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A New Age

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Wayne Manor was quiet at night, the only light coming from the study of the mansion's owner. Helena Wayne, daughter of Batman and Catwoman, one of the first seven wonders, formerly known as Robin and Huntress. She didn't use those names anymore, though. No, she had recently begun calling herself The Batman. And on this particular night, she and John Grayson, the son of a close friend, were in her study, watching the grandfather clock tick slowly. Helena held a book in her hands as she sat at her desk, a brand new copy of The Big Sleep, to be exact. She saw every twist and betrayal coming a mile away, and even had a theory of her own as to who killed the chauffeur, but that was as natural as breathing for the world's greatest detective. John, meanwhile, was sitting in a leather chair far larger than himself, anxiously eyeing the clock and waiting until Helena decided it was time.

"11 O'clock, John. You know the drill," she reminded him without looking up from her book.

"Yeah, I know, aunt Helena. I just really wanna get started," he explained, punching his open hand and grinding it in for emphasis. Nevertheless, they waited until the clock struck 11.

At that precise moment, Helena bookmarked her book and placed it in a drawer of her desk, stood up, and lifted the head of the Shakespeare bust that sat on the corner of the desk. Hidden beneath the head was a red button, which she pressed, revealing a pair of poles behind the grandfather clock. With a silent nod shared between them, the dynamic duo slid down the poles and entered the cave that lay deep beneath Wayne Manor. It was a large cavern, filled with blinking computer terminals, and a small nuclear reactor was nestled into the far wall, which was used to power their technology. A large computer and a custom black and red bat themed car also sat within the cave, which Helena had dubbed "The Batcave" early in her childhood. Every time she came down here with John, it brought back fond memories of going out on patrol with her parents. Batman, Catwoman and Robin, the terrific trio.

"Suit up, boy wonder," Helena teased, using her sidekick's least favorite nickname and smirking at the groan it elicited. "Let's get to work."

John's Robin suit, red and green with a yellow cape, attached just below his collar by a circular R emblem, was quickly pulled from it's case, as was Helena's red and black batsuit and leather trench coat. The vigilantes dressed themselves quickly, clipped on their utility belts, put on their masks, and jogged over to the batmobile. John hopped into the passenger seat, slipping through the rolled down window. Helena shook her head in mock exasperation and entered the driver's seat normally. When she saw John like this, it was like looking back in time at her younger self, always eager to get out there and work a case. Loving the thrill of being Robin, the rush you got just from putting on the costume. It was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

"Ready, Robin?" Batman asked, putting the car in drive.

"Ready, Batman!" He cheered.

And like a rocket, they were off, speeding through the tunnels that connected the cave to Gotham City's streets. As always, the topic of discussion was their current case, this one rather close to completion.

"Who are the Scarecrow Gang?" Batman asked, testing her sidekick.

"A group of criminals that create and sell fear powder. They always wear burlap sacks over their heads, and some of them even fight with sickles or pitchforks," Robin recalled. "They're hard to miss. They look like they just walked off a farm."

"Good. And what is fear powder?" She questioned while they exited the cave's tunnels and came out of a false set of bushes near a hill. Gotham City stood before them, just minutes away.

"A powerful hallucinogen that makes you see your worst fears come to life. Oh, did you figure out that antidote you were working on?"

"Not yet. It's been tricky, and I haven't had much time to work on it," Batman grumbled, frustrated more at herself than anyone else. "Once we figure out who's behind all this, It'll be much easier. Now, who is The Scarecrow?"

"The leader of the Scarecrow Gang. He created the fear powder and taught his men how to use it. We've only seen him once before, and our only real lead is that he's connected to Gotham University in some way."

"And how do we know that?" She prodded.

"The earliest batches of fear powder were created with supplies from Gotham U's chemistry labs," he explained. "And that's where we're headed?"

"Not yet. There's another lab we need to break up," Batman revealed. The batmobile raced down Gotham's streets and made a sharp turn into an alley, nearly hitting a man wearing a burlap mask. Robin threw himself out of the car window, just as the gang member shrieked and jumped on the batmobile's hood, then ran across the roof of the car and leapt off the trunk, into the mouth of the alleyway. Robin took off after him, with Batman not far behind.

"Did he seriously just screech at us?!" Robin asked, bewildered and pulling a birdarang from his belt. He threw it at the scarecrow, only to miss and ding a parked car's mirror instead.

"He also stepped on my windshield!" Batman shouted, taking it as a personal affront. She passed Robin and gained on the criminal, tackling him and knocking him to the ground. She pulled him up and pinned him to the nearest building's wall, where she began an impromptu interrogation.

"Your friends, are they still in the lab?" Batman growled, sneering at him, her face inches from his own.

"Yes! I went out for a smoke when you nearly ran me over!" He was panicking badly, and she was fairly certain he was close to wetting himself. She relented, not wanting to deal with that tonight, and instead handcuffed him and left him there. She tapped a button on her cowl and spoke, seemingly to nobody.

"Oracle, call the police. Let them know there's a scarecrow outside of..." she checked the sign of the building they were in front of, "Sunshine Daycare. Geez, good thing we don't do this stuff during the day. It'd be embarrassing if a five year old saw this," she snarked at the criminal, who was curled up in a fetal position and whimpering.

