Perusing the Past
Robin winced to himself as the image on his screen changed once again, showing Beast in yet another training room, cornered by another faceless man who commanded him to display his some impressive skill. The skill changed each time. Sometimes they were a show of his shifting prowess, others an example of his fighting, problem solving, or stealth. The more he watched the more Robin was impressed with the green boy. And the angrier he got with his "masters".
Beast had been well trained. He was extremely skilled in the various methods the videos showed, and he always fought as though his life depended on it. Which, Robin amended as the green boy stumbled in the video and was immediately set upon by a faceless trainer wielding a large bat, he very well may have been. The Titan winced slightly, his finger held over the fast-forward button. However, he knew the importance of diligently watching through the DVD completely and forced himself through the beating. He wasn’t sure if he should be proud or worried that once the man was finished Beast simply rose back to his feet and completed the task, only a slight limp showing his pain from the intense punishment.
Robin scowled at the screen, rewinding and freezing the frame where the trainer had entered, only to audibly growl when he saw that throughout the punishment, the man never once turned his face to the camera. Just as none of the others had. He couldn’t even attempt to recognize any of the voices. The men on the videos either completely avoided talking, or spoke with a voice changer, and it was never a digital one placed by the camera, but a handheld one that he couldn’t decode. It was horrible, he had been watching the video that came in Beast’s files for an hour, as well as reading through the file itself, and so far he had found nothing about the boy’s life before becoming Beast, nor any personal information about his old Masters. It was full of nothing but stats, tests, and training suggestions.
He looked up at a knock at the door, pausing the monitor before calling for the knocker to enter. He didn’t want Starfire to see some of the stuff on the videos. While the logical side of him told him that as a princess of a war-based alien society, she had probably seen much worse, the emotional side of him called to protect her from the gruesome sights. He sighed in relief when Cyborg entered the room.
The robotic man nodded at the Titan as he entered, his face a little disturbed. He was holding a pile of papers in his hand. “Hey Rob, I was just doing a couple of tests with the blood I got from cleaning up B’s wounds and-“ He suddenly paused, his eyes locked on one of the side monitors next to the larger one. Robin turned around to follow his gaze. His computer had many different monitors, the main one which he had been watching the DVD on, and several others surrounding it. Many of them had been blank. Some of them had been encryptions attempting to hack into the DVD and get rid of any digital enhances put on the video. They were fairly useless, as there proved to be no tampering. Cyborg however, had his gaze locked on the second largest screen, the one showing a video feed of Beast’s cell. For the first time since he watched Cyborg leave it an hour before, Robin glanced at the video as well.
Beast stood in the very same spot as he had when Cyborg had left, staring awkwardly and confusedly at the door. The boy shifted slightly back and forth on his feet, his gaze casting over the dark room every once in a while. The boy’s green hair stuck up crazily and haphazardly, his clothing pooling over his skinny frame. Robin glanced from the video to the larger screen, finding it hard to assimilate the timid seeming boy with the determined teen in the training video. However, at the moment there was something slightly more pertinent.
“I thought you were taking him back so that he could sleep.” The boy wonder said, turning his gaze to an equally concerned Cyborg.
“I thought so too. Wonder why he’s just standing there.” The robotic teen leaned forward slightly, his human eye worried.
Robin sighed, glancing back through the files. “According to this he pretty much only responds to direct commands. He hardly does anything without one.” The boy wonder glanced down at a picture of Beast sticking out from his file, wincing at a particularly thick scar that wrapped around his back. “He was trained well.” Robin muttered, complete disgust in his tone.
“You mean I have to actually order him to go to sleep?”
Robin nodded. “Yeah, I guess so.”
The robotic man began to leave to do just that when Robin called to him. “Come back here when you’re done, I want to talk about some of this with you, especially because he seems to like you the best.
Cyborg nodded absently at the brightly colored teen, his mind already locked on the green boy down the hall. If what Robin said was true than Beast must have been in an even worse situation earlier than he’d fallen asleep in the car. He turned and headed down the hall, determined to make sure the kid got some proper rest.
Beast jumped slightly when the lights flashed on, his eyes scrunching shut as the bright light flooded his keen senses. He wasn’t too surprised though, he'd recognized the heavy clanking sound of Master Cyborg’s steps from far away and the Master seemed to be heading for him. A slight flare of hope spread in his chest. Maybe he brought his cage and Beast could finally sleep. It died when his ears could pick up no sign of the clanking of his meal cage. The only sound of moving metal was that of his master himself. Beast began to wonder if this man was his trainer-master, the one who would be actually teaching him. It was the one whom he saw the most, though it was obvious the Master Rob was the lead-master.
Cyborg entered the room only seconds later and just as Beast had suspected there was nothing in his hand. His ears perked slightly as Master Cyborg cleared his throat and began to speak.
