Number One Zero

Chapter 7

Seeing Batman’s face on the laptop before her reminded Raven of the first time they talked to the Dark Knight. It was a quiet, uneventful day at Titans Tower when all of a sudden, their giant TV in the common room shifted to Batman’s serious face.

“What happened to Robin?” Batman’s voice demanded through the giant TV screen in the common room. When he heard the news that the Boy Wonder was missing, he immediately contacted the Titans to find out what was wrong.

“He disappeared.” was all Cyborg could say, looking dejected in front of the Dark Knight.

“When?” He asked through gritted teeth.

“He was taken by Slade almost three months ago.” Raven said, stepping in front of her leader. “He went into an abandoned building alone and an explosion tore it down. I was able to shield the both of us from the rubble but when I regained consciousness, he was nowhere to be found. I remember a man like Slade came up to us and took him away, saying something about passing a test. We’ve had leads to their locations, but they were all dead-ends.”

Batman paused for a moment, taking in all of this information into account. He was very worried for Robin, and he was willing to do everything in his power to ensure his safety.

“Give me the location of your last lead. I’ll take it from there.” he ordered, masking his worry with a cold tone.

“Once you find something, tell us right away. We want to save Robin as much as you do.” Raven replied, trying to bargain against the Dark Knight. She should’ve known that it wouldn’t work though.

“The sooner you give the location, the sooner I’ll find Robin.” He didn’t even acknowledge Raven’s threat. This was going to be his mission, and there was nothing they could do to convince him otherwise.

He was always convinced that he could do things on his own. Until he found Robin.

But now that he was the one who was missing, he was willing to do anything to get him back.

Raven heaved a sigh, understanding his emotions through her empathic powers. Reluctantly she sent the coordinates to Pier 42, hoping that the great Batman could find him.

“Please tell us once you find something.” she begged, knowing that it would only fall to deaf ears.

“I appreciate this information. I will update you accordingly.” he said before finally cutting the transmission.

Raven had a desperate look in her eyes, hoping against hope that Batman would find their leader, before something bad happens to his body, or his soul.

Unfortunately, two watching eyes were listening to their conversation, and were hoping something else for the Dark Knight.

Batman’s cold tone brought Raven out of her thoughts and back to the present.

"I suppose this is about Robin, isn't it?" The Dark Knight said, his tone matching her emotionless voice.

"Yes... I guess you've heard the news that he's back." Raven replied, unsure of how to inform his former mentor of everything that he has been doing. Especially with all the stunts he has been pulling for the media.

"And protecting Jump city all by himself." He didn't need to say anything. Batman's tone clearly demanded an explanation as to why his adopted son was alone while his team seemed to be unharmed.

"Don't believe a word he's saying! He's evil now!" Beast Boy screamed out, speaking for the first time since he was initially awestruck by the famous detective's presence.

Batman only raised an eyebrow in disbelief at the changeling's words, waiting for someone else to elaborate on his words.

"What he means is that the Robin that you see in the media isn't who he really is." Cyborg said, stepping up and presenting himself as the leader. “He’s done a lot of evil things to us. He beat us up and chained us all in the basement of Titans’ Tower. He might have done a hell of a lot more if we didn’t escape. But he did manage to rip my arm off in the process.”

Batman’s expression didn’t change when he heard the news. He still held a stoic expression on his face, not giving anything away as he stared back at the Titans from the computer screen. “Did he do anything else?”

“He chased us through Jump City and had an army of Sladebots attack us. If it weren’t for Raven’s quick thinking, we would’ve been crushed right then and there.” Aqualad explained, as he placed his arm on Starfire’s shoulder, wincing at the memories that happened just weeks ago.

He turned toward Raven and asked, “Did he do the same things to you?” The whole team found it weird how he specifically inquired that from her. They speculated that it was probably because of Robin’s declaration during his interview. But something told them that the Dark Knight knew more than what he was telling them.

“He drugged me and chained me to my bed. I was unconscious for a day.” was her only reply, as if she was just retelling facts and not remembering a dreadful experience.

“And he sent us a ball with holographic messages taunting us!" Beast Boy interjected once again.

"That's how we got to your IP address and how we're talking to you now." Raven added, finally putting Batman up-to-speed about the latest events.