"Will do, Bats," Dick Grayson, The Oracle, replied. "You hit the lab yet?"

"Just about to. Come on, Robin. Let's go." With that, Batman spun on her heel and marched back to the alleyway, Robin in tow. When they came up to the doorway to the lab, each took a side and stood in silence.

With a kick from Batman, the door flew off it's hinges and knocked a scarecrow to the ground. She scanned the room in an instant, spotting four more scarecrows, all unarmed. A pistol was on the floor, a foot away from the fallen criminal. Their gunman was already down, just from sheer luck. She kicked the gun towards the corner of the room, away from the scarecrows, then dashed at the nearest one and tackled him with her shoulder. He staggered, but remained standing, and shoved her away. He didn't notice Robin closing the distance until the boy wonder's fist connected with his solar plexus, causing him to crumple, gasping for air.

With two down and three left to go, Batman pulled a bolo from her belt and threw it at the largest of the remaining scarecrows. He dodged it, then rushed at Batman while his two friends went after Robin. Batman somersaulted over her attacker, letting him run into a table. He toppled over it, but stood up quickly, with only a small scratch to show for it. A batarang to the forehead added a gash, and the blood that fell into his eyes obscured his vision enough for Batman to take him out without much resistance. A few more strikes to the head were all it took to put him down for the count.

Meanwhile, Robin faced his attackers head on. He ignited his fists with flaming energy, a leftover gift from his time as one of Ultra Humanites soldiers, and lurched forward, slamming his fists into the scarecrows' chests, sending them flying. He looked to Batman with a wide grin and gestured at the fallen scarecrows.

"Eh? Eh? How was that?"

"Good work, Robin. You can celebrate by cuffing them and searching their pockets."

"Aw. Fine," he groaned, stooping down to do as ordered. While he did so, Batman examined the lab, looking for any evidence of the man behind the men. Both wonder and sidekick came up short, and left the building to be greeted by the Gotham City police.

"They're inside. One gun, several envelopes of fear powder, all the supplies needed to manufacture more, and a bunch of handcuffed scarecrows," the dark knight growled at detective Renee Montoya while walking back to the batmobile. "You're welcome," she added with a smirk.

"Hey detective Montoya!" Robin greeted cheerfully. "Sorry, can't stay and chat. We gotta go!" He waved at the detective while jogging towards the car. Montoya just sighed and entered the lab, shaking her head and wondering why she was always the one who picked up the mess that wonders left behind.

Robin slid across the hood of the batmobile, over to the passenger side, and climbed in. Batman sat in the driver's seat again and drove off, setting the GPS for Gotham University.

"Who are we meeting with?" Robin asked, pressing a button on the dashboard, which causes the glove compartment to rotate, revealing a small hidden computer. "Might as well look'em up on the way. Dig up some dirt."

"Dr. Victor Absonus. He's a teacher at the college who agreed to meet with me. He thinks one of his colleagues may be supplying the scarecrows, might even be The Scarecrow," Batman explained. "And good thinking, by the way. Mom and Dad always told me to vet ally and enemy alike."

Robin nodded, distracted and not really paying attention to his mentor. He was busy pulling up information on Absonus, anything he could find, and all of it pointed towards him being a rather boring man with a passion for teaching psychology. As the batmobile pulled to a stop just outside Gotham University's main hall, Robin looked out the windshield and saw a man matching Absonus' teaching ID. A portly, balding white man with thick glasses and a rather unflattering goatee, which failed to cover the large wart on his cheek.

"Ah! Batman! Robin as well, I assume?" The man called out, fiddling with his suit and adjusting his glasses. The caped crusader and her boy wonder exited the car and approached their informant calmly, both keeping an eye out for a potential ambush. "I must say, I like the car. The giant bat emblem on the front makes quite a statement."

"Absonus," Batman greeted flatly. "You said you had information on The Scarecrow Gang. What is it?"

"Ah, yes, yes. Of course," he mumbled, adjusting his glasses again. "My colleague, Dr. Jonathan Crane, has been researching the way fear affects the average man for quite some time. A few years now, to be exact. But recently I've noticed him withdrawing, spending more time in the chemistry labs, which is odd, since he doesn't teach chemistry. He teaches psychology, like I do, you see."

"You think Crane could be The Scarecrow?" Batman asked, intrigued. Her father had mentioned knowing a Dr. Crane when she was a child, on the old world, before Fury used the Pandora Vessel to recreate the universe. The possibility of him being a terror on this world was certainly interesting.

"I do. A few of his students have begun avoiding him, skipping classes, that sort of thing. I think he may have been testing his experiments on them. One girl in particular, her name was Abigail O'Shay I believe, ended up dropping out of school. She was one of his grad students. He's a very disturbed man, the exact sort who would dress up like a straw man and peddle dangerous drugs."

"Hh. Thank you, Doctor." Batman turned on her heel and opened the door of the batmobile, then turned back to Absonus. "If you think of anything else, let us know."

"Of course. Have a wonderful night, Batman. I wish you luck," Absonus offered with a nod.

Batman and Robin climbed into the batmobile once more, and pulled off into the night, leaving the serenely smiling professor behind. The night was still young, at least for the vigilantes, and their next stop was the apartment of Dr Jonathan Crane.