Mens rea

Opening

Metal springs supporting the bunk above him greeted Robin's eyes as his mind pulled itself reluctantly from sleep. Last thing he remembered was the crazy doctor reaching out to reset his nose before pain blacked him out. His set-nose was still sore and swollen, but as he tried to move his left fingers pain shot back up his arm. A moan escaped his lips. Robin slide upwards and cradled his left hand to his chest, staring down at the disconnected fingers.

"Better fix those quick."

The rough deep voice seemed groggy and Robin stared up to see Kyle sitting up on his bunk, feet dangling over the side. Curt was still snoring under him, occasionally mumbling.

"Got anything I can bit on?"

A sparkle lit Kyle's eyes and he jumped lightly down and towered over Robin's small frame. In less than a second, Kyle shoved the side of his palm into Robin's mouth and with his other hand popped to the two fingers back into place. Robin tried to stop screaming 'bloody murder' and bit hard on Kyle's palm. Blood filled his mouth forcing Robin to free himself of the palm and spit out a mouthful of the red liquid.

"Are you crazy?!" yelled Robin wiping his mouth clean, before leaping off his own cot and marched over to the small sink in the back corner.

Kyle gazed down at the bit mark on his palm, a distant look filling his face, "You don't want to drink that."

Robin paid no heed and turned the faucet full blast. Cupping his hand under the water, he brought the warm water up to his mouth and swished it around his mouth. Immediately after swishing the water around for barely a minute, he spit it back out in the sink. "It tastes like sulfur!"

"Warned ya, kid."

A masked glare went flying across the cell, "Do you know where we are?"

"In a cell."

"As in a location? Japan? US? Where?"

Kyle raised his hand and began licking his palm clean, "We are in a prison. People come and people leave by dying. No one ever escapes."

Robin stalked over to the bars, his mouth a firm line of determination. "Well, there is always a first time. I've had enough of this crazy place."

Peering over his shoulder, the hero surveyed his surroundings. With only a toilet and sink, no window present, solid thick concrete walls, bunk metal posts welded to the floor and the steel bars in front, there was no easy escape route from the cell. This meant only one thing…Robin draping his arms through the bars and leaned his head against the bars and stared out into the vast prison.

The last time he checked it was still night time, according to the guards that had walked by yelling to everyone to go to bed, before he was escorted down to the medical cell. But there was still activity. Some of the guards escorted prisoners down to the bottom level. As far as Robin would tell, the prison was just a massive, hollow spiral that when it reached the bottom, and broke off into four different corridors. As time passed by, Robin noticed that the gray clad prisoners with an upside down black Y would be chained together and escorted down the corridor that would be to his east. Ten minutes later, a small group of convicts trudged out of the northern corridor wet, with their upper gray jackets gone, revealing tiny battered chests. The four guards in the middle handed the small group new tunics exactly like Robin, Curt and Kyle's, simple and plain before being escorted back to their cell. Yet, while this was going, Robin noticed one of the guards pulling two convicts to the side. Trying to get a better angle, Robin made his way to the corner where the bars and wall met. One his tiptoes, he watched the two convicts disappear down the southern corridor. Nobody went down the western corridor except for a few guards and what appeared to be some type of personnel. After watching the group down below, Robin slide down the wall and hugged himself into the corner thinking of his next plan of action.

Kyle gazed down at the masked boy, his other hand wrapping a strip of cloth around his injured palm. Did the boy truly think he would escape this place? "No bother dying over something so trivial, kid."

"Trivial?" The word hissed from Robins' mouth as if it were a foreign word. "Trivial? Getting out of here is not trivial!" Leaping up onto his feet, Robin grabbed a handful of Kyle's tunic and jerked the man face to face with him. "Just watch."

"Watch what?"

Robin shot a disdain look over to the groggy rising figure of Curt, who rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "Morning, guys. Guards coming for us."

Just as the insane man spoke, a group of guards walked by and banged their batons on the metal bars, "Wake up!"

Carl and Ben were behind the group and stopped as the rest of the group continued downwards. "Well, well, it seems everyone is awake already, good," smirked Carl.

Ben reached out and opened the door. Curt skipped outside, "What's for breakfast?"

"Same as always, but this time I hear we got us some bacon," joked Carl. But the joke was lost on Curt as the man's eyes widen and drool began to seep out of his mouth.

Kyle pried Robin's fist free of his tunic before grabbing the boy by his forearm. "Come on, breakfast time."

Breakfast would be the perfect time to survey his surroundings more, especially that one tunnel. "Fine, can't think on an empty stomach anyway," chimed in Robin.

The larger man nodded but kept his hold on Robin firm. Robin watched the prison come alive while trailing behind Kyle, with Curt at his side, chatting endlessly with himself while moving his fingers as counting and the two growing familiar guards in front and behind. The five-some were halfway down when Ben turned right and entered a massive opening in the prison. Stalactites hung from the ceiling along with massive air turbines pumping fresh air into the chamber. Before him were ten long rows of metal picnic tables lined up with prisoners sitting on the benches, scooping mush from their tin plates and metal spoons. All the prisoners wore the same mundane gray color except for the occasional few whom had a big upside down black Y. Ben and Carl branched away to attend to other prisoners who were starting a riot over fighting over some spilled mush.

A plate was shoved in Robin's hands and he stared down at the tan mush. There were clumps in it with what appeared to be orange squares and yellow circles. All in all, it reminded him of cream-of-wheat with carrots and bananas mashed into it.

"Move it kid," snapped Kyle as he once again yanked Robin forward, causing half of the contents to spill out on Robin's shirt.

