The Game is afoot
The long flight from Jump City back to Indonesia seemed even longer when an unwanted guest sat silently in the seat that was reserved for Robin. The tension was so thick, despite each person occupying separate pods that it could be cut with a knife. Slade stretched his legs out as far as they could. The small cramped pod made the man realize just how small Robin truly was compared to him.
Preparations for the flight were brief with little disagreement. However, the eerie companionship was put to the test when Slade entered the Titans' jet in the pod that was usually occupied by Robin. The boys immediately yelled their outrage, while Starfire just 'asked nicely', which Slade saw as pleading, for him to take her spot instead. Remaining seated in Robin's spot, the criminal merely flickered his gaze down at the four Titans and in a cold voice responded. "Take off in five minutes." With that he pushed the ignition button, the roaring of engines spurring the Titans to leap into their respective positions.
And that was that. No words were exchanged, yet Slade could feel the changeling's burning gaze on the back of his head. Not twenty minutes into the flight, Slade noticed that all access had been cut off from his pod. It seemed Cyborg was not such a fool as to allow Slade have access to not only the jet but to the Tower was well.
Staring out over the ocean, Slade couldn't stop his mind from wandering. His pride was still seething at the false accusation. To believe that someone dared to accuse Slade of kidnapping Robin was clearly telling him that the person was wishing for an early death. Mind you, the thought of ripping the boy from his friends was a constant dream, which he yearned to make reality. Yet kidnapping was something Slade would never condone with Robin in that the action would make the boy seem like the victim. While on the other hand, blackmail was merely a reaction to one of the boy's many mistakes and faults.
Flicking a tiny speck of dust off his uniform, Slade clicked his tongue quietly behind his mask to release some of his anger. "Cyborg, pull up the scan of the ad you found once more."
His eye flickered to the side to catch the half-robot hero send a wary glance at his friends. A few minutes later after a silent consensus was reached, the tiny screen flickered to life revealing the ad. The paper ad was found on the desk of the late Commissioner Daizo underneath a pile of tax paperwork. It seemed the man didn't want anyone finding it.
Touching the screen, the criminal magnified the image, reading word for word the ad.
Know someone who's too stressed out and needs a break from life?
Well, we're the place for you!
Island Resort Kimosho provides excellent housing and food.
With friendly personnel, we'll provide quality care. With Experts and up-to-date techniques, one will become carefree and love life to the fullest. In the end, no one will ever want to leave.
Slade racked his mind with possibilities with hidden meanings. Gazing down at the telephone number, the criminal hit the intercom. "Did you call the number or immediately went to their office?"
Cyborg's voice answered in irritation, "Of course we called and they asked for all this information. It was insane!"
The steel gray eye narrowed, "What information?"
Raven supplied the next answer, "Physical information, mental as well as the type of work and personal history. Pretty much everything the cops would ask for, plus a bit more personnel information."
"It was also a highly restrictive place. Only the rich and few make it in, hence the huge waiting list," finished the older boy.
Slade nodded and started to dial the number on the built-in consol. The line picked up and after a few minutes all that occurred was static reception. He watched as Raven hung up and redialed getting the same response.
"Strange, why is the line dead?"
Starfire chimed in her answer, "Maybe there is bad weather and it is interfering with communications. It is known that the area has frequent storms, right?"
Beastboy shook his head, "I checked the weather. It's perfect weather from here to China. The office should have picked up the call."
"Unless the office no longer exists," stated Slade. Glancing down at the ad, he reread the words.
Too stressed out. That was Robin to the fullest. Quality care could mean anything ranging from lavish servants to being treated with the minimal requirements, which the latter Slade felt related more to Robin. Experts and up-to-date techniques did not bode well in the sense that from his past experiences, experts and modern technique meant experiments and crazy scientists. Lastly, Slade felt himself on sure ground when he understood the hidden meaning behind no one will ever want to leave. It was quiet simple. The place where Robin was being held had high security to the point that no one could escape or were killed in the process.
"Or it truly means, that no one wants to leave," whispered a dark voice in Slade's mind. "Going from stressed to carefree personality sounds more like brainwashing to me." Tilting his head slightly to the side, Slade took in the reflections of the Titans in his window. Did they even think of what they might find? If the Robin they sought would be the same boy?
Slade closed his eyes, allowing the silence to fill him. The burning pain of being falsely accused was now coupled with humiliation. If someone else broke Robin, someone besides himself…"You better be in one-piece, Robin. Or else, we might just have to have a small chat."
A sneeze rocked Robin's frame forward. It was powerful enough for him to drop his spoon in the mush. The guck splattered slightly onto the table earning a frown from his face, the raising of an eye from Kyle and a chuckle from Curt.
