Worst Case Scenario

Inner Demons

He was in the stands. All around him people were cheering and laughing and having a good time. They didn't know what was going to happen. They didn't know that this act would end up as front-page news.

But Dick knew.

A thousand times he'd relived this memory, but never as vivid as this.

He was in the stands. He'd had a cold that day, and his parents had never wanted him to do netless work anyways. Too dangerous.

He wanted to run out of the tent and just run and run until he was as far away as possible, but he couldn't get up. He wasn't sure if it was him or something Psimon had done, but he had to see it again.

The act started off as rehearsed, with Mom and Dad leaping and flying through the air. As much as he was trying to avoid it, Dick couldn't help but feel a little thrill as he saw them dance in the sky. He was pretty sure that only someone like Superman or perhaps M'gann could truly understand the feeling of flying like that.

And then came the moment he'd been dreading.

The run started like any other. Dad looked down at him and gave a little nod, that everything was going to be alright.

Then they leaped from their perch, both grabbing onto the large trapeze at once.

The force of both of them at once was too much for the already weakened safety clasp.

The left rope came loose from its hold on the ceiling. Mom fell first, and screamed.

In slow motion, Dad, holding the other rope with his right hand, grabbed her wrist and held on with superhuman strength.

For half a second, everything was going to be okay.

Then the other rope came loose.

For everyone else in the audience, it was fast. Not for Dick. His mind had been going over every little detail of this memory for years, and had been running at hyperspeed when he recorded it. His mother's eyes locked with his for a split second, but it seemed like forever. He could see her trying to be calm, for him, but there was fear in her eyes as well.

And then they hit the ground.

That day's circus had ended right then. The audience cleared out, all heading back towards their normal lives. Eventually they would start to forget.

But Dick didn't have a normal life to go back to. He stood on the circus floor and stared at them. He knew he shouldn't look at them like that, but he couldn't stop. Only when the police were cordoning off the area did Mr. Haley appear and force Dick to leave, hand on his shoulder.

As they walked out of the tent, Dick knew what had happened at this point. He had looked up in the empty stands and seen one man who hadn't fled the scene.

Bruce Wayne hadn't left, even when the other members of his party had. He had simply stayed and stared. Dick had at first hated him, for watching his parent's bodies like they were cheap entertainment or part of some sick fantasy. Until Dick had realized where Bruce's eyes had been.

They'd been on him. The entire time.

Dick looked up in the stands, where he knew Bruce would be. Where he'd been for the thousand times Dick had replayed this memory. A man was standing there, brown robes resting around him.

Psimon simply stood, and smiled.

Dick tried to lunge at him but found himself tumbling forward into the ground.

Instinctively, he rolled and came up on a concrete rooftop.

Looking down at himself for a second in shock, he realized he was wearing the Robin costume. He looked back up just in time to dive out of the way of a punch.

He knew this fight. It was when they'd finally cornered Zucco.

Dick dodged again and kicked the mob goon's outstretched arm. Spinning around, he hit the back of the man's head and took him out.

Batman was fighting two other men a few feet away. Out of the corner of his eye, Dick saw a figure emerge from the shadows.

He knew who it was instantly.

Tony Zucco.

The man who'd weakened the trapeze's safety clasps.

The man who'd killed his parents.

The murderer was holding a pistol and he fired at Batman. Distracted finishing the last goon, the Dark Knight didn't have time to dodge. The bullet struck him in the abdomen and he fell.

Dick rushed at Zucco, trying to come in at an angle so he'd be a hard target. Rationally, he knew that Batman had been completely fine, thanks to the heavy chest armor in his suit. But emotionally, he'd just seen the man who'd killed his real parents shoot the man who he now thought of as a father.

A quick batarang knocked the gun from the gangster's hand and Dick slammed into him with all his might. The man fell. Dick gave him two quick hits to the jaw. He pulled a razor-sharp batarang from his belt and held it like a knife, ready to carve Zucco's face off.

The man started laughing. Dick flinched. That wasn't part of the memory.

"Do your worst, kid. No matter what happens now, I'll still be the man who killed the Bat."

He pointed and Dick took a quick glance in horror. This was supposed to be the part where Batman had grabbed his arm, prevented him from doing something he would regret.

But not this time.

Batman was lying on the ground by the other two men, unnaturally still. Blood began to pool around him.


Dick returned his eyes to Zucco, filling his glare with hate. The man laughed again.

"Amazing what some childhood trauma and a mask can turn someone into" said a voice. Dick looked again and saw Psimon standing not more than a few feet behind him.

