Mens rea

To touch the sky

Dust filled the tunnel, loud hammering boomed in the air. Robin covered his sensitive ears and lowered his eyes as he ran throughout the mines. Prisoners yelped in surprise but none stopped him. They grinned and sent empty words of encouragement. Skidding to his left, Robin felt himself fall forward. Scratching at the floor, he sprinted back upright and further into the mines.

There had to be a way out in here. Each mine was required to have an escape route to the surface in case of cave-ins. All the dust in the air also was a key player to his spontaneous escape. Health regulations made it mandatory to have ventilation shafts present to prevent black lung.


The deep rough voice grabbed Robin's attention. Spinning around, he crouched into a defensive pose, a stern look on his face. He might be breaking, but hell, he was going down with a fight. Not to mention that the time he had spent here, anyone calling out behind his back made him switch automatically to fight mode. Too many red fights.

The massive form of Kyle was standing off to his right, the pick-ax hanging on his shoulder like a slung backpack. The uniform was already completely covered in dust. The man's face had smears of mud on his cheeks, sweat glistening off of the arms.

"What are you doing here?" questioned the mafia hit man, his black eyes glaring underneath the mass of red-hair. "Well."

The blunt tone made Robin's shoulders twitch slightly. Inching forward, Robin crept up to Kyle like a wary dog. Narrowed eyes took in the man's steady stance.

Kyle frowned and spit off to the side, "I asked what the hell are you doing?"

Robin paused his advancement and tilted his head to the side, "Why should I tell you?" The Kyle in the box had berated him from thinking about escaping. But this Kyle wasn't the one in his head.

"Another escape plan?"

Robin heard the mockery behind the harsh tone. Standing tall, he punched Kyle in the chest, "Shut up! I'm gonna get out of he-here!" A jackhammer went off causing Robin to jump back, his breathing speeding up in fright.

Kyle sneered and dusted off where Robin's fist had made contact. It had hurt, more than he suspected after the boy's disappearance. "A shaft is coming up around the bend. Climb up it and you will reach the surface."

Wide eyes stared blankly at him. Kyle reached out and grabbed Robin by the cuff of his shirt, "Shouldn't you be going?"

Flinging the boy down the tunnel, he watched the boy stumble but regain his footing quickly. The shoulders began to slouch forward as Robin turned around. "Why?"

"Hope is the main killer of the mind. Best you learn that now before you disappear again…permanently." With nothing more to say, Kyle shifted and swung his pick-ax into the wall, sending rock flying into the air.

Robin swallowed, not sure how to interpret the words. Fingers reached for each other and began to play. Biting his lip, Robin turned and sprinted towards the bend. Not once did he look back. Easing up, he rounded the bend the cautiously and sure enough up on the top of the wall, near the ceiling was a shaft.

Smiling at his luck, Robin backed up and sprinted at the wall. When he was close, he leapt and ran up the wall. Before gravity could take control, he jumped forward and slammed into the end of the shaft, grabbing hold of the screen. Wriggling sideways, he carefully pried one end of the screen from the wall. Below prisoners halted in their work and stared up at the boy. Whispered bets only fueled Robin's determination to prove them wrong. Finally, the right side leaned outwards. Thanking himself for still remaining small and the loss of weight from his time here, Robin squeezed himself tunnel.

Popping into the vent, he heard gasps and murmurings of Robin's little feat. Taking a break to rest his aching arms, Robin took in the long, dark shaft. His breath kicked up dust and suddenly, he felt as if the walls were narrowing in on him. It was the box all over again. The smooth metal, no light, no contact with the world, his heart pounded against his chest.

"Crap! Guards coming! Get back to work!" yelled one of the prisoners. Shuffling and curses rang below.

Robin glanced behind him at the silted light. He couldn't go back, not when he was halfway there. Gulping, Robin forced his fear deep into his stomach and began crawling upwards, humming a wordless tune to keep his mind's attention away from any unwanted guests.

Egyed kept his eyes locked on the computer screen in front of him, keeping any hints of agitation from the pacing man in front of him. It didn't take a genius to know that Fumio was furious.

