Bat Snapshots 9: Mainframe

Clark held an anxious Conner as he tried to break away from his hold. The seven year old didn’t feel up to waiting for his father to pack him into the car for their trip, he knew he could get to Wayne Manor much faster if he was allowed to fly and he didn’t understand why Clark would feel like keeping him away from his best friend. They were kryptonian, there was no reason they shouldn’t use it to their advantage.

Failing to convince him that Bruce had very strict rules about not letting metas use their powers in Gotham, Clark’s pleas fell on deaf ears and Conner flew around the room trying to get as far away from him as fast as he could. The new father knew he could have said something about how Conner didn’t have the stamina to last the entire trip to Gotham, but he knew better than to undermine the boy’s soft pride.

Knowing there was one thing that was sure to work, Clark offered, “Conner, if you listen to me, then I’ll let you stay out for a little longer.”

Conner immediately stopped midair to weigh his options. Driving would mean they’d have to wait longer until they saw Tim, but if he got to see him for even longer it might be worth it. Dropping to the ground, he finally gave in, but not before giving his dad a warning glare and promising, “If you’re lying, I’ll tell Uncle Bruce and he’ll be mad at you.”

With Conner settled into his car, Clark sighed as he began the too long trip to Gotham. Conner was beside himself with excitement and it only grew the closer they got to the Manor. As soon as he caught sight of the sign welcoming them into Gotham he left out an excited gasp and began shifting around in his seat. Since he’d only been a father for a few months, Clark spent most of the time learning how to adjust to the new lifestyle but he knew he enjoying seeing his boy so excited. The thing Clark hated was having to ruin the moment and remind the boy that, “Conner, you have to remember that Tim’s family is human so you have to be gentle with them. You can’t use your super strength because they might get hurt. I know it’s hard, but you have to be careful.”

Conner deflated at the reminder and decided the sight outside was more interesting than their conversation. Knowing his father was waiting for a response, Conner muttered, “It’s okay, Daddy. I just like seeing them. I’ll make sure nothing bad happens.”

Turing the direction of the conversation, Clark decided to distract the seven year old and asked, “Do you know what you want to do today? Anything special?”

The smile returned to Conner’s face as he explained, “Tim promised that we’d play whatever games I wanted and after we’re going to eat some of Alfred’s cooking.”

Hearing the boy’s heart beat rise slightly at the mention of the boy, Clark commented, “You two have gotten along pretty well.” He would need to remember to thank Tim for helping Conner so much. The transition from the Cadmus lab to a Metropolis apartment was rough and Clark knew he wasn’t as welcoming as he could have been in the first few weeks, but he was glad Conner had something to anchor him.

Looking into the rearview mirror, Clark even saw the boy’s smile get just a little brighter as he said, “Yeah…he’s my best friend!”

Conner had to have his hand held as they walked up the steps to the giant house. It was the only thing that kept him from flying up in the air once he heard Tim sitting on the stairs waiting for them. He had to try his hardest to hold in his instinct to run up and envelope his friend in a hug so Clark took the initiative and held onto his hand to keep him grounded.

As soon as the front door open and they saw each other, Tim leaped off of the steps and into Conner’s arms. Forgetting to say hello to his uncle or even acknowledge his presence, Tim took hold of Conner’s sleeve and pulled him to his room so they can get to the fun part of their play date.

Settling into his bedroom, Tim offered Conner his massive selection of toys. It didn’t take long for the toys to be broken and in pieces as Conner failed to control his strength and limit himself to what he thought normal humans could do.

Tim wasn’t too worried about the loss, his dad would buy them all again if he asked for it, but watching the disappointment on his friend’s face Tim knew that he felt bad about it. He threw the broken pieces in the trash before trying to comfort Conner. He put a hand on his shoulder and offered, “Maybe we can do something without any toys, something more fun.”

“Can we play a game?”

“Sure. What do you want to do?”

