Mens rea

To numb the senses

"This stinks."

That simple statement from Beastboy spoke the thoughts of all the Titans. Raven, Starfire and Cyborg just watched as Brushogun screamed as he and Daizo merged together. Staggering forward from the machine, Brushogun clutched his hair, ink oozing like rivers through his fingers.

"Time to go!" yelled Cyborg.

Bolting up the stairs, the Titans ran out into the open park just as a huge explosion erupted within. The tower groaned and swayed, sending bricks and debris raining down on the park. A huge blue ball exploded through the roof, sending the weak tower crashing down. In its place, a massive black-ink creature gazed down at the Titans.

"Time to say goodbye," snickered Daizo through Brushogun's mouth.

Lifting his arms, Daizo flicked his wrists, sending massive drops of ink falling towards the Titans like a person flicking off water from their hands. As the drops neared, they morphed into the blue ninjas and pink cats. But there were other creations now: yellow robots, blue round boys and replicas of Psycho Tech.

Not enough time to yell out commands, the Titans were quickly overcome with the creatures. Cyborg kept firing round after round of blue energy while Starfire bolted into the sky sending green bolts raining down on her chasers. Beastboy morphed into a rhino and plowed through row after row of enemy. Raven's eyes glowed black as two slabs of concrete rose up and smashed her own cluster of villains. Gazing up, she took in the black creature and spotted to her surprise the small, thin figure of Brushogun hanging in the creature's chest.

"He's the key," muttered Raven. "Guys provide me cover!"

The Titans yelled their acknowledgement, pouring their energy into blasting a way clear for Raven. Flying at break neck speed, Raven blasted towards Brushogun. He was the key and if she separated him from Gaizo, then the crazed commander would lose his powers.

Daizo gazed down and saw Raven flying at Brushogun. "Oh no, you don't." A swell of the black ink swallowed Brushogun. Yet, Raven narrowed her eyes in concentration as black orb surrounded her and flew straight in after him.

Cyborg blasted another round before being slammed in the chest, skidding across the ground. He landed near Beastboy, who was busy swinging his spiked tail of a stegosaurus. Starfire floated over the boys, her green eyes wide with concern as she watched Raven flew into Brushogun. "Raven!"

Seconds trickled by and Daizo gazed wearily at his chest. Then determination hardened the ink surrounding his face. "If I must go down, then I'm taking you with-Argh!"

Screaming in pain, Daizo threw back his head as Raven popped her head out of the ink. Pulling, she slowly eased herself out and floated towards the Titans. In her tight grip, an unconscious Brushogun hung limply in her arms.

Seeing the violet-haired demoness, Daizo sent a large fist flying at her. Yet, all that hit her was drops of ink. Without Brushogun, the magic powers evaporated fast. The ink creatures down below fell apart, leaving puddles strewn throughout the park. Daizo staggered backwards, clutching his stomach. "NO!" With that, the black creature erupted sending Raven flying backwards.

Starfire leapt into action, catching her female companion and floating them down to the ground softly. The sky rained black rain. Brushogun stirred softly in Raven's arms, gazing up into her eyes.

"You saved me."

"Yes."

Brushogun nodded, "Thank you. And in return…I saw…a memory…it's an island resort…you will find your leader there…" With nothing holding him back, Brushogun closed his eyes and faded away.

Starfire, Cyborg and Beastboy all gazed over Raven's shoulder at the empty air. Raven sensed their anticipation and something swelled in her. Daizo had held back on her and she didn't even sense it. Gripping her cloak, Raven stood up and turned to reward her comrades. "First, we search the commander's office for any clues about some island, then we go and get Robin."

Nodding was the only response.


Darkness. In a small area where the width of the room was an arm-span, Robin sat in the small square, leaning against the cold wall. There was no sound. No light. No smell. Only the touch against the smooth floor and the taste of his own blood eased his worried mind briefly.

In the first hour, he wasn't sure anymore, Robin had felt around his new little room trying to find any crevices or signs of the outside world. But there was nothing. The square room was big enough to hold one person. Where the clean air came from, he had no idea. There was an outline from what he could get from touching the wall, where he supposed the door was, of another small opening. He didn't know its' function, despite waiting here.

Nothing was there to occupy him. Sure, Robin had thought on some level to be left alone, so he could think of an escape but this wasn't it. In the darkness, and right after the fight, exhaustion soon claimed him. Falling asleep was easy. Lulling himself with his own soft breathing, Robin felt his weary body begin to heal itself. The warm liquid of the drug eased away any forthright nightmares.

But it was when he woke up, feeling slightly rested, that everything collapsed once more onto his young shoulders. Waking up to total darkness had fooled him the first time. Robin had to rub his eyes and shake his head to make sure he was awake. When that was established, Robin did some stretches in the small box. And that was all he could do as he sat and waited. Waited and pondered.

