Mens rea

Till Death do us apart

Taking a step back, Robin turned and began his trek down the hill. Senses still reeling over the sounds of birds chirping and bugs whizzing by, Robin allowed a smile to appear on his face. He was outside and he couldn't believe it had been that easy.

"Robin, when are you going to understand that nothing is ever easy," purred a dark voice into his ear.

Foots halted in mid-stride. Gulping, Robin peered over his shoulder and stared blankly at the black stone. "Ok, Robin, nothing is there. Just imaging things. No more hallucinations, for you," murmured Robin as his hands began to run up and down his arms. "But…it was too easy…"

Fear and anxiety dried his mouth. Eyes danced across the field, searching for any moment. Senses heightened beyond normal. A small crunch jerked his head to the right, eyes zeroing in on the small group of guards making their way towards him. Carl halted and raised his hand to signal the men to stop.

"Robin, it's time you came back with us."


Leaping backwards, Robin flipped forward and bolted down the hill. Leaping between massive rocks and keeping his footing gripped to the shifting sand, he made his way down to the lake with agility. Behind him, Carl and the guards ran after him, the clambering of their uneven movements sending debris rolling down past Robin.

Reaching the lakeshore, Robin halted and took in the lake. It didn't seem too far to swim; then again he hadn't been swimming for a long while. The risk of drowning was high but he had to try. Taking a deep breath, he was about to step out when a rock rolled past him into the lake. Instead of the splash, the rock kept rolling out as if the water was a solid sheet. Frowning, Robin stepped out and to his surprise noticed that indeed a solid smooth surface existed underneath a layer of water that rose to halfway up his knees.

He could do this! Smiling, Robin ran out into the lake. Behind him, he heard Carl scream his name to stop. "Robin, stop!"

The warning went unheeded. Robin was too close to victory, that its' sweet taste blinded him. All he knew was one-minute, the blue sky and brown wall welcomed him with open arms. The next dark blue swallowed his vision, the air knocked out of his body. Arms and legs kicking against the current, Robin broke the surface, coughing out water and taking in a large breath before begin pulled underwater again.

Kicking against the current, Robin struggled to break free. Gazing back at the shore, he took in the wall that was built underneath the water spread out so far from the shoreline. Upon that very shore, Carl watched in horror as he saw Robin being pulled once more underneath the water. He had tried to warn the kid to stop. The lake wall extended only a few meters out. Pulling out his radio, Carl pushed the button, "Tell Zac to cut the power to the turbines."

"Sir?" responded a voice.

"Just do it! We got an emergency and the current is going to pull Robin towards the ventilation wall!" Clicking off the water, he ran down the beach towards where the wall walkway was his only chance of saving the boy.

The water was cold and getting colder as he slowly sunk further and further away from the surface. Moving his arms upwards, he couldn't fight the drag of the current. "I can't die like this!"

Focusing his breathing to conserve oxygen, Robin poured energy into his arms and legs and kicked widely to get out of the current. Suddenly the water ceased its' pulling. Smiling, Robin began to swim up to the surface, where he saw the small round glitter of light. As his lungs began to burn, Robin set his lips into a thin line, watching as the light got brighter and brighter.

Then the water tugged gently at his clothes. Pausing for a second, Robin gazed the direction of the current and caught the glimpse of a huge current roaring towards him. Trying to swim away towards the surface, Robin couldn't beat the current. The current latched onto him and with a wall of pure force hitting him, Robin's lithe body was flung into a spinning tornado. Spinning around, Robin shut his eyes to try and keep himself from getting sick. Around and around he went, caught up in a storm, his body being jerked into painful positions. He was so lost that when his side slammed into a wall, his eyes widened in pain, mouth opening up in a silent scream. Air rushed out in bubbles, but Robin quickly shut his mouth, swallowing a mouthful of sulfur water. The current let him go and Robin stared blurry at the wall. It seemed to span for miles both right and left and down. Large turbine blades sunk to a stopping position.

Through the black dots, Robin spotted something seeping into the water and touched his forehead. Blood was oozing out of a wound on his scalp. A shadow loomed above him and Robin pressed himself to the wall, not believing the bright light or the watery creatures that gazed down at him. The coldness of the wall, air depravation and with no current to hold him up, Robin felt his eyes slid shut and his body began to sink into the dark abyss below. At least, he would die a free man and not some crazy lunatic in the prison. His secrets could die with him and that strange thought brought peace to his mind.

