Summary: Robin is pulled into the black hole in Geneva and ends up elsewhere. Maybe it was a rabbit hole, instead.
Crossing the Styx
By Syl Francis
The Parasite taunted the young heroes as he set off the CERN particle accelerator, initiating the growth of a singularity over the city of Geneva. The Team immediately fell into a well-orchestrated attack pattern—Superboy distracted the parasitic villain by allowing himself to be fed upon once again. Then, Miss Martian let him touch her fleetingly in order to let him siphon off some of hers.
Red Arrow shot him with a foam arrow, which hardened as soon as it came in contact with air, encasing the super-villain in a temporary prison. The Parasite laughed at the junior heroes' ineffective attempts to stop him. Meanwhile, Robin—mission leader and team hacker—was working as fast as his fingertips could fly across the keyboard to the control panel, attempting to stop the rapidly developing black hole that threatened the city.
The winds inside and outside the laboratory complex quickly picked up to hurricane force. The Boy Wonder was obviously struggling to remain in place next to the console, fighting the strong forces that threatened to swallow Switzerland's second largest city.
"Do you think foam is going to stop me?" Parasite demanded. "You forget that the junior Kryptonian has given me a double dose of his powers! This pathetic effort to hold me in place isn't going to work!" As he spoke he easily broke through his impromptu restraints.
"Oh, yeah?" Artemis challenged. "Then eat this!" She let loose two fire arrows, aiming them at the remaining foam. As soon as they were embedded in it, the fire spread and soon surrounded the villain.
"Very clever, young ones. You've got me," he deadpanned. "Oh, wait! Double dose of Kryptonian powers—and invulnerability, remember?" He laughed, turning toward Robin who was still working at the control console. "Excuse me while I take care of the little bird." He took a few steps through the fire, but suddenly staggered, feeling weak. "What's wrong with me?"
"You forgot that you also dined on me," Miss Martian said smugly. "You not only got my powers, you also got my weaknesses—to include fire!"
"No!" Parasite bellowed. He was so close to success, and the payoff by Intergang would be the biggest of his career. He would not go back to Belle Reve and live in a cage. Desperate to escape the fire, the Parasite called on the stolen Martian powers and dematerialized, slipping under the floor and rematerializing behind Robin. To his shock he saw that the young hero had done something irreparable to the controls. A series of electrical discharges were running through the system, shorting it out as a result.
With a bellow of outrage, the Parasite grabbed the Boy Wonder from behind and flung him away from the console. He didn't bother to look where Robin ended up; if he had he might have felt a brief moment of triumph as the young teen was pulled into the singularity. He didn't hear the Team's cries of horror at Robin's fate. Instead, he stood still, his eyes never leaving the console. He watched dismayed as the console went black, taking his big payoff along with it.
Simultaneously, the black hole over the skies of Geneva winked out.
Parasite was easily taken down as Robin's teammates attacked him all at once, again encasing him in flammable foam. This time when the foam was ignited, the Parasite was too weakened to fight off the effects of the Martian vulnerability to fire, and he collapsed unconscious.
The Team approached him silently, each numbed by the loss of their youngest teammate. They merely stood and watched as Interpol arrived and hauled the super-villain away. Softly, Artemis said what they were all thinking.
"How are we going to tell Batman?"
~ / ~ / ~ / ~
When consciousness returned, Robin realized he wasn't dead. Death couldn't hurt this much, he grimaced. He lay still for a moment longer, taking careful assessment of any possible injuries. He avoided any sudden moves that would likely awaken any aches and pain.
A soft breeze touched his exposed cheeks and arms. He became aware of the spring-like sounds of chirping birds and the wind soughing through trees. Opening his eyes, he took a minute to look around first. He was lying outside on a bed of soft grass, freshly mown if the scent were any indication. Taking a deep breath, he sat up and looked around.
That's strange, he thought. What happened to the CERN laboratory complex? Also, it was broad daylight, clear blue skies with fluffy white clouds. The Team had infiltrated the CERN lab in the dead of night, but by the sun's placement, it was early to mid-morning. A bit confused, Robin stood and turned in a complete circle. He was in the middle of a tree-lined park, near a children's playground.
To the far western edge of the open, well-tended grounds stood an old-fashioned gazebo/bandstand. It was the kind that held summer concerts under a clear, June night. Also, it was where young lovers met and shared their first kiss or even a marriage proposal.