"Hmm.." he mused thoughtfully, with his hand under his chin. "What did he say while he was taunting you?"

"He knew where Terra lived!" Beast Boy exclaimed, his hands flailing in the air.

"He knew very intimate information about us." Starfire said sadly, burying her head on Aqualad's shoulder.

"He asked about the arm he tore off." Cyborg said, "Which meant that he knew that it was fixed already."

"And he wouldn't know that if he weren't watching you closely." Batman concluded, using the clues that the Titans gave him.

"But how can he do that?" Beast Boy asked in disbelief.

"Surveillance cameras. You have them around the Tower right?" Batman suggested, seemingly irritated that he had to point it out to them.

"Damnit! No way he could've hacked my system!" Cyborg shouted out as he hurried out of the common room.

"He's Robin. What do you expect?" Raven replied sarcastically as the other Titans followed Cyborg out of the room.

"Raven, aren't you going with us?" Beast Boy asked as he looked back at his teammate.

"Go. I still have to talk to Batman about something." she gave him a small smile as he gave her a wondering look before leaving the common room.

Raven turned back to the laptop to talk to the Dark Knight.

"What happened to the location that I gave you?" she asked him, demanding answers of her own.

"I didn't know I had to report to you about that." Batman replied, somewhat teasing the empath.

She didn't take the joke lightly. "I could've helped you with the mission. You should've told me once you figured out their location."

"Well then you don't know me that well, Raven."

"What happened?" she asked, her tone becoming darker and more threatening.

Batman heaved a sigh, as if he felt the weight that those memories carried. But the look in his eyes showed the determination he had to tell her the story.

The Dark Knight’s cape fluttered as he landed on the yacht anchored in the harbor of the Gotham ports. After acquiring the location Raven gave him, he was disgusted to say the least that Slade had even thought to bring Robin to this city - his city. He vowed to make the villain pay for terrorizing his adopted son. But as soon as he felt a presence from behind him, he knew that he would already have his chance.

He narrowly dodged from a roundhouse kick that was about to hit his head. He jumped up and stood a few meters away from his attacker, knowing all too well who it was.

“Welcome Batman, I’ve been expecting you.” Slade greeted in his chilling voice.

“Where’s Robin?” he spat out, not letting the fact that Slade knew that he was coming phase him.

“Patience, my friend. I will let you meet him soon. For now... how about a little warm up?” He set himself in a fighting stance, ready to go against the famous Batman.

The Dark Knight didn’t waste any time. He threw a swift punch toward the masked villain but he caught his wrist and flung him over to the side. Batman landed on his feet, and charged again, this time going for a flying kick. He hit Slade square in the jaw and sent him flying to the other side. He got up just in time to catch Batman running toward him. Using his own momentum against him, he sent a hard punch to his chest, breaking one of his ribs in the process. He clutched his chest in pain, giving Slade the opportunity to raise a balled fist over his head and send it crashing over his skull. He fell to the floor, but used this to an advantage as he knocked the masked villain down with a strategic roundhouse kick. Slade fell to the floor as well, which caused their fight to turn into an all-out brawl. Punches and kicks were sent from the two grown men as blood started splattering all around them. It became less and less about technique, and more and more about survival. Both men refused to back down from the other, as if this fight would determine who deserved Robin more. Their attacks became more desperate as their wounds deepened, more pain being inflicted upon the other. But within a few moments, it was obvious that the Dark Knight was winning the battle. He was on his knees, upon Slade's defeated form lying on the floor. He was about to send a hard punch to the masked villain when a kick to his side sent him flying to the other end of the yacht.

"Ah finally you've decided to join us, my apprentice." Slade said as he slowly got up, making sure that Batman heard it to get on his nerves. The Dark Knight couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Robin in his old apprentice uniform. He wore a black body suit, with half of his torso in an orange color. He had metal accents all over his body, and steel toed boots at his feet. Batman tried to find some sort of expression on his face, telling him what he was thinking or if he was under some sort of mind control. But his expression or his posture wasn't giving anything away.

"What did you do to him, Slade?" Batman asked coldly as he turned toward the masked villain.

"Nothing, I assure you. He’s doing it all out of his own free will. No nanobots, no mind games, no nothing. Isn't that right, Robin?"