Robin did little when a hand reached into the water and grabbed his shirt. Pulling him out of the water, his arms were scrapped against the algae wall, cutting his arms open, more blood spilling into the water. Carl dragged an unconscious Robin up onto the top of the wall. Though only wide enough for a single man to walk across, the wall provided the only means of safe passage across the lake to the prison. Only the guards and the personnel knew of this wall and even from the sky, one could not pinpoint it.

Carl unhooked the walkie-talkie from his belt, pressing the button. "You can start the current again, we got him just in time."


A freckled-face man felt Robin's pulse, "He ain't breathing."

"And he's got a nasty concussion," Carl sighed and pressed his palms on Robin's abdomen and started CPR. Pressing five times and tilting Robin's chin back, he breathed life back into the boy. Repeating the process two more times, he grinned when water burst from the boy's lips. Coughing racked from the pale body. Red slowly began to wash away some of the blue tinge surrounding his eyes and lips. Masked eyes cracked open and the guards watched as the boy looked blurry up at them.

"…wha…"croaked Robin.

"Welcome back to the world of the livin,' kiddo" mocked Carl. "Sleep tight." With that he slammed the edge of his hand in the back Robin's neck, knocking the kid back unconscious.

"Let's go see the doc." Lifting Robin's body, Carl trekked back down to the prison.

"What the hell happened?" shouted Egyed as Carl laid an unconscious Robin on the table.

"He almost drowned while trying to cross the lake," stated Carl.

Egyed sighed and pushed Carl out of the way, "Kid's freaking suicidal." Snapping his fingers, the doctor pointed to one of the guards, "Get the brain scan on, I want to make sure there was no major brain damage."

While the doctor tended to the boy's multiple cuts and injected a Tetanus shot into the boy, the scanner moved slowly over the boy's head. Egyed turned when he heard the pounding of feet. Robin stirred slightly, his closed eyes squeezing tighter together

Fumio appeared, his black eyes shining with a mysterious glow behind the lenses. "Good, you caught him."

Egyed glared at the man briefly, "Yeah, well, he had to go and almost kill himself before we were able to."

"So he is breaking, wonderful," a tight smile graced the psychiatrist's mouth.

Robin groaned and twisted, eyes opening up. All he saw was a blinding light. That's right; people had said they always saw a bright light crossing the line between dead and alive. He felt his mouth dance up into a smile. He was free. Mind you, he didn't want to drown to death, he would prefer to be alive—Eyes snapped open when he felt pain rack his body. Ears zoned into the rustling and murmuring voices.

Breathing starting to hitch up, he felt his mind click together, the last image being a fist flying straight into his face. "No…no…no…"

Carl bent down over Robin and held the boy's arms down, "Easy, Robin."

"N0!" Robin felt himself scream and began to kick. He had been so close. He had touched the sky, tasted fresh air and now he was back in this…prison. "N0! Let me go! I'm not going back!"

Egyed groaned and was about to reach for the drug to relax the hero, when a pale hand grabbed his wrist. The doctor's eyes locked onto Fumio's own. "Let me go, Fumio."

A cold stare reflected the tone, "No more drugs, doctor. Guards toss Robin in his solitary confinement cell."

The guards gazed at each other, Carl struggling to keep Robin down and yelped when a hand began clawing at his face. Jerking his head away, the man took in the struggling boy, fear dancing across the boy's features.

"No, no, no, no. Not there, please!" The heart-wrenching plea tugged at Carl's heart. He hated seeing the boy like this, but then again he never survived a near-death experience before.

Egyed tried to break his wrist free, "You put Robin in there in this state and he will surely break."

"He deserves it."

"But Maura said she doesn't want a shattered boy. He just woke up from a drowning experience, back in a place he thought he escaped from…Fumio, be reasonable."

"I am. As high ranking officer in this prison, guards take him back to his box."

Egyed watched passively as Robin was dragged off the table. The boy put up one hell of a fight, though. Claw marks on the metal table could be seen in the light and one guard was already on the ground nursing a broken nose.

Carl yanked Robin's arms backwards and pulled himself out of the cell. One of the other guards went and grabbed Robin's right arm and the boy was dragged between the two men down towards the cells.

Fumio let go of Egyed's wrist, "Don't do anything foolish." With that he marched out of the medical room to join the others.

Egyed rubbed his aching wrist, staring down the hall. An assistant walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Sir, the blood results are in."

"How convenient," scoffed Egyed, grapping the paperwork. His eyes scanned the work not really noticing anything till the end. His lips parted and the harsh dismal from Fumio disappeared in his head. "This can't be right."

Walking over to his desk, he gazed onto his computer to look at the brain scan results. Clear enough the evidence was staring right in the face.

