Many thanks to Mama May-Eye for beta-reading this chapter!
There was a flash of light, a flare of pain, and suddenly Jason was falling. He had the briefest sensation of every single one of his organs trying to escape his body in different directions before another flash of light seared across his eyes and hard, unyielding concrete slammed into his body. Or his body slammed into it, he wasn't in the mood to nitpick.
Jason laid still, fingers grasping uselessly at the ground as his head spun and his heart thudded painfully against his ribs. He took in deep gulps of breath behind his mask, each exhalation an assurance that he wasn't dead. Again.
"Well, that hurt." It took much more effort than he wanted to admit to in order for Jason to reach his hand back to rub at the lump forming even beneath the red helmet.
The sound of a car horn beeping off in the distance was enough to break Jason out of his daze. He pushed himself to his feet, only to give a strangled gasp as he sunk back down to his knees. With an angry grit of his teeth Jason forced his legs straight even through the pain. He was in the same alleyway he'd been in before the flash of light hit him, except…not. Completely not. It looked brighter, less dirty, less run down and destroyed. Kind of like an only slightly maimed version of Gotham's back alleys.
Which made no sense at all.
Footsteps whispered down to him. They were light and well concealed. Whoever was walking knew how to hide the noise their movements made. Which could only mean trouble. Jason slunk backwards and into the shadows as quickly as his stiff limbs would allow. A large, only slightly rusted dumpster to the right and a small cluster of smaller trash bins served as the perfect hiding place. He sunk down behind the debris and pressed to the side of the dumpster. As long as no one looked too closely in his corner of the alleyway he would be fine, and if they did Jason had another half dozen knives, assorted smoke bombs and another four rounds in his handgun. It wouldn't be a problem.
A kid dropped from somewhere high above him and landed in a crouch in the center of the alleyway. He too stuck as close to the shadows as his descent and the multiple fire escapes would allow, but it did little good. The costume he wore was too bright to hide in anything but the darkest of nights, and that certainly wasn't tonight. Something deep in the pit of Jason's stomach clenched and twisted at the sight of those colors.
Red and yellow. His red and yellow. The boy glanced left and right, before him and behind. The action only served to display the outfit from multiple angles. There was a bright yellow R on the the boy's red shirt. His cape and pants were both black, with the latter lined in the same bright, bright yellow. Better than Jason's outfit, less glaringly eye-catching, but still unmistakably the costume he'd worn as Robin to Bruce's Batman.
The boy stood up and made a slow, careful inspection around the alleyway, circling all the time around the aria Jason had crashed in. He watched as the white lenses of the boy's mask narrowed slightly to mirror the boy's eyes. The kid stopped moving finally and began to press something on his right glove. Immediately a brightly light holographic image appeared, one that resembled a rounded screen and a keypad. The boy typed furiously at his impromptu computer and frowned.
He raised the hand without the projection up to his ear and taped something. "Nothing here. It looks like there's faint residue of something just radioactive enough to register on the scales, but not enough to do any damage. Whatever made that light is long gone."
The boy's voice hadn't even deepened yet. He had to be twelve, maybe thirteen, but that was stretching it. He looked small and thin and young in a way Jason never considered before. Had he looked that much like a child when he'd wore that persona? Had Grayson?
The boy listened for a moment, presumably to the other end of a radio, before nodding. "Got it. Heading back to base," he said succinctly.
Whoever was on the other end of the radio ended the conversation. The boy shut down the projection of his computer and reached for something strapped to his belt. A grappling hook. The same sort Jason once used. He watched as the boy shot his line off and allowed it to pull him up and out of the alleyway. He waited a good dozen heart beats before slipping from his hiding spot and following.
That was Robin. Not one he recognized, either. It couldn't be Grayson, he was far too old and off playing Nightwing in any case. Jason had been under the very satisfied and slightly relieved impression that the Robin legacy had died with him all those years ago. It'd been more than five years, and there hadn't been a single sighting of the Boy Wonder. Why was there one now? Why here?
It could be a trick, a trap set up to lure him into following and then ambush him while he wasn't expecting it. That would be stupid, and a massive waste of time, but there was no telling how a criminal would think. The only person that would know, that even guessed at why such a set up might work was currently doped out of his twisted mind, rotting in a cell in Arkham Asylum. There was always the possibility that the kid was a rich brat with too much time on his hands and a case of hero worshiping that could get him killed.
Unlikely with the sort of toys he was sporting, but still technically possible.
The boy led him on a calm loop around Gotham and to a well-concealed red and black motorcycle on the outskirts of the city. The kid dropped down into the seat and kicked the engine into life. Jason considered his options. Take the kid down now and interrogate him, or stick a tracer on him and wait to see how this played out.
Jason always liked a good mystery.
He crept as close to the boy as he dared to get, assuming that the kid had the same sort of training he'd been given by Bruce. Jason was good, but he had no idea where his new little friend ranked on the talent scale. Well, he supposed as he fished the small tracer out of one of his pockets and took careful aim, we're about to have test number one. He timed his throw to the exact moment the bike gave its last roar into wakefulness, so that the slight click of metal on metal would go unnoticed. He waited, poised to spring into action if need be, but the boy gave no indication that he'd heard anything at all. Instead he pulled swiftly out of the alleyway and headed at top speed for the highway.
Someone should tell him it's dangerous to drive so fast, the Bat'd be pissed, Jason mused, fishing in another pocket. He pulled out a small GPS, resting it easily in his hand. It connected to the satellite without any problem, and for some reason that made something Jason hadn't realized was tensing in his stomach loosen. He watched as a small red dot blinked across the screen, heading north. Away from Bruce's manor.
"Let the chase begin," he muttered the corners of his lips quirking upwards.