A.N. So this is another shorter story that goes with my Earth 42 universe, which currently include the stories:
A New Team
Ten vs Twelve
Avengers Assemble (formerly titled Tales of New York City)
Of Doctors and Princes
Gunless on Gunsmoke
The only recommend story for this to read first is A New Team as events from that story are referenced in this. It's only three chapters though, and I am personally quite proud of the story.
This story is helping set up upcoming events for Avengers Assemble in which the Avengers are formed due to the Ray Sphere Blast...But we haven't quite gotten there yet.
It will also set up some groundwork for others things, such as an eventual Young Justice team, a very powerful villain, and more.
So sit back and enjoy this story as part of Earth 42!
You'd have to know where he was to see him. He slid into the shadows naturally, wearing it like a cloak. He sat unmoving, in a way that was almost inhuman. Anyone watching would begin to feel uncomfortable, fearing that perhaps this figure had died where he crouched.
Something happened, but to an outside observer one couldn't be sure what it was. The figure was simply no longer there, gone now, over the roofs and ducking into an alley, where a sleek black car waited.
The engines rumbled, and it pulled out into the street, several other cars stopping as it moved swiftly through the streets. The city of Gotham was not the safest place to live, but tonight a few citizens breathed easier, a few crooks stayed in, deciding that, perhaps, tonight would be a good night for introspection.
"Good evening Master Dick. I believe Master Bruce will be in shortly."
Alfred Pennyworth was, to the general public, the butler of Bruce Wayne, the man who put up with Bruce Wayne's wining and dining of young ladies and dealt with the antics of Gotham's billionaire playboy philanthropist.
To those in the know, the number of which one could count to without having to remove one's socks, Alfred was the man who knew Bruce Wayne the best. The man who tended to his wounds from his nightly rounds of fighting crime, the man who made sure he ate, got some semblance of sleep, and made sure the bills were paid.
Alfred was Batman's biggest confidante, and possibly the only one in the world, including Batman, who truly knew Bruce Wayne.
Currently he was doing his butler duties, answering the door. There was a young man with black hair, wearing a blue coat and despite the darkness, sunglasses.
Next to him was a girl taller then him and looking...annoyed? Frightened? Worried? Alfred wasn't sure, but the girl seemed to be fiddling with a ring on her right hand, as if it was something new. She had long red hair and very green eyes.
"Ahhh, and I see you brought a friend with you, Master Dick. Please come in, it's frightfully chilly tonight," Alfred said, stepping aside as the two stepped inside. He grabbed their bags, both surprisingly light, placing them inside as well.
Once inside Dick turned to the girl, giving her a warm smile, "You can take it off now."
"Oh, joy!" the girl smiled, instantly brightening up as she removed the ring. There was a flash of light, and the girl now floated into the air, her skin gaining an orange hue, her eyes becoming completely green, though of various shades. She somersaulted through the hall, the Wayne Manor having plenty of open space, especially to the girl who could fly.
"This must be Starfire that I heard so much about," Alfred said, betraying a rare smile as he glanced towards Dick, who was busy looking at the girl, who floated back down towards him.
"Oh Robin, I am glad I get to meet your family, but I do not understand why I must hide my true self while here! Back in Jump City we do not have to sneak..." Starfire said, looking puzzled.
Dick Grayson, also known as Robin, the first Robin, gave the girl a soft smile, placing his hand on her shoulder gently, "It's complicated Star. Robin's my superhero name. You should call me Dick while we're here. That's my real name, remember?"
Starfire frowned a little, floating back and crossing her arms over her chest, looking like she was pouting, "I first knew you as Robin. I will try to remember, though."
Dick smiled again, nodding, "Mostly just out in public, okay? Around here should be alright."
Starfire nodded back, then paused, turning towards Alfred, "Oh! My apologies! I am being a horrible guest! My name is Starfire, I am very pleased to meet you!"
"The pleasure is all mine madam," Alfred smiled, "While we are waiting, I can show you to your room."
