Robin, the Boy Wonder: Like a Moth to a Flame, Chapter 1: Guardian of the Underworld

by Libbylawrence

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Alfred Pennyworth smiled as he gently placed a silver tray down on a table in stately Wayne Manor. He glanced over at the boy sitting near the head of the long table. He was red-haired and had a healthy, agile form and quick, darting eyes that took in small details with ease. Jason Todd was as keen to learn as he appeared as he thumbed through a heavy chemistry tome.

“Perhaps you would like to take a break and have a snack, Master Jason?” asked the butler.

Jason looked up and nodded eagerly. “Thank you, Alfred. You are the best! This text is dry enough as it is. I could use a glass of milk.”

Alfred nodded. “That is for the best. I have heard of learning via osmosis, but never actually consuming the book!”

Jason laughed, then hesitated for a moment. “That was a joke, right?”

Alfred smiled and said, “Indeed, sir, or a reasonable facsimile of one.”

Jason reached for the snacks as Alfred clicked on a small television set.

“RTV?” asked Alfred.

Jason nodded. “Right. I didn’t know you were familiar with that channel!”

Alfred shrugged and said, “My niece Daphne performed in a video for a young Canadian singer. Family loyalty dictated that I watched her work.”

Jason was about to question him more when a light beyond the kitchen window caught his eye.

“Uh-oh! The Bat-signal means I can just go right on wanting my RTV!” he said as he rushed away from the table.

“Be careful, sir. With Master Bruce and Master Dick both away, you will be left to your own resources. I cannot say with any certainty that the Outsiders or any former members of the Secret Six are in the area, either,” warned the butler.

Jason smiled. “Thanks for the concern, but I’ll be fine. I’ll check in with Commissioner Gordon and get the details. It’s probably just the Bouncer or the Cluemaster.”

Alfred rolled his eyes. “We should be so fortunate.” He glanced toward the flickering TV screen. “Culture Club? My word! I see nothing cultural in that person and his odd attire.”

Jason hurried down the steps after gently pushing aside a grandfather clock that concealed the swinging doorway to the Batcave. He slipped off his sweater and jeans, revealing the colorful costume of Robin, the Boy Wonder. This was a modification of the original costume with a new cowl that enabled Jason to stop from having to use hair dye to darken his red hair whenever he was Robin. The costume was also now long-sleeved, and the bare legs was replaced by long pants, all improvements as far as Jason was concerned. Of course, Gordon already knew that he wasn’t the original Robin.

The Boy Wonder made his way to a waiting limousine with tinted windows. Alfred already sat at the wheel.

***

Sometime later, Robin was arcing gracefully through the night sky as he swung expertly on a thin but strong line. Alfred dropped me off at the city limits, and it’s easy enough to swing across the city to Police Headquarters once we reached the beginning of a few tall buildings, he mused.

He landed on the roof of Gotham City Police Headquarters, where Commissioner James W. Gordon waited patiently.

“What can we do for you?” asked Robin.

The older man nodded grimly. “Robin, we’ve had a rather dramatic event tonight. Some of my men were bringing in three thugs for a robbery charge when their squad car was forced off the road, and they were assaulted by a costumed figure with remarkable weaponry and skill. He freed the three thugs from the car and left my men stunned.”

“I don’t recognize the M.O. He sounds like a guardian of the underworld,” said Robin.

Gordon nodded in approval. “A criminal version of Batman was what he always aspired to be. The description of his costume confirms that ambition. It was the Killer Moth.”

Robin frowned as he pondered the news, recalling an earlier adventure that had occurred in Bludhaven several weeks before. He had visited the neighboring community with a school tour group on a history field trip.

***

A pretty teenager turned to Jason Todd as they strolled through the Bludhaven Historical Society and Museum.

“Jason, I thought I’d be bored to tears, but that display on the immigrants that settled Bludhaven really was cool,” said his girlfriend, Rena. “It made me think of wanting to trace my own family tree.”

Jason nodded. “It is cool. I loved Roots. My folks were circus people, and they really knew the meaning of the word migration. They crossed the nation, and their parents came from parts of Europe. Our whole family has an exotic past.”

Rena smiled. “I’ve heard the Wayne family dates back to the Colonial era, too. I think a war hero or two came from Mr. Wayne’s line.”

Jason grinned. “Yes, Bruce knows a lot about heroes.”

As police sirens broke the chatter of the group of kids and the drone of their teacher, Jason slipped away. Rena’s so into the displays that I may be able to help out without being noticed, he thought as he changed unseen into his new Robin costume.

