Wayward Sons

September 14, 2018:

Bruce comes to check up on Tim in the Nest with questions and answers both, as the activities of the three former Robins all prove to trouble the Batman.

Red Robin's Nest, Gotham City

Red Robin's totally cool superhero hideout.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Lady Shiva, Nico Minoru, Zatanna Zatara

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

You could make the argument that a hero's choice of hideout says a lot about them as a person, and even moreso in the case of a former sidekick. Especially in the case of a former sidekick of the Bat. Nightwing might prefer things more lo-fi when he isn't also making use of the Batcave, and Batgirl has her own setup tailored to her own strengths and weaknesses… But Red Robin did what he so often does, taking what he saw as the most useful parts of what his mentor did, and getting rid of the rest.

Thus, the Nest.

It was well-hidden, for all that it was connected to the townhouse that had been his primary residence for the last few years. It was well connected, accessing the tunnels underneath Gotham rather than directly into the street, and of course in addition to the Red Knight's own (self-built) computer system it had a node to patch into the Batcomputer, along with a similar and more recent addition connecting it to the Titans Tower mainframe.

It had everything, the cool vehicles, the gadgets… But there was a definite lack of nesting bats, a paucity of stalactites and stalagmites, and a general move away from the whole 'drafty cave' aesthetic.

On the other hand: No butler.

It also has, naturally, a beyond state of the art security system: You would expect it to be set up to only allow the master of the place easy access, and in that you would be wrong. There were a few others on the access list either because they were trusted with the secrets held within, or because there was no reasonable way to keep them out if they were inclined to come in, or in many cases both. He knew people who could teleport, who could phase through walls, who could simply peel the building open like a cardboard box if they were so inclined. And, of course, trying to keep the Dark Knight out of anywhere was a waste of effort, as many had learned to their sorrow in the past.

So.

So, Tim sits in front of the bank of computers on the uppermost level of the Nest. Rather than either of his suits, he's dressed in a pair of black windbreaker track pants and a similarly black t-shirt with a cartoon ghost giving a thumbs down, a word balloon that simply contains 'boo'.

Honestly it's a miracle he manages to dress himself.

Bruce Wayne either is one of the people entrusted by Tim to enter The Nest or he simply assumes that he would be that person. Tonight, he is not dressed for a battle or for a night of patrolling. Instead, he is in his 'street wear'. That is, a neatly tailored suit that probably cost quite a pretty penny.

Letting himself into The Nest, he closes the door firmly behind him before almost instinctively identifying the Red Robin nested in front of a bunch of computers. Unable to help himself, he smirks for a moment, as he was similar situated not hours before. That fades quickly into a neutral expression before Tim can turn around.

He expects to be noticed by now, but he still makes his presence properly known with a statement: "Your Team made the newspapers recently." The tone is almost upbeat, or at least as upbeat as Bruce Wayne ever gets in closed company. "It looked like a good collar."

The entrance from the townhouse into the Nest betrays an interest in a certain kind of fiction: A hidden switch behind the aquarium (the 'play specific notes on the piano' gag was alrady taken) with a thumbprint scanner, which controls an even more hidden sliding door.

In most cases, how Tim got people's thumb print is probably better left untouched.

It would hardly be surprising for Bruce Wayne to visit his adopted son, even to those who concern themselves with the comings and goings of Gotham's rich and famous, so the trip over probably beat slogging through the tunnels and pathways that honeycomb the land on which the City of Yesterday stands. Admittedly, the gossip rags have found little exciting about Tim Drake's home in Gotham.

He keeps getting knowing looks from the doorman at his building in Manhattan though, ever since those times Zatanna or Steph visited. He's not entirely sure why, though.

"They do good work," Tim agrees, not looking away from the screens, holographic projections and traditional on-monitor displays mingling together. Articles about FuturePharm, about Tony Stark. He shouldn't have given the information away without any guarantees. Should've sent someone along instead of blindly cooperating. Hindsight was 20/20, and as usual the former Boy Wonder was excoriating himself for not perfectly predicting the future.

Instead of addressing that, though, he says: "Lady Shiva turned up in my room at the Tower. She was, uh, watching me sleep."

