Part 1 – A Disgusting Discovery
The screech of bats filled the air as they flew from one stalactite to another as Richard Grayson practiced his kata with his Bo staff. Holding it horizontal, he struck his imaginary opponent in the head with the right end, then the left, then the right again. Next, he lunged forward, thrusting the right end of the staff in his opponent's solar plexus followed up with an uppercut. The foe was now disoriented and out of breath. He was suffering a cracked jaw, as well as missing some teeth and part of his tongue. Dick finished his imaginary opponent by pivoting on his right foot, shifting his hands to the base of his staff, holding it like a baseball bat. Striking like a hitter for the Gotham City Eagles, Dick hit his opponent on the side of the head, breaking the jaw and knocking him out. Dick returned to the ready stance as he gathered his breath.
"Very good Master Richard," commented Alfred. Dick returned his Bo staff to the weapons rack and grab a towel.
"Thanks, Alfred," Dick replied. "Any idea when Bruce will be back?" No sooner did he asked when the roar of the Batmobile sounded in the cave. The black car halted in the garage portion of the Batcave as the Batman jumped out. Batman removed his helmet as he dragged his feet toward Dick and Alfred. The two shared a look, Batman never showed the criminals of Gotham City how tired he was, and Bruce didn't bother to put on the act in front of them. "Speak of the devil."
"And he shall appear," said Bruce walking toward the Batcomputer and collapsing into the leather chair. Alfred placed a large glass of mineral water right beside him which disappeared in two massive gulps.
"Long night Master Bruce," asked Alfred.
"Very," groaned Bruce as he stretched his arms, making his joints pop. "It seems that most of the thugs are getting the idea that Batman is human. I'll have to talk to Lucius about maybe upgrading my armor or coming up with a new weapon."
"When you do, you can ask him how Robin's suit is coming along," suggested Dick. Bruce turned to him giving him a minor version of what has been called the Bat-glare. This look could stop Gotham's average mugger dead in his tracks. Even Dick had to use all his self-control not to flinch.
"No Dick, we've already discussed this. You're not ready yet," said Bruce
"Why not? I've been training for three years now!"
"First of all, you're a fifteen-year-old boy who would be going up against grown men," explained Bruce. "Second, it would interrupt your school work."
"But tomorrow's Friday," Dick shot back. "I'll have all weekend to be free to play vigilantes and robbers with you." The Bat-glare deepened.
"What would everybody say when they see you covered in bruises?" asked Bruce.
"Well I'm on the wrestling team," answered Dick. "I'll just say you got me a private coach and I'm getting ready for the new season. It's a better explanation than polo." The Batglare deepened to where harden crooks would wet themselves if they saw it. Even the usually stoic Alfred not only raised an eyebrow but gave a ghost of a smile when heard Dick's comment.
"He has a point Master Bruce," said Alfred. Bruce turned his glare to his old butler before growling to Dick.
"Go to bed, you have school tomorrow." Dick let out a frustrated sigh and turned to head up the stairs. As he did, Bruce's glare soften from steel to stone.
"Dick," Bruce called. "I know you want to help but believe me, once you enter this war you can't get out. It nearly got me killed on my first night out, and I was twelve years older than you and had trained for ten years. You're getting the abridged version of my training, and I have to be two hundred and twenty percent certain you are ready for Gotham."
"Give me a chance Bruce," pleaded Dick. "You promised me that I would be your partner. That I would help you make Gotham a place where a twelve-year-old does not have to go through the pain of losing their parents."
"You will Dick," promised Bruce. "Now go to bed, you have school tomorrow." Dick walked up the steps to Wayne Manor. Bruce reclined in his seat and closed his eyes, going over what he needed to do tomorrow at Wayne Industries as well as what weapons needed to be replaced to his utility belt for tomorrow's patrol. As the thousand one things rolled in his head, he felt that Alfred had something to say. "What is it Alfred?" he asked.
"As much as I hate the idea of putting Master Richard in danger, perhaps you should take him out into the field," he said.
