The Bird and the Tarantula
-9- Rescue –9-
The water had been cold. If they had been on better terms, Robin might have thought to ask Mr. Kriz if he had scooped up a frozen lake from the South Pole and brought it back, painful chill intact. Since they weren't, Robin smashed the thought of cold—mind over body as he was taught. It didn't do much this time to help.
"Anymore…tests?" he managed to rasp out. How Robin would have loved to double over, even curl up on his side. Instead, he kept his back strong, even if the blonde man could see how the cold still nipped at his skin.
Mr. Kriz seemed to glance down at the puddle collecting around Robin's feet. "Three tests in water. Aqualad would blush," he said.
Robin's lips twitched at that but a shiver hid it fast. "I wouldn't mind him doing these tests right about now. He could spend all his time in water. Hence, his name."
The joking didn't earn Robin a quirk from the blonde's face. "You've shown me much in these few hours. My boys have quite the catching up to do."
"We're done?" Robin bit his tongue, hoping it would give his chattering teeth something else to do.
"Yes. Thank you for your performance. It was quite the show."
And as quickly as Robin had fallen into the water, Mr. Kriz was walking out. A door shifted and slid open for Robin at his level, allowing him to pass through and enter the warmth of a waiting fleece towel. The small boy came to Robin's hip but he had held the blanket up high with concentrated effort.
"There is a warm meal on the table over there," the little fellow said and Robin could see white marks across his face, scars of an old life. His voice was a bit hard but less than what Robin would have expected from a kid with that many white lines on his face. "Oh, yeah, and that robe hanging on the wall is for you too."
"Thanks," he managed to reply. It's not like he held anything personally against the kids and Alfred would have expected no less of him. Good manners went a long way.
Robin was grateful when the kid left him alone nonetheless though. He shuffled over to the table and let his hand run over the steam rising from what smelled of green tea with brown rice. Yet again, Robin's stomach tightened at the memory of the butler and he had to struggle to not let his mind drift to Batman and his teammates, especially Wally.
A fire crackled near the table and with little reluctance, Robin took the meal and tea after securing the towel around him. He sat in front of the heat and exhaled through his nose. The awkwardness of being abandoned so quickly by Mr. Kriz settled in and Robin was utterly alone with his thoughts. At the least, the room he was in was smaller than the others he'd been through, almost looking cozy. There was a doorway from which the kid had left and from what Robin saw, it was an expansive hallway—void of any windows like some of the others he had seen.
Just how big was this place? Robin had a vague map in his head thus far but it was probably more complex than that. Much more.
Eating came automatically to Robin, his mind processing data for the most part. He wanted to keep moving, to inspect what he could while he had the chance. He figured Mr. Kriz would want to talk to him soon enough. So, with a rushed appetite, Robin completed his meal, left the plate back on the table, and draped the towel on a seat. He was damp but enough walking would settle him down with the help of the robe—it came without a tie to wrap around his waist.
He took the unfinished tea with him and started his journey down the hallway. Before he hit the first turn, paintings smiled down at him, unidentifiable men and women alike. Robin couldn't tell right then if they were painted a century ago or just the day before. Among them, there were no trap doors or other hidden passages Robin could discern.
When he made the first turn left, light greeted him at the end. The hallway, stripped of paintings, held angelic reliefs poking out from the walls. Robin could see they traveled down to what looked like a library and a very familiar figure sitting on a bench between two statues.
Robin shouldn't have been surprised as to what Akim looked like, unmasked. As the boy's name suggested, Akim had the qualities of an Israeli in hair and skin tone. Yet still, Robin found himself pausing, for mere seconds, to take in the sight; maybe the mask had become one with Akim and now Robin found anything besides it foreign. Dressed in casual attire, the boy's sharp eyes trailed over a book but Robin knew how aware the other boy was of his presence.
"I see you passed the tests thus far," Akim said, glancing up to grace Robin with a smile. It was weird to see movement on a face that was usually hidden behind the mask. Even weirder that it came from a boy that Robin had recently seen kill someone.
Robin had to work to get his smile to look genuine. "Me being alive proves it?"
Looking back down at the book, Akim chuckled. "Me still here, reading and not cleaning up your corpse proves it."
