Cyborg eyed the tiny red number hit zero. Their forty-hour time limit was up and all they got out of the two guards was a prison in a jungle. Matt and Dan were now leaning against the wall on the dirt floor. Both were dripping wet from the water Beast Boy had sprayed at them. Dan's feet shifted to hide the shivering that was racking his body. Fatigue and hunger were setting in yet the guards dared not to close their eyes or break their self-induced silence to give the information the Titans wanted.
The older hero sighed and turned his shoulder to view his quiet companions. Raven was sitting crossed legged in the air, mediating to keep her emotions reigned in. Beast boy was lying on the floor in the form of a dog, his head propped upon his two front paws keeping a weary gaze on the two captors. Starfire was standing between the two, her hands gripping her upper arms hard, yet the glow that occupied the girl was fading fast.
Shaking his head, Cyborg knew that what each one was thinking. They had failed. Failed as team and now they would fail as heroes; Slade would get his slimy hands on the guards and kill one or both for sure.
"No," barked Cyborg, "I won't let it happen."
"Let what happen?"
Slade's normal monotonous voice held a slight waver of humor in it. Turning around, Cyborg glared at the large presence standing in the doorway. "You won't question these men."
The criminal ignored the boy for a moment, stepping up between him and the tired Beastboy. "I have given you forty hours to gain any useful information regarding Robin's whereabouts and you have failed. Now it is my turn."
Cyborg clenched his fist and slide in front of Slade. Eyes blazing, he took a deep breath. "We might have failed at this, but we won't fail at protecting innocent lives."
"Hm," Slade turned his head and gazed over the other Titans. "So you are saying that the lives of two strangers are more important than Robin's life."
"We'll find Robin some other way," whispered Starfire.
Slade scoffed at the remark, "Please. If these men are right in saying their boss is worse than me, than Robin's time is limited. Soon, he will be dead or a broken bird." Shifting, Slade took a step forward to the side of Cyborg. "Let me tell you a story, Titans.
It happened during Robin's apprenticeship with me, a time that I highly suspect he told none of you about." Pausing, Slade waited for any objects but none followed, so he knew that he was right. How like the bird to hide the disrespectable actions he had taken while under him. "Once upon a time, Robin was in a similar situation such as this. I had captured a security officer from Wayne Enterprises and I wanted to teach the little leader how to interrogate someone properly.
He protested and protested till his face was beat red and those little fists shook with fury. Yet, that all went away when I showed him the trigger…" Slade narrowed his eye in glee, letting his voice purr. "He valued your lives more than the officer. He crossed the line and put my lesson to use." Turning ever so slightly to drive home his point, Slade narrowed in on each Titan. "But it seems that his sacrifice was for naught, for when his life is in danger, you value mere strangers' over his. Pitiful."
Finished with his speech, Slade walked up to Matt and Dan. It was time for his words to sink in. "Now, you are going to tell me everything."
Dan let his lips tighten. "No."
Slade raised his fist and slammed the steel enhanced glove smashing into Matt's face. Leaning back, he waited for the Titans to yell at him.
The Titans had not know what to say after Slade's story. Their first question was to whether or not believe the man and it didn't help that Robin hadn't told them anything. Yet, one thing was for certain. Robin would sacrifice anything for his friends. Knowing that their leader would give up his freedom and reputation to work for Slade to save his friends life, it didn't seem as far-fetched that he would beat an officer. Glancing stressed stares at each other, they let the painful slam echo in their ears. The decision they would make would change them forever. Nodding slowly, the Titans realized that it was time for them to lose some of their innocence to protect Robin's.
Slade heard Cyborg's resigned voice echo softly behind him, "You have ten minutes."
With that, he heard the shuffling of feet leave the hut, the door slamming behind them. Smirking underneath his mask, Slade let out a quiet chuckle. Crouching, he gripped Matt's bleeding face in his hand, "Now, listen here. I do not care about the location of the island prison. All that matters is this boss of yours."
Matt coughed when Slade tightened his grip. Dan shifted, concern flashing on his face. "We won't tell you squat."
Slade nodded and with a quick thrust broke Matt's jaw. The muffled scream was nothing compared to the spasmodic jerking of the body. "Each time you don't answer, I will break another bone in his body."
Dan's eyes fell to the side in defiance and guilt. Slade took that as a no and proceeded to break Matt's nose. It took the clean breaking of the guards' arms and starting of his fingers when Dan whispered an answer. "Her name's Maura."
Slade released Matt's unconscious body, making note that he only had three minutes left before the Titans returned. "Full name."
"I don't know her full name. We just call her Boss and the higher ups call her Maura."