It's not at all a stretch for Bruce to visit, hence why he feels no qualms about showing up sans suit. Not knowing everything that went into the FuturePharm raid - it happened outside of Gotham, after all - he merely judges the outcomes on Tim's expression and demeanor. Seeing the readouts from the screen, he can certainly tell what kind of mood that is. He's been through it enough himself.

While someone like Superman might attempt a heart to heart, Bruce steps forward and inspects the work, the articles. "What didn't you see?" It's not meant to be harsh, though it can certainly be taken that way. Though Tim wishes to change the subject, he's not exactly about to let that slide.

With a smirk, he shakes his head as if in fond memory. "That move is League of Shadows 101. What did she want?"

"The counterstroke," is the initial, simple answer from the seated young man.

"All of this is connected to Stark, somehow, but there's more going on with FuturePharm than is immediately obvious… That woman, Rachel Summers, was talking about the incident in Ohio and the company experimenting on mutants, but these…" With a gesture, he pulls up another image, from inside Titans Tower: A bare handful of individuals in some kind of stasis. "…weren't mutants. They were volunteers who'd suffered crippling injuries. FuturePharm's nanotech was giving them a second lease on life, except it also turned them into insane monsters because it runs on evil magic. The same evil magic that was responsible for the incident in Stark Tower in the winter. Also, as far as I can tell, the guy who blew up in Titans Tower earlier in the year was some kind of prototype who got loose. The nanomachines respond to some kind of kill signal that makes them go into catastrophic overload and turns them into a bomb. Also that might just happen anyway."

Yeah, it's a lot.

But any hope he had of an easy, peaceful life was pretty securely dashed when he signed on with the Bat.

"As for Shiva, she wanted to see how her old student was doing, and she didn't seem very impressed. She's planning on hanging around Gotham… I dunno if she's doing it to amuse herself or if she has a deeper scheme in mind, but I'm pretty sure she'll pop up exactly when she feels like it."

Bruce spares Tim his Batsplaining of how he would have handled this mission. He only knew the most specific of details on this. Most of his attention tends to lie squarely on Gotham. He is what some might call a micromanager and so he limits his attention to Gotham and League business.

"En passant, Tim," is what Bruce rules the situation he sees and has heard from his protege in regards to how he should have had seen the counterstroke, naming a special rule of chess. It may sound like a very flippant way to take all the information that he has heard. However, Bruce is used to ingesting and then calibrating a lot all at once. Then, he can give his own judgement. "There are still pieces on the board."

The life of a Bat is not an easy one, that is not something Bruce ever promised and he does not apologize for that in any way. He assumes Tim knows that by now. Instead, he focuses on the problems at hand. "Shiva is rarely impressed and always bored," he observes. He doesn't tell Tim to up his security…with someone like Shiva, that won't really matter. "We can certainly start to assume she will show up when we least want her."

There's a quiet grunt in response to the advice; Tim's cultivated what you might call an 'inner Batman', and that particular voice in his head certainly agrees with what Bruce is saying. Of course, the real question is how much of that part of his own psyche the younger man deliberately fostered, and how much of it came to be because of his exposure to the Dark Knight's method of thinking, absorbed simply because he was more like his mentor than the others who'd worn the mantle of the Boy Wonder.

"I haven't even started yet," the younger man says, though it's less out of arrogance than it is a simple statement of fact: He has other ideas percolating, ideas rather outside of the usual way they do things… But wasn't that the point of teams like the Titans or the Justice League? Access to resources and possibilities they wouldn't otherwise have.

But one thing he does know for sure is that if this is a magic problem, better to bring magic up against it. Good thing he knows a few witches.

"Yeah, no kidding," he agrees about Shiva, rubbing his hands over his face and brushing them back through his hair; only then does he turn away from his screens, looking up and over at Bruce. "Maybe we'll luck out and she'll decide whoever we're up against is a more interesting fight. Let her tangle with Deathstroke or, I dunno, Man-Bat. Then the rest of us can all go to Batburger."

Nah… Doesn't seem too likely, unfortunately.

"What about you though, Bruce? No murderous martial artists watching you sleep, right? Except Damian, of course."

Bruce's eyes remain on he screen readouts as he stands next to his ward, the boy he trained into adulthood. To follow Batman is to follow his ways and that has met with varying measures of success with each of his proteges.

