A/N: You know that scene in Schooled when Superboy was so angry he just launched himself off his cycle at the robot monkeys and it flew back and nearly knocked Robin off his bike? This was born from that. I thought the episode could have done so much more with the consequences of Connor's rage than it did.
"Your anger gives you great power. But if you let it, it will destroy you." Henri Ducard, Batman Begins.
Connor was angry. It had been almost a week since the Amazo incident and not once had Superman acknowledged him. After the team had taken down Amazo and impressed the league, Connor had been sure that Superman would come around. Under Black Canary's tutelage, he had started to channel his anger into becoming a more strategic and controlled fighter, and had been making good progress…until today.
Superboy punched hard at the cave wall, causing it to shake slightly and several pebbles to dislodge. The rage was building into a crashing crescendo inside him. He gritted his teeth and hit the cave wall even harder, leaving a fist size hole in the rock. It did nothing to alleviate the rage he was feeling. He could punch a hole in solid stone, so why couldn't he take down a skinny teenager less than half his size?
Connor had almost felt insulted when Black Canary had asked him to spar with Robin during training that morning. There was no doubting that Robin was an excellent tactician, as well as a highly skilled fighter and acrobat who could jump hoops around Superboy blindfolded. Connor knew that, he was okay with that. But in a fight of pure brute strength? He could crack Robin open like an egg.
So why couldn't he do it this morning? Superboy had expected to find it as easy to defeat Robin as he had the first day they'd met, but had been surprised when the younger boy had not only evaded all of his manoeuvres but taken him down with one well aimed kick by launching himself from the wall. The second sparring match had been no easier and Robin had given that stupid laugh of his when he'd taken Superboy down by using his own weight against him after Superboy had thrown a fast punch.
The anger had started to eat in at the edges at that point. Despite his best efforts, Connor could feel it clouding his judgement and leading him to doing the one thing Black Canary was always warning him against; reacting. The third sparring match with Robin was the shortest yet. Connor's anger allowed the younger boy to sweep his feet from under him using an absurdly basic leg swipe. But the worst thing about it was, at that point, Superman had appeared on the Satellite Screen and seen everything.
Connor's face burned with humiliation and anger when he thought about it. He had done all of the actual fighting when taking down Amazo, it had been his idea to take out the android by confusing it into using too many powers…all Robin had done was stand there and throw exploding discs at it! That was all he had done when they were fighting Blockbuster as well. Resentment crept in with the anger. Robin was too small and skinny to actually fight the real heavy weights, all he could do was throw his little exploding toys and leave Connor to do all the hard work, the real fighting.
But that didn't matter because now Superman would think Robin was a better fighter than Superboy when he rarely engaged in contact fighting at all! Connor ground his teeth and smashed his fist into the rock face once more.
It never occurred to him that Robin had taken him down because he had studied his fighting style over the past few weeks, and trained hard to be able to fight against him. Nor did it occur to him that his underestimation of Robin's abilities had weakened his own ability to spar. All Connor could think was that Robin had shown him up in front of Superman.
"Is he still sulking?" Wally pulled his head out from the refrigerator as they heard another loud bang from Connor's room. "I thought he was over the rage thing?"
"Guess not," Robin muttered, feeling a guilty pang travel through him. He hadn't meant to humiliate Connor in front of Superman. But after the battle with Amazo, Robin had realised that his lack of powers put him at a distinct disadvantage to the rest of his teammates; something that had already occurred to him during the battle with Blockbuster. Unable to engage with the android physically (or Desmond for that matter) like Wally and Connor, he had been forced to throwing exploding bat-a-rangs that Amazo had merely batted away as though they were flies. It was disconcerting.
Robin was used to fighting criminals in Gotham alongside Batman; two skilled fighters with no superpowers. But now he was suddenly the youngest, the smallest and the weakest in a team of super-powered teenagers fighting against super-powered villains, and it left him feeling a little under confident in his abilities. So he had been sparring as much as possible with Black Canary and Batman, both stronger opponents, to try and prove that he belonged in this team. He had asked Black Canary to let him spar with Superboy that morning because he felt ready to take down a stronger opponent using his physical strength, not just his acrobatic prowess or the weapons at his disposal.