Memories ran amuck in his head: images of Jump City and the bay, sounds of the Titans' voices, the smell of Alfred's cooking brightened his sullen mood. Yet, his mind had a sick humor. The smell of cooked turkey morphed into the smell of charred flesh of some victim from Joker's twisted game. The sounds of laughter became screams of panic and cackles of evil. Jump City fell apart into the barren wasteland from Trigon's reign.

Robin felt himself groan, as darker memories flushed out the happy. The drug was beginning to wear off, leaving behind a vacant wasteland. Falling to his side, Robin curled into his body, shivers raking his frame. But they weren't just shivers from the drug withdrawal. Images of Psycho Tech beaten into a pulp, his hands stained blood—or was it ink—Terra's lost but wild eyes glaring at him. The Titans soon followed, all their faces etched in the pain of betrayal at their leader's criminal activities. Behind them, his parents gave him an odd look at his worried cry before climbing up the ladder. The scene morphed black and he waited with his chest tightened. For a moment he forgot to breath, waiting for the fall and the familiar smack sound.

Nothing but darkness.

Staring deeper into the darkness, he waited. A rising fear began to rise in him. Why weren't they falling yet? They were supposed to fall by now! It was the one constant in his nightmares. What was-

Slade lunged out at him, his arm-raised, fist flying. Disappointment and rage laced his growl, "Apprentice!"

Robin screamed as he jumped back, banging into the wall. Eyes snapped open. His breathes moved in and out of him at a fast pace, his heart hammering against his chest. Shaking, Robin clawed weakly at the ground, his eyes staring dead ahead waiting for Slade to leap out. Soon, his breathing quieted down. Hyperventilating wouldn't get him anywhere.

Eyes flickering down, he was able to make out a dim outline of something lying on its' side. Leaning forward, Robin stretched out his arm and picked up the spilled bowl of mush. It was before the small outline.

"Of course, the food box, idiot," muttered the Boy Wonder. His stomach grumbled. Sighing, Robin scrapped up the spilled mush. Leaning back, Robin ate the food in silence trying to remain at ease despite the silence.

When he came around again, no nightmares jolted him awake. Robin no longer felt surprised by the darkness. Still lying on his side, he sent a gaze over at the door where the empty bowl was but there was no sign of activity. Curling tighter, he waited. He wondered what the Titans were doing at the moment. Was Brushogun caught yet? Did the commander still lend his support to them? Not knowing was slowly driving him insane with questions.

The ear-grinding sound of a metal door scraping the ground trigged Robin's masked eyes to snap open. Raising himself slowly, Robin watched with awe as light spilled into the cell. When the blinding color hit his face, Robin shielded his face and backed up against the wall. It had been a long time since he had seen nothing but the dark. Blinking rapidly trying to rid himself of the supernovas behind his eyelids, he let himself get picked up by a pair of strong arms and dragged out of the cell. Pushed upwards, he stood wobbly on his legs and squinted at the blurry form between his fingers.

Maura took in the pale, shivering teenager who was barely able to stand on his legs. The spiky black hair was losing its' crispness and hung around his head in a wild manner, much like bed hair. "You ready to talk?"

A small frown appeared on the pale face. It was a bit weird to hear someone talking besides himself. Lowering his arms to his side, Robin blinked a couple more times and could now make out the woman. Smirking, he pushed away his doubts. "You'll have to do more than solitary confinement and fights to make me talk."

A cold smile played on her aging face. Gray eyes twinkled with amusement, "It's only been the first round. Most men don't last after the second one." The amusement died out and he was left to stare into eyes that seemed to be able to read him like a book.

"Fumio wishes to talk to you." Stepping to the side, Maura nodded.

Ben pushed Robin forward and the two walked until they reached a familiar small room with Fumio sitting on the long table. Next door, the ice-cold shower room was waiting patiently for its' next victim.

When he laid his eyes on Robin, Fumio pushed his glasses up and took in the torn clothes. "Shame. Guess I'll have to make another one."

Robin's gaze fell next to the man's hand, which patted softly a new uniform. Fumio chuckled. "We'll do that later, now we need to have a chat. Sit and eat."

Motioning downwards, Robin took in another tray of food. Bracing himself, he walked quietly up to the tray. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the Boy Wonder began to eat, trying to ease his shaking hands.

Yet it was noticed. Fumio growled as he picked up his clipboard. "That stupid drug is wearing off. If I know anything, Egyed probably forgot all about his little experiment."

Swallowing a spoonful of mush, Robin took in a deep breath. "Sounds like you hate him."