"Must be a good book." Robin huddled into the warmth of his robe and dared a few steps closer. Wearing a long sleeve made it difficult to confirm what, if anything, was attached to Akim's wrists. The disgust he had for the boy, for taking a life, had ebbed slightly by the time he reached Akim. Maybe it had to do with the persona Akim took up behind the mask, and that this boy might be someone different—someone who didn't like bloodshed.
"It is. It's about a djinni summoned by a boy to steal something, a boy at an age that makes it difficult to summon such a strong creature."
"We know a lot about defying odds," Robin said, and boldly plopped down beside him, "Take it you're into those kinds of books?"
Akim didn't show any hostile movements despite the close proximity and it was difficult to imagine him killing anyone. "I like all books thus far. I was taught to read here."
Robin snorted. "You make it sound like some dream orphanage."
The book closed slowly and Akim fixed him with a firm look. Robin took note of the strength in those eyes and the lack of scars on his face. "In many ways, it is. We have warmth, food, shelter, and no one to abuse us. It's far better than most lives around here."
An opportunity opened with the statement. Robin kept his body language casual, which proved easy for him. "Come on, you seriously think working for this psycho is good? You guys aren't fighting bad guys. You guys are involving innocents. You killed."
Akim didn't miss a beat. "I don't like killing," he said, eyes up, "I prayed, hoping that they could find peace in what afterlife there might be."
Stunned, Robin stared. He wanted to tell Akim how dumb that sounded but the boy had sounded so genuine. Was everyone here an enigma?
"So, I understand what you say," Akim went on, "but we never intend to hurt an innocent. Rattle them up, yes. They deserve it for sitting back and making judgments."
"You sound like a brainwashed monkey." Robin smirked at the way Akim's eyes narrowed.
"Are you one to judge me? You're no better. You fight evil in your own way but in the end, you and I are still a type of evil. The main difference is that I'll dirty my hands more than you."
Robin growled and tried to return the hard stare through his mask. "Exactly. Not everyone can have that in them, to use violence to stop evil. There are people who are good, people who hesitate to even attack someone mugging them."
"You're talking about violence. We're teaching them to overcome violence, to fight back other ways, to prevent monsters," Akim said harder, his voice never coming to a growl.
Robin bit his tongue, studying the boy closer. Akim believed the ideal, clung to it even, and Robin probably couldn't pound it out as much as he wanted to. "Violence, darkness, evil, whatever you call it—that's all a cycle. You're trying to break that cycle in one huge swoop?" he pressed.
Gawking, Robin almost laughed at the resolve. "And," he finally managed to scoff out, "you believe all this because that guy told you?"
In a calm manner, Akim's face softened, borderline going sad in the corner of his eyes. Robin was almost put off by the expression. Having been use to staring at a mask, it was proving awkward to maintain control. "He didn't have to tell me, Robin," Akim said in an equally soft voice. "None of us boys here had to be told. We're all of the same family, in some way or another."
Robin stayed silent, pretending to contemplate the comment. In reality, Robin was studying Akim's hands. Unlike his face, they were riddled with marks, each one telling a story of hard training or, possibly, abuse. More intriguing, something about the way Akim's left hand shifted against the book, a subtle yet awkward shit. At their closeness Robin finally detected that it wasn't just his hand, but up part of his arm, as if Akim couldn't move his hand simply at the wrist like most people could. Something was wrong with it.
"Can't you sympathize, Robin?" Akim went on, turning his hands upright to show his scarred palms, "How long can the reign of superheroes last? Superheroes turn bad too. Shouldn't people take more responsibility? They shouldn't let poverty be such a plague. Change must come."
"Change always comes," Robin didn't hear himself say aloud. He studied a deep white line on the left palm, as if made with a terrible blade. Did Akim use his hand to deflect a blow or had he been subdued, forced to watch his hand be impaled?
"We're making it come sooner."
Robin flicked his eyes up to the face again, disregarding his questions over Akim's past for the time being. "What if you're wrong? What if you fail?"
Again, in little movements, Akim's face bore a smile. "I'm not afraid to die. I'm afraid to leave before I can help the world more though. I won't go down so easily."
There, in the shared gaze, they hit a strange platform of empathy. It wasn't so much understanding but Robin could offer the faintest acknowledgement of how similar their paths may have been at one point, how similar their tenacity was on their ideals. Their ideals, at far ends of the spectrum, still blossomed from a familiar path they both once had. Almost.
