Title: The Final Frontier
Author: DC Luder
Summary: Dick reflects on his first star trek. Bludhaven Bats in Space challenge.
Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
Author's Note: I needed a good challenge to get the engines running again… forgive the madness below, it has been far too long since I have played Author.
"Second star to the right, and straight on till morning."
Peter Pan by James M. Barrie
Growing up, I had access to a vast collection of multimedia, movies, recording and enough books to last me ten lifetimes and at the very least my adolescence. Although I enjoyed reading casually when I had the chance, I much preferred watching movies in the informal den of Wayne Manor. A giant bowl of popcorn, all the glass bottled root beer I wanted and the comfiest leather couches in the world. Although most of the viewings were for myself or with Alfred, occasionally I was able to snag Bruce to join me.
The best way to secure his participation was to pick a movie that was older than myself as opposed to recent releases. Unlike most kids my age, I had enjoyed being exposed to classic films of all varieties, ranging from Sunset Boulevard to Seven Samurai, Vertigo to North by Northwest and even the Monty Python greats, my personal favorite being Life of Brian. Even though I had kept an open mind and enjoyed most of the older films, the only ones that had truly captivated me had been the Star Trek films.
Soaring on the USS Enterprise, setting lasers to stun and teleporting to and from the ship in the blink of an eye… to an adolescent boy, it had been the first glimpse into the distant future as opposed to the past. The Red Shirts always perished on missions, the aliens spoke eloquent English and Bones was a doctor and nothing more. Looking back, Alfred had pointed out the hidden benefits of watching the series of films, namely how it promoted team work, diversity and the never ending quest for peace in the galaxy.
Bruce had a hard time finding a viable argument to that.
I had never been a Trekkie by any means and I had never watched the later films or the reboots of the televised series. Even still, I was able to whip out a Vulcan salute, get the geeky references and understand the name Kahn is best screamed out loud. Growing older, I had always been happy to watch a stray airing of any of the movies on Spike TV or even ponder buying discounted DVD copies. The enjoyment I once felt as a child watching Kirk and Spock save the day whilst gallivanting the universe never faded, was forgotten.
That was until I had my first taste of the final frontier.
Teleporting belonged on the television screen, not twenty yards from where I changed from civilian clothes into a Kevlar lined suit. Molecules being disassembled and reformed in a matter of seconds was meant for the Star Fleet crew, not an orphaned boy and his mentor. Nevertheless, it had no longer been just science fiction. It had become a reality. My reality.
It had taken over a week for the installation of the teleportation pod to be completed in the Cave. J'onn J'onnz had been by religiously to aide Bruce in the heavy lifting and fine tuning while I did my best to watch on from the sidelines. For my brief years with Bruce, I had never seen him willingly accept help from members of the Justice League, not even from Superman. And yet before my teenaged eyes, I had witnessed my mentor working in synch with a giant, green Martian.
That week had been just shy of my first, dramatic act of rebellion as a teenager and sidekick. In fact, it had been one of the last good memories I had before I finally left Bruce and Alfred and Wayne Manor behind. Instead of quarreling with my mentor, I had been in awe of him, installing computer chips the size of a large pizza, meticulously plugging in wires and winning battles with the computer panel that thought it was smarter than him. It had been a visual reminder that Batman meant more than just being a master of martial arts and man hunting.
During those tedious afternoons in the Cave, Alfred had brought down refreshments and would observe with me, often trying to appease any frustrations Bruce was letting out on me or J'onn. At one point, I had asked him why Bruce was so tolerant of his colleague's help when he wouldn't call on others… or even let me hold a screwdriver.
Alfred had offered the explanation that, "Where Master Bruce is considered to be the world's greatest detective, Master J'onnz would be the same… but on Mars. As for the construction of this wretched contraption… I would also prefer it was left to the adults."
It had been completed sometime between patrols on a Friday night and the following Saturday afternoon.
I had come downstairs from the Manor to train in the Cave on that Saturday afternoon. Despite the fact that the sun was at its highest point in the sky outside, I had found Bruce fully clothed in his Bat Suit, standing outside of the small chamber he and J'onn had assembled. His stance, the intense look in his eyes and the scowl on his lips… for a second I had thought he had been too scared to move forward.
In classic Robin style, I had offered a quip while approaching the main tier of the Cave, "One small step for Batman, one giant leap for Batman-kind."
The scowl had only deepened, "J'onn has used it three times, back and forth to the Watchtower."
"Is he still green?" I had asked, coming to stand a few feet to his left.
Up close, I realized it hadn't been fear or even apprehension. It had been the same look he had when confronted with a room full of gun-toting thugs or a building that was collapsing. He had been calculating the odds, mapping out the variables and deliberating every possible outcome, all in the span of mere seconds.
Bruce had glanced to me briefly and then at the pod. Without warning, he had taken two steps forward, turned around and closed the door. No good bye, no if-this-doesn't-work, nothing. He had activated the controls and then vanished in a flash of bright, white light.
