As he hopped the fence to the yard of the orphanage, he prayed they hadn't noticed his absence. He was running at full speed across the muddy patch of land when Miss Evelyn Crane walked out the back door and spotted him.
"Alfred Thaddeus Pennyworth! Where have you been? We were worried sick!"
"I apologize Miss Evelyn, I just went into town for a bit. I had planned on being back in time for supper but I was teased and chased by some larger boys and had to make a daring escape" the 17 year-old lied to his keeper. He had been going through the junk yard again to find parts for his experiments. He knew Miss E did not approve of his tinkering and stealing the pieces.
"You know you're not supposed to be off the grounds without permission, Alfie."
"I know Miss. I am sorry."
"Well you can make it up to me by helping with the dishes." Miss Crane led him into the orphanage. They walked through the large hallway passing other young boys playing. Alfred walked into the large kitchen and gazed at the towering pile of soiled plates and cups on the counter. He put on some dish gloves as Miss Evelyn started the hot water. He knew that being off grounds would usually result in more of a severe punishment than just washing some grimy dishes. Miss Crane had looked out for Alfred since the day he arrived at the Royal Hampton Boys' Home. Although there was nothing royal about this place, Miss Crane always seemed to be the one bright thing in this dark and dirty place he called home. She had been the closest thing to a mother Alfred had ever known.
His father had left him at the boys' home when he was only 3 years old. After all years the memories of his father were beginning to fade. What kind of man was he? Was Alfred becoming anything like him? Did they even look alike?
"Miss E? Do you remember what color eyes my father had?" The question startled Miss Crane.
"Well yes Alfred, his eyes were the same color as yours. What made you ask that?" She stacked up the dry plate and began drying another.
"I feel as though I am starting to forget him. And I wonder if I am becoming a man like he is. Or was." Alfred hung his head as Miss Evelyn put her hand on the back of his neck to comfort him.
"Alfred, you shouldn't worry. If I know anything about Jarvis Pennyworth, it's that he is a very strong and determined man. No matter what reason he has for leaving you here, I'm sure he is alright." Her words didn't comfort the boy as much as she had hoped. "Although, I'm pretty sure you are almost as tall as he is and you'll be just as handsome." That made him smile and they got back to their chore.
After he and Miss Evelyn finished their dishes it was time for lights out. Alfred lay on his cot staring out the window up at the stars. There wasn't much of a view from the minuscule opening, but it gave him a sense of hope that somewhere his father may be looking at those stars as well, dreaming of returning to his son. A strange shadow passed the window. Alfred thought it must have been an owl or some other bird flying by. When a second and third shadow passed, he inched closer to the window to investigate. It was then that he saw several soldiers making their way through the yard. In the darkness he couldn't quite determine what type of soldiers. His mind began to race wondering what they were doing here. Has the war finally come to this region? Is his father one of brave men out there protecting him? One of the soldiers' statuesque frames stopped in a ray of moonlight and Alfred could finally make out the writing on his uniform.
"Germans!" Alfred gasped. Just then there was a loud blast from the back of the orphanage. Alfred grabbed a shield and spear he had made out of spare parts from the junk yard. The other boys had awakened from hearing the blast and started to panic.
"Shhh! Everyone calm down and hide!" Alfred tried to corral the boys into one group and hide them from the enemy soldiers. After they were all tucked away from danger, Alfred went to see what was happening and if he could help out in any way. He sneaked down the hallway with his makeshift weapon toward the noises. When he reached the main room, he peaked through the crack in the door to find Miss Evelyn and the other caretakers held up by German soldiers.
"You will not harm any of those boys, I don't care who you are or what you're looking for!" Miss Evelyn raised her voice at the leader of the German team.
"Who is going to stop us? You?" asked the German leader.
"If I had to." replied Miss Crane. Instead of a reply, the leader shot at Miss Crane. The rest of his team followed and shot down the rest of the caretakers.
"NOOOO!" Alfred cried as he ran into room, straight to Miss Evelyn's limp body. Rage filled Alfred as he turned to the leader and rushed at him.
"Stop boy!" yelled the leader as he shot the ground near Alfred's feet. Alfred stopped and stared at his captor.
"You Germans don't scare me. How do you call yourself a man if you prey on women and orphaned boys?" The German leader is shocked by this young boy's bravery. Instead of firing on him, he has an alternative plan.
"What is your name son?" he asked as Alfred looked down at Miss Crane's lifeless body.
"Thaddeus Crane," he lied.
"Well Thaddeus Crane, you are now my captive. Your bravery impresses me and I believe that in time you would prove to be a worthy adversary. Until then, I will train you and use you to help fight for Germany." Alfred was shocked.
"I will never help Germany!" Alfred screamed. The German leader did not accept that answer.