"Neither will I," Robin finally said, smiling back.
"Are you afraid to die, Robin?"
With a shrug, Robin leaned back on one hand and took a long sip from his tea. It was close to lukewarm by now. "You know us youngsters, we think we're invincible."
Akim's laugh was softer than Robin would have thought. "The fact that you say that though says you know we're very much not."
"You too, I take it. You act like an old man." Robin glanced at him, meeting Akim's small smile. "Talk like one too."
"I rephrase my question: would you feel satisfied if you killed me?" Akim's smile vanished, his face taking on an enigmatic mask all on its own.
Robin didn't look away. "I don't fight criminals to kill them."
"Batman has rules. And you. But you cannot always stop the bad and keep everyone alive. You may have to sink your dagger just a bit deeper," Akim said, still holding Robin's eyes.
That statement gave Robin more reason to take longer sips from his tea. He knew it would only settle his stomach so much though. To fathom taking a life, even out of necessity…
"I don't really like daggers," Robin said, his smile as charming as ever.
Akim lowered his eyes, slowly, returning to the comfort of the text on his lap. Robin thought he looked disappointed. "In all lives, we face turning points that may break us."
Rope snapping, bodies tumbling in the air, and screams that couldn't drown the sound of a lethal impact. Robin shut his eyes, unable to will, wish, or pray the image away. "You're quite philosophical, aren't you?" he said. He knew how much of a whisper his voice sounded.
"I don't think so. I do think you'll have another turning point in your life soon enough."
Robin still didn't look at him, instead wrestling with the visions. "What makes you say I've already had one before?"
A weak chuckle, might have been a sympathetic sound. "You wear that Robin costume."
Robin finished the rest of his tea in Akim's silent company.
Mr. Kriz still hadn't called for him. By now Robin was dry and fingers itching for action.
"I don't know where he is," Akim answered for what was the third time, "Stop asking me."
"Then show me around or something," Robin said with a small huff. He had already explored as much as he could, which came to about nothing. At every new piqued interest were a few young goons prepared to turn him away. As much as Robin would have enjoyed using their heads to do summersaults off, he knew better than to act so rashly so soon. He needed more intel and he wouldn't put it past the blonde tyrant to lock him up in a cage and prevent him from doing just that.
So he was back at Akim's side, leaning against an array of book spines that lined an eight foot tall shelf. Robin had gone through the room more than twice and Akim hadn't stopped his affairs with the books, not even once. The foreigner was fingering a row of books directly in front of him but his eyes were a shelf above it. And each time, Robin snuck glances at the left arm, needing to disprove his earlier assumptions.
"What? Shall I show you the weak points of the building?" Akim asked, lowering his right hand from a shelf.
Robin flashed him a grin, though the boy wasn't looking. "That'd be great, actually."
Akim started to laugh. "It has no weak points."
"Every building does."
"The building isn't at fault. It would be us inside at fault should something go wrong," Akim stated, reaching for a thick, green bound book.
When his first attempt failed, Robin hoisted himself up with one hand and foot and tugged the book out. He dropped it into Akim's waiting hands, smirking when the right hand caught the brunt of it, "So tell me the weakest links."
Akim sighed, his eyebrow quirking. Good, he seemed faintly annoyed. "If I show you something, would you stop pestering me abo-"
"Yes!" Robin dropped beside him and leaned close, waiting to be led. Maybe he could pick apart Akim's brain while they were at it.
With another funny look, Akim made a gesture that was almost an eye roll. Tucking the book under one arm, he started out of the room through the south-east exit. A wave with his hand and the boys that had previously exiled Robin from the area stepped aside, allowing them access.
"That was easy," Robin said when they had put meters behind them,"Are you like their guardian? You know, troop leader?"
"Not exactly. I'm one of those who have been here longest."
Before Robin could press further—and ask if he could get his gadgets back—a bell chimed over unseen intercoms, not that far from what Robin thought a lunch bell would sound like. Commotion picked up the moment the chime stopped, most coming in the sound of determined feet pattering with the intermittent of distant commands.
"Seems important," Robin surveyed the area past Akim, the silence of the hallway now promising.
Akim met his eyes. "The first group is moving to spread throughout the city."