"He's not ready Alfred," answered Bruce. "Plus Dick doesn't understand what this war will do to him. He's so much better at being a normal kid than I was at his age. I don't want to take that away from him."
"I agree with Master Bruce, but ask yourself this," said Alfred. "How long until Master Richard goes out on his own. Remember that young men with revenge in their hearts need little encouragement but much guidance. You of all people should know that."
"My guidance to him is to wait."
"As great as that may sound, what happens when Master Richard decides that he is ready himself?" Alfred inquired. "He has gone out on his own before to seek vengeance. If you weren't there to save him, Tony Zucco would have killed the last of the Flying Graysons." With that, Alfred turned and headed up the stone staircase to the mansion. Leaving Bruce along in the dark brooding, with only the bats to keep him company.
Dick groaned as he blindly searched for his alarm clock to turn it off, briefly considering going back to sleep in hopes of getting a few more winks in and skip his morning workout. He decided against it knowing that Bruce would punish him by going extra hard on him when they spare again. So with a yawn, Dick threw off the covers and began his morning routine. First turning to the photo on his nightstand, the one of him and his parents in their Flying Grayson outfits when Dick was ten. Outlandish tights of green, red, yellow with yellow capes. His father standing there proud and tall with long black hair and a ridiculous Burt Reynolds mustache. His mother petite, blonde, and blue eyes like him, and holding his hand. "Morning Mom, Dad," he whispered before started to stretch.
Followed by his nine exercises, ten sets each. Ten jumping T's, ten half squat T's, twenty punches, twenty sidekicks, ten side leg raises, twenty high knees, ten plank rotations, ten climbers, and ten plank punches. As Dick did his exercises, he looked around his room which was as big as the trailer he shared with his parents when he was in the Haley Circus. It held a king size bed, a desk, wardrobe, 65 in plasma TV, and a pool table. The walls were covered in posters, one was of the Flying Graysons, another was of linebacker Anthony Romulus, number 75 of the Gotham Rogues, one was a poster of the Grey Ghost, and the rest were movie posters. As much as Dick missed his parents and wished that they were alive, he would have never dreamed of living in a bedroom like this one. When he was finished with his basic exercises. Dick headed down to the gym for a morning jog on the treadmills. Wayne manor boasted a gym a variety of free weights, machines to work every part of your body, punching bag, and sparring equipment, and finally a massive endless pool. Most gyms weren't as well equipped.
Since Bruce revealed his secret to Dick, every day was spent training. Martial arts training took up the most of it. Aikido, Boxing, Capoeira, Judo, Jujitsu, Karate, Krav Maga, Kung Fu, Ninjutsu, Savate, and fighting styles that Dick had never heard of. Weapons training, from his beloved Bo staff to Batman's signature batarangs. Detective skills, escape skills, disguise, and perfecting his skills as a gymnast. Dick was in the kind of shape most teens only dream of, and the hardest part was not showing it off. Bruce stressed to act normal, to be average. Not the opposite, he stressed, but just normal. To the public, Bruce Wayne was the kind of guy who worked hard and played harder. Bruce Wayne wouldn't be your first guess to be Batman but he wasn't your last. Which was just what Bruce wanted. Dick needed to do the same when he started going out at night, and he was sure as hell ready to go out on patrol. After showering and getting into his school uniform, Dick walked into the dining room for breakfast and to convince Bruce that he was up for field duty.
"Good morning Master Richard," greeted Alfred. "For breakfast, I have prepared poached eggs laid over artichoke bottoms with a sage pesto sauce, thinly sliced baked ham, mixed organic fresh fruit bowl, freshly squeezed orange juice, and organic, grass-fed milk."
"Thank you, Alfred," said Dick then turned to Bruce. Bruce was engrossed in the Gotham Globe, dressed black pants and vest, with a blue shirt and tie. His black hair cut short, almost military length. His blue-gray eyes seem intent on the paper, though if someone was walk in them having breakfast, they would wonder how Bruce could be reading the paper when his "reading glasses" were tucked away in his sports coat.
"Bruce," Dick began only to have his adoptive father raise his hand to cut him off.