His elation at taking down Connor had been short lived when he had seen Superman watching from the satellite screen, and Connor's face when he had realised the same thing.
"Team, report to central control," Batman's voice sounded over the comm. link.
They all looked at one another with interest before responding to the command. Kaldur and Robin both stood up from where they were seated and followed the floating M'gann down the corridor. Trailing in their wake was Wally, who had finally closed the fridge door and was munching on a sandwich.
Batman's face was on the satellite screen as they trouped in. There was no sign of Connor, but Batman didn't comment on his absence.
Robin had a feeling he was already fully aware of what had transpired that morning, very little happened that Batman didn't know about. It was something which, even after all these years, Robin found both creepy and comforting.
As usual, Batman didn't bother with formalities and launched into an explanation of the team's next mission. "Unregistered Shipments have been coming into Jersey City for several weeks. Whatever these shipments contain, they are being collected late at night by the Cult of the Kobra."
"Kobra? Again? What's he up to now?" Wally asked, through a mouthful of Salami.
"And how are the shipments getting through unregistered?" Robin added.
"Someone on the shipping register is doctoring what those shipments contain," Batman replied. "It was only brought to our attention when Kobra followers were seen collecting unmarked shipments from a private warehouse near the docks. This is a covert, recon mission only. Observe where the cultists are taking the shipments, see if you can determine what the shipments contain and find out who in the shipping offices is doctoring the shipping papers for Kobra. And when I say covert, I mean covert."
Batman's masked eyes bore into them all and they wriggled uncomfortably. Not long before he had given them similar orders and they had ended up in the middle of a war between Bane, his goons and the Cult of the Kobra, resulting in the destruction of the venom factory in Santa Prisca. "Kobra may be attempting to do what he could not in Santa Prisca. We still have not discovered what their plan was, or who was behind it, and this may be another attempt to complete their aim. Do not alert them to your presence."
Robin became aware of the sensation of being watched and knew without turning that Connor had entered the room. He could feel Connor's glare boring into his back.
Batman's eyes flicked to the left and then back to the group. "You leave within the hour. Batman out."
As the screen went blank, Aqualad turned to the team. "You heard Batman."
It was an uneventful ride to Jersey. Kid Flash spent it flirting with Miss Martian, while Robin poked fun at him. Aqualad pondered the team's actions for when they landed and Superboy remained silent. Anger was festering inside him.
Another mission. More orders. The League had no respect for them, for him. He was Superman's clone for crying out loud, why was he letting them tell him what to do? After the Amazo incident, it should have been clear to the League that they were capable of more than glorified stakeouts.
The bio ship landed and the team exited onto the roof of a deserted building just over a block away from their mission objective. While Miss Martian placed the ship in stealth mode, the rest of the team turned to Aqualad for orders.
He looked even more serious than usual as he gazed back at them. Connor couldn't help but feel he was planning something beyond their mission behind those ice-blue eyes. The team leader was calm, direct and respectful towards everyone; he was the only one of the entire team who hadn't irritated Superboy at some point, and the clone had a great deal of respect for him. Still, he couldn't help but feel that whatever Aqualad was about to say would not be what he wanted to hear.
"We need to split up," Aqualad informed them. "Divide and conquer. It's a large warehouse and we need to be prepared for several possibilities." They all nodded their agreement. "Miss Martian, Kid Flash, situate yourselves on the roof of the building across from the warehouse. You will have a clear view of everything occurring outside the warehouse. Should the Cult of the Kobra arrive to collect shipments, follow them and see where they go…but do not reveal yourselves. Batman's orders were very clear on that point."
"Just you and me, Beautiful," Kid Flash nudged Miss Martian and gave her a beaming smile. She smiled politely back.