Batman turned his gaze toward the Boy Wonder, who simply stood there, unmoving. The Dark Knight had no idea what was going on, but he was determined to make him snap out of it if it was the last thing that he did.

He was broken out of his reverie when Slade's command made him stand on alert. "Apprentice, kill him."

Before everything had time to sink in, Robin lunged forward with a punch aimed for Batman. He blocked it by raising his arms in a defensive stance. He had to admit that it worked, but it took all of his energy for it to do so. He was still worn out from his fight with Slade, which only meant that this match would only end in his defeat if he didn't think of a way to bring Robin back to their side. And as he blocked another powerful blow from the Boy Wonder, making him stumble slightly from its sheer intensity, he knew he was running out of time.

"Robin, it's me! Don't you recognize me?" Batman asked desperately.

His only reply was a sweeping kick to his legs, sending the Dark Knight to the wooden floor once again. He could only take that as a yes. He narrowly dodged Robin' foot crashing down upon him; he decided to try a different approach.

“You can still turn away from this life. Come back before you get any deeper into this hell."

Robin stayed silent as he sent a kick toward Batman's stomach, making him take a step back as he bent over and coughed up blood. He didn't know how much more of this he could take. But he was well aware that it wouldn't take too long before Robin delivered the final blow to him. He threw a batarang toward his adopted son, praying that it wouldn't hit anything vital, though he did aim it at his chest. The Boy Wonder caught the weapon with two fingers and simply tossed it aside, as if it were just a piece of paper.

"Your friends are looking for you. Raven sent me to find you and bring you back. It’s about time you saw them again." Batman said as his final tactic to get through to Robin. He wasn't sure if it was right to bring his teammates into this, but he was running out of options. If he didn't respond to the team that he led for so long, then he knew that all hope would be lost.

Robin froze in his tracks, seemingly dumbfounded by what he heard. Even Slade was shocked to see his perfect apprentice affected by a few words about his teammates, people that completely forgot about him.

Batman smirked upon seeing his reaction, breathing out a sigh of relief when he finally got through to the Boy Wonder. He opened his mouth to speak once again, buying him some time to regain his strength and recover even just a little bit from his injuries.

"Raven wanted to come here. She even threatened me so she could tag along. She's been waiting for you, Robin. You have to go back to her, to them."

Robin simply stood there where he was, an inner turmoil seemingly raging within his mind. Batman was proud of his adopted son, seeing as he was not completely lost to him. Slade, on the other hand, was panicking; he knew how much his apprentice cared for Raven, and he was inwardly cursing Batman for knowing which of the relationships in the Tower he should exploit. And now he was about to lose his apprentice because of it.

"Robin, don't listen to him! Finish him right now or else." Slade ordered to his apprentice, hoping against hope that he hadn’t completely lost him to the Dark Knight.

Robin still stood frozen on his spot, seemingly contemplating upon something. The two other men on the yacht were carefully waiting for his next move, hoping that he would follow their own orders. But what they should've realized was that the Boy Wonder had a mind of his own, and he wouldn't just blindly follow orders. Especially when a purple-haired empath was involved.

Before anyone knew what was going on, Robin suddenly appeared behind Batman, his arms forming a lock over his neck. Slade's eye widened behind his mask as he watched the Boy Wonder choke his foster father. Batman still couldn't believe what was happening as he felt the oxygen leaving his system as the seconds passed. He knew that this was the end, and somehow he found it in his heart to accept this forlorn fate, no matter how twisted it may seem. If he had to give up his life to save his son from punishment, then so be it. But right before he passed out into unconsciousness, he heard his adopted son whisper something in his ear. His eyes widened in shock before the darkness overcame him.

The great Batman's body slumped down to the floor, right at Robin's feet. Slade was surprised to say the least that his apprentice could do what many have attempted, but no one had ever accomplished: defeat the Dark Knight. He moved toward Batman's fallen form and checked his pulse, only to feel nothing there. He gazed upon his apprentice with so much pride that he could barely contain it.

"I am beyond impressed, Robin. I didn't think you had it in you to kill your mentor. After disposing his body, I will have a reward for you." Slade said as he went inside the yacht, leaving Robin to dump his foster father's body into the ocean. He did so with a blank expression on his face, giving nothing away as to what he was feeling.

