Even though he'd done it before, dozens of times, breaking and entering always got Terry's pulse racing. He hadn't really thought to examine the reasons for it until Wayne pointed it out to him, early in his crime fighting career. The old man had been monitoring his vital signs, including a live feed of his heart rate, and saw it spike.
"Terry," he'd radioed him. "Is something wrong?"
"What? No…" Terry hadn't even realized it was happening. "It's nothing. Just nerves I guess." He hadn't wanted to let Wayne know he'd let his mind wander onto other things.
The old man had sighed. It sounded like a static whoosh over the communicator. Terry would soon become familiar with that sound. "If you can't handle a simple recon job, you might as well throw in the cape and cowl right now."
"I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that dorky cape," Terry had protested. "And anyways, I've got it under control."
"Make sure you do." Wayne's tone had been firm. Then, with equal gravity he had added: "And don't pretend you're too good for the cape."
The next time he needed to sneak in somewhere, Terry caught himself before Wayne could, thinking about the old days, back when he used to hang around with Big Time. Of course, he couldn't really think about that without remembering the time he and Charlie had been arrested, trying to impress a local gang. It didn't take a lot of self-reflection to figure out where his anxiety was coming from.
He hadn't broken into anyone's house in a good long time and he'd only done it a few times during his 'bad boy' phase. Petty theft had always been too small-time for Big Time and too personal, somehow, for Terry to get comfortable with. To this day, he never felt particularly guilty about any of the shoplifting or vandalism he'd let Charlie talk him into. It was different going into someone's home, though, seeing how they lived, seeing all their family photos on the wall.
The sun had only just begun to set when Terry dropped out of the sky and onto the Iceland family's front lawn, crouching down low to conceal himself behind a row of hedges. Terry had learned about the Iceland family the old-fashioned way: by using the internet. Once he'd worked out the basics of navigating the web in its primitive form, he'd decided to try looking up some of Chross's future victims; the wealthy Gothamites who would, in their senior years, sign their fortunes away in her name.
Although most of them were not yet prominent enough to have much presence online, there was one who was already making a name for herself: Tiffany Iceland. A runner up in the Gotham City Miss Galaxy contest, Miss Iceland was already well on her way to her future career in modeling, which she would later use to promote her own successful clothing line. For now, though, she still lived with her parents and she was going to college, studying business management.
Despite her popularity – or, perhaps, because of it – young Tiffany was careful not to share much information about herself online. Fortunately (for Terry, anyway) her younger sister Erica didn't share the same sense of self-preservation. The younger girl's Facebook wall was plastered with messages about her family's summer vacation plans; it seemed that the Iceland family home would be empty for most of the week.
Terry had to wonder if kids in the past knew anything about online privacy. If Big Time were around (and, right on cue, there was the memory of crouching in his old friend's shadow, the other boy leaning low over his shoulder, whispering in his ear) Terry knew what he would say. You see those suckers, Terry? This one is a gimme.
The Icelands lived in a nice neighbourhood, right around the same area as Gotham Academy. It was situated right in the middle of Gotham's "midtown," far enough from the downtown core that the residents weren't bothered by any traffic or noisy nightlife, but close enough that they were never far from all the action. The houses were modest in size, but the location had to cost a fortune.
Tiffany's family obviously wasn't short on cash. They lived in an old-style Victorian home and Terry could see some nice furniture and a flat screen TV through their front window. There were automatic sprinkers embedded in every corner of their front lawn, and they had a silver beamer parked out on their front drive. From the name on the vanity plate, "Lisa," Terry figured it had to be the wife's. Terry couldn't help stopping to admire it. He didn't know much about cars, but he could appreciate a classic in good condition. Of course, they were all classics around here, at least in his eyes.
Terry wasn't sure what kind of alarm systems they had in the past, but he knew for sure a family with a car like that in the driveway would have something rigged up. He wasn't too worried about it, though. Most old residential systems in his time could be disabled with a simple "crash n' smash." It couldn't be more complicated now. All he needed to do was bust in, locate the control panel and destroy it before the alarm kicked in.
Back when he'd been running with Big Time, Terry would have kicked the front door in. Batman, on the other hand, had a little more finesse than that. Instead, he crept up to the front door and picked the lock, swift and silent. Inside the house, he found the control panel on his first try; it was in the hallway closet. He yanked it off the wall and crushed it with ease.
"Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Iceland. But your daughter will thank me for this one day."
With the alarm taken care of, Terry was free to roam the house. It was probably pretty normal for the time period, but to Terry, it almost looked like the set of an old TV sitcom. Dark wood, leather and chrome against a neutral paint job – the signature look of the millennium.
He tried Tiffany's room first. One look would have told him she was a girly girl, if he hadn't assumed it already. Her shelves were weighted down with cheerleading trophies and her makeup collection was so extensive it could've been used to paint a small mural. She had pictures taped up all over her walls, old ones mostly, taken when she was still in high school.
There was one picture that got his attention; a picture of her and her cheerleading friends in their uniforms. It wasn't the short skirts weren't what caught his eye though. Looking closer, he saw that the girls were standing in front of a sparkly pink banner without any words on it, just weird symbols. They looked familiar to him. Kind of bent out of shape but still like something he'd seen somewhere before.
Terry wasn't sure if it was anything, but he plucked the photo off the wall, for safe keeping. He didn't think Tiffany would miss it; she had lots of pictures just like it.