Although I had witnessed scarier and more monumental things since that day, at the time it had been a real life and terrifying miracle.
I had held my breath until the light returned, followed immediately by the figure of my mentor in his original condition. It had taken nearly twenty seconds before he let the air out of his chest in a slow, controlled exhalation. As my mental clock hit sixty seconds, his eyes had finally found me as I stood stoically five feet away. After recognizing the mixture of awe and fear on my face, he had nodded and stepped out of the pod.
When he came to stand beside me once more, he had offered, "Want to try?"
Trekkie or not, everyone in the world had wanted to teleport from one location to another, let alone from one location to a multi-billion dollar space station for superheroes. During the entire week I had spent watching them bring the machine to life, I had been itching to give it a try so that I could show off to my fellow sidekicks. But with the dream becoming a reality, I had no longer been thinking about bragging rights.
All I had been able to picture in my mind was Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.
J'onn had survived it. Bruce had been unharmed. As my mentor, my guardian and my partner, I had known he would have never intentionally put me in harm's way. He would have rather died than to see me suffer the slightest injury.
I had to swallow the billiard ball that had taken up residence in my trachea, but I had finally responded, "Sure."
There had been no Montgomery Scott at the controls, exuding his maddening brilliance and nick-of-time timing. Instead, Bruce had to create a profile in the teleporter's computer, including a full body imaging scan so that it could put my molecules back in the right order and keep my clothes from meshing with my flesh. I had watched on as he had explained the controls, how to program destination pods and what my key codes and passwords had been. It had all been information he had to repeat later on as none if could sink in with my brain swirling around.
"Yeah?" I had jerked before looking up at him.
"You all right?"
Nodding, I had repeated my first reply, "Yeah?"
He had allowed himself a small smirk, a rare sign of sympathy.
Bruce had nodded curtly as his gloved hands flew over the control panel, "Go suit up."
On a typical night, it had taken me roughly ten minutes to don my guise, check my utility belt and weapons before being ready for a night of crime fighting. In an emergency, I could have knocked it down to three minutes. That afternoon, it had taken nearly fifteen.
Returning to the teleport pod, Bruce had been standing just where I had left him, outside of the tall, narrow entrance. He had glanced at me briefly, not even remotely surprised that I had been gone as long as I had. Not able to look back, as I had been certain that he would have been able to see the fear barely concealed by my domino mask, I had taken a deep breath and stepped in. Turning around, I had nodded while closing my eyes, "I'm ready."
Eyes still shut, I had heard the door shut deafeningly. Then there had been the hum of electricity, the odd smell of firework sparklers and a flash of light that breached my sealed eyelids. Even when the light had faded, I had still been unable to open them, nor had I chanced a breath.
It wasn't until I had felt Bruce's hand settle on my shoulder that I had dared to. Spinning around, I had looked up at him in confusion, "It didn't work?"
He had nodded in the direction my back had been facing, "See for yourself."
I had turned slowly, finally realizing that I hadn't been in the pod that Bruce and J'onn had installed in the Cave. I had been in a large white paneled room that had several similar teleporters lined up on three of its walls. Through the large, open doorway, I had spotted an equally bright corridor.
That was until I had been distracted by the enormous picture window. The second the pod door had receded, I had leapt out and raced across the floor and out of the room. Moments earlier, my breath had been caught in my chest because of fear. At that second, it had been because of sheer awe.
Star Trek had nothing on the real thing.
The Earth had been a glowing blue orb, dusted with clouds and peppered with green and brown land masses. Stars, white and red and orange, had spotted the expansive black every other inch. I had been unable to keep my mouth shut as I had stared I wonder at the sight before my teenaged eyes, thinking back to my Earth Science exam the week before. I had gotten the answer right about the distance of the moon to the Earth being nearly two-hundred thirty-nine thousand miles away but at that moment, I felt as if it had been light years.
"Wow," I had said in a hushed whisper.
Bruce had come to stand beside me, gazing over the same view with a significantly more reserved expression. After I felt my vitals return to normal, my brain function had also returned to normal. Even with my eyes locked on to the planet before us, I had started to think that I had teleported. I had most likely been the youngest to ever do so and that I had survived to brag about it.
And that I hadn't combined genes with a common housefly.
"Wait, did you come up after I did?" I had asked suddenly while looking back to the chamber room behind us, "Was I just standing there the whole time, waiting?"
"No on both counts," Bruce had replied, no hint of Batman in his voice despite the cowl being in place.
"You came up with me?"
He had looked down at me before nodding silently.
"And we didn't get turned into Siamese twins."
"Conjoined twins," he had corrected me before looking back out the window.
Instead of glancing back at the view, I had set my gaze on his face, fighting back a smirk.
A few months later, we would have been screaming at one another, resulting in my leaving behind the home and family I had known the longest.
But at that moment, we had been partners. He had my back, I had his.
On the streets of Gotham.
In a brawl with Two-Face's thugs.
And even in space, the final frontier.