The Dark Knight's body crashed on to the waters below, bringing him down to its icy depths. But only after a few moments, he suddenly burst into life and swam up to the surface. He gasped in the air, regaining much needed oxygen into his system. He had no idea how he was still alive, but one thing was certain in his mind: Robin had saved him.

Raven was beyond shocked at what she heard. She didn't know what to believe. Was Robin that strong already- strong enough to defeat Batman? And why did he save his former mentor? His narration of the past events only left her with more questions than answers. But one question stood above the rest.

"What did he whisper to you, just before you blacked out?" she asked, a hint of worry etched in her tone.

Batman was slightly taken aback by her frank and straightforward manner, but he simply cleared his throat and said: "It was a message, for you actually." He curiously gauged her expression and saw it change from shock to curiosity. "What did he say?' she urged on.

"He said: Tell Raven to stop trying to look for me. Tell her that I will come back for her; I will go to her soon. Just tell her to stop looking for me. It isn’t safe for her.”

Raven's eyes widened at what she heard. She didn't know how to react to such a message. What did he mean that it wasn’t safe for her? Could she have been in danger just by looking for him?

It sent chills up her spine when she realized that Robin had kept his promise when he came back to the Tower only a few weeks ago. She became more afraid of what he was capable of, especially with what Batman told her. She wondered if they even had a chance against him, if they could still defeat him at this point. Now, the only option they had, it seemed, was to give herself to him. But could she really do that? Could she hand herself to a madman to save her friends?

"I can't say I don't believe your friends with everything that they said here awhile ago." Batman said, bringing Raven out of her thoughts. "I know how much he's changed, what he's capable of. But I also know there is still some good left in him. And I think you're the only one that can bring that out of him.”

Raven simply stared at the Dark Knight, dumbfounded by his words. She felt embarrassed to be so shocked in the Batman's presence, but she was having a hard time making sense of everything that he was saying. He continued, understanding the lost expression on the empath's face.

"I knew Robin could've killed me right then and there. I knew it would've only taken such minimal effort to do it on his part. And I could feel it from him, I knew he was determined to follow Slade and end me right then and there. That was, until I mentioned your name. When I told him about you, his expression changed; he seemed to be considering something. Even Slade sensed that something changed in him at that moment. That was when he changed his mind. That was when he decided to spare my life. He could've easily killed me then. But hearing your name reminded him of some semblance of morality, of justice, of everything he stood for as a hero. That's why I think you're the only one who can get him back on the right track."

"How can I do that?" she asked, greatly unsure of herself.

"Just go to him. Talk to him. Try to remind him of who he was as a hero. I was under the impression that he was wiling to do anything for you." He did it again; he was teasing Raven despite his cold demeanor. There was something about the purple-haired empath that compelled him to do so. Maybe because he found a monotone to rival his own gruff tone, aside from the fact that he believed that she was the only one capable of saving his foster son from evil.

"But if I go to him, wouldn’t that be giving him what he wants? He may lose whatever reservations he has and do whatever he wants if he finally has me.”

"No. You have to go to him to influence him, to get him back from whatever hell-hole Slade put him in before it's too late. Raven, you have to do it. You're the only one who can."

Raven paused for awhile, allowing herself to understand the Dark Knight's words. Was he right? Was she the only one who could save him from himself? Was she strong enough to get him from his dark side?

"I'll try. But I'll admit, that's all I can do. You know how dangerous he's become."

"That's all I ask" he replied, with a miniscule smile. "Please save my son."

"I'll do my best." It was more of a reply, it was a promise.

And with that, Batman ended the transmission, leaving him to stare at the information before him inside the Batcave.

"If I may, sir.." Alfred began, standing behind him.

"What is it, Alfred?"

The butler cleared his throat before continuing. "Do you think you are a bit too biased with Master Dick's behavior? Just because he saved you sir, doesn't lessen the gravity of his crimes."

"He hasn't done anything wrong, Alfred. He just tied up the Titans and taunted them. I don't think that those actions spell world domination or anything to that effect. He's even single-handedly saving Jump City for the past week. "

"Are you sure that is all sir? There may be more things to be discovered if we look beyond the surface."