"Let him escape? Let him escape!" yelled the Asian man as he threw his hands up in the air. "Is she insane? Doesn't she know he'll get away?"

"But she said to get him before that happens," stated the doctor.

"Yes, but don't you see, he'll have time to send out a message and this whole prison will be discovered!"

"What is he going to do? Smoke signals?" joked Egyed, a few chuckles escaped his lips.

The light joke infuriated his companion. Fumio slammed his hands on the desk and slapped Egyed hard in the face. The doc's lip cracked open, blood seeping out as his cheek bloomed red as an apple. "What the hell? What is your problem, Fumio?"

"Don't you get it, you idiot? Robin lied to me. He made me think he finally had broken and told me lies. He played me!"

"What makes you think Robin isn't broken?"

"Because if he was broken, he wouldn't be escaping!"

Egyed rubbed his cheek and glared at Fumio. The man went back to his senseless pacing, anger radiating off of him. "Fumio, I think you need a good night's rest before you do something rash."

Black eyes shot his way, the strain of the Trio interrogation getting to him. "I'm fine. I slept soundly during those ten days of Robin's confinement." Egyed knew the man was lying. Fumio might be the mind genius but he knew how to read the body. Ill-temper, restless pacing, strained eyes…sleep deprivation screamed at him. Hands curled into fists as Fumio ceased his pacing and stared out of the medical room, "He was suppose to break. Ten days, Egyed, ten days with no outside interaction. And he still has the will to escape…what is he?"

The soft last words caused Egyed to raise his eyes in resignation. "Got me, you're the shrink."

Fumio frowned and sent the doctor another dark look. "So…when we get him…we can do anything we want?"

"Maura let us decide, thought you would be glad considering I know you don't really like taking orders from her, ever since the incident."

Fumio's shoulders dropped as Egyed's voice drifted off. "I can still hear their screams echoing off of the wall. I should have done something when she ordered it to be activated. We could have found the culprit and made him tell us where it went. Our truest creation was turned into a weapon, killing all of those people. It was because of her rash decision that forced us to advertise more openly, which in turn led to this mess."

Egyed nodded, "At least we got to study a hero, and we can still can. Because of her decision that day, we were able to remain off of the radar. Those prisoners didn't die in vain."

"But they could have died a peaceful death…" Eyes fell upon themselves. Fumio nodded and straightened out his coat, trying to regain his dignity. "Tell me when the guards retrieve him."

"Whatever," scoffed Egyed as the man left the medical room. Gazing back, he stared at the chess game. And here he thought Fumio was over that past incident which everyone swore never to speak of again. Sure, the prisoners had died a fearful death, but like Maura said they deserved. All of them were rapists, mass murderers and war criminals. A swift death seemed too peaceful for them. And their creation? Please, it was more of Egyed's creation than Fumio; all he did was study the side effects.

Moving his bishop, Egyed smirked when the screen clicked signifying his check. It seemed that the calm minded shrink was finally losing his cool; Robin's actions begin the finally straw. He couldn't help but smirk. To be there and watch as Robin played the man, to see Fumio strut out of the chamber with his smug triumph look and compare it too the unstable man he just saw now. Closing his eyes, Egyed sighed in joy. He would have to give Robin an extra dose of the drug as a thank-you gift.

The plane landed with no trouble, reaching the island in record time. Maura ordered her men to pair off and erase any indication that they used to be here. Marching off into the dreary, run-down area of the tropical paradise city, Maura knew of only one man who could be the leak. It was a year or two ago, when a guard had done something very foolish. Before she could hand out his punishment, the man had disappeared. It didn't take long for her to find his location, but she did nothing and didn't tell a soul about the information. Instead, she let the man get comfortable with forever looking over his shoulder. If she ever wanted information, he would be her source if he valued his life. In exchange though, she had to do something that still gave her nightmares in the darkest part of the night.

Halting, she peered up at the wooden one-room shack. Walking up the creaking steps, she dusted off her clothes, tossed her hair over one shoulder and knocked on the door. The soft clattering of feet padded behind the door. Groaning open the door, a tanned, brown-eyed man peered through the crack.