A soft, futile laugh escaped his lips, "How ironic."

They dragged a kicking and screaming boy down the flickering tunnel. It took five massive guards to handle the wild creature. Raven hair caked in dried mud swung back and forth sending droplets of the rotten-egg smelling water everywhere, on the guards, the cracked walls and stomped floor. The tattered gray uniform hung like a wet rag over the small frame. Bare feet dug their heels into the floor but it was no use. Fingernails dug deep into the guards protected arms, leaving scratches on the metal while drawing small rivulets of blood from the unprotected areas. One unlucky guard had placed his arm around the boy's neck to try and ease him but in return he got was a nasty bit mark as the boy clamped down hard on his palm.

A blow to the head was necessary to release the boy's grip on the guard. Grunting and pulling, the guards continued to haul the boy past metal doors. Their feet knew the way. The boy knew too. He had spent too many a days in the room. Another hoarse animalistic cry escaped the ravaged throat, echoing down the hallway. Tears leaked down masked eyes. The guards knew what the boy was thinking without him having to scream the words. Solitary confinement was not for the weak of heart or the weak of mind. But after so much, even the strongest would begin to break when left alone with nothing but their thoughts. And so the boy continues to scream out his fear, his nightmare made into reality.

Who would have ever thought that this was once the inmate who declared to the world that he would escape? Who would have ever thought that Robin the Boy Wonder would lose his sanity? Well, the latter, some people presumed was only a matter of time and it seemed that matter of time was now. Torture the boy, blackmail him or wound him and he will always come back. But lock him away in a metal box and old wounds would seep out to plague the boy. The human mind when left alone can accomplish many a things that ordinary accusations failed at.

Reaching the end of the row, Carl freed one of his hands and placed the key in the lock. With one swift turn, the door groaned open. Robin froze, all his energy vanishing. Wide eyes stared behind him.

"No…no…" stuttered the boy as his body began to shake.

One of the guards shot a look at his companion, pity tugging at the corners of his eyes. Robin had been through too much during his brief time here. Beatings, interrogations, physiological tests, addiction and now a close brush with death were placed too close together. They could only imagine what it felt like to have your hopes ripped to shreds right in front of your face.

Fumio, though, took it a step further and ordered the boy to be placed back in that dark cell he only just was freed from a few hours ago. Carl stared hard at the shaking figure next to him, the stuttering of words unclear to him. The boy was becoming like his cellmate, a broken, repeating record. Pity began to swell in him. In this state, Robin seemed so much like his age, a scared kid.

Sneering, Carl stamped the pity down. He couldn't get weak, even if on some level he disagreed with Fumio. Speaking of the devil, the man walked up to the group.

"Well, throw him in," snapped Fumio.

Carl gathered Robin in his arms, the shaking vibrating into his arms. "Shouldn't we change him into some drier clothes or give him the drug."

Fumio's features darkened, "You questioning me, Carl."

"No sir," spoke Carl quickly. Gathering up his strength, he grabbed a handful of the back of the uniform. It had been a thrill while it lasted. Robin had provided the guards a much-needed change in their activities. He had given them a challenge. Whispering, so only Robin heard, Carl let the guilt escape him, "Sorry."

Not wanting to waste any more time, the guard threw the boy hard into the dark cell and quickly shut it closed. Right when the reassuring click signaling the door was locked, he heard the tiny fists bang on the inside, the voice finding its' strength once more to cry out for help.

Fumio sighed with relief, "Hopefully, after this ordeal, he will no longer lie. You are dismissed."

Carl nodded and waved for the guards to follow him away from the tunnel. The one guard needed some stitches. As they marched back quietly, Carl glanced over his shoulder, spotting Fumio standing right across from the cell door staring hard into the metal. Robin's poundings grew quieter and faded all together when they finally left the tunnel.

Alone once more in complete darkness, Robin let one of his fists fall to his side. Wiping his face clean from tears, the boy closed his eyes. So close…so close to freedom that he could almost taste it. To feel the sun's warmth hit his skin, to see blue clear sky, to smell the exotic flowers had carried the wounded bird to a heaven he only dreamed of. He should have known it wasn't too last. The fragile illusion shattered into a million pieces in his small dirty hands.

He was shocked at first to be alive. Seeing Egyed and Carl only amplified the claws that were squeezing his lungs shut. But when Fumio mentioned this condemned box, full-fledge panic erupted like the volcano he was trapped in. Everything became a blur. Robin fought the hands grabbing him, knowing full well where he was going. The box held things that Robin did not want to face. As he was dragged down the tunnel, he could already hear their voices.