It was late. Late enough to be early. Dick, Starfire, and Alfred sat in the kitchen, cups of tea beginning to grow cold as they waited.
Then a noise, a small coughing sound, Dick and Alfred looking up, a figure appearing in the kitchen, almost silent excepting for the cough announcing his presence.
"Sorry I'm late," Bruce Wayne said, stepping inside the kitchen. Alfred poured him a cup of coffee, a pot bubbling in it's maker. Instead of downing it like one might expect, Bruce sipped it gently, taking a seat.
The two sat stiffly, staring at each other. Their was silence, only the sound of the coffee bubbling making any sort of noise in the largely unused Wayne Manor.
"It's very nice to meet you!"
And the silence was broken, Starfire floating towards Bruce, smiling brightly and holding out a hand, "I believe this is the customary Earth custom?"
Bruce was quiet, then held out his hand, the two shaking.
"You have a very strong grip," Bruce said as they let go, "A Tamarian, correct?"
"That is correct!" Starfire smiled, "Have you met another Tamarian before?"
"No," Bruce answered, "I have a database of various aliens in the known galaxy. I do my research."
Dick frowned a little, remembering why he moved away from Gotham and to Jump City. But he was here for a reason. A few reasons, really.
"Now that you're here..." Dick began, speaking up, "We need to talk. In private."
Bruce frowned, but nodded and got up, "Alright. Come on."
"Wait here Star, I'll be back in a bit," Dick said, as he and Bruce headed out of the kitchen. A few moves through the hallway, the passageways becoming familiar to Dick, Bruce pushing open a door that lead into a large gym.
Without talking the two headed into the boxing ring, facing each other and bowing.
Dick started first, moving forward and swinging his leg low, Bruce jumping backwards to avoid the kick.
"So it seems your Titans are growing," Bruce said, landing and avoiding a punch from Dick, bringing his own fist to bare, Dick blocking the attack, being forced back.
"Yah. We gained five new members a couple weeks ago," Robin answered, ducking to avoid the second strike from his former mentor. "Good guys. All of them heroes."
"A ghost, a robot, a mutant, a wanna be, and a little girl," Bruce responded, easily dodging a reckless kick from Dick, countering with one of his own, sending Dick to the floor.
The youth sprung up, twisting like the gymnast he was, spinning in the air and throwing a kick, Bruce grabbing the foot and using the momentum to throw Dick to the ground.
"I trust you did background information," Bruce said, rather then asked, waiting for Dick to pick himself up.
"Unlike you, I'm capable of trusting others," Dick answered as he got up, taking a defensive stance, waiting to see what Bruce would do next.
The two circled each other now, arms up as they looked for a weak spot in the other's form. A single slip up, and they would attack, taking advantage of the opportunity.
"But you're not here to talk about the new Titans," Bruce said as they stepped carefully, "What was so important that you had to come here to tell me in person?"
"The Master..." Dick answered, "The man who orchestrated the events in Jump City. I couldn't find anything on him. No facial matches, no voice matches...nothing. But I swear...the face looks familiar..."
"We'll use the Bat Computer then," Bruce said, "If anything can make a match, that will."
Robin just nodded, stepping carefully.
"Master Bruce, Master Dick, I hate to interrupt you, but Lucius Fox is on the phone. He apologizes for calling so early, but apparently he needs your option on something," Alfred said, stepping into the training room. Bruce and Dick relaxed, Bruce jumping out of the boxing arena and walking towards the phone.
"Hello Lucius...Hm? Oh no, I was up. Dick's in town, brought a girl too," Bruce said easily, pausing as he listened to an old friend, "Ah? Well, double security. You have my permission to authorize whatever kind of security you need."
After a few more minutes, Bruce hung up the phone with a goodbye, then turned to Dick Grayson.
"Tonight's the Annual Wayne/Stark Energy Meeting," Bruce said, "We had to move it up a bit to fit everyone's schedule. We're showing off something we're all excited about."
"And you're worried someone's after it?" Dick said, flipping out of the arena and landing easily by Bruce and Alfred.