Thinking deeply about something the both of them would find interesting, Conner said, “You know how you and your brother do a lot of gymnastics? Maybe we can go there and try out different things?”

Jumping off of the bed and dragging Conner in the direction of the workout room and explained, “Good idea, but Dick isn’t home to show us anything so we’ll have to come up with our own routine.”

Sitting in the middle of the room with a lot of complicated equipment around them, the two boys planned out a routine they felt they could do. Tim decided he could show show Conner some of the things he had learned through his family. His favorite move was to jump in the air and show how high he could go in a flip. Landing on his feet to excited clapping, Tim turned back to look at Conner and said, “Try to do that, but don’t use your powers. That’s cheating.”

Taking in a deep sigh to prepare himself, Conner tried to repeat the display but as soon as his feet were in the air he lost his faith and balance and used his powers to break the fall. He steadied himself in the air and was prepared to see Tim look disappointed, but he was pleasantly surprised.

Unable to control his excitement, Tim squeal and praised, “Wow, that’s so cool!”

Conner rocked on his feet as if he was on the floor and blushed under Tim’s praise. He mumbled, “I’ve been practicing for a while,” while he tried to avoid looking Tim in the eye.

“Do you wanna play hide and seek? I play it with Dick all the time, but with this it will be even better.”

Thinking about it for a moment, Conner covered his eyes with his hands and began counting. As soon as he heard the numbers Tim ran out of the room and thought of the best place to hide. He absentmindedly made his way down to the kitchen and tried to find refuge there.

He noticed that Alfred was there making snacks for the both of them and Tim realized he had the perfect opportunity. Sneaking up behind him, Tim said, “Alfred, I need you to step to the right real quick,” knowing he was too busy to question it.

Just as he expected, Alfred took a step to the side without question and Tim crawled into the cabinet the butler had been blocking. Making sure he was comfortable, Tim found the best position and began to wait while he silently praised Alfred for even cleaning down here.

Soon he heard Conner sweep into the room, he could feel a slight gust even from where he was sitting, but he hoped Alfred wouldn’t give him away.

Conner quickly glanced around the room before he asked, “Alfred, have you seen Tim? We’re playing hide and seek.”

Deciding to use the opportunity to reach a compromise, Alfred handed the boy a slice of the sandwich he was making to sweeten the boy op before he offered, “I can make a deal with you, Master Conner. If you stop using your powers, I will tell you where Master Tim is hiding.”

Tim immediately heard Conner’s feet touch the ground and he knew he had been betrayed. He accepted his fate and quietly waited for the door to open and Alfred to carry him out to the waiting kryptonian.

Helping Tim to his feet, Alfred remarked, “I am glad you two are enjoying yourselves, but it would be best if you could refrain from flying around indoors. It can be quite dangerous and I would hate for either of you to get hurt.”

Conner nodded along, but he quickley grabbed Tim’s hand and lead him back to his room before either of them could give Alfred an answer. As soon as the door closed behind them, he turned to face the surprised boy and said, “I think Alfred might be a robot.”

Tim couldn’t do anything other than slant his head and squint his eyes. Looking at his confusion, Conner explained, “I don’t know why, but he just seems…different from most people. Dad explained to me that I’m stronger than humans and I need to be careful and that I can do anything, but I don’t know…I just do what Alfred wants me to.”

Still confused, Tim asked for clarification. “Why would that make him a robot?”

Thinking about the little he knew about robots, Conner asked, “How do you know if someone is a robot? Can you check?”

“Well…they don’t know their emotions a lot.” The only experience Tim had with robots came from the movies that Dick made him watch. Soon he came to the realization, “Alfred does hide how he’s feeling a lot. I just thought that he was silent like Bruce. Wait…He always says that he loves us so how could he be a robot?”

Already having thought of that, Conner argued, “Well…Ace loves you too and he’s not human. Me and Dad love you and we’re not human. We’re going to need something more to rule out him being a robot.”