"You will come with us. Take the boy with us and then burn this place to the ground!" The German leader started walking away as two soldiers grabbed Alfred. He struggled to get away from them as the other soldiers set fire to the orphanage. He could hear the screams of the boys left behind as the German soldiers tied him up and put him in the back of their truck. Driving away from the only home he has ever known, he vowed that he would never help these Germans who took him away and killed the only woman who had loved him like a son. How would his father ever find him now?
Fifteen years had passed and Alfred could still hear the screams from that night. Everything has been such a blur since then. He had fought so hard when the Germans captured him, they became intrigued by his potential. Soon they started training him. With his British background they felt they could use him to infiltrate their enemies. Years of combat training and intelligence training and Alfred was just waiting for his time to turn on them. This was the time.
His mission was to intervene a British MI6 agent from delivering sensitive material about the German government to his superiors. He had been surveying the agent for a couple of days waiting for the right moment to take him down. At least that is what the Germans were to believe. In reality, Alfred was going to negotiate with the agent and try to defect to the British side. He would give the British all the information they needed to take them down.
The MI6 agent, known only to Alfred as "the Sweeper", was on his way to a safe house in a small village outside of London. Walking down the street, Alfred had been following him for a few blocks, waiting for the chance to make his presence known. The Sweeper turned right down an alley way as Alfred followed closely behind. Suddenly the agent was gone and Alfred realized he was the only one in the alley. Or was he?
"Don't move!" a deep voice came from the shadows behind Alfred. As he turned around, he came face to face with the agent who's gun was drawn.
"Why have you been following me?" the Sweeper asked in very stern voice.
"What do mean, sir? I haven't been following you. Please sir, drop the gun." Alfred tried not to blow his cover just yet.
"I've seen you following me. Who are working for? You sound English, but given your methods of tracking me, I would believe you might be working for the Germans." Alfred wasn't very surprised that the Agent had made him. The Sweeper was in fact the best agent the British intelligence had according to the files he had read.
"You caught me sir, but I do not wish to fight you or stop you in your mission." Alfred hoped his honesty would ease the Sweeper's suspicions so that he could get to his real mission. "I do work for the German government, but I'm hoping I can help you in their demise." The Sweeper seemed skeptical.
"Any German agent would say the same thing to get of a situation such as this. Why should I believe you?" the British agent stared at the young man, gun still pointed in Alfred face.
"You must believe me sir. Now please put that gun away so we can talk as men. Trust me." the Sweeper laughed at Alfred's request.
"What's your name boy?"
"Well Agent Crane, I have learned one thing in all my years with this agency and that is to never trust a German." A stray cat ran through the alley and startled the Sweeper causing him to fire his weapon at Alfred. As it hit Alfred in his arm, his years of training kicked in. He immediately grab his pistol and shot the Sweeper.
The agent lay on the ground bleeding profusely from the gunshot wound in his abdomen. Alfred leaned over to assess the dying man's wounds.
"I'm so sorry about that sir, but you left me no choice."
"If you truly want to take down the Germans as you said, take this to the address listed on the envelope." The dying agent fell back trying to take a breath when Alfred noticed his badge that had fallen on the ground. As he picked it up with his trembling hand, Alfred turned white.
"Agent Jarvis Pennyworth?" He turned to look at the face of the man he hadn't seen in almost 20 years.
"Young man, if you have any kind of heart, please tell the agency to keep looking for my son. And if they do find him, tell him I died a hero." It was in this last breath that Alfred's father died in his arms, never knowing they were the arms of his lost son. Alfred wept and then fell faint from the blood loss of the gunshot wound. His last thought being, "What have I done?"
Alfred awoke in a tiny bedroom. From the looks of the decor it must have been a rundown hotel room.
"You're awake!" The voice startled Alfred and he jumped to see who was speaking. He saw a young man, younger than Alfred. He suddenly noticed the pain in his arm and winced.
"Hold on there buddy. You've been shot, you need to relax. Trust me, I'm a doctor." The young man appeared to be American.
"Where am I?" Alfred asked very puzzled as to what happened.
"You're in my hotel room. I found you on the street next to another man who wasn't quite as lucky as you. What happened out there?" Alfred knew better than to tell the truth to a total stranger.
"We had a misunderstanding." He tried sitting up again, so he could better see this young american.
"Seems like it." The young doctor checked Alfred's bandages. "You don't have to tell me. I'm just glad I was there to help."
"Why did you help me?" Alfred asked, curious to hear the answer.
"Well, I just finished medical school, so it's in my Hippocratic oath. Plus when another is hurting and you have the ability to help, then you should. With all the drama and wars that people have been through, sometimes you just need to bring a little help and happiness to your fellow man."
These words struck Alfred deeply.
"Well thank you for your hospitality, Mr..."
"Wayne. Thomas Wayne."
"Alfred Pennyworth, sir. Pleasure to meet you."