"Yes. I've gotten reports that The First Sons are in Gotham," Bruce answered, "Along with someone you might know. I have the suspicion they'll be after what we're revealing. A brand new type of power source."
The First Sons were an old group that believed in advancing the human race in the form of super powers. They elevated those of their rank with extraordinary abilities, and often used technology to those ends.
The First Sons were rather prestigious and infamous, but the group had never been convicted of any wrong doing, but were on several watch lists.
"An arc reactor?" Dick asked after a moment, thinking it over, "Isn't Stark Industries already using those for those combat armors they're producing?"
"Sadly, yes," Bruce sighed, "But they're glitchy, and not meant for prolonged use or to power much more then that armor. This will be more capable of lighting a city for around five years, at minimal costs."
"And that kind of power...And who might I know that's here?" Robin asked. A nagging suspicion was in his mind, but no...it couldn't be him.
"Brother Blood. I believe you Titans tangoed with him before," Bruce answered, "He's in Gotham too. I have reasons to believe he's either working with The First Sons, or trying to."
"Then Star and I will come with you, help keep an eye out for things," Dick said, "Especially if Brother Blood is involved...I should probably contact the other Titans too..."
"No," Batman said, shaking his head, "If you insist, then Starfire can come along, but I don't want the Titans there. We need to keep it small. We can handle Blood and the First Sons."
Dick sighed, then nodded his head, "Fine. I better fill in Starfire then..."
"So why you want a guy like me here?" a figure asked. He was brown, the color of clay. In fact, he looked like clay, a large gloop of clay-like material, the form of some kind of monster a young child might fear lies in their closet.
"Your name is Matt Hagen, correct?" a man asked carefully, looking up at the clay creature, ignoring the question posed to him. Behind him was an older man in a white coat, an odd metallic device on his chest, glowing softly. One of his arms appeared to be mechanical.
"Err...I was, yah," the clay figure answered, scratching his head, "I go by Clayface. Anyways, you guys offered me a cure. So cough it up!"
"Relax, Mr. Hagen," the older man said softly, holding up his flesh and blood hand, "We can not simply make a vial of liquid you can drink to cure yourself, but we can begin the steps...But tell me, Mr. Hagen...do you like your powers?"
"Well...uhhh...yah, I guess I do..." Clayface answered, "Only I can't stay human for too long, you know?"
"I know..." the older man said, "Then let me help..."
The older man moved fast, faster then Clayface would have suspected, slamming his metallic hand into Clayface's chest.
"This may sting," the man said, his arm beginning to spark with energy, crackling forth and sending a pulse of electricity through the clay-like feature. It was over in almost an instant, the older man stepping back, Clayface coughing loudly, stumbling backwards.
"Ugh, what was that for! I...I..." Clayface paused, looking down at his hands. He felt...different.
"I helped stabilize your atomic structure," the older man answered, "It's a temporary thing, just a patch, but it's to show that we do mean to help you Mr. Hagen."
Clayface looked up now, smiling, "Well then...You're the first to actually give me something of a cure. Whenever I've done something like this, well, they always want me to do something for them."
The older man shook his head, smiling sadly, "Mr. Hagen, the First Sons want to help people. The data and knowledge we will get from working out a cure for you will be worth the cure itself. However, and this is entirely compulsory, we could use your help for a job here in Gotham."
"Oh?" Clayface asked, "And I can choose not to do this, and you'll still find a cure for me?"
"Of course," the older man answered with a small nod, "Like I said, working on the cure will provide enough incentive itself. But my associates and I believe there is someone here in Gotham who could help quite a bit with that, and who has his own...personal reasons to join to us. We want to help people."
"Ah...who is this guy?" Clayface asked, grinning now, "I think I can help you out."
"A doctor Victor Fries," the older man said, "You may know him better as Mr. Freeze..."
Glasses clinked, and several wealthy people walked around the room, chatting with each other. Stock holders, board members, wealthy contributors to charity, all were here at Wayne Enterprises and Stark Industries presentation.