"Fine. Does she have any skills?"
"Besides her mind, she's good with the gun."
"You said her mind."
Dan's eyes fell upon themselves in shame. "Mind games. She's cold-hearted and calculative. She's not afraid to kill her prisoners."
"You all loyal?"
Defiance burst onto Dan's eyes. "Yes. She's like a mother and father to most of us." Dan gazed quickly at Matt. "She'll kill you. You're messing with her pride and joy. And she doesn't like it when her things are threatened."
Slade couldn't help but think that this Maura sound a bit like himself. He was about to question further when the door creaked opened and he heard Cyborg's voice boom in the room. "One minute."
The criminal rocked back and gazed down at the guards, "You won't say anymore, will you?"
"No," whispered Dan.
"Fine." With two quick blows to their necks, Slade killed the two guards. Stepping back, he quickly made his way to the door, wiping clean his hands. Stepping out into the rising sun's rays, he slammed the door shut to prevent them from seeing the bodies. He had to distract them and fast. Eying each Titan, he let his face fall neutral. "There's a boat near the docks. He gave me a code and once I upload it to my transceiver, we can track another boat that is making its' way to the prison."
Surprise lit each Titans' face. Slade jerked his head to the side, "Let's go."
It was a short trip to a small boat that Slade had apprehended during his absence. The Titans no longer felt like questioning the man. They just wanted to find Robin quickly so they could turn around and beat the man up and finally toss him in to jail. Slade ducked into the helm room and pulled out his tracking device. Sure enough, a small red dot was moving at a slow pace towards the south.
Next to him, Cyborg began firing up the thrusters, "This better be right."
Slade eyed the black hero with a small sense of approval. "It is. The bearing is 35 degrees southwest."
Cyborg spun the wheel, "Right." When they were out in open sea, the Titans took a nap break, leaving the criminal to steer them towards Robin.
And with that, the Titans were off to sped towards an island that was rumored to have a prison. It held the same storyline as the rumor, of people declaring that the convicts haunted it from World War II. Satellite pictures and the Titans could not spot any remains of a past prison or one still working. But on taking a closer look, this southern island did house a small makeshift prison. A small barb-wired fence circled around near the trees. Wooden huts marked the barracks of the prisoners. A small platoon of guards patrolled lazily the only entrance to the prison.
All was quiet, even in the prison. The few prisoners there lay out in the sun. Most were old men, worn out from life's hardships. Others wobbled around on wooden crutches, their missing limps marking them eligible for their stay at the prison. When one looked closely enough, beyond the forest canopy and into the far end of the horizon, the silhouette of volcano perched on an island stood out against the blue.
Ever since she was little, Maura knew that backup was ever needed in running the prison. Too many calls and now the closest call would test her method of deception. It was time for the rumored prison to work its' magic on the unsuspected heroes and criminal. Time had come for Robin to live up to his word. And lastly, it was time for Maura to see if her life's work was worth all the blood shed in the name of understanding human nature.
In the darkest corner of one of the wooden huts, a small figure laid strewn on the floor. A soft groan escaped its' pale lips. Cracking, eyes barely made out the woven grass roof. Rolling his head, Robin licked his cracked lips. He was extremely thirsty and the pounding headache meant one thing. "Thirst plus water equals drugged."
The shifting of dirt made Robin tense. Though his eyesight was still blurry, the different smell of the dirt and the course sand signaled that this was not his cell or the box. He was somewhere entirely different. Fear began to creep up into his chest. All he remembered was Maura telling him to swear silence and some muttering about a son.
The crunch sound occurred once more and Robin coughed out, "Hey?"
To his surprise and gratitude, the familiar face of Ben leaned over his body. Robin let a small smile tug at his lips. Ben merely frowned. Moving his head to the side, the guard scanned the room before leaning down mere inches away from Robin's face.
The raspy two words cracked past Ben's lips. Robin felt his eyes widen and mouth fall open. He was too much in shock to question the vague words. Ben quickly moved away and his footsteps faded into the background as the silent guard left. His first and only two words bounced around in Robin's head as the boy fought to stay awake a bit longer. But it was a fruitless battle. Head rolling downwards, he continued to replay Ben's words and knew that if anything, he had to be on his game.
He didn't know if this was a test from Maura. Or if he truly had been set free. Either way, freedom didn't come without a fight and he wouldn't think himself safe until he was back in his own room and bed.
Closing his eyes, Robin searched his mind for those two comforting images. Yet, all his mind drew up was the barred cell and the small cot. Curling in on himself, Robin coughed softly in grief. He knew that it was now or never. It was time for him to go home, whether Slade was ready or if Maura underestimated him on this test.