“Uh, hey B. It’s getting kinda late and I guess you must be tired so uh… why don’t you get to sleep?”
Beast nodded once, but he still hesitated. Where did Master expect for him to sleep if he didn’t have his cage? For a millisecond his gaze shifted to the bed, remembering of a time before Beast when he slept on one every night. However he immediately tore his gaze away, the look not sticking for long enough for Master Cyborg to notice. Beds were for Masters, not for him.
Cyborg noticed the hesitation. “What’s the matter?”
Beast paused. He wasn’t sure what to say. He needed his cage to sleep, but his master was commanding him to sleep when he didn’t have it. He honestly was unsure of what to do. The shape shifter opened his mouth to answer his Master, but the words died in his throat and his head fell. These masters were so strange and confusing, he just had no clue what to do.
Cyborg watched the boy, but it didn’t seem like the boy was going to be talking any time soon. But Robin said he responded to commands. What if… “Uh… tell me… what’s the matter, why won’t you go to sleep?”
As if he had said the magic words, Beast’s head snapped up at the command. He was no less tongue tied, but with the command he forced himself to answer, his words coming out slowly and awkwardly. “I-I don’t have my cage.” He said softly, and Cyborg swallowed silently.
“You mean that tiny one you jumped out of at the warehouse?”
“Do you always sleep in it?”
Beast nodded again. He had slept in it ever since he had first been put in, several masters ago. It had been perhaps his second or third master that had been the first to confine him to the cage, and he had called it his nesting place ever since.
“Well no more.” Cyborg declared, a kind of furious light in his eye and he stomped over to the bed in the corner of the room. “Come over here.”
Beast, frightened of the larger teen’s sudden passion, immediately followed. Cyborg pulled the covers off the bed and pat the empty space. Beast obediently sat on the mattress, watching his master with a slight hope dawning behind his eyes. Could Master Cyborg really be leading him to what he thought?
“Lie down.” The man commanded and Beast complied, stretching out over the comfy bed. He couldn’t stop a broad grin from stretching across his face as Master laid the blanket over him, though he hid it by snuggling his face into the crook of his arm. The green shape-shifter felt his exhausted eyes begin to fall as he followed through with his Master’s command to sleep. Before the blackness of sleep overcame him completely he heard the creak of his master straightening. “You won’t have to sleep in that cage again.” The robot left the room, and the darkness behind Beast’s eyes became absolute as the lights were turned off and he succumbed to sleep entirely.
Robin was trying to match the brands on Beast’s body with criminal records when Cyborg came in, looking decidedly ticked off. “They made him sleep in that cage, Robin. Do you remember how small that was, they made him sleep in it.” He glanced at the video screen, unsurprised that Beast was no longer sprawled across the bed, but instinctively curled up in a minuscule ball.
Robin nodded, shoving the file at Cyborg. There were a couple of pictures of Beast in his cage, some from when he was much younger and possibly first got it and others that were much more recent and showed his cramped position.
Cyborg shuddered. “That’s just sick.”
“Believe me, there are far worse things in this file.” He sighed, looking back at the screens he had been working on. “I’m trying to track down all of the people who did this, but I didn’t find as much useful information as I had been hoping. And I don’t think I’ll get anything from the kid.”
“Having any luck at all?”
“Not much. These criminals seem to be pretty underground, other than a couple who are already lifers in jail or dead. I can’t get any information from the videos or from the files on any of his other masters. Until I can get some more leads, we might have to just focus on trying to help him get back to normal.” The Titan leader sighed. “’If we can.” He added under his breath.
“Anything I should know?”
Robin sighed slightly and picked up a small sheaf in front of the file. “Yeah, I wanted to give you the medical files so that you can look at them. His DNA is really a mess.” The brightly colored teen handed the half-robot a small stack of papers, which the older boy gratefully accepted. “Also, I have some general information you might like to know. His only listed name is Beast, he’s 14 years old, 5 foot exactly, and refuses to eat meat.”
“He refuses?” Cyborg scoffed. “Sorry Rob, but I can’t picture the B refusing anything.”
“Neither can I, but apparently he feels very strongly about this. The files have gone over this extensively. They beat him within an inch of his life, nearly starved him to death, and commanded it a million different times, but still he just wouldn’t eat.”
Cyborg was silent for a moment before smiling slightly. “Well that’s good I guess. Nice to know that after all that the kid still has a backbone. Even if it is over something as horrible about not enjoying the succulent wonders of meat.”
Robin smirked in amusement at his meat-loving friend. “Yeah, I guess that’s one way of looking at it. I think that’s all for now. I’ll call a formal meeting about the kid in the morning.” He glanced down at the sleeping boy in his monitors, the green child’s face locked in a peaceful slumber. Cyborg followed his gaze before nodding and leaving the lithe teen to his research.