Dick Grayson found himself at the center of some attention, being the sole heir to Bruce Wayne's vast fortune, and being accompanied by some unknown girl.
"I met her in my travels," Dick said, which was technically true, "She's, uhhh, foreign."
Also technically true, as Dick glanced towards Starfire, currently disguised as human with the holo ring. She was currently at the buffet table, sampling everything, and had somehow gotten her hands on a bottle of mustard which was rapidly becoming empty.
"Well she's very pretty," one older woman said after a moment, witnessing Starfire try a hors de'voure with mustard.
Dick Grayson sighed, glancing to Starfire. He knew that Starfire was intelligent, but the culture gap between two alien species made for a gap in mannerisms and basic cultural information. On Tamaran Starfire was viewed as an intelligent, honorable, and powerful warrior and princess, but Dick himself would be at lost as to how to act as a Tamarian.
As Dick fended off probing questions, Bruce Wayne was talking with the current head of Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane.
"Shame that Tony Stark couldn't be here too," Wayne said casually, taking a sip of his drink, the two C.E.O.s conversing quietly in the corner, "He and Dick use to get along pretty well."
Bruce had been friends with Tony Stark's father, the deceased Howard Stark, and had worked with the man in a number of projects.
"Tony has no say right now in how the company is run," Stane said, with just a hint of annoyance, taking a sip of his own drink, "He still has another year until he turns eighteen, and even then the board may not hand control to him."
"Hm? Oh, you misunderstand me Stane," Bruce said, chuckling and shaking his head, "I was thinking it would be good for Dick to see an old friend again. And I hear you have a daughter their age too. Is she here as well?"
"No, she's back in New York," Stane answered, relaxing slightly. "She doesn't tend to like these sorts of things."
"Ah...Mr. Wayne, Mr. Stane? I'm sorry to interrupt, but I need to borrow Bruce for a moment here," a tall man with brown hair said, walking up towards the two C.E.O.s. Bruce turned, then smiled.
"Ah, Mr. Drake," Bruce said, holding out his hand and shaking it, "Mr. Stane, this is Jack Drake. He's an archeologist doing some work with my company here. They think they found some kind of ancient temple buried under Gotham."
"It's quite exciting. It's very similar to the one that Howard Stark found in New York," Jack said, "I just wanted to thank you for inviting my wife and my son to this party, Mr. Wayne, and for all the funding."
"Please, call me Bruce," Bruce Wayne said with a smile, "And it's no problem."
Obadiah paused, then pulled out his phone, feeling a buzzing noise, "Ah, excuse me, I have to take this. We can talk more later."
Obadiah walked off, tapping at his phone and beginning to talk into it, leaving Bruce and Jack to themselves.
"Ah...Well, Mr. Wayne...I mean, Bruce, I wanted to let you know that the evacuation is going well," Jack continued, "Also I wanted to warn you about something. It's a bit embarrassing."
"Oh?" Bruce asked, "What is that?"
"It's my son...he..." Jack paused, then sighed, rubbing his temples, "He seems to be convinced you're Batman. I'm a little worried he might cause a scene or try to confront you. He promised he wouldn't, and his mother is keeping a close eye on him, but I figured I should warn you."
There was a pause, and Bruce started laughing, shaking his head, "He thinks I'm Batman? Quite an imagination he's got there. If I had time between running my company, working with charities, taking beautiful women out on dates, and going to things like this, I think I'd prefer to use that to sleep. Though maybe for my Halloween party, I can wear the cowl. If Dick's in town he can be Robin. I'm sure he'd love that."
Jack chuckled too, glad to find that Bruce Wayne was taking it all in good humor, "I told him that too, but he didn't think that was really the case. I'm glad you're not angry."
"Why would I be angry? Batman may be a little odd, and it's not how I go about cleaning the city, but he's done a lot of good and saved a lot of lives. If your son thinks I'm a hero, I'm flattered," Bruce said, "Now then, about the dig..."