Tim's declaration that he has not even started yet is met with a smirk. He does not dispute that. Instead, it sounds familiar. Rather than verbally bring that up, he again turns back to business. It's almost always business with Bruce. "I assume your next step is to speak with Zatanna, then." Bruce knows his own fair share of magicians and he knows that Tim is close with that one in particular. "And after that?"

The thought of Shiva doing anything that would be helpful to them is met with a skeptical look and a quirked eyebrow to match Tim's own quip on the matter. "There's something to be said for small miracles. Fortune smiles on the prepared."

As for him? There's a pause. His lips purse and he crosses his arms. "Have you spoken with Jason recently?"

The closest followers of the Dark Knight's path would always be his sons - whether adopted or biological - though they all showed it in different ways, all drew on different aspects of the Bat. But maybe that was for the best, in the end. Maybe there should only ever be one Batman.

The mention of Zatanna draws a faint grunt from the younger man, because boy isn't that a complicated situation. Cans of worms nested inside other, larger cans of worms.

"Already did," he says. "Another magic user in the Titans, Nico, has some ideas too. Otherwise, sorting through Stark's own data. Just shutting off the magic that's coordinating the nanites would kill everyone currently infected, but if Stark has some kind of functional antigen…"

He has to test it, first. Not that he entirely doubts Tony Stark's abilities, but the Iron Man does have a bit of a history of leaping before he looks and then they wind up fighting an army of demon-possessed power armor suits.

You know, like usual.

Bruce's actual response to the question about what he's been up to is a question of his own, and definitely not one Tim would've anticipated, drawing his attention away from the computer, dark blue eyes turning towards Gotham's favourite son.

"Not if I can help it," Tim replies. "Why, have you?"

One doesn't need to be a good detective to know that the situation between Zatanna and Tim is a complicated one. Bruce mainly stays out of it. Personal lives are personal as far as he is concerned…as long as it stays out of the Batcave. Their mission is what is important.

The mention of Nico has him file away the name for later. Any new information is good information. Having another person that Tim trusts for information on the mystic arts is someone he can also draw upon later. "If magic is what is keeping it all together, perhaps you can program the nanites to magically write themselves out." Offering solutions is sticking his nose into someone else's problem, but that is what Bruce tends to do without remorse.

As Tim turns from the computers to look at him, the silence deepens for a moment. Then, he finally responds to whether he has been in touch with Jason. "No." It's firm.

"He's went after Barbara. He's making noise about taking over Gotham, saying he will do what the city needs by murdering criminals." There is an implied sigh in his voice when he pauses. "He intimated that he would go after you and Dick next. I know you can handle yourselves, but I thought it prudent to give a warning." Again, fortune favors the prepared.

It's a guarantee that any situation involving Zatanna Zatara is going to be a complicated one.

As Bruce, of all people, would well know.

"Yeah, I considered the same thing," Tim says about using arcane means to get the nanites to deactivate themselves. Of course, he's hardly surprised that Bruce would stick his nose into what is on the surface someone else's problem - he'd do the same thing if their positions were reversed. Almost like it was a bad habit he picked up from somewhere. "Whether it's feasible is another question entirely. The magic that's controlling them is the same one that infected Stark's technology over the winter. Which means somebody out there got ahold of it and managed to repurpose it, and they're using mutants and amputees to experiment on. It's possible they've got their own magic-users on staff to complicate matters."

There's always a need for more details. There's always information you don't or can't have: It's a stumbling block for Tim, at times, reconciling his need to have perfect and complete information with the reality that it isn't always possible.

When Bruce tells him that the previously-dead Jason Todd attacked Barbara, his first question isn't to ask if Barbara was okay: If she wasn't, Bruce would've led with that. Or the information would be on the Bat-Computer. Or Jim Gordon would be out there turning the city over brick by brick, on his own if he had to.

"Great," is what the young man says instead, thick with sarcasm. "So we've got him running around, and Shiva running around, Joker dropping buildings on Harley Quinn… I guess it can't be Kite Man and Condiment King all the way down."