And here he was. Back in the box and this time no drug-laced food welcomed him with the prosperity of peace. Falling onto his knees, Robin clutched at his hair. He wouldn't be able to escape this time. It wasn't about the prison, anymore. Hands fell down to his face. If he couldn't escape through death, then there was no escape. Kyle had been right. He had been a fool to believe he would be able to do it by himself. And the Titans, they didn't know where he was. He was going to be here a long time.

Sitting in the silence, Robin felt a numbness fill him. He didn't know where to turn to. Escape had filled his mind so much. "Hope truly is the mind killer."

The hoarse voice filled the room. The dull tone vibrated within his ears. The violent mood swings from pure panic to nothingness were making him soul tired. As a hero, he was supposed to keep fighting forward, pushing himself beyond all constraints. But the human side of him reasoned quietly to ease back if he wanted to live. His fingers played across the thin material that covered his eyes. Throughout this whole experience, Robin had been asked to answer questions that encompassed views beyond his hero perspective.

Lips parted in realization. If the box was any taller, he would have leapt to his feet. "That's it. It has to be! Fumio wanted me to answer questions as he saw me, a superhero. But Maura, she wants me to answer them beyond the title. She wants the boy behind the mask." Pulling at his mask, Robin tugged at the adhesive. Adrenaline began pumping blood into his cold hands. "I can't survive more of this as Robin, but maybe, just maybe as myself I can live and…" His mouth halted the words as a scream burst through as the mask gave way.

Despite the stale air, Robin's unmasked eyes blinked away the tears that were forming when the soft tissue made contact with the air. Crumpling up the material, he tossed it to the side. "There. Maybe now, I can take on more. Yes, yes. Then if I am a good prisoner, I can get out of here…" A smile broke onto his face as soft laughs trembled out of him. Hands shook but he didn't mind. There was hope. Hope wasn't a mind killer. It made him think beyond the box.

The laughs turned into dry sobs and Robin found himself hugging to ease the shaking, "B-but I'll have to tell them everything. I'll have to break my oath. I can't do that, not to Batman and not to my parents. Not to mention, how long it will take to win their trust." The despaired outlook pulled down Robin's spirit till it was as dark as the room. "I can't do this anymore. I can't lie to myself. I can't bear the guilt of betraying Bruce. Not again."

Leaning forward, Robin rested his head against the welcoming coldness of the metal. The sobs ceased into the darkness and the box was only filled with his soft breaths. He would have preferred wearing red, yellow and green to sitting in this box. He would rather fight to an inch of his life, soak in the accusations or be held by some nutcase.

Sliding the rest of his body to rest against the wall, Robin curled into himself, "Robin, come on, pull yourself together. You can act and cross your fingers that Maura will believe you, even though you failed…Failed." The word settled over his heart. "Failed. Humph, like everything else I've done in my life, this failure has got to take the icing. Well, not really considering that whole apprentice deal and…" His voice drifted off as he saw his parents falling to their deaths.

Biting his lower lip, Robin rested his head on his knees. The high he was one a few minutes ago had been swallowed by the pitch-blackness of the room. His eyes were on the verge of closing when a deep, timber voice purred with cold delight, melting away the foreboding emptiness of the small cell with liquid malice.

"Why my dear Robin, such sweet little words coming from your mouth."

The Boy Wonder's head whipped lashed up, his eyes wide with fear. It couldn't be. "It's just a hallucination, he's not real. He's not real."

He felt a large hand rest on his quaking shoulder stepping over the thin line the other hallucinations dared not pass. The small touch sent electricity roaring through his body. Spinning around, Robin pounded hard on the cell door. The boy screamed at the metal, not caring if it was the door or not. "Someone please, let me out of here, please, someone, please let me out of here!"

The screaming halted when he felt the hand squeeze harder on his shoulder. His body seemed to freeze as an icy-breath tickled his ear. "Why Robin, that is no way to greet your master."

Fear and anger kick-started his body forward, his fists making contact with the metal. Robin just screamed, no longer trying to articulate words between the sobs of despair. He remembered too well the last scene he had with the man. The pain of his beaten body and the begging spilling from his lips, Robin relived his existence of being reduced to beaten hero crawling across the basement floor.

Slade chuckled behind him grasping the bleeding knuckle fists in his large hands ceasing the useless pounding. "Now, Robin, if I remember correctly you were begging me to stop last time."

All thoughts flew out of the boy's mind. "St-stop, pl-please."

"Oh but Robin, I so love it when you beg." With that, Slade grabbed two raw fingers and snapped them backwards. The scream that erupted was heard all the way down the tunnel.

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