Cyborg walked down the hallways back to his room to make sense of the medical files. He stopped short when he saw the tower's resident red-head peering through the small window of Beast’s cell, a bowl of something orange with tentacles and fur sticking out of her hands.
“Hey Star, what’s up?”
“Greetings friend! I wished to present friend Beast with a bowl of gurlghunk to welcome him to the tower.”
Cyborg sweat dropped, thinking that the kid had dodged a bullet today. “Uh, that’s nice and all Star, but he’s sleeping right now and really needs his rest. Besides,” He added, staring at the… food… dubiously. “He’s a strict vegetarian. Not sure if he can eat the gurlg- uh, whatever that is.”
The girl looked slightly put off for a moment. “But, gurlghunk is the meal of might and bravery. Our new friend seems so fearful that I thought…”
Cyborg’s gaze softened. “That was sweet of you, but I still don’t think he’d eat it.”
The girl’s expression changed, becoming thoughtful. “Perhaps if I replace the korka tongue and laffna tentacle with zorka berries and grangog fungus, and the foijon mucus with earth mustard, it will be okay.”
“Uh, sure Star. That’s the spirit. Maybe wait till tomorrow though. You’re going shopping with Raven for B, right?” Cyborg asked, hoping desperately to distract the girl from her culinary musings.
“Oh yes, it shall be truly glorious! Do you wish to accompany us to the mall of shopping to help find clothing for our new friend?”
“Uh, that’s okay. I don’t really…”
The girl looked up to him with large, innocent puppy dog eyes and Cyborg sighed. “I guess I have to pick up some stuff to clean the T-car anyway.”
“Glorious! Perhaps friend Robin can go as well.”
“I don’t know about that. He’s really focused on researching the kid.”
“Oh… then I shall bring him the leftover gurlghunk to revive his spirits.” The alien flew down the corridor to Robin’s room and Cyborg shook his head after her. Poor, poor Robin. He checked though the window to make sure that their conversation hadn’t woken B, but the kid was out. He hadn’t even stirred. The half robot sighed in relief and made his way down to his room. He stopped in front of Raven’s door, listening for a moment while she chanted her familiar mantra. He was just about to continue on his way when the door swished open, revealing the gray girl, one purple eyebrow raised questioningly.
“Oh, sorry Raven. I was just passing through.”
The empath nodded. “So how he? You’re worried about him.”
“Yeah. I just… don’t know if we’ll be able to help him.”
“He is very confused right now, for obvious reasons. I do think that there is hope though. At times I sense... strange emotions from him. Ones you wouldn’t expect by looking at him. I think he is stronger than he looks.”
“Yeah, I hope so.”
“He likes you, I think. But he’s confused about even that. I don’t think he’s liked anyone in a long time. He is unsure about the rest of us.” It still unnerved her, that great burst of fear only moments after she had healed him. Did his animal instincts sense or smell her patronage? No, that wasn’t the cause of the fear. Even if he did sense it, he would have when he first saw her. There would be no reason to react so strongly at that moment in particular.
Could he have been shocked by the use of magic? No, he had seen her powers during the fight and hadn’t been worried at all while she had been healing him. It wasn’t until afterwards that he had been afraid. What was the problem then?
“Yo, Raven. What’s the matter?”
The girl jumped slightly, not knowing that her troubled musing had been so transparent. For a moment she considered telling the robotic teen that it was none of his business. He would respect her privacy and not ask again. However, maybe in a case such as this, two heads were better than one.
“When I healed Beast earlier he at first seemed pleased and grateful. However, a few seconds before you came in I sensed great fear coming from the boy.”
“Huh. That is strange.” Cyborg muttered, his gaze casting behind him as if he could see the confusing child. His mind relayed some of the pictures he had glanced at in the file and the scars tracing Beast’s body. “Maybe he’s just so used people bringing him pain, he was just surprised when you took it away. I saw some of the pictures in the files. When the kid did something wrong… the punishments were harsh.”
Raven shook her head. “I think it’s more than that.”
The two attempted to put their minds in the boy’s place. Finally, a thought struck Raven that she hadn’t had before. “I suppose if I was accustomed to an existence where I was habitually beaten I would not be pleased to see someone who could heal at will.”
Cyborg nodded slowly in understanding. “We could do whatever we wanted to him and as long as you were here it wouldn’t matter. You could just heal him if we needed to fight again.”
Raven nodded, her gaze turned back to the empty hallway, slightly disgusted now that she understood. However a small part of her was relieved that the fear truly had nothing to do with her.
“Still think that there’s hope?” Cyborg asked. Raven looked down, but those small bright splotches of happiness and humor she had felt earlier still stuck out in her mind.
“Yes, I do.”