Teen Titans Fan Fiction ❯ The Real World: Titans Tower ❯ Undercover Brother ( Chapter 15 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
DISCLAIMER: The New Teen Titans were created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. My work borrows elements from their stories as well as those from the numerous other talented Titans writers over the years. I thank all of you for your amazing stories.
“All Star Teen Titans”
“The Real World: Titans Tower”
Chapter 15: Undercover Brother
Robin—Dick Grayson: Arrogant