...possibly, but not the other stuff. Oh God...
He relaxed his body in a signal of surrender and Batman released him, stepping back to give him some room. Robin slowly turned and looked up at the Dark Knight...the real Dark Knight...his father...almost certain he was dreaming now. Tears were gathering in his eyes. If this was a dream, he didn't think he'd be able to handle it.
He looked over to where the Titans stood and watched Starfire, tears slipping down her own cheeks, take a step toward him. "It's over, Robin," she whispered. "We finally have you back."
That was about all he could take as reality slammed into him. Slade was gone, he was free and the Titans were safe. He dropped down to his hands and knees with a sob and, as he began to cry in earnest, Batman knelt down next to him, wrapping his cape around him and hiding him from view. From where the Titans stood, they could hear soft murmuring but could not make out what was being said. They looked at each other, then Cyborg turned and set to work on locating the source of the nanomachines so he could destroy it.
Three Nights later:
"The Titans are yours, Cyborg. I know you'll lead them well," a somber Robin said to a stricken group of teens.
The group was currently gathered on the roof of Titans Tower, Batman waiting patiently next to the Batwing while Robin said his goodbye. The boy had surprised his mentor on the issue of returning to Gotham by actually requesting to go back. The night they had rescued him from Slade, they had returned to the Tower where Robin had dropped into an exhausted sleep, Batman never once leaving the room. The request to return to Gotham had been the first thing Robin had said the first few times he had woken up and he hadn't changed his mind up until this point.
"Robin...dude, you don't have to leave us!" Beast Boy said for what must have been the millionth time since learning what Robin had planned.
"Yes, I do Beast Boy," Robin replied for what also must have been the millionth time. "I need to go home...be with my family."
"But you are home and we are your family!" a tearful Starfire protested.
Robin turned his gaze to her and the pain in his heart worsened. "No, Starfire," he replied quietly, refusing to let the tears he knew were gathering fall. "I'm not home and I haven't been for a while. Slade he...he really did a number on my mind. I can't recover here...I need to be with my father, back where things make sense. Please...try to understand."
His gaze moved over the others and he added, "I'll...I'll keep in touch." He turned to head for the Batwing, stopping when Starfire said quietly, "I never thought you were a coward, Robin."
He knew what she was doing and it wasn't going to work. Without looking back, he said, "Goodbye Star," and continued on toward the plane.
"Robin!" Starfire started toward him but was stopped by Cyborg's hand on her shoulder.
"Let him go, Star," he murmured. "Like he said, he needs to be with his family right now."
"But we are his family," Starfire repeated her earlier statement, tears flowing freely down her cheeks.
"The family that betrayed him by believing he would actually betray us," Raven stated, which made a sob escape from Starfire as she turned and buried her face in Cyborg's chest.
Robin heard her crying, but didn't turn back. Instead, he went straight up to the plane and moved to get in, pausing at Batman's quiet, "Are you sure?"
Robin nodded and got in, not trusting himself to speak right then and a few seconds later, Batman started the engine and the cockpit down slid closed. A moment after that, they were airborne and, only when Robin knew they were far enough away that they would not see the tears sliding down his cheeks, did he look back and watch them fade away into the night.
When they were out of sight, he faced forward again, silently slipping out one of the magic pills he had secreted away and taking it almost without thought. In minutes, the terrible pain in his heart and soul began to ease...