Eventually Dick managed to get himself away from people hounding him, turning to find Starfire, when he jumped into another teenager, a pale young man with reddish orange hair, red eyes, and odd markings under his eyes. He was wearing a nice shirt, sweater vest, and a tie, and seemed uncomfortable in the clothes.
"Hey, watch where you're going!" the boy yelled, frowning as he picked himself up, staring at Dick, "Got it?"
"I'm sorry," Dick said frowning, "It was an accident. You're...Spicer? Jack Spicer?"
"Just don't do it again," Jack responded, then paused, "You...know who I am?"
There was an odd look in his eyes, something like fear and hope.
"Uhhh, yah, we've met before," Dick answered, "Your dad's one of the board members for Wayne Enterprises. I've seen you at one of these things before."
"Oh," Jack answered, looking a little deflated, "Right, right...Yah, I hate these kinds of things, but the folks insisted, and I do like all this cool tech."
Jack was grinning now, rubbing his hands almost greedily, then paused.
"Oh, uh, I gotta get going," Jack said, sidling away from Dick now, "Things to do, people to avoid, you know."
Jack then disappeared into the crowd, and Dick shrugged. Jack seemed odd, but harmless. He turned and headed towards Starfire, who found herself relating a story to a couple other teenage boys.
"And so then the Gloofnar said, "That's no Xicbat, that's my Shuin!"" Starfire finished, and started laughing, the two boys pausing for a moment and joining in with her, despite having no idea what the attractive girl in front of them was saying.
"Hey! You're Dick Grayson, right?"
Dick paused, sighing softly and turning, see a young teenage boy walking through the crowd, coming to a stop by him.
"My name is Tim Drake," the boy said, introducing himself and holding out his hand, "I don't know if you remember me..."
Dick paused. Flashes of memory. The high wire...his parents...Before the show, this family, a little kid...
"Drake...you...You were there that night. You had your picture taken with me and my family, at the circus..." Dick said quietly, "You sent the picture back to me, with a note...thought I'd want it more, with my parents..."
"Yah..." Tim said, thrown off guard. He wasn't quite expecting this reaction, but then he wasn't entirely sure what to expect. His parents had made him promise he wouldn't confront Bruce Wayne about being Batman, neither of them believing him in the slightest despite his proof.
But they hadn't said anything about confronting Dick Grayson being Robin.
"Look...I need to talk with you, okay. It's something important..." Tim said, "In private. Please."
Dick frowned, glancing back to Starfire who was still talking amiably with the other boys, then back towards Tim. He sighed, running a hand through his hair, "Look, can't this wait? I need to get back to my date."
"You mean Starfire?" Tim asked, grinning. It was a shot in the dark, but Robin had been active in Jump City, and the girl Dick Grayson had brought with him greatly resembled the orange skinned alien, though she looked human here.
Dick was very quiet, staring at Tim before he said anything, "What are you talking about? Her name is Kori. Not Starfire. Isn't that one of those Titans?"
"She is...and so are you. You're Robin," Tim said very quietly, "And I have proof. So please, can we talk in private?"
Dick sighed, shaking his head, "Fine, I'll indulge you. Follow me." Dick turned, leading Tim out of the room, and into a currently unused office, where he turned back to face Tim.
"Alright. Tell me how I'm apparently Robin," Dick said, staring hard at the boy.
Tim Drake gulped nervously. He had this all planned in his head, but now that he was actually doing it, it wasn't going as smoothly as he hoped. Still, he had gone this far, and he wasn't going to stop now.
"After your parents died, Bruce Wayne took you in and adopted you. Not long after that, Batman began working with a kid in a costume, Robin. This Robin was an extraordinary gymnast, and once when he was being film, he performed a move that was a specialty of the Graysons," Tim began.
"Coincidence. Maybe Robin just learned it from watching them, or old tapes. As for when Bruce adopted me, and Robin showing up, so what? There's still a noticeable gap by a few months there," Dick said.