Pulled out his concocting, Robin ogled the calm boy. "Already?" he muttered, repressing the bulk of his surprise. Somehow he had pictured Mr. Kriz and him shadowing an army of the mini-Robins, maybe from the top of the building or some other grand balcony the blonde man had. It seemed the ideal choice for a man who claimed to be invested in him, forcing Robin to witness the unfolding of his plan.
With the change in development, Robin felt just a little less prepared, a very bad thing. "What about you? You're not leading them out?"
Akim almost looked away and Robin was sure to catch the reluctance. "No. Not yet."
They shared an uncomfortable silence, one that let Robin pry deep enough to come to a conclusion.
"We should postpone our adventure," Akim said with a lighter tone, "I need to-"
His statement morphed into a pained cry that he was seconds too low to muffle entirely. His book crumbled to the floor as Robin shoved him against the wall hard, Akim's left hand yanked behind his back—forced into a rigid position to prevent Robin's cruel grip from worsening. Beneath his fingertips, Robin felt the contraption lodged into Akim's wrist; once, Robin snuck a finger under the cloth to feel the smooth texture of what seemed like a clunky bracelet.
"Hurts, doesn't it?" Robin said in a low breath, digging the tips of his fingers into Akim's arm, earning him a defiant grunt, "And I take it that thing strapped to you isn't why you have a weak left hand."
A strained chuckle. "I'm only surprised it took you this long to notice it," Akim rasped, one eye shutting tightly when Robin pressed harder still.
"You hide it well on the field but it's almost too obvious now." Robin flicked his eyes around, spotting no one. "Come on."
One, timid part of Robin knew how dangerous the situation had turned. To make such a bold move had heavy consequences—if he got caught. Without gadgets, Robin poured his mental training into memorizing the way Akim shuffled down the hall and sensing for any disturbances as he did. He gambled everything on keeping Akim in line. Once, Akim tried to test the grip holding his injured hand but Robin remedied that by slamming him into the wall again and locking the other hand in a worse grip.
"You won't get far," Akim said in a low voice, hiding his discomfort as they treaded along.
Robin didn't dare ever look back, employing his ears for any upcoming sound. He couldn't take his eyes off Akim once or the boy would run a mile with it. "Think I will," he objected in a teasing tone, "After all, I'm the original. You're just a copy cat."
Akim said something in a foreign tongue, too low for Robin to decipher easily. Probably a curse word, if anything. But then Akim said something that tempted Robin to stop walking. "Your friends are close."
Stopping wasn't an option though. Robin shoved him forward still, keeping his feet a maintainable distance from Akin. If the foreigner planned to knock Robin's legs from under him, he'd have to first move his back, giving Robin enough preamble to avoid the strike.
"How close?" he asked in a tone that dared Akim to lie to him.
"Very," Akim clamped on his tongue as a particular crude shove almost had him tripping into an opened, unused room.
Robin used his own body weight to pin Akim completely to a hidden spot behind the opened door as rushed footsteps hurried down the hall and passed the room. "How much is 'very' close?" he asked when the coast was clear.
Akim tried to glance back at him. "They'll be breeching within minutes."
So that was why the bell went off, Robin figured. It was a sign that the fanboys had to start filtering out before Robin's team could stop them all. In a flash, Robin's heart jumped at knowing his team arrived just as he had hoped.
"If you're admiring your team," Akim said against the wallpaper, "I assure you we knew they'd come."
"You sure can talk a lot."
A sound left Akim, like he was chuckling through his nose. "Just trying to be like the original."
"Work on it. You're less charming than I am," Robin replied, pushing harder against the boy so he could strain his neck and glance around. "Ah, look at this."
He yanked Akim backward and forced him to kneel on the ground with a well placed kick. Keeping one heel on the boy's lower back in a spot Robin knew had to hurt like Hell, The Boy Wonder used one free hand to untangle a few ties that held back what were probably really expensive curtains. The windows they framed had no view of the outside but of another, empty training ground down below. That made Robin conclude something.
"We're underground, right?" Robin didn't lie Akim flat to tie him up, suspecting it would give the boy enough leg room to fight back.
"How far down?" Robin looped the ties around each finger and angled the wrists away from each other. It was a muscle aching position but the wannabe Boy Wonder would survive it.
Akim jerked when the restraints tightened in a way to avoid being sliced by the chips in Akim's wrists should he get enough wiggle room. "Three stories from this room."