"Tell me, Robin. You have so much rage for this man, this Tony Zucco. He killed your parents, did he not? He loosened the trapeze himself, out of simple greed. Tell me, why didn't you ever do to him what you dreamed of doing for months? Didn't he deserve to die for what he did?"

Dick moved his gaze from Psimon to Zucco, who was grinning, completely unintimidated by the boy on his chest.

"Batman says if we kill, then we're just like them" mumbled Dick.

"And now he's gone" said Zucco, laughing again.

"Quiet!" shouted Dick. "He's not dead! None of this is real!"

"And that, my dear Robin, is exactly the point" said Psimon. "If you kill Tony Zucco here, he won't be dead. Not really. The real Mr. Zucco will be relaxing in his nice, comfortable jail cell. You are a most interesting subject, Robin. I wish to see if you will ever give into the killer instinct inside all of us."

Robin's eyes returned to Zucco, who was still smiling.

"There are no consequences to this action" continued Psimon. "No one other than the two of us will even know this ever happened."

Robin's hand holding the batarang started trembling. Batman wouldn't know?

But that would still mean I'd done it he thought.

"Here" said Psimon. "I'll make it even easier for you." An image of Rocket appeared. She was lying on a wooden floor, blood pooling around her, pouring from a wound in her chest.

"At the moment, your friend believes with all her being that she is dying. And if such stress continues, she will almost certainly suffer a severe and quite likely fatal heart attack... unless someone, such as me, does something to prevent it."

"You're lying" said Robin, more of a hope than an accusation.

"Are you willing to take that chance?" said Psimon. "Now here are your choices. One: pretend to kill a mental hallucination of the man who murdered your parents who has just killed your mentor as well, and by doing so save your friend's life. Or two: Do nothing, and watch her die for real, after which we will continue to have fun together inside your mind."

Those were not great options.

Dick looked down at Zucco... no, of the hallucination of Zucco. The man/image/whatever was still grinning at him, letting out a little chuckle every so often.

What do I do?

"Now do what you've been dreaming of doing for years" finished Psimon. "Kill this man. Right here. Right now."

What else can I do?

Dick's hands curled around the batarang. He raised it high, preparing to cut Zucco into little pieces.

What would Batman do?

Dick knew the answer.

He would find another way.

"Do it!" shouted Psimon.

Dick screamed in rage and threw the batarang at Psimon.

The man seemed almost amused as the weapon passed straight through him like a ghost.

As if a mental image of a batarang could harm him.

But Dick hadn't been aiming for him.

Time slowed down.

A look of shock appeared on Psimon's face as the batarang flew on past him.

And suddenly, reality exploded.

He was back in the hallway in the old Cadmus base.

Flying forth from his hand was the electric batarang he'd used to stop the MONQIs.

Which had landed on the floor by the electric barrier.

Which he'd never had the chance to pick back up.

Which hadn't been in his utility belt when Psimon threw that away.

And which he'd been crawling towards during the entire fight, without thinking about what it was.

Said batarang still had a bit of charge left in it as it crashed into the metal frame of an electric security gate.

An electric security gate whose inactive projectors Psimon happened to be standing between.

The barrier buzzed as the electric shock triggered its effect again.

A blue envelope of energy engulfed Psimon, trying to work its way around him.

Tens of thousands of volts went through the psychic's body.

He screamed.

Dick really couldn't blame him.

The power shut off as the gate's sensors detected an object stuck between them and the automatic safety protocols engaged.

Psimon collapsed as the energy retreated.

Dick – no, Robin – took a second to try and catch his breath. Again.

He looked down the hallway. Psimon wasn't moving, which was good. Further down the hall, he could see Rocket and Red Arrow, both unconscious and possibly worse. Hopefully he'd been right in guessing that Rocket would be safe if Psimon was down.

Past them was his utility belt, which would be really helpful.

Robin started to get up, slowly. His head was still spinning and he took a second to rest his hand on the wall.

Then he heard a slow clapping behind him.

Slowly, he started to turn to see what manner of evil would be trying to kill him now.

"Very nice. I didn't think you would get out of that one."

The voice: He recognized it, high and girlish, but there was some other tone to it, deeper. Wrong. The second tone made it sound more like a woman in her forties.

Standing behind him was definitely a girl, only slightly taller than him. Instead of her normal suit, she wore a loose fitting red blouse and a black skirt. Her black hair was spread out over her shoulders, wild and unkempt.

"Zatanna?" Robin managed to spit out.

It had to be her, but at the same time... The grin on her face seemed... wrong, more like that of a lion on the hunt than the normally bubbly face it was a part of.

Zatanna's eyes flashed red.

"Hello, Robin."

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