Maura smiled warmly, "Hello Drake."

The eyes fell open. Staggering backwards, Drake tried to reach out and close the door but Maura had reached out and opened the door fully. Stepping in, she continued to smile at the ex-guard. He had lost more weight, but his pale skin had warmed up nicely in the sun. The long black hair hung was tied loosely in a low ponytail, a thin beard chiseling the face. The rags that marked for a shirt and pants completed the look. "Nice place you got here. Tell me, is your new job better than the last?"

"N-n-no si-sir…B-b-boss," stuttered Drake, falling into old habits, his slim form shaking uncontrollably.

Maura closed the door behind her and walked over to single chair in the room. Sitting down, she crossed her legs and locked her gaze on the cowering man in the corner. "No? What a shame then. Tell me, then why did you decide to do such a foolish thing?"

"B-b-boss?" Drake stumbled, confusion in his eyes.

Maura sighed, waving her hand in the air, "Don't tell me you forgot. I know it was you that stole the drug-"

Drake swallowed, "D-drug?"

Gray eyes narrowed in the shade in annoyance, "The dust, Drake, the dust that Egyed and Fumio were working on with the prisoners. The one that you stole and because we could never recover it, had to activate it and kill every one of our subjects."

Drake heard the stern voice, flinching like a child who knew he had done something wrong. "It wasn't right."


"You were making them mad, making them see things."

"You know we care very little about ethics, Drake. They were criminals, they deserved it."

Courage burned in the man's face. "They were humans! You don't test humans like they're animals! At least the person I sold it too, used it for a better purpose!"

Right when those words left his mouth, Drake covered his mouth and fell into the wall. Maura uncrossed her legs and rose to her feet, "We figured as much. But mind telling me who?"

"Ne-never, that was part of the-"

He stopped the moment the barrel of a gun was staring right into his face. "Drake."

Words spilt out of his mouth. "Don't know his name. But he was a tall guy, muscular, almost military like. He wore a sword and a belt, some costume freak from America. One eyed masked man who liked black and orange. Said the dust was going to be used to help someone see the light."

Maura blinked, not quite sure if she had heard right. It couldn't be. Robin was clean, wasn't he? Then again, the blood results had yet to return. But still...

Young voices reached the house. Drake gazed behind his shoulder, "The Titans."

"So it was you?"

Drake swallowed, color draining from his face, but his foolish hope of being a hero shone in his eyes. "When they appeared with the newspaper clipping and asking where Robin was, I knew I had to help. I won't let you destroy him, not like those other special prisoners."

Maura reholstered her gun and slide up to Drake, running a finger down his chest, brushing away the ragged shirt. "Drake, I'm willing to forgive and forget the whole dust incident. It has already been taken care. But if you want to breathe a bit longer, you will play along."

Drake nodded numbly as a knock came from the door. Maura nodded and leaned against his side, keeping her hand on his chest.

Drake's lips twitched as he walked towards the door, opening it to reveal the Titans.

Cyborg waved, "Hi mister, sorry but we're back."

"Come…come in," whispered Drake, gesturing for the teenagers to enter.

Cyborg led the small party. "We need some more information you have on the prison." Eyes immediately fell onto Maura's form. Cyborg coughed out of embarrassment, "Oh sorry didn't know you had company."


Maura smiled and draped her hands over his shoulders, "The name's Kesia. I help Drakey here in collecting information. How might we help you?"

The Titans exchanged glances, "Well, we're looking for a friend. His name is Robin, raven hair, short guy in a colorful uniform. Seen him?"

Maura pouted and gazed up at the ceiling, "Hmmm, well…Drake what did you tell them?"

Drake gazed into Maura's false sincere eyes, "That there was an island south of here, where a prison is hidden. I wouldn't know its' exact spot because I escaped during a storm. But it's out there somewhere."