"Robin, you and Superboy will stake out the back of the warehouse. Try and gain entry, without alerting them to your presence, and see if you can access the shipping records. Robin, hack the systems to find out what it is they're shipping or uncover who is helping them, it may aid us in discovering what Kobra is planning."
Robin nodded but looked visibly unhappy. Superboy didn't care though, he was furious about being partnered with the teenager who had humiliated him earlier. "And where will you be?" he demanded through gritted teeth.
"In the water," Aqualad responded coolly. "Should anyone arrive or leave by boat, I will be in the best position to hide or follow them."
"Why do I have to be with him?" Superboy demanded. "You could have put me with Kid, or Miss Martian."
"Hey, don't be a sore loser just 'cause I got partnered with the babe!" Wally joked in an effort to defuse the tension, although he looked angry on his friend's behalf.
Aqualad was calm. "It's a full moon tonight and the front of the warehouse is very exposed. Miss Martian's powers will be able to cloak her and Kid Flash if they need it, and should the Cult of Kobra arrive to collect the latest shipment, Kid is the only one guaranteed to be fast enough to follow them." Connor looked ready to argue and Aqualad's eyes narrowed, "May I have a word with you, Superboy?"
Reluctantly, Connor followed Aqualad to the edge of the roof where the older teenager surveyed him seriously. "I know you are angry about what occurred during training with Robin this morning, but that needs to wait until after the mission. We have an objective to fulfil. However," Aqualad's gaze was penetrating, "you might want to consider this; would you feel better if a boy younger and smaller than you had simply let you win just to save you a bruised ego? Or would you prefer that he beat you because he fought his hardest? Think about that, my friend."
Aqualad returned his attention to the team. "Miss Martian, when you're in position, link us up. We should travel there separately so as not to attract attention. Let's go."
The team split into their assigned groups and disappeared into the night. Superboy and Robin were left on the roof, an awkward silence between them.
Robin placed a hand to the back of his neck. "Uh, guess we'd better–"
"Come on!" Superboy growled and stalked over to the fire escape. He swung his leg over the parapet and started to descend without another glance at Robin. The younger boy followed quietly.
When they reached the ground, they set out swiftly and silently for the warehouse, being careful to remain in the shadows. It was late and, because they were in a primarily industrial area, deserted, but they needed to be careful nonetheless.
"So, you know how we had to dismember Amazo," Robin began as they stole through the shadows. "If you were putting him back together again, could you say you membered him?"
"I don't care! Stop playing with words, its stupid!"
He missed Robin's hurt expression. "Look, Superboy, I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean–"
"Could you just shut up?!" Connor snarled at him. "I don't feel like talking right now, okay?"
Robin didn't speak again. Connor felt guilty until his thoughts flashed back to training with Black Canary the week before, when she had taken Superboy out in mere seconds. Robin had laughed out loud. Laughed! He wasn't sorry, he wasn't sorry at all!
Somewhere inside of him, a little voice that sounded remarkably like Kaldur was telling him that he was being unreasonable and unfair. But instead of making him reduce his hostility towards his teammate, it only served to further ignite the anger eating him alive, turning it into a red rage that blurred out all coherent thought.
They were both silent upon arrival at the back of the warehouse. Crouching behind several large, stacked crates, they surveyed two heavily armed men at the back door. The rest of the surrounding area was deserted.
"Those are TAR-21 Assault Rifles!" Robin informed Superboy. "Not in your typical security guard's arsenal, so I'm guessing these guys are something more."
"Y'think?" Superboy's voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Robin winced and studied the warehouse intently. His voice was a little more formal than usual when he spoke. "There's a small window on the second floor to the right, if that's an office there's a good chance we'll be able to check for shipping records." As he spoke, he activated the holographic computer in his glove.
"What are you doing?"
"Downloading city blueprints of the warehouse," Robin responded, eyes glued to the screen and his face lit by the computer. "Yup, its an office. We should be able to get some information from there."