"What's with that noise I've been hearing lately?" Robin figured Akim could catch onto what he meant fast, "Has something to do with Jarvis, doesn't it?"
"You'd be amazed how easily you can stimulate a boy's brain with it. It won't be long until the same can be said for other groups—men, women, children…"
Robin snorted, running with the information. His mind went for a loop with possibilities. It could easily be a piece of technology to take down people with a single press of a button. The fact that it was trained on a group shaped after Robin made the Boy Wonder consider it was currently a tool to either keep the boys in line or somehow become a catalyst to better enhance specific areas of the boys' brains.
Shuddering almost at the thought of someone trying to model his brain for others, Robin decided that he had to find out where all of this technology was. Maybe he couldn't reach it but if he knew where it would be.
"Where are these devices?" he asked.
Akim gave him a shrug. "Even I do not know that."
Robin considered believing him. "Guess you're not his favorite after all?"
Akim pressed his lips together and stayed quiet. Well, it was worth the effort, Robin thought. As much as he wouldn't have minded interrogating Akim to suspect where they could be, time was not a luxury at the moment.
"You've been a good boy, overall." Robin patted his head as he completed his task. "Want to tell me why you're being so docile?"
With another, darker chuckle, Akim said, "Because if don't, I doubt you'd be willing to give me my medicine."
Robin glanced at the back of his head as he used another tie to snake around the boy's waist. "Medicine, huh?" With some available freedom, Robin trailed his hands down the boy's outfit, patting for anything. He found two and withdrew a folded piece of a paper and a blank container half full of pills.
Pocketing the paper for the moment, Robin studied the pills. "What are these?" he couldn't help but wonder.
"Clearly." Robin tugged the boy up and shoved him to lean against a couch, away from where he could kick the side table or do who knows what else. "You sure don't act like the sick type."
Akim offered him a half smile.
Robin rattled the container. "I'd like to make sure these aren't some scary enhancing drugs that will give you super-strength or laser vision," he gestured as he spoke, mimicking each ability.
Akim looked reluctant for once. "There are three problems with your assumption. One, if I had those, you would have most likely seen me use them before. Two, if I did have them, Mr. Kriz would have taken them away because we wouldn't be living up to your standard-"
"Maybe you're wanting to get ahead of the group," Robin interjected.
Akim continued as if Robin hadn't spoken, "Three, the auto immune disease I have is very much real and those," he gestured with his chin to the bottle, "I need to help heal the damage that's been done."
Robin frowned a bit. Cautiously, he crouched in front of Akim and tried pull out deception from his eyes. Although Akim could have very well been fibbing, Robin still decided to probe into the way Akim worded his words. "Damage that has been done makes it sound like you're not fighting future damage."
"Elaborate." Robin shook the bottle again, smirking when Akim's eye twitched in sheer annoyance. "And if you try to stay quiet in the hopes of someone will show up, I'm giving you only five seconds to start talking before I chuck these far away and leave you."
On the third second, Akim's shoulders grew more rigid. "Drug induced lupus."
Robin lowered his hands, no longer making the pills jangle. Maybe it was the way Akim looked at him or the way the boy had yet to make a stubborn (yet futile) attempt to resist that told Robin that this illness came from what kind of life Akim had been exposed, or forced, to before arriving here. All the options available to have caused the illness was a mile long list though.
"What happened to your arm?" Robin pointed to his own left arm for reference.
"You'll scare all the girls away if this is how you expect a first date to go."
Robin almost smiled at the attempted joke. "I'll keep that in mind," he said, emphasizing his arm again. If Akim didn't want to indulge him, that was fine, but Robin felt he was onto something. Maybe he could use this kid yet to get him out of here and maybe even put a damper on Mr. Kriz's plans.
Looking to Robin's arm, Akim exhaled and crossed his legs underneath him with much effort. "I grew up in a wealthy family, not at all like most of the boys here," he hardened his eyes, "But I was no son. If anything I was a tactic to my parents and something far worse to my father's older brother."
Robin saw the pain manifest in Akim's eyes as his head began to lower like it weighed thrice its weight. "Your uncle did something to your arm then?" he asked, glancing at the bottle in his hand again.