He swung effortlessly out of a skylight and crossed the roof to peer down at a scene happening behind the museum.

Police were surrounding a van. The red vehicle was no different from any typical battered van, but its occupants were decidedly unique. They wore colorful masks that depicted various animal forms.

“Pig! The cops got us cornered! I thought ya could drive!” shouted a man in an Ox mask.

Pig snorted in disgust. “Me? Why’s it always me? You got to do more than just throw your weight around, Ox. You could have been acting as lookout.”

The final man wore a dog mask and said, “It’s too late to place a blame. The cops have us surrounded. I’d say if we want to continue on as members of the False Face Society, then we better blow them away!”

He pulled up a machine gun and said, “Open the doors!” His buddies followed orders, and Dog began to fire out of the back of the van.

As police huddled behind their cars and radioed for back up, Robin prepared to swing down into action.

He hurled a batarang with precise skill. The projectile knocked the gun aside as Robin dropped down to kick it out of his surprised foe’s hands. “This is a no parking zone. You guys are going to do some hard time!” he joked. He twisted the dog mask to the left and belted the blinded thug with a swift punch.

Ox lunged for the agile youth as he nimbly jumped over the hulking man’s body and delivered powerful kick with both extended legs.

“Let me guess, you’ve got a beef with the boy!” said a strong voice from the door.

The thugs groaned in unison as a black-and-gold-costumed figure stood defiantly before them. As Ox connected with a harsh blow to Robin’s back, the Golden Wasp spun around to deliver a spinning kick that sent the brute crashing down again.

Pig cursed and started to leap for the fallen machine gun when the Wasp swooped down and blocked his path. He fired a small pellet from one gauntlet and watched as gas caused the Pig to stagger wildly. One clean left hook from the hero dropped him to the pavement.

“Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!” he said as a roguish grin spread across his features behind the golden helmet.

Robin elbowed the Ox again and said, “Thanks! You’re the Golden Wasp, aren’t you?”

The Golden Wasp bowed at the waist as the cops rushed up to collar the fallen thugs. “At your service, Boy Wonder!” he said.

“Great work, Wasp! You’re the best!” said one policeman.

The Golden Wasp raised one hand in protest. “No. You, my good man, are the best. You and your brothers in blue make my young friend and I seem all too superfluous!”

Robin said, “You really handle yourself well. I’m impressed.”

The Wasp said, “Thank you. Let’s go upstairs and talk.”

He gripped Robin’s arm and flew them to the top of the museum. “You are here with your class. I assume that is what brings Batman’s good right arm to Bludhaven!” he said as he sat down and propped one leg against a chimney.

Robin said, “Well, actually…”

The Wasp laughed and said, “No need to worry. It was obvious that if a Gotham youth group and Gotham’s major young hero are both present at once, then said hero must belong with said group!”

“I guess I can trust you,” said Robin. “Batman says you’ve been pardoned for your past life as Killer Moth.”

“Hmmm,” said the Wasp. “Now it’s my turn to be surprised. I did not realize Batman had become privy to my little secret. I suppose Captain Comet or one of the Feds notified him that his former foe was not dead but merely living under a new and heroic costumed identity?”

Robin said, “Captain Comet felt telling Batman about your new life would simplify matters should your paths ever cross again.”

The Golden Wasp lifted his helmet to reveal handsome features and a sly grin. “Done and done. Captain Comet knows best. He was the one who got me my pardon,” explained the Wasp. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Forgotten Heroes: No Place Like Home.]

He extended one hand and said, “Cameron Van Cleef at your service. Pleased to meet you in circumstances not requiring your fist to crease my battered old skull!”

Robin grinned and shook his hand. “Batman’s happy that one of his old foes has turned his life around. He’d always rather see a happy ending than just another ex-con become a repeat offender.”

The Wasp tilted his head and said, “I’m happy myself. It feels good to be receiving the cheers for a change. Funny, I always assumed that fighting the good fight was for Boy Scouts and pious types. Yet I truly get a kick out of my new role.”

Robin said, “Oops! I have a bus to catch! Thanks for the helping foot! That was a cool move.”

The Golden Wasp said, “My pleasure. Maybe your mentor can teach you that little trick. If not, I’ll be happy to do so.”

***

In the present, Robin shook his head with concern.

“Commissioner Gordon, I don’t think it could have been Killer Moth. A lot of guys could copy a costume and an M.O.,” he said.

“Perhaps,” said Gordon. “Still, whoever is wearing that green helmet needs to be locked up. Will you look into it?”

Robin said, “I sure will!”

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