"I don't believe it," Dick whispered. "This looks like Robinson Park." On impulse he took off toward one of the taller trees he spotted—a 30-foot live oak—and climbed it to its highest branches. Pushing the smaller, green-leafed branches out of the way, he gazed over the heavily canopied trees that bordered the parkland.
In the distance, gleaming in the morning light and reflecting the scudding clouds overhead, stood the tallest building in Gotham City—Wayne Tower. "How the heck did I get from Geneva to Gotham without the use of a Zeta-beam?" He was referring to the secret, worldwide network of instantaneous transporters used by the Justice League and its younger covert ops team, Young Justice, of which Robin was a co-founder.
The black hole! When Parasite picked him up and tossed him aside, as casually as a rag doll, he must have thrown him into the singularity. Was this the other side, then? If so, how was he even still alive? How had he been pulled through the immense gravity well of the black hole without being crushed? And what of the others? He had to contact them, let them know that he was all right.
And Batman! he thought suddenly.
The Team would probably call him (if they hadn't done so already) and let him know that Robin had been thrown into a black hole and probably killed during what was an unauthorized mission in Europe, a small fact he had withheld from them. But clearing Jack Haly—and the circus that had been Dick's childhood home—of the suspicious robberies that had occurred at each stop during their European tour had been more important.
"Man, oh, man…I'd better call B and let him know I'm okay before he takes their heads off," Robin muttered. He touched the side of his mask to activate his communicator. "Robin to Batman. Come in." He waited a few seconds, but received no response. "That's funny…" Shrugging, Robin changed from the Team's channel to that of the Justice League and tried raising Batman again. Still nothing. In fact, there was only dead air, almost as if it weren't even an active channel.
Okay…did I lose the sat/com? he wondered. Only one way to find out. He activated his glove computer and began running a diagnostic on the communications network. The projected hologram immediately gave error messages. It showed that his computer was not only unable to find the Earth heroes' network, but that it was also unable to locate the Watchtower communications satellite.
There were hundreds of satellites in orbit, but none was transmitting the JL recognition code. In fact, there were at least two black objects up there—practically invisible across the spectrum—that were doing everything electronically possible, short of closing a curtain in front of them, to convince his computer that they weren't up there.
"Ha! As if!" the junior hacker said with a sneer. A heavy frown of concentration on his youthful features, Robin continued running a search for any compatible communications system. He waited impatiently as the hologram ran through hundreds of satellite channels before finally locking on one. Dick pressed the receiver and to his surprise found himself listening to a conversation that sounded similar to something he himself often had with his teammates.
"Grayson, what would you do without me?"
"Aw, Li'l D…I didn't know you cared."
"T-t—! Someone has to stop Mother and save the world."
"Attention, this channel!" Dick interrupted. "This is Robin speaking—"
"—gative, Robin! Return to the cave ASAP as ordered!"
"What? Who is this?" Dick demanded. "Identify yourself!"
"—eet you at Wayne Tower—"
"I repeat. This is Robin…identify—" In frustration, he flipped off the tree branch, and landing in a crouch on the ground, he took off toward Wayne Tower in midtown.
"—man will kill us. You know that, right?"
Whatever was going on, Dick's answers lay in Wayne Tower. Whoever was on the channel couldn't hear him; yet, one of the voices had addressed Robin directly. A sick feeling in his stomach was accompanied with slowly building realization that the voice hadn't been talking to him.
He shot his grappler to the nearest rooftop and started racing toward Wayne Tower. As he hopped, leaped, and flew from rooftop to rooftop, Dick became aware of a strange buzzing in the air.
Before long, he realized it wasn't a buzzing, but a low, ominous chant—"Leviathan rises"—repeated over and over. Risking a look at the streets below, he was taken momentarily aback by the rioting crowds. Men, women, children—shop owners, executives, police officers, fire fighters, mothers, toddlers—you name it, they were taking up arms with anything they could lay their hands on and advancing slowly, steadily toward Wayne Tower.
"You worry too much, Richard! Now…are you with me, Nightwing? The odds are completely against us."
"When haven't they been, Robin the Boy Wonder, Damian?"
Richard…Nightwing? Robin…Damian? Dick refused to acknowledge where his thoughts were leading him. He shook off the uneasy feeling in his gut and concentrated on getting to midtown as quickly as possible.
What's going on? And where's Batman? Dick couldn't help wondering.
Soon, he stood across from Wayne Tower, a building in which he'd spent a great part of the last five years. And yet…it wasn't. The company name over the entrance portal proclaimed Wayne Enterprises in gold lettering.