Maura sighed with mental relief. The man might have been stupid in stealing the dust and escaping, but he wasn't an idiot. "Oh, you mean that ghost prison, silly goose!" Smacking Drake on the chest, she giggled, "That prison tale is a myth."

The Titans shot her a confused look. Maura sighed and rolled her eyes, placing her hand on her hip, "On some southern island, there was this World War II prison. No one's found it and those who have say it's haunted by the ghosts of the dead prisoners and their guards. Sort of like the Bermuda Triangle."

The hopeless expressions that fell on their faces spurred Maura on. "But look, now that I think of it. I think I heard something about some boy matching Robin's description."

Hope snapped back to life and she knew the Titans were hooked. Breaking away from Drake, she leaned forward and gazed hard into Starfire's eyes. "Word is that a guy with a single eye wearing black and orange was fleeing from some building carrying an unconscious boy."

"No…" whispered Starfire.

Next to her, Beastboy and Cyborg glared at each. Beastboy snarled, "Slade."

Gray eyes flickered over to the changeling at the mention of the name. So, Drake sold the dust to Slade, who in turn forced Robin to be his apprentice. If the boy was under Slade's control during the time Slade obtained the dust…but if he was subjugated to the dust, Robin would be dead. And since, he was alive then the dust must not have been used.

A dark anger filled her mind. The Titans seemed too fall prey to the building anger.

"Slade, that man never knows when to quit!" growled Beastboy.

Cyborg grabbed Maura's hand jolting her to the present, "Do you know where they went? This is an emergency."

Maura blinked with a confused expression, "Someone said that they boarded a plane that was flying back to the States."

"Thanks." Cyborg nodded and pointed at the door, "Alright Titans, lets go and save Robin before Slade does something bad."


The teenagers bolted out of the house and soon their footsteps were long gone. Maura leaned back and pulled out her walkie-talkie, "Men, we're heading back now. Meet me at the plane in five minutes."

Confirmations were heard but she silenced them. Turning, Maura stared at Drake with a blank expression, "You sold the dust to Slade."

"It…seems like it…"

Pulling out the gun, she aimed it at the man. Drake raised his hands, pleading with fear dancing in his eyes, "You said that I would live if I played along!"

"I said you would breathe a little longer," stated Maura as she shot Drake in the heart, the silencer softer than the loud thud of his dead body hitting the floor. "You truly are an idiot."

Turning, Maura tucked her gun away and walked out of the house. Running down to the plane, she couldn't help but frown. One minute she thought she made progress and the next thing she knew, the whole situation took three steps back. Flickering over to gaze at the ocean, she wondered what Robin was thinking of right now.

Blue. It was blue and not red. The sky was blue, a beautiful peaceful blue. A warm breeze brought forth warm, exotic, fresh smells that filled his body with energy. It had been too long. The air was heaven compared to the stale air beneath him. Stretching out his arms, Robin let himself stand on the small out ledge in front of the shaft, soaking in the sun's rays.

He never thought he would miss nature this much. Exhaling slowly, he reluctantly lowered his gaze from the endless blue and took in the black sand before him. A pristine lake somewhere on the side of a rocky island surrounded him. Across the lake, he spotted the rocky cliffs lining the horizon everywhere he turned. Shoulders began to sag. He was on an island…an island inside the crater of a volcano.

"No…" The soft word fluttered on the wind like a leaf. Gazing behind him, Robin took in a large hill. Running, he scrambled up the sharp volcanic rocks. His bare feet burned from the heat radiating off of it, but it only spurred him on. Reaching the top, Robin shielded his eyes and gazed over the rim of the crater. Beyond the wall, the volcano dropped off, but he quickly spotted a small covered landing strip. From above, it would be hard to spot due to all the coverage and the fact that it blended right in with the natural lava flow strips around the mountain.

Squinting, Robin gazed further past the trees and saw the blue outline of the ocean. He was on a tropical island. Even if he got out of this crater, he wouldn't be able to break past the island. Unless there was a boat dock, which there probably was, but he couldn't spot it. Dark whispers told him to give up, to seek escape in the smooth, deprived wall of the box.

"No. I won't give up."

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