"So you need to find the one responsible for the magic parts that have done this," Bruce extrapolates. "And it's not Killian?" He's read the papers, he knows the names, even if the main part of this did not happen in Gotham.

"Who's your main lead?" he asks. "Whoever it is, knock it down. With our work you run into walls. You need to keep running into them until you find the door. It may not be the right answer, Tim, but you don't need the exact right answer to act."

As for Jason, Bruce sighs. "What I wouldn't give for a Condiment King caper right now." The frown does not let up. Instead, he only shakes his head. "We do not do this to make our lives less complicated." It's an obvious answer.

Then, he adds, also as if it has been led up to until now. "Dick has been infected with some sort of magical tattoo. I think it involves the Mastersons, but if that does not solve it, I think it would be good for your Nico friend to take a look. And also possibly Zatanna."

As has been previously stated, dealing with Zatanna can be complicated. He knows his own hand in that.

Who's your main lead?

"If Killian isn't secretly a wizard, nobody. I'll have to see what Zatanna and Nico might be able to dig up about it, Zee's had to deal with this particular demonic computer virus before…" There's also Raven, but given the Daughter of Darkness' own rather complicated situation, he elects to keep her possible participation a secret for now. Given how Zatanna had reacted when she first met the other girl, and the advice she was given by Constantine (that they should kill Raven before she destroys the world)…

Well, there's always the possibility that elements of the Justice League might take a similarly hardline stance on the half-demon if they found out about her. And if there's any lesson that everyone to wear the mantle of Robin learns quickly, it's that sometimes you need to lie to Batman, even by omission, so you better get good at lying.

"Well, at least I'm forewarned, like you said," Tim agrees about Jason Todd. "If he gets frisky I'll just have to deal with it." The same calm surety, the focused confidence he uses with his Titans. Other people seem to find it reassuring, and honestly so does he.

The mention that Dick has been infected by a 'magical tattoo' gets a curious look from Tim, but suddenly appearing marks on a person's body are usually not a good thing, in his experience.

"So, like… What are we talking about here, is it a tramp stamp? Did it show up on his butt? I dunno if we should be exposing young women to the Full Nightwing. But yeah, I can ask them to take a look anyway. Is it… Doing anything to him?"

Who knows what Killian is, however Bruce is confident Tim will figure it out. Sure that he will work out his own issues, he focuses in on his own statements.

A look is given to Tim about being forewarned. Tim will just have to deal with it, much like much else he has had to handle in his life. Bruce, for his part, only nods. He's sure he will do fine against his wayward ward.

The quip as to whether it is a tramp stamp or something else is met with a look. "If you wish to know more about it, you should talk to Dick. I believe it may be effecting him slightly, but I don't feel as if he should be pulled from active duty." In other words it's something, but he is not sure what and wishes to observe.

Looking down at his expensive watch, he frowns and then looks back up at the screens. "It was good catching up, Tim, but I have another engagement. Keep me in the loop and if you need help, you know how to contact me." Smirk. "It doesn't always require a large signal in the night."

The idea that this mysterious magical tattoo might be having some effect on Dick just adds another worry to Tim's existing list… But as usual, if he didn't have several proverbial irons in the fire, if he wasn't trying to keep multiple plates spinning at once, he'd feel like he was slacking off.

"Yeah, okay, I'll get in touch with him," the young man allows, frowning faintly. "I'm sure he'd rather have the girls poking at him than Doctor Strange or whatever."

And really, who wouldn't?

With Bruce excusing himself, Tim leans back against his computer chair, letting out a faint snort of amusement at the quiet, typically understated joke… Which is a side most people who only know the Batman in work mode would probably not believe actually existed.

"Yeah, I know. Getting Alfred after you works even better. And you know, if you need help with stuff…" He lets that trail off, because it's one of those things that really shouldn't need to be said among family. But, well, they're both the sort of people who would wind up doing things on their own, nine times out of ten.

It shouldn't need to be said…but those that Bruce trained tend to be self reliant, to assume that they are the only people who can save those around them. It's not always welcome to hear that help can be useful or needed, but he gives a nod. "Of course."

Though, even with his assurance, it's a coin flip as to whether he actually means it. With his pieces said and his peek into Tim's own life with the Titans, Bruce steps out of the Nest and then out of his Townhouse.

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