There was also a blinking red light on the girl's bedside table; it was coming from a small black device. He recognized it as an old fashioned cell phone. It struck him as odd... a teenaged girl, separated from her phone? Then again, he knew using cell phones had been pretty expensive before the Freedom of Communications Act had been passed. And there had been a lot of technology limitations back in the day. Maybe her family had gone somewhere they weren't going to get reception, or maybe she was trying to avoid some weird phone tax for taking calls out of the country.
He picked up the phone with his free hand and, with a bit of awkward clicking, found her contact list. Everything on it looked pretty normal, mostly girls' names. Lauren… Lisa… Maggie… Martin… Mom…
Terry paused and scrolled back up the list, double-checking what he'd read. Lisa... and Mom?
It could have been a coincidence, but Terry knew all the victims had one thing in common: death in the family. He still had information on all the victims saved to his suit's memory file; he knew Tiffany was no exception. He pulled her profile up on his visor.
He'd remembered right. Tiffany's biological mother, Rosemary, had died when her daughters were only little girls. Lisa was her father's second wife, and it seemed that he'd only remarried within the last three years.
That left one question: who was 'Mom?'
Terry pushed the call button and pressed the phone to his ear. It rang for what seemed like forever, and then, at last, someone picked up.
"Tiffany, my child," the voice on the other end of the line was young and feminine, "Is everything alright?"
Terry didn't respond, focusing on memorizing the voice. He knew it wasn't Chross, not unless she was disguising her voice somehow. Terry wished he could trace the call, but the phone was way too old – Terry didn't have any technology that was compatible with it.
"Tiffany, are you there? Do you need to speak to your mother? Tiffany? Hello?"
At last, the line went dead. If Wayne had been monitoring Terry's vital signs at that moment, he would have seen Terry's heart rate climbing rapidly. He was angry. Wayne would've been angry too, if he'd been there.
He checked the phone number on the phone and used his visor to take a snapshop, saving a record to his suit's memory. He had a feeling he was going to need that, too.
He figured that was enough evidence to keep him busy for a while. Before he left though, he had one more call to make. He dialed the number.
"Police? I've just witnessed a break-in. 832 St. Joseph Avenue."
He hung up. Dropped the phone on the bed. Rolled up the photo he'd taken off the wall and tucked it into his belt for safe keeping. Crossed the room and hauled the window open.
He wasn't entirely surprised when a masked face dropped down into view, upside down. A dark cape unfurled behind it to form a curtain around its wearer's ears.
"You've got something that doesn't belong to you," Robin challenged him.
Terry put his hands in the air. "Call the police!"
The face disappeared, and an instant later two booted feet swung through the window frame. Terry side stepped out of the way just in time to avoid a kick to the face as the young acrobat tumbled the rest of the way into the room.
Robin righted himself and glared at Terry. "I'm serious. What do you want with Erica?"
Erica. Terry resisted the urge to tell Robin he'd named the wrong sister.
"That's classified, twip. Future stuff."
"Riiiiiight. Because you're a time traveler. That's convenient."
Terry wasn't phased. If anything, he was surprised that the younger crime fighter hadn't decided to look into his nightly outings sooner.
"Believe what you want," he said. "Run on back to the cave and give them a full report."
"What, and leave you to-" Robin stopped abruptly, then jammed a finger against his earpiece. "Kind of busy!"
Whoever had called Robin on his communicator wasn't willing to give up easy. After a moment, the kid seemed to change his mind about hanging up. "…Yeah I'll be there." He listened for a moment. "Yeah, I am." A pause. "What? No... Augh, fine. I'll ask him." Robin looked at Terry. "Aqualad wants to know if you want to come on a mission."
"That was a quick switch," Terry raised an eyebrow.
"Hey, I'm keeping an eye on you," Robin said.
Terry hesitated. He didn't know if he ought to be messing with past events. Then again, he'd already messed things up already. If he hadn't been snooping around in Tiffany Iceland's house, Robin would probably be in Happy Harbour right now. For all he knew, he'd messed the whole mission up already, with that one small detail.
"Depends. What are we up against?" he asked. It had to be big if the team was asking for help.
Robin smirked, "Ohhhh it's just the League of Shadows… if you don't want to get involved, I understand. No big deal."
Terry didn't rise to the bait. Trained assassins didn't frighten him. Still, he was a little worried about Robin facing them on his own. Wayne had made a huge deal out of it the first time he'd sent Terry against the Shadows, and then he'd been seventeen. Robin was barely out of his tweens. Prodigal son or not, he could hardly leave Batman's prodigal son to face them alone.
"Yeah, okay," he said. "Count me in."
The distant wail of a police siren caused both boys to look up and out the window.
"Don't think I'm going to forget about this," Robin told him. "The others might be ready to trust you, but I'm not."
"Whatever. Where are we going?"
"Happy Harbour High School. Think you can keep up?"
Terry raised an eyebrow. The Robin was not what he'd been expecting. He was clever, certainly, but brash and cocky, too. Immature.
"I'll give you a head start," he said. "After you."
Robin dove through the window without hesitation, and Terry followed just in time to see the boy wonder grapple down to the lawn. The kid's bike, the "R-cycle" was parked by the curb.
Pausing with his foot on the window sill, Terry watched him for a moment. It struck him again how small the kid was. Was he really going up against the League of Shadows? He'd joked before that Wayne collected lost children but it hadn't really seemed real… until now.
He was starting to understand why Commissioner Gordon had always looked so grim, seeing Terry in uniform.
Robin was young… but, Terry decided, there was no point worrying about things he couldn't change.
As for the things he should change, well, he'd think on that some more later.