Ender Williams was used to walking down the darkened alleyways on his way home from his job, smelling like old French fries and grease. He was used to the alley dogs sniffing at his heels, jumping up on his apron, trying to get a taste of the greasy fried potatoes. Sometimes he would take a small package of fries home with him and toss them out to the dogs. Tonight he just wanted to get home. It was later than usual, 10:26 by his watch, and with the sun completely down, the freaks came out.
He shuffled by the blanketed homeless, not really noticing that there were less shadows huddled in corners under cardboard than usual. He really only noticed something was wrong when the dogs started whimpering behind him. When he turned to stare, they were shaking and shuffling backwards.
"What's wrong with you guys?" He asked, feeling a shiver run up his spine. That's when it hit him. What had really been wrong this entire time. The streets were quiet. Even in the middle of the night they roared with life in Gotham, or, more adequately, death, but not now. Now there was silence and that could only spell trouble.
And trouble filled the space behind him with a grin, one gloved hand reaching forward out of the darkness and finding hold around the 19 year olds neck.
Ender Williams was the third man to go missing in twenty minutes with no witnesses.
Robin smiled at the way Starfire was licking the pancake batter off her orange fingers, obviously delighted. Raven and Beastboy were less delighted at the way the batter clung to their costumes and hair. Raven was in the process of trying to spell it off of her, with no success. Beast Boy was attempting to spit out whatever it was that he had ingested while sampling the batter.
"Would you like a taste, friend Robin?" Starfire asked, green eyes sparkling with good intentions. Raven tried to signal a huge "NO" from behind her.
He just chuckled. Alfred was right, he thought, this is how to get rid of nightmares. Friends and laughter.
"Hey, Rob, come in here for a sec!" Cyborg had set about rebooting his system for any maintenance thirty minutes ago. He'd missed the dinner debate that had ended in Starfire vocally volunteering to cook.
"What's going on?" Robin asked, stepping into the living room. The screen on the television had been converted to a computer screen at Cyborg was busy scanning the tower. He recognized the way the screen was lighting up. Someone had been planting devices inside the tower. Slade, no doubt, he scoffed, always amazed that the man had time to plant listening devices in the same places in the tower.
"I've managed to install this really cool scanning software."
"I can see that…" Robin was losing track of the point.
"Yeah, but check this out," Cyborg said, pointing at the screen. "Look how many devices it's picked up on. Either we've been missing these the whole time, or something's up with my system."
Robin looked at the screen, there were about five devices unaccounted for, one in each of the Titan's rooms, not counting Slade's usual hiding spots.
"Let's check it out."
Slade looked at his volunteers. Sixteen in total, about two hours worth of work in procuring, and two hours well spent. They looked up at him, wide eyed and pale and completely in terror. It was so beautiful he felt his mouth threatening to crack a smile, which might terrify them even more.
"Good evening." He began, turning his back on them and walking towards the still sleeping Scarecrow. He prodded the man with his foot until he felt the snores shift into grumbles of awareness. When he was sure the man was getting up, he turned to face the men again. "If there is any consolation for what you'll be doing tonight, it's that you'll be making history."
Hm, he thought, judging the reactions of the men, that didn't quite seem to comfort them as much as he had thought. Perhaps the doctor would have a better bedside manner. Doctor Crane was rising from the ground, sans mask. One of the volunteers seemed to recognize the man.
"Doctor Crane! Help us!" An older man, clearly homeless by the smell of him, struggled forward out of line towards Crane.
"Doctor Crane?" He looked confused as he stared at the man. "I'm sorry, the doctor's out." He turned around pulling the burlap sack over his head and reaching for a purple vial. He popped the vial into the dispenser and turned back around. "But Scarecrow's in!" He released the new toxin right into the man's face.
"Now tell me," he whispered, frightfully close to the man who was now shaking in terror at the way the burlap seemed to stretch into a grotesque grin and snap at his nose. "What are you afraid of?"
Slade watched all this with a blank eye. Scarecrow seemed to have forgotten who was in charge here. Besides, if the man had completed the formula correctly, he should already know what the man was afraid of. And, if he were to confess, he wasn't entirely as interested in this process as he should be, he was more interested in what Crane's reaction would be, as he fully intended to use the purple vial concealed in his left hand on the man afterwards.
Robin looked down at the small camera in his fingers. He found it in the corner of his room, tucked into the wall of the Tower. It had to have been installed with the Titans Tower, which was impossible. Except here it was, and there were four others in Cyborg's hands. And worst of all, he recognized the camera. He didn't even need to see the small WE engraved in the side of the device to know that Wayne Enterprises had manufactured these five cameras and that Batman had installed them himself. He'd been spying on them from day one.
"How did we miss these?" Cyborg was confused, there was no way these got past his scanning software for this long.
"Did you switch scanners?" Robin asked, already knowing the answer.
"Huh? Yeah, well, Queen Industries had a breakthrough in software, so I figured I'd download their new scanning tech instead of Wayne's. Why would that matter though?"
Robin felt betrayal sink and fester in his gut. Batman didn't even trust him to handle the lesser known villains here without keeping an eye on him. And not just him, but his teammates. His teammates who he couldn't tell about this because that would mean revealing who he was and how Batman got his hands on top secret Wayne Enterprises equipment.
Batman didn't trust him. Fine. Whatever. Nothing new there. But Batman spying on his teammates was unacceptable and there was no way he was going to stand for that. It was time for this conversation to be face to face.
"Rob?" Cyborg asked, raising his eyebrows.
"I'm going to Gotham."
[A/N] I have plans for Slade and Scarecrow that involve Batman, who will definitely make an appearance next chapter in a big way. But I thought I had avoided this long enough, so I hope you guys enjoyed that chapter. I haven't decided if I want the Mad Hatter to make an appearance yet. The Joker will for certain, but suggestions on villains?