Akim snorted and smirked, a bitter look that Robin knew his own face had held plenty of times. "I was just an experiment to my father but I had hoped he'd believe what his brother did to me when no one was watching. Let's say that I didn't get soap in my mouth for punishment."
Nothing Robin could say could sound sympathetic or helpful to Akim. He didn't have to pry more to grasp the general absurdity that was Akim's home life though, nor did he think too deeply on it. It would be easy to get angry at knowing just the kind of monsters lived as humans out there. Monsters could infect others too, and as much as Robin felt for the boy, he didn't let that justify murder.
He could only take another look at the boy, wondering if Akim felt at all like a weight had been heaved off his chest. Robin couldn't imagine that anyone besides Mr. Kriz knew about Akim's past. If Akim felt relieved, Robin couldn't tell.
The most Robin could offer as a fellow boy from a broken home was to pop open the cap and tip out one pill. As much as he would have liked to test Akim's trust by offering his palm with the medicine on it, Robin nudged him on the shoulder and waited for Akim to catch on. The boy had shown he was ready to kill after all, even if he seemed to not want that fate to fall on Robin.
With a somewhat bleaker touch to his face, Akim obediently opened his mouth let Robin drop the pill in that way. "Thank you," he murmured after swallowing.
Robin dropped the container back into Akim's pocket and stood, picking up the folded paper. Inside, he saw various phrases, and at last he recognized it to be a list of books.
"For my collection," Akim said, "In my room."
Without replying to that, Robin also put it back into Akim's pocket. With another yank, he hoisted his prisoner up, listing demands to guide them out to the ground floor of the building. Their heart-to-heart was nothing but a mere file stored in his memory now. It was sad really, Robin thought. In another world, he could picture himself and Akim being friends.
When there wasn't an ambush waiting for Robin on the ground floor, he had to ask. "I gave you your medicine. Why haven't I been attacked or re-captured yet?"
Akim was dragging his feet less now. "Make no mistake. When I get the best chance, I'll do just that. That being said, I'm just a part of a greater plan. We can't have the missions fail just because of my capture."
"Akim," Robin sighed, eyes sharp when he searched for signs of life off the elevator, "You realize that guy is just like your uncle."
"How dare you compare them." Akim did a poor job this time to bite back the venom in his words. So he did have bitter emotions buried deep inside that calm façade. Although Robin suspected he had to—who wouldn't?—it was satisfying to hear it in Akim's voice. Now Robin had something to work with.
Robin paid no mind to the sneer and shoved him forward a bit, stepping quietly down the expansive hallway. "Your uncle used you for what he wanted, so is this guy. The only reason you're wagging your tail for him is because he gives you the kind of attention you always wanted."
A little resistance coursed through Akim's shoulders. "You're no different."
"There's a big difference, actually," Robin growled, "If I die, someone will actually mourn my death. Do you think Mr. Kriz would do the same for you?"
Silence slapped Robin in the face like an insult. Akim's head dipped down, body slacks in Robin's still-none-too-gentle hold. "Fine," he grumbled, "Be a big baby. You know I'm ri-"
Another chime, deeper in tone, went off, putting Robin on higher alert.
"What's that one mean?"
Akim didn't budge. "Second phase," he whispered.
"Great," Robin rolled his eyes, "I want out of this maze."
But when he snuck a glance around a corner, his heart plummeted.
"Enjoyed the tour, I hope." Mr. Kriz's eyes bore into Robin's hidden ones. Behind him, a small army of cloaked boys waited for his command, almost filling up the lobby entirely.
"Yes." Robin jerked Akim forward in response, yanking the boy's hair until his throat was exposed as a warning to them. "After all, I had a great guide."
"Mr. Kriz," Akim tried to say but it fell out like a wheeze.
If the man harbored any feelings for the boy, Robin couldn't' find it on his posture or face. "You knew it was a matter of time before this happened, Robin," Mr. Kriz said.
"And so what will you do? Do your other kids mind if I break his fingers? I promise I can break a lot more than that before they get close enough," he said. A victory went off in his head when he saw a few of the boys shift as if only just now realizing the moral dilemma they were stuck in.
Mr. Kriz's eyes trailed over to Akim, as if analyzing him. "You think I'd want him punished for being so helpful to you. Is that it?"