Batman suddenly stood up from his chair, furious at what Alfred was insinuating. "So what are you saying Alfred? That my son is a criminal? Hadn't we had enough of this with Jason? I am not letting another Robin stand on the wrong side of the law." And with that, the Dark Knight stormed out of the Batcave, leaving Alfred with a tray of untouched food in his hands

Raven sat alone in the Titans East common room, trying to process everything that Batman had said. She honestly didn't know if she had it in her to make Robin the hero that he once was. It certainly didn't help that she didn't know the full extent of what he was doing, since they were obviously one step behind him in his plans. Not to mention the fact that she was slowly falling to his charms, no matter how wrong that may be. She had loved Robin for awhile now, and to have him reciprocate, to even go to lengths as to admit his love for her on national television. It didn't matter if he was becoming a psychopath, all she knew was that she was happy to have him love her back.

Just as she was lost in her thoughts, she heard a swoosh of metal doors as Speedy came in, with a concerned look on his face.

"Hey, how are you?" Speedy asked, as he took a seat next to Raven on the sofa.

"I've been better. So what's up?" she replied casually as she turned to face him, closing the laptop as she did.

"Oh..uh..nothing.. I just...uh.. The team was going to decide on something important and they wanted you to be there." he explained as he nervously scratched the back of his red head.

"Okay." she simply said as she stood up. Speedy got up with her in a panic, which puzzled the empath greatly.

"Speedy, is everything alright?" she asked nervously.

The archer just shook his head and held her arms tightly, never breaching the space they had in between them. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay." His tone was solemn now, showing her just how serious he really was. "I mean, you've gone through a lot these past few weeks, especially since Robin's been openly showing his obsession for you. And trust me, I've been friends with that guy longer than any of you, and I know he takes his obsessions seriously. I honestly believe it's a miracle how you're still so calm about all of this."

Raven was pleasantly surprised about his concern. It had been hard on her especially since her own teammates didn't seem to comfort her, since they were all too busy with their own problems. But she was thankful that at least Speedy was there to console her, especially now that she was more confused than ever. She could probably momentarily forget his reputation as a serial womanizer and focused more on the fact that they have been relatively close, even before this whole mess with Robin began.

"Thanks, Speedy. It means a lot." she replied with a smile. "Unless this is your way of getting to cop a feel." Her smile had a playful twist to it now, which only made the red-haired archer laugh.

He wrapped his arms around her frail body, as if to protect her from the dangers that lay ahead. "Of course not, little bird." he replied, his tone still as solemn as before. "I won't let anything bad happen to you."

Right at that exact moment, the lights in the Tower turned off for just a second, and instantly went back on. As soon as it did, Speedy and Raven broke from their embrace, getting ready for an attack. All they got though was Cyborg's entrance to the common room, along with the rest of the Titans.

"Sorry we didn't wait for you, Rae. But we had to cut the surveillance cameras before Robin could get any more information from us." Cyborg said, as he approached the empath.

"What do you mean? What did you guys do?" she replied, still utterly confused at all the events that had transpired.

"We found out that Robin was spying on us through our surveillance cameras. We couldn't sever his connection so we just cut off the feed completely; making sure that he won't be able to watch us anymore. I hope you’re alright with that. We know that there are a lot of security risks involved in doing that, but we really didn't want to take any chances, especially with Robin." he explained to his little sister, placing an arm on her shoulder, hoping that she'd understand. She gave him an assuring nod that she did. She just hoped that their actions wouldn't cause more harm than good.

Meanwhile, back at the Titans Tower, one man was not happy at the static that he was seeing through his computer screen, especially since the last thing he saw was Speedy hugging his Raven.

"Wintergreen, what happened?" he exclaimed, his balled-up fists crashing on the keyboard.

Wintergreen, Slade's old servant, had sworn allegiance to him after he had defeated his former master. But he was suddenly second guessing his decision to serve a seemingly crazier madman as he nervously replied, "They cut their video surveillance. We can't tap on to anything because there’s nothing for us to watch."

He let out an animalistic growl which got his servant cowering in fear. "Call in D-15. Tell him I require his services immediately."

"S-sir? You're going t-to send him already? But they won't stand a chance against him!'

"That's what they get for thinking that they could mess with me. And no one, I mean no one can touch my Raven. No one but me."

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