"Oh yes, most definitely. He complains when he doesn't get someone to work on. He complains that he doesn't want one, when he gets one. He complains about one thing, then turns around and complains about another."

"Maybe you can you finally shut him up by getting him fired."

Fumio locked his stern gaze on Robin, his black eyes betraying nothing. "And how would you propose I do that?"

"By letting his-" Degradation time, "little experiment no longer be present."

"You want me to help you escape?"

Robin nodded and scooped another spoonful of mush. The meal this time was a bit heartier and he felt himself getting a bit fuller than the last time.

"What is in it for me?"

The boy pushed down the rise of hope in him. He coaxing the man, now he just needed him to take the bait. "I'll answer all your questions and more."

Silence enveloped the two. Robin set down the spoon on the empty plate and began rubbing his thumbs and index fingers together. The sliding of cloth against wood was the only signal of Fumio standing on his feet. Shoes clicked on the ground and stopped before Robin.

Gazing upwards, Robin took in the cold look of Fumio. The light reflected off of the glasses making it impossible for him to read the man's face. Lips opened and a few chuckles resonated in the room. "Are all heroes this desperate? Trying to bribe other men to get out of situations?"

The hope had all but dashed from Robin's face as Fumio tilted his head even more, revealing a pair of fuming eyes. "No one plays me kid. No one. You should have heard yourself kid. Sounded like a true conman."

Anger sprung Robin's body into motion. Leaping onto his feet, Robin grabbed Fumio by his shirt and rammed into the table. "Do not call me that! You hear me!"

If fear was rushing through the psychiatrist, the man hid it well. "Is it because this was how you dealt with Pyscho Tech? Twisted his words, bribed him and when he didn't pay up, you beat him dead."

"Shut up! This isn't about him!"

"Then who is it about?"

"I don't know what you are talking about, but don't you start comparing me to these lunatics in this prison." Leaning forward, Robin contorted his face into his most fearful expression. "Cause I don't like being played just as much as you, if not even more."

"And why is that?"

Robin screamed and raised his fist to punch Fumio hard and wipe that rising smirk off his face when the man continued.

"What, gonna punch me into a blood heap like you did Pyscho Tech?"

Robin's fist halted in the air. Fumio smirked and pushed forward, "Go ahead kid. Isn't that what a hero does? Fights fist with fist, beat the bad guy and then throw him into jail? Come on, what's stopping you?"

The strong grip loosened and Robin lowered his arm, taking a few steps away from the man. "No, we only fight to incapacitate them for the police. That's all."

"So you fight violence with violence."

"It's the only way."

"And what about those who don't do the dirty work?"

Robin shook his head, "We…we…"

"Don't catch them. Shame really." Standing up, Fumio whistled and Ben came back into the room. "Give him a quick shower."

Ben nodded and yanked Robin towards the shower room. The boy was shivering more and began wringing his hands. As the water was turned on and he heard the loud gasps, Fumio picked up his clipboard and scribbled down a few notes. They did a bit more progress in how a hero handled situations: either with fighting or talking, not much different from a criminal. Yet, the boy knew when to stop himself and listened to the words of his enemy, when criminals tended to zone out. Also, the situation with Pyscho Tech seemed just a blemish on the boy's record. There was something else out there that had hit the boy hard. Someone had made the boy fear being called a criminal.

"Was it this person that made Robin a hero?" pondered Fumio. "The one question that we truly must answer first before all the other pieces fall together."

By then, Ben had dragged a dripping wet Robin back into the room, who was methodically drying himself off. Sighing, Fumio took in the rags and picked up the uniform. The bright yellow shone like beacon in the gray/black walled room. Tossing the boy the clothes, he chuckled at the surprised expression as well as caution. "New color today. Tell me how did the prisoners react to red?"

Sliding off of his old uniform, Robin dried the rest of his body. "They went berserk. Blood turns them on."

"Oh?"

Robin sent a quick condescending look at the man. "They become fighting, killing machines."

"Why do you think that is?"

"For my-the cellmate K.O. said blood turns him on. Blood is red, so they must remember previous fights or kills."

Fumio nodded, "Red also means passion. These men love their job. Not only does it display their love of their crimes, it also attracts attention they desire."

Robin stood quietly in the room, mulling over Fumio's words. The yellow uniform was already getting to his eyes. It was an intense color. Somehow when amongst the red and green of his uniform, it hadn't bothered him too much. But now… "What now?"

"You were in confinement for a long time, so why not reunite with your buddies."

Masked eyes widened. "NO!" But that was all Robin got to say before Ben picked him off the floor. Robin began to kick and swing wildly but it was all for not. The door opened and he was once again tossed into the tunnel that led to the large chamber, where he was greeted with anxious prisoners awaiting his return.

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