The sick feeling in his stomach returned, only this time it felt as if a cold fist was squeezing his intestines. Dick knew that the company logo over the entrance to Wayne Tower was in silver letters and announced Wayne Industries. He swallowed back the sudden bile that threatened in the back of his throat.
He'd seen the Star Trek episode with a bearded Spock and an evil Kirk. Plus, he'd read the Justice League's after action report on the heroes' encounter with the Crime Syndicate of an alternate Earth. The organization had been comprised of the JL's own villainous doppelgangers. Robin knew enough about the multi-verse to know that he did not want to become yet another victim of cross-dimensional displacement.
The next instant, an explosion rocked one of the lower floors of the tower. Glass, metal, fire and smoke blew out in an earsplitting blast and rained down on the panicked crowds in the streets below.
"Nightwing, what was that?"
"They've just taken out the fifth floor. Dammit…there were still people up there!"
"We have to help them."
Without further thought, Dick shot his grappler toward one of the shattered windows.
"I know, L'il D…but first we have to take out the Leviathan, or the whole the city will be destroyed."
Dick flew into the devastated office floor, somersaulting in midair to add momentum to his arc.
"If only Father would see that Mother isn't the same person he knew when they were young—"
"This isn't the time, Dami."
"I know, Richard…I just wish that—" There was a moment of dead air.
"Wish what, L'il D?" the older Richard asked gently.
Landing in a tuck and shoulder roll, Dick leapt to his feet and took in the damage at a glance, noting that several people were lying scattered about and unmoving.
"It doesn't matter."
"Dami, you're his son—"
Only half-listening to the conversation over the air, Dick moved silently from victim to victim, checking for a pulse or any other sign of life.
"—I-I wish…Richard, I wish that you were my father."
"Oh, Dami…I love you, too, little bro, but Bruce is your father. He loves you—"
Dick gasped at the words. Bruce has a son?
"No, Richard…it's you that Father loves. You're the son he picked. I'm the one he got stuck with because of Mother's treachery."
"Dami, it's not like that!"
"And if Father gets to pick the son he wants, then I should to be able to pick the father I prefer."
By the time Dick made it to the stairwell, a black rage was beginning to build inside him. All dead…all Wayne employees.
"L'il D, Bruce loves you so much, and he's very proud of you. Don't doubt that for a minute."
"Be that as it may, you've been more father than brother to me, Richard. And you were my favorite partner, too. No one could beat us as the Dynamic Duo."
"Thank you, L'il D…we were the best, weren't we?"
"So, are you ready?"
"Are you kidding? As we used to say in the circus…It's show time!"
The only good news—if Dick could call it that—
"Nightwing!" The younger voice gave an anguished cry.
—was that he hadn't recognized any of the broken and deathly still bodies, which was highly unusual as he knew every employee who worked in Wayne Tower.
"Touch him again, and I'll kill you!" The deadly serious threat given in a childish voice sounded all the more threatening.
Dick could hear the sound of mocking laughter in the background as he rappelled down the few flights of stairs, but the taunting words were muffled amidst the rest of the sounds of battle.
"Mother, please stop this! End this foolishness before more people get hurt."
Dick made it to the mezzanine in time to see a line of men with crossbows aimed at a tiny green, yellow, and red figure who was struggling with an oversized opponent.
Oh, no, you don't, you cowards! How 'bout I even the odds? Dick acquired, readied and threw three birdarangs simultaneously. The sharp edges of the throwing stars all embedded themselves at the feet of the ninja death squad. The men had an instant to notice the blinking red lights before the birdarangs released the same foam that the Team had used against the Parasite. The members of the death squad were instantly imprisoned in the hardened foam. As the men struggled in their bonds, he tossed several gas pellets, effectively knocking them out for good measure.
The oversized villain looked up at that moment, and scowling, roared his displeasure. He tossed the small boy aside as if he were no more than a mere annoyance. It reminded Dick too much of how the Parasite had so carelessly picked him up and cast him aside directly into the gravitational pull of the artificial singularity. The colorfully clad child landed in a daze, next to a still figure in red and black, lying half-in/half-out of a broken display case.
"Come back here, coward!" the small boy gasped.
Dick heard the challenge in stereo—over his headset and live.
"Don't worry, little brother. I shall return shortly," the behemoth rumbled.
Little brother? Dick wondered. No matter. He wasn't about to just stand back and watch that monster hurt the little boy. Taking in the boy's bright costume, he saw the distinctive R on the chest. Okay, then. Us Robins have to stick together.