Tim knew Conner had a point and he said, “You’re right. So what do we do now?”

Rubbing his chin, Conner thought about if there was anything else that could help them. He asked, “Does he get sick a lot? Robots can’t get sick because they aren’t people.”

Tim leaped off the bed and recalled, “I have never even seen Alfred cough or sneeze. He’s always the one that takes care of us when we get sick and he says to make sure me and Dick take vitamins so we can be healthy. Do you think that means he can’t get sick?”

“Do you think we should go talk to your dad?” Conner knew they had hit a dead end with everything they wanted to do and they would need help.

Knowing Bruce had some previous experience with robots, Tim realized, “He might know something. He could give us some advice.”

Taking his hand, Tim lead Conner to the office where he knew Bruce was working.

The two didn’t bother knocking on the door and he walked up before Bruce’s desk and waited until he looked up at them. Bruce hadn’t been expecting the interruption, but he knew the best option always was to ask, “Is there anything I could help you with?”

Tim got right to the point and asked, “Do you know if Alfred is a robot?”

Mirroring the reaction Tim had to the question a few minutes ago, Bruce dropped the papers he had been working on and blurted out, “What?”

Stepping in because he had been the one to come up with the idea, Conner explained, “Uncle Bruce, we think Alfred might be a robot. He doesn’t ever get sick and he never shows any emotions.”

After spending a few years raising the boys, Bruce knew it was best to let them work out all the reasons they were wrong themselves. This wasn’t even the weirdest thing he’d heard one of his sons ask so Bruce knew to play along. He offered, “I…I think if you want to be sure whether or not Alfred is a robot you will have to do a test. Do you know how to tell the difference between a robot and a person?”

“Hmm. Can robot’s laugh?”

With Red Tornado coming to mind, Bruce answered, “No, I don’t think robots can laugh.”

Finally feeling like they were getting somewhere, Conner flew up a few inches with excitement and said, “That can be our test.”

Surprising not bothered by the show of the boy’s powers, Bruce motioned for the boys to come to his side and explained, “We are going to have to find some jokes to see if anything will make Alfred laugh.”

Tim and Conner took their seats at the table as Alfred seat out their meals. They had planned out their attack with Bruce and felt that they were ready to make sure if the butler was a robot or not. It had only taken half an hour of looking up jokes on the internet and letting Bruce filter out everything he felt they were too young for and now they knew it was time.

Using his fork to move around some of the corn on his plate, Tim began with, “Do you want to hear a joke, Alfred?”

Not expecting the question, but knowing better than to be surprised by anything the young boy said, Alfred answered, “Do you have something prepared, Master Tim?”

“Yeah. It’s a knock knock joke. Conner?”

Conner clear his throat and started just as they had prepared. “Knock knock.”

Continuing to work on the rest of the meal, Alfred distractedly asked, “Who’s there?”


“Owl who?”

Tim couldn’t hide his chuckle no matter how much he tried and finished, “That’s right. Owl’s hoot.”

Alfred gave them a small smile before turning back to his work and left the boys to judge the meaning of his reaction.

They whispered among themselves, “Does a smile mean he’s not a robot?”

“It’s not a laugh though,” Conner said dismissively. If they were going to do this, then they had to make sure it went down perfectly.

Tim thought for a moment before he asked, “Can we just ask him? Robots can’t lie, can they?”

Deciding that it was the best option they had left, Conner asked, “Alfred, are you a robot?”

Turning around to look at the boys with crossed eyebrows, the old man asked, “Why do you ask, Master Conner?”

Conner explained, “It’s just…sometimes you act like a robot.” Brevity was the best way to make an argument.

Going into more detail, Tim said, “Sometimes you don’t show a lot of emotion and you don’t laugh and you can make Conner do anything and you don’t get sick.”

Alfred thought about that for a moment before he explained, “I’m not a robot, Master Tim, I’m just from England.”


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