Robin scowled internally. As much as he didn't take pleasure from what he was about to do, he had to determine what kind of man Mr. Kriz was; he pressed hard into the memories in Akim's arm.
At the repressed cry, Mr. Kriz's lips curled ever so slightly down. Not much to go on. The man might have been genuinely concerned just as much as he was irritated that Robin was testing him.
After what seemed an eternity, Mr. Kriz began to smile—void of the sadistic tendencies Robin expected it to have. "What would Batman do, I wonder," he said, drawing out each word as one hand rose.
When one finger beckoned, the boys launched forward. Robin clicked his tongue and shoved Akim forward. He didn't stop to see how many boys he managed to interrupt; he was already bolting down the hallway, taking as many turns and stairs as he could, since there was no way the ground floor outside was safe for him. He had to get to higher ground and alert his teammates. The small part of him that wanted to curse at leaving Akim behind—the boy could have been an asset—quieted down when Robin stumbled into what looked like an office room.
With windows making up an entire wall, overlooking a nearby beach.
"Yes!" Robin grabbed a chair, employing it like a bat and swinging through. Two swings and the window shattered outwards, some pieces cluttering at his feet.
Robin only had half a second to take in the office but found nothing available that could be used in the little time he had. So, he looked out the gap he made, found a strong ledge, and shed his robe before swinging himself out. He gripped the ledge, thankful that the suit Mr. Kriz had him wear was working to his favor, especially since he was a few stories high.
Running purely on instinct, Robin used his body weight to propel off and onto another ledge, repeating the motion until he could tuck and roll safely to a balcony. Wind slapped him across the face, the ocean sunset looking rather brilliant from this view. He could see that the building was tucked in privately owned property, a good distance away from the clutter that was the rest of the skyscrapers. What few other buildings peppered the area must have belong to Mr. Kriz.
Worst, Robin saw the trickling of cloaked figures headed for the city. What they planned to do exactly, Robin still didn't know but it had to be stopped. No good could come out of it, that was for sure. But he couldn't supply much right then and there, unable to reach the shadows leaping and creeping farther away from him.
Robin stiffened as a sound rushed at him and he flipped to the side, just in time to see an arrow lodge itself right beside the window. Robin couldn't have grinned any wider as he recognized Red Arrow's bow strung with a rope. He was incredibly grateful that the guy was a crazy shot. He only hoped his team was close by and that the archer hadn't foolishly come after him alone. Probably did though, Robin thought.
His amusement was short lived as a new sound alerted Robin to being detected. Wasting no more time, Robin studied the rope and climbed on. His fastest choice was to walk on it, which made Robin cringe and boil at the same time when memories beyond his control swarmed at him. He trained his mind to calm down as he began hurrying across the rope, telling himself it was just a stupid tight rope, one he had crossed dozens of time.
Robin sensed the disturbance of the rope beneath his feet before he heard it snap and drop out from under him. He gasped, snatching for the falling rope, and preparing his stomach for a crazy swing. Who the heck cut the rope, a fanboy? Weren't they supposed to idolize him?
"Robin, let go!"
When Robin recognized the owner of the voice, he immediately put his trust into the words and did as he was told.
Robin controlled his stomach as speed took over his senses. "KF!" he laughed, "God, it's good to see you."
"That's all your ungrateful, selfish, idiotic, troublesome, a-"
Robin squeezed the speedster around the neck. "I get it, KF," he said, trying on a grin when KF slowed down, "We have to stop those kids-"
"Yeah, we know," KF said, lowering Robin. He looked like he'd had vacationed a couple of times in Hell, chest heaving, body riddled with already-healing injuries, "But I still owe you a butt kicking later."
"I thought it was a punch."
"We can discuss details later," KF added quickly, hauling Robin over his shoulder and making off again as a chase began their way.
Robin grunted, looked up and saw a few boys coming for them—whether or not they were the ones that had been chasing him since he ran off, he couldn't tell.
"Where are the others?"
"Busy. We're, uh, kind of in trouble if we survive this though," KF said, skidding around a corner.
Robin wanted to ask why but was prompted by another idea. "KF! Can you get us back inside the building?"
"You want to go back inside the place you were held captive? What the heck happened to your outfit anyway?"
"We have to go back," Robin started, catching his breath before he would puke the meal he had been given earlier, "I think that brain technology is inside somewhere."
Another turn. "Do you know where it is?"