"Kid! Is your partner okay?" he called down.
"He is unconscious, but breathing," the tiny Robin responded. "Who are you?"
"A friend." With those words, Dick shot his grappler and swung out to the middle of the entrance foyer, alighting next to the younger boy. He took a good look around him, studying the museum-like pieces with a critical eye.
What's with all the weapons on display? A tank? Seriously? Since when is Wayne Industries involved in weapons manufacture? Oh, right…this isn't Wayne Industries. It's Wayne Enterprises. But still…Bruce would never—! Oh, wait! Not my Bruce…please, tell me he doesn't wear a beard.
"Hey, little Robin!" Dick called, getting the younger Robin's attention. "Your Batman doesn't sport a goatee or anything like that, does he?"
"…?" The little Robin glared up at him, obviously not understanding the question.
"Never mind," Dick shrugged. "Let's take care of Gigantor here." He jerked his thumb in the direction of the bad guy and watched amused as the small boy cracked his knuckles in anticipation.
"With pleasure," the younger Robin growled in obvious imitation of Batman. He whipped out his katana. "The Leviathan hurt Nightwing. I promised Father I wouldn't kill anymore, but Mother and this monstrosity have forced my hand."
"Look, kid. I don't know all the issues between you and Batman, but killing just isn't 'astrous."
"You know…if disastrous is something really bad, then the opposite is—" Dick paused. "You know…never mind. Let's kick some monster butt." He whipped out his birdarangs and threw. No further words were needed.
The two Robins swung into action simultaneously. Dick pulled out his escrima sticks, while the smaller Robin brandished the katana with a certain deadly flair. As the throwing stars found their target, the Leviathan let out another inhuman roar of pain and outrage.
"I was created by Mother to destroy you, little brother, and everyone you hold dear! Once I break you in half, I will then take your beloved gypsy and cut out his heart."
"Okay…see? Prime example of not 'astrous! Not 'astrous, at all!" Dick said, using the Leviathan's threats as a teachable moment.
Dick threw a couple pellets on the floor that immediately spewed out a curtain of black smoke. The smaller Robin struck at the back of their opponent's knees with the sharply hewn sword, while Dick leapt onto the Leviathan's shoulders and slammed the sticks against the soft cartilage of his opponent's nose with a sharp crack. As he flipped off the broad shoulders, Dick kicked out with his two steel-reinforced boots into the behemoth's temples.
As soon as his feet touched ground, Dick spun and kicked out with a reverse sidekick. Not letting up on their opponent, the two Robins executed a jump-spin hook-kick at the same time, both brutally connecting with a headshot.
It began to dawn on Dick that this Leviathan guy wasn't going down—at least not with anything smaller than a tactical nuke. He was too big, too powerful, and too well armored. Taking out an explosive birdarang, Dick threw it with sufficient force for it to embed itself into the Leviathan's chest armor. As soon as he released, Dick body tackled the little Robin, using his cape to shield them from the ensuing explosion.
As soon as the birdarang went off, Dick released the little Robin (who had been fighting and struggling to be let go) and jumped up to assess the damage.
"I thought you said that killing wasn't 'astrous," the little Robin accused.
"I didn't kill him," Dick said. "I only singed him a little." I hope.
"I'm not your father, Talia!" The disembodied voice caught them both by surprise.
"What?" Dick looked all around the entrance foyer. "That sounded like Br—um…Batman."
"It was," little Robin replied. "Father? Mother? Can you hear me?"
"Indeed not, Beloved," Talia said, oblivious to her son's pleas. "And yet, you have rejected my love and all that I have offered, just as Father did."
As Talia spoke, the Leviathan began to rise to his feet. A groan behind the two Robins, told them that Nightwing was finally regaining consciousness.
"This is all about control, Talia. You don't love either of us—me or Damian. You want to control us…to own us. That's selfishness, Talia—not love."
"No…I am offering you the world, Beloved! To rule by my side."
The Leviathan stood up to his full height and held his arms up in anger. "No! I am to rule at your side, Mother! Not the Bat…and not my undeserving twin!"
"Rule by your side?" Batman scoffed, unaware of the audience listening in. "As what? Your sycophant…your slave?"
The Leviathan turned and glared at the two Robins who stood ready for battle.