"What was that all about?" questioned the low voice of Kyle.
"Aw, someone was thinking of him, methinks," mocked Curt. "The formula for sneezing is equated from-"
"Ah shut up," sneered Robin. His blue eyes narrowed hard at the crazy math professor. "It's just I've been coped up for a while. The dust is getting to me."
Curt stuck out his tongue and resumed to sorting out the floating pieces of unidentifiable fruit and vegetables in his bowl. It seemed the madman was in one of his strange moods. Which didn't help in the fact that Robin was feeling a pounding headache coming on. His body still had to recuperate fully from his ordeals. And it didn't help that his mind felt that it was just wiped clean with a sand blaster.
Kyle grabbed his glass of water, "You mean the confinement rooms, don't you." With that said, he took a sip of water.
Robin felt his hand holding the spoon tense slightly at the mere mention of the box. He had thought that after the purge, he would be fine. But not all was right with the world. The moment he stepped into the cafeteria, a rush of noises, smells and sounds overloaded his senses. Robin had been so use to being alone and then just got use to being the center of one person's attention that being thrust back into the community was a bit daunting. Thankfully, Kyle sensed his hesitation and helped Robin get his food.
Scraping his bowl clean, Robin licked the spoon clean while his eyes gazed about the room. Criminals were all chatting about things beyond his hearing. Katarou was way off on the other side of the room, boasting about how he defeated a certain hero. It seemed the story was that Robin had escaped and drowned during his escape. Robin couldn't help but commend Maura in that she was telling the truth to an extent. A flash of white caught Robin's attention.
Flickering his gaze, he stopped licking his spoon and watched as Egyed was injecting a criminal with some type of shot. A foreign longing tugged at his heart. Suddenly the settled food in his stomach or the warm spoon in his mouth was nothing compared to the exhilarating feeling of complete oblivion that the drug gave him. As if sensing him, Egyed peered over the crowd and spotted Robin's longing look. With a dark grin, the doctor shook his head and mouthed, "No." Despair seized up in Robin and he jerked forward in fear as the doctor turned and walked out of the cafeteria.
"They really did a number on you huh?"
Kyle's question pulled Robin's attention away from the entrance. Removing the spoon from his mouth, Robin cocked his head towards the mafia hit man, "What?"
Black eyes shifted downwards. Following his lead, Robin felt his stomach clench as he took in his shaking hand and fidgeting fingers. It seemed that he wasn't a hundred percent cured. With his other hand, Robin squeezed hard on his shaking hand to ease away the tension.
"Wanna be my sparring partner?"
The loud clapping and whistling made Robin flinch slightly but he quickly sent a dark glare at Curt. Grabbing his spoon, he hurled at the madman, hitting him square in the forehead. "Didn't I tell you to shut up?"
Curt whimpered, rubbing a growing red spot on his pale skin. Kyle responded by smacking Robin hard on the head, enough to send the boy crashing lightly into the table. Sending a glare at the man, Robin felt his anger freeze as Kyle leaned forward, his face a mere few inches away.
"I'll help, if you start being nice to Curt," hissed Kyle, "Who knows, you might find out you have a lot in common with the man."
Robin nodded softly. The dark, murderous glow in Kyle's eyes reminded Robin exactly whom he was dealing with. This man was a professional killer; the one who had him that blood turned the hit man on.
Kyle eased back and reached out to his glass. "Well, finish your drink then. And after I come back from the mines, show me what you got."
Robin shifted so he sat straightforward. "Sure." Reaching for his own glass, Robin felt grateful for the bitter taste to clear away all unwanted fears and longings.
When Cyborg declared that they had reached their destination, Slade had ordered him to land the jet in a secluded area and wait for nightfall. When the sun finally settled, the odd group silently trekked to the office.
"Friends, do you think they will be helpful this time?" questioned Starfire, her voice hinting at the unspoken idea.
Cyborg and Raven gazed at the imposing figure that was a few feet ahead. The first time they had entered the office of Island Resort Kimosho, the people there were less than willing to give the teenagers any information regarding Robin. Thankfully, Drake their informant was wandering around the area and had caught the Titans attention.
"With Slade," Cyborg sent a small grin at Starfire, "Anything's possible."
The said man raised his hand as he stopped at the entrance of the ally, glancing around the corner. The Titans slid up behind Slade. Beastboy sniffed the air, "It should be right around the corner. Come on, let's do this!"
Slade lowered his hand. His shoulders tensed making Beastboy slide back slowly away from the man, "That's not going to happen."