"I'm not done," Tim said, speaking a little more confidently. "Three years ago Robin left and started the Titans in Jump City. At the exact same time you, Dick Grayson, left to go traveling and wasn't actually seen much, or at all really. There were reports, rumors, but no hard evidence, not if you digged enough. Then about two years ago their was the School for Criminal Boys incident, and Bruce Wayne took in one of the survivors who didn't have a family, a teenager called Jason Todd. Not long after that, a new Robin appeared with Batman.
"Then something happened a year later. I don't know what. But Robin disappeared, and Jason Todd was said to have died in an industrial accident at one of Wayne Enterprises factories," Tim continued, "And now we haven't see Robin except the one in Jump City, who's part of the Titans. And..."
Tim pulled out a smart phone, showing a screen of a news bulletin.
"About twenty minutes ago, the Titans took down Plasmius in Jump City, though both Robin and Starfire were curiously absent," Tim said, smiling smartly at Dick Grayson, pocketing his phone now, "Which is because the two of them are here in Gotham City. Only I'm not sure why."
Dick was quiet for a moment. He had to admit, this kid was good. But he wasn't going to admit it.
"It's a nice story kid, but that's just a theory," Dick said, "Besides, even if it was true, what would you even do with that? Sell it to the highest bidder? Blackmail a couple guys with very powerful friends and who regularly fight super villains, according to you?"
"What, no way!" Tim said, shaking his head, "It's not about that! It's...it's about proving myself. I figured out who Batman is, and no one else has. It's..."
Tim paused, biting his lower lip, "Don't laugh...but...I want to be the next Robin. I've been...following the news reports, looking over things with Batman. He's getting unfocused. Sloppier. He's been seen less and less with the Justice League. I think whatever happened with Jason tore him up. He blames himself and he's getting more destructive. I worry he might...well...cross the line. Batman's this symbol, this powerful force for good. He doesn't kill, he strives to greatness...and I want to be able to do that too..."
Dick was quiet, then shook his head.
"Look, your heart's in the right place, but you're wrong about all that," Dick said quietly, patting Tim on the shoulder, "Come on, let's get back to the party. Your parents are probably worrying about you."
Tim frowned, then nodded. He figured he'd have to get hard proof before he get Dick or Bruce to admit things. He paused, thinking. Maybe Starfire, or rather, Kori, as Dick was calling her...if he could talk to her alone, she might admit it herself.
Dick opened the door back to the party, freezing suddenly and tackling Tim to the ground, as the far wall exploded suddenly, sending several party guests sprawling.
"Hahahahahahahahaha!" a cackle went, a distinctive laugh that made it's home in Gotham. "Hello, debutantes of Gotham! For those of you who don't know who I am, well, that'd be surprising, but life's full of those, isn't it?"
A white skinned man with green hair and a purple suit stood over the rubble, adjusting his suit slightly as he looked around. Beside him were a few burly men in ragtag clown and joker outfits, all of them with guns, one of them, bigger then the others by several degrees, stood behind them, two sledgehammers strapped to his back.
"Now my dear girl Harley's birthday or something is coming up, and what kind of person would I be if I didn't get her a present?" The Joker laughed, "Well, I guess I'd be a bad guy! But I have to have some manners after all."
He produced a bag, "Now then, why don't you all hand over your valuables, and I'll take them with me to sort through. If I don't like 'em, you have my word as a conniving, back stabbing, insane sociopath that I'll do my best to return them to their owners. Or just chuck them in the harbor. Who knows!"
The Joker laughed again, and Tim turned to look towards Dick, about to tell him that now he'd have to reveal himself as Robin here in front of Tim.
Dick wasn't there anymore, and Tim said a word his parents would not like him using in any context. He scooted backwards, unseen by The Joker and his men, looking around the crowd. He couldn't spot Starfire or Bruce Wayne...
"Well I guess that means the cavalry will be here soon..." Tim muttered under his breath. He didn't hope he was right. He knew he was right. Now it was just a matter of time...
A.N. So that was the first part! Most likely it will be concluded with the second part, but it's possible I might stretch it out into three.
I hope you've enjoyed this story so far!