"I'll talk to Lucius about your armor and weapons," said Bruce. "It's time you start training fully suited. There will be a difference fighting in a suit than fighting in workout clothes. Once you have perfected fighting while armored, and known the contents of your utility belt by heart, then you can go out in the field for recon work. Understood?" Dick broke out into a grin and a ghost of a smile appear on Alfred's face.
"Perfectly Bruce," answered Dick.
"So Richard, why are you so happy," asked Barbara Gordon. Dick turned to the Commissioner's daughter, dressed in the McCallum Academy school uniforms of crimson and blue. With her red hair in a ponytail and glasses, she was hot in a geeky way and was the only person other than Alfred to call him by his real name instead of his nickname. He asked her why she always called him by his real name once. She simply replied that she would only call him Dick if she thought he was acting like one. So she called him Dick almost as often as Richard.
"Maybe I'm just looking forward to the big football game tonight," he replied pointing at one of the banners in the hall saying 'Go Titans! Beat Brentwood Academy Bulldogs!' Barbara snorted. Barbara was one of the smartest kids in school and one of Dick's closest friends. She knew though he liked football as much as the next guy, that couldn't be the reason he had been grinning all day. Even through Dr. Adam's biology class.
"Seriously Richard," Barbara said. "You're not going to tell me why you've been grinning like Christmas came early."
"Okay, I got a new girlfriend."
"No girl's that desperate to date you, even with Wayne's millions."
"First of all, ouch!" Dick said. "Second of all, it's billions. Millionaires are so last year."
"Whatever Dick," muttered Barbara as she narrowed her eyes. "You're not going to tell me what's going on, are you?"
"Holy mystery, no," said Dick with a smile. "Are you going to game tonight?"
"Yeah I'm going," answered Barbara. "But don't think I won't find out what's going on with you. After all, my dad's a cop and like father like daughter. And don't do that 'Holy blah blah,' it makes you sound like a bigger dork than you already are."
"Okay, you can try. Want to hit the comic book shop after school then grab a dinner at Big Belly Burger before the game?"
"Sure sounds good, the food at that grease joint is better than the stuff at the concession stands. At least we know Big Belly burgers come from cows." Dick laughed out loud at that.
"Come on, let's get to class," suggested Dick as he and Barbara walked to Algebra. A couple hours later and changing from their school uniforms to normal clothes, the two set off. On the way, their Barbara gently questioned Dick about what he was so excited about only to be met by stern resistance.
"You know I will find out," she said. "Resistance is futile."
"Don't get your hopes up Borg Queen," chuckled Dick, then he started to sniff and his face turn to disgust. "Jesus, do you smell that?" Barbara took a whiff and started to gag.
"Oh good God!" Barbara gagged. "Smells like the morgue at the GCPD building."
"How the hell do you know what the morgue smells like?"
"One of the joys of being the Commissh's daughter," Barbara said with her shirt over her nose. "It allows him to come up with cruel and unusual punishments. Where is that stench coming from?"
"Over there," coughed Dick pointing at an alley up ahead. "Should we check it out?"
"Yes as a public service. Though I wish I had a gas mask."
"Same, I think your dad or Mayor Hill should give us a medal for this," said Dick as they turned into the alley. At first, it appeared to be normal, but after some investigating Dick exclaimed, "Fuck me! Barbara, if you can keep from throwing up take a look at this.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" cried Barbara when saw the mound of dead dogs. Most were mutts, some were Pit bulls, and others Rottweilers. All were covered in claw and bite marks, and a few had gunshot wounds to the head. "Somebody or bodies threw out the losers of their dog fighting ring. I calling the police."
"Tell them to send homicide detectives," ordered Dick as he squatted down near the pile.
"Dick, as sad as this is," Barbara said. "I would have a hard time convincing them that bunch of dead dogs requires a murder investigation."
"That may be true, but take a closer look Babs," said Dick pointing. Barbara looked closer and saw what Dick meant. Barely visible was a human arm, gray and covered in bruises.
"Oh my God," she whispered as Dick stood up. His face was pale and hard as stone.
"I think we're going to miss tonight's football game," he said grimly.