Beastboy couldn't help but mutter, "I thought you said it would be much easier to break in and get the information than-"
"I said no such thing," chided Slade. Leaning back, he folded his arms across his chest. "Breaking in was the plan, but that is no longer an option anymore."
Eyes widened in surprise. Peering out into the street, the Titans felt their mouths fall open as the burnt remains of the office greeted their eyes. They ran forward, not truly believing their eyes till the black ash dirtied their shoes.
"Who would have done such a thing?" Starfire floated upwards to take in the entire remains.
Cyborg kicked at a remaining doorframe, coughing as it crumpled the ground. "Nothing seems to have survived."
Beastboy's voice broke the silence. "Hey!" running a bit down the street, the changeling caught the attention of a pedestrian. "Can you tell me what happened here?"
The local man blinked, unsure of what to make of the green pointy-eared boy in front of him. "Can you not tell? Fire."
Beastboy moaned, "I know! But like, do you know like when or who done it?"
The man paused for a couple minutes before shrugging, "A couple of weeks ago. Said it was some drunk." Stuffing his hands, the man grunted a goodbye for jogging lightly away.
"Drunk huh," muttered Raven as she made her way to stand next to Beastboy.
"So where to know?" sighed Beastboy.
"We visit this informant of yours."
Slade's cold voice made the Titans jump slightly. They had not heard him leave the ally once. Cyborg swallowed and shakily pointed down the street, "It's this way."
The informant provided even less information. Drake's rotting corpse still lay in the center of his small, deteriorating hut. The Titans could only spare a single glance into the room before the smell had them staggering back outdoors. Slade had managed to stand longer in the hut, gazing down at the gray body. He could barely make out the bloodstain, but it was clear to his assassin mind that the man had been shot in the heart in close range.
Stepping up to the body, Slade gently titled the head to the side, taking in the dangling black hair. He never forgot a face. It seemed that the Titans' informant was the same man who had given Slade the dust. The search seemed to take on a whole new level now.
Leaving Drake's crumpling tomb, Slade stepped out into the chilly morning air. Off in the horizon, he could make out the orange rays that were peppering the sky. With the start of a new day, Slade felt a rush of certainty fuel him forward. Marching up the street, he didn't even wait for the Titans.
The heroes had to jog to keep up with Slade's strides. They didn't know why the man was in a rush all of a sudden. A child was yelling out, his arms holding newspaper. Slade reached into his belt and flicked the kid a coin while grabbing a paper without breaking stride.
The kid yelped out thanks and looked at the Titans with awe. When the group finally reached the jet, Cyborg had had enough. Sealing the jet shut, to stop Slade from entering, he fixed a stern gaze at the man. "Alright Slade, what's going here?"
Slade was flipping through the newspaper, his eye scanning page after page. "Whoever has Robin is covering their tracks. They found that you were on their tail and decided to erase all evidence of their existence."
Starfire felt her shoulders sag, "So we are back to square one?"
"Not exactly," Slade ripped out an ad from the paper and handed it to Raven, "Never underestimate the power of capitalism."
Raven took the ad and read it out loud. "Tropical Paradise Resort. For the stressed who want a break from life. This resort if for you! Providing an exotic location, the hand selected personnel and up-to-date techniques will make even the most high-strung person carefree. No one will ever want to leave, satisfaction guaranteed." Pausing, Raven turned to her friends, "It almost has the same wording."
"So? Half the resorts here all say the same thing," shrugged Beastboy.
"But those last lines, they are not common," pointed out Starfire, her green eyes lighting up with hope.
Cyborg took the ad from Raven and read it himself, "Well, it won't hurt to check it out. If that's alright with you?"
The black eyes zoomed in on the silent Slade. The criminal merely shrugged his shoulders. Opening his arms, he tilted his hands upward, "I would have said the same thing."
The African-American hero nodded and unlocked the jet, "Alright, let's go people, we're burning daylight here."
Back in his cell, Robin let out a groan as he collapsed on the floor. Kyle was in the mines, yet the promise of being able to practice out some moves kept the boy awake. It had been awhile since he looked forward to a fight. Curt was off somewhere, doing kitchen work probably. All was silent yet Robin did not mind. It was a warm, welcoming silence that differed from the suffocating silence of the box.
"Seems that you are ready."
Robin turned his head towards the familiar corner, "Let's get started."
Slade nodded and stepped out "Still demanding." The steel gray glinted coldly in the light. "We'll have to change that."
Robin couldn't help but take a step back. This Slade was too violent for his taste, but he seemed to be a bit more open as well. "Fine."
Without so much a word, Slade lunged forward.