"Thanks for wasting my breakfast," snapped back Robin.

Curt glanced behind him and snickered, "Broken nose times sore fingers divided by temper equals poor kiddy can't eat."

Robin sent him is most cold glare but instead of sending Curt scuttling, the man just stuck his tongue at him. The Boy Wonder would have pummeled the man if his hands were free but they were occupied with the only food Robin had since…

A low grumble churned in his stomach. Curt burst out into a fit of laughter just as Kyle found a place to sit. The massive man pointed across from him, "Curt, sit."

"Yes, sir!" chocked Curt as he continued laughing, sitting slowly down.

Kyle was not as gentle and pulled Robin onto the bench, forcing the boy to sit. Not willing to dump the rest of his breakfast onto his tunic, Robin quickly set the plate on the table before sitting down. "I think you can let go of me now. Thank you."

The ex-mafia henchman grinned, revealing his sharp pearly white teeth. All Robin could think of was not to see the man ever grin again. Picking up the dull round spoon, Robin poked at the mush. "Is there anything else to eat?"

"Nope, two meals a day of Grandma's mush with a quick liquid break at midday. That's it. Better eat up and no seconds," quipped Kyle as he dug in a spoonful and popped it into his mouth.

Taking a quick spoonful and disguising his utter disgust of the cold mush with a cough, Robin glanced around spotting pairs of guards at the noon, fifteen, thirty and forty-five minute intervals from each other. "So, can you tell me some background?"

Kyle was about to respond when Curt interrupted him. "It's a prison, what more is to say. You got convicts from each end of the spectrum: Mass murderers, rapists, thieves, and assassins, professional to petty, life-time to one timers."

Masked eyes widened at Curt, who just shrugged in return, "It's true."

His companion leaned to the side and whispered softly into Robin's ears. "These are his happy moments. Curt actually returns back to his senses after a good night, and if he doesn't…well, you had a run in with that last night."

"Oh."

"But to finish the answer, we also do some mining and other shady stuff as well."

"That's nice." The tiny threesome fell into silence. The table filled up quickly and a hairy, smelly guard squished up close to Robin pinning him between Kyle and the prisoner. Robin felt the urge to tell the man to back off but he bit his tongue. This was not the place to cause a fight, then again…Narrowing his eyes at a sideway glance, Robin continued to eat his mush. If there was a fight, the guards would have to break them up. And from his study of past prisons, they would have to punish Robin, which meant he had a higher chance of escaping. He against a couple guards was better than facing a room full. Plus, lowering the spoon, Robin stretched his hand feeling the residue of the drug that they had injected into him before he left prison was pretty much gone. Perfect.

Positioning the spoon on the lip of the bowl, Robin pretended to lean back and was about to lower his elbow down on the handle when an ice-cold hand grabbed the back neck of his shirt and yanked him out of the bench. Staggering to his feet, Robin extended his arms out slightly to gain his balance. Before Robin, a man dressed in prison uniform with the sleeves ripped off stood with hands balled into fists, his black oval beady eyes burning at Robin. The massive man growled, his bald head darkening, "Well, well, it looks I was right."

"Right about what?" questioned Robin, sliding his foot softly to brace himself for any attacks.

"Don't remember me…Robin? The man who was supposed to be trained by the True Master."

"Katarou."

The cafeteria dropped into complete silence, the clattering of a spoon against a bowl ringing throughout the room. All eyes were fixed on the pair, shook registering on each of their faces. They all heard about the story of Robin, leader of the Teen Titans, beating the bald man to the top of the mountain. It was a story Katarou loved to tell about, only to declare that if he ever ran into Robin, he would pound the snot out of the kid. But now that, this legendary hero was in their prison seemed almost unrealistic.

Robin scoffed, "If I remember, you cheated."

"Liar!" roared Katarou before lunging at Robin, his fists raised to punch the boy's lights out.

But Robin was ready for him. Springing to the side, Robin slammed a kick into the man's left side, digging his heel into the ribs. The man screamed and lunged forward for another punch, which Robin ducked, the fist flying over his raven hair. Gritting his teeth, Robin drove his right fist straight into the man's stomach causing the man to double over and collapse on the floor. Taking a couple steps away from the man, Robin took a minute to slow down his heart rate. Gazing across the room, he took in the faces of the prisoners. Dread filled him, as he knew that most of these men would now consider him their number one enemy, feeling that if they took out their frustrations on one of the superheroes it could transfigure to the hero who put them behind bars.

"All right, folks, break it. Go back to eating." Cocking his shotgun, Carl stepped up to Robin and jerked his head to the side, "Come on."

"But breakfast?"

"You're done and no more food for you till tomorrow."

Robin clenched his fists, "What? He started the fight!"

"But you participated in the fight, which makes you just as guilty," snapped back Carl, "Now move!"

Raising his shotgun as a warning, Robin nodded and walked down to where Ben was standing. Leaving the caferteria, Robin heard the room burst out into laughter. He could only imagine that the inmates were poking fun at Katarou, which would not be good for him. Once again walking between the two guards, Robin found himself being led down to the bottom level. Taking a deep breath, Robin glanced down the abandoned hallway and knew that this was the best time. Leaning forward, Robin shot out a kick straight into Carl's stomach. The man grunted in pain, his hold on the shotgun losing. Robin grabbed the gun and swung around just in time to slam the butt of the gun in Ben's stomach as the man went to aid his friend and pushed the barrel up into his face. With both guards on the ground, Robin sprinted down the hallway, not once looking back behind him.

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