"As my loyal consort. The Lazarus pits will ensure our continued existence through several generations of—"
Before the final encounter could begin, the two Robins were joined by three additional figures in black and red. The little Robin introduced them to his new friend, indicating each with a nod. "Nightwing, Red Robin, and Red Hood…this is—"
"You know that I will ever accept that role, Talia. And neither will our son. At ten Damian knows more about love and selflessness than you or your father learned in all of your lifetimes."
At Batman's words, Nightwing squeezed little Robin's shoulders. "See? Told ya." He spotted Dick who was standing a few feet away. "Um…who's your friend, Robin? He seems to be wearing a very familiar Ron his chest." He checked out Dick's costume. "Hmmm…different, but good different."
"Like father like son," Talia's disembodied voice spewed spitefully. "You both reject the love and power I offer you. Very well then…you will both die. Leviathan, my child, kill Damian...and make it as painful as possible."
"Mother, no!" Damian's anguished protest was barely a whisper.
"Kill the rest of my Beloved's strays," Talia continued. "Then cut the gypsy's heart out and bring it to me."
"Sheesh! Agent A and I warned B about her," Dick said with a shake of the head. At the others' looks, he shrugged. "Sorry, never got around to introducing myself," Dick said. "Hi, I'm Robin, but as you can probably guess, I'm not from around here. How about we stop uber-ugly over there from killing us all before we compare secret handshakes?" He pointed at the Leviathan who had started advancing menacingly.
"Sounds like a plan," the one introduced as Red Hood muttered. Dick noticed he was armed to the teeth—guns, knives, ammo belts. He narrowed his eyes as the Red Hood drew his guns out and took a ready stance, as did little Robin with his katana.
"You guys play for keeps around here, don't you?" Dick asked. He was beginning to feel underdressed with only his escrima sticks in hand. To his relief he saw that Nightwing was also armed with a pair of sticks, only—Dick took a second look—Nightwing's sticks emitted an electrical charge at both ends, thus doubling as Tasers. Waaay cool!
"Some people," Red Robin explained with a snarl as he twirled the bo staff that he had just whipped out, "even after being told repeatedly that members of Batman Inc. don't do deadly force, still fail to follow protocol."
"Batman Inc.?" I am definitely not in Kansas anymore, Dick thought with a shake of the head.
"Protocol?" Red Hood scoffed. "Listen to you getting all bad-ass with the military-speak."
"Language," Nightwing chastised. "Underage heroes present and all." The others all rolled their eyes at his comment.
The next instant, all bantering was set aside as the young heroes attacked with military precision. It made sense, as they had each been trained by the same man. They moved and acted as one, anticipating one another's attacks and counterattacks.
Dick had only ever felt this sense of belonging and rightness as he'd flown with his parents on the trapeze, and later as Batman's partner. Even with the Team, he still felt as if he were odd-man out, not quite able to articulate his intentions to the others. But with Batman, Inc., Dick fit right in—especially with Nightwing. The guy had some serious moves.
They were each able to telegraph their intentions to the others almost as if they had a psychic link, the way Dick's Team communicated. But here it was done with much more subtle signals—either hand and arm, or the tilt of the head, or even a smile and a wink. Whatever it was, it was working. And together, they were overpowering the behemoth known as the Leviathan.
At least it was working, until it all went south.
The Leviathan grabbed little Robin with one hand, while holding a scimitar with the other. He was about to run the little boy through, when Dick leapt up and snatched him out of the monster's grip. Executing some impossible aerial acrobatic moves, he yelled, "Catch!" and tossed the small Robin into Nightwing's waiting arms.
Before he could right himself and return to the fight, he felt what he thought was a giant fist slam into him from behind. Considering our oversized opponent, it's a pretty safe bet, he commented silently.
There was a moment of sharp pain exploding outwardly from his back, and then only numbing coldness. He lost all sense of up and down, unheard of in a Flying Grayson. It was strange. The world seemed to be spinning away from him, while he floated in and out of a place of light and darkness.
The last thing he saw was the formerly highly polished marble floor of the entrance foyer as it rushed up to him. In the back of his mind, he noted that Alfred would be scandalized that the intricate mosaic of Italian marble, personally handpicked by Martha Wayne, was now marred by blackened scorch marks, ugly gouges, and littered with fallout from the recent battle.
And then, nothing…
End Part 1
~ / ~ / ~ / ~
Acknowledgements: "Performance," Young Justice, S1E24 and "RIP," Batman, Inc. #8
Disclaimer: All characters belong to DC, Time Warner, and CN; this is an original story that doesn't intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome.
Copyright: March 2013