"No, but if it is inside and activated, we know someone who can help," Robin said, crying out as KF's hard stop had him topple onto the ground.
KF cringed and helped him back up. "Sorry. Oh, yeah?"
Robin panted, brushing himself off. "Superboy."
The speedster watched him silently for a moment and then looked up in time for Superboy to land loudly beside them. "Got all that, Supey?"
With a curious frown, the clone nodded and looked over Robin—half glaring.
"Nice to see you too," Robin huffed. He could only guess they had a telepathic link up. "Any reason you aren't letting me into the channel?"
"They're worried with that brain stuff you might be brainwashed or somehow affected. No offense," KF explained with a shrug, "How are going about this?"
"First, we'll see if Superboy hears anything inside once KF finds a spot that isn't littered with those boys. And hopefully along the way, we'll find my gear stashed in there," Robin began, adding an explanation to what rooms he knew to exist, the overall layout of what he had already traversed, and that his bet rested on the technology being in the underground facilities. He spared them of all the other details that could be filled in later—except the part of Mr. Kriz seeing his face.
With some semblance of a plan in order, they entered through the back via a now unlocked door, thanks to Superboy. With Robin lingering behind with the large boy, KF did his zipping thing. Much to Robin's relief, Superboy heard something that could have been exactly what they were looking for. The clone's ears told him it did indeed come from below.
Things were looking up now, Robin thought.
KF returned around that same time, Robin's utility belt dangling from an elbow and gloves in one hand.
"KF, you're the best!" Robin took his baby and had it snuggling his hips in no time. He slipped on his gloves like Cinderella might dip her foot into the glass slipper that solidified her engagement.
"Um, you might want to hold onto that thought," KF started, tugging the Boy Wonder onto his back.
Robin obediently clung to him, looking around. "What for?"
"They're coming." Superboy went to an intersection, eyes widening when he saw cloaked bodies. With a grunt, he stomped, rattling the foundation enough to knock a handful of them down.
"Head down, KF! To the right and around to get to the elevator," Robin ordered, fumbling with a slot in his belt, "And Superboy, careful! It might cause the structure below to get out of whack."
"Heads up," Robin shouted, chucking a sphere. Well, he didn't have to do much chucking as the wind born from KF's running had it flying back. It landed far way and an explosion went off, followed by the hiss of mist.
With time bought, they reached the underground chamber. Robin quickly went to work on hacking into the elevator's system as Superboy pinpointed the sound's whereabouts.
"Any day now, Boy Wonder," KF called from the end of the room.
"Almost," Robin said, more to himself than KF. How he missed his toys. "Yes! Alright, it won't stand for long. We gotta move fast so we can get back to the others."
Robin only hoped they were fairing well enough without them. At the least, it felt like his plan to take things down from the inside out was progressing. For how long though, he didn't try to fathom just yet. For now, he relied on his teammates.
Their search led them to a sealed room that Robin recalled being rejected from approaching. Hacking wasn't necessary though; Superboy convinced the door to budge with some fist-fueled persuasion.
They didn't have the opportunity to step inside before they spotted two masked, older boys standing on either side of a metal table. Robin recognized one of the masks, the R-shaped one belonging to the tall boy with the thick accent. Something sprawled out behind him on the table, but from the distance, Robin couldn't deduce what it was. The entire room was lined with fancy gadgets and control systems, monitors included.
"Ch'," KF already took in the sight, "They saw us coming."
"We saw a lot on these monitors," R-Masked said, a chuckle lacing his words, "If you're looking for the devices, half are already distributed."
Superboy cracked his fists. "So the other half is here?"
"Yes, and though you didn't come for this, we're sure you'll find it interesting nonetheless," R-Masked added and stepped aside to reveal the crumpled body behind him.
Robin hitched a breath when he saw a familiar, half-bound form and the blood trickling over a bruised face. "Akim," he whispered. Beside him, he heard KF make an attempt to curse under his breath while Superboy only growled more.
All the questions he had were squashed by R-Mask blocking his view again.
"Are you ready to show what kind of evil you really are, Robin?"
Akim and Robin's interaction exhausts me lol They sure talked a lot. KF still has a lot of his mind to share with Robin, most of it not being happy things.
Anywaaaay, thanks for reading and I hope you took some enjoyment from it!