"So how do we get in?" Superboy demanded, jerking a thumb at the armed guards. "Our orders were to remain out of sight." His voice growled slightly on the word orders, not liking how it tasted in his mouth. He was tired of taking orders, tired of being treated like a kid. And the more he thought about it, the angrier he got.
"Is everyone in position?" Aqualad's voice echoed in their head.
Everyone answered in the affirmative.
"Good." Aqualad sounded pleased. "Miss Martian, Kid, warn us if you see the Kobra followers arriving. Robin, Superboy, can you get in the warehouse?"
"Working on that now," Robin responded. "There's some heavy-duty armed muscle on the back entrance. We could take them down, but that would let them know we're here."
"There's a couple of uglies to the front as well," Kid Flash interjected. "That much firepower? They're guarding something big in there."
"Agreed," replied Aqualad. "I have a feeling the Cult of the Kobra will definitely make an appearance tonight. Miss M and Kid, stay alert. Robin, Superboy. I will create a diversion within the water to allow you access to the warehouse. Be ready."
Aqualad stopped talking and Superboy wondered what sort of a diversion he would create that wouldn't be too obvious. Within minutes, he got his answer as several large, repetitive knocks sounded from the far side of the pier, gradually increasing in persistence and volume. The two men at the back door looked alert. One of them pressed a hand to his hear and spoke, although he was too far away for them to hear what he said. Within seconds, both men were running to the pier to investigate the disturbance.
"That's our cue," Robin whispered. "Come on!"
The men were almost at the edge of the pier with their guns drawn, but their backs were to the teenagers. Superboy and Robin darted silently towards the warehouse. Robin removed the line gun from his utility belt and shot a line towards the second floor window. "Quickly!" he ordered Superboy, passing him the line. "I'm going to have to hang on to you. You're too heavy for me to hold!"
"You don't give me orders," Superboy snarled, even as he complied. Pressing the button, he felt a jerk and then the wind was whipping through his hair as he they were lifted from the ground and sent speeding towards the upper window. Robin hurriedly unpicked the lock while Superboy sizzled with impatience. He could have smashed the window in less than a second if only it wouldn't give away their position.
There was a small click and the window swung open. Robin pivoted gracefully into the room while Suberboy climbed in after him. Just in time, the two men were returning to their post at the door.
"What did you do?" Robin asked Aqualad.
"Unhooked several small dinghies and created currents in the water so they would knock against the pier. Simple but effective."
"Nice," Robin congratulated him. "We're in."
"Good. See what you can find."
Robin removed a flashlight from his utility belt and swung it around the room to reveal a small, untidy office. There was a computer in the corner and the smaller boy sat down and turned it on while Superboy leaned against the door. He was bored. There was very little for him to do on this mission. He didn't like stealth and creeping around, strength was what he excelled at.
The silence was only broken by the tap tap of the keyboard while Robin hacked into the system.
"Guys!" Wally's voice echoed suddenly. "Heads up, we've got company!"
"Cult of the Kobra?" Aqualad's voice was sharp. "How many?"
"Eight. And some big dude dressed in blue and gold."
"No. I've never seen this guy before."
"You know what to do if they leave. Robin, have you got anything?"
"Nothing on this system, but it does say there's hard copy files in the records room here in the warehouse." Robin blinked. "Sheesh. Who uses hard copies anymore?
"Can you find those files without being seen?"
Robin chuckled. "You kidding? I could do this blindfolded!"
"Be careful. You too, Superboy." Aqualad's tone carried a warning of caution.
Superboy said nothing, intending to ignore it the first chance he got. He was itching for a good fight.
A/N: Yeah, yeah, I know, author's notes everywhere, right? :) Just wanted to say this was originally intended as a oneshot but ended up being too darn long so now its a 3 piece. Enjoy!
Oh and I couldn't reply via PM to the people who left anonymous reviews on my other story so if you decide to read this one too, thank you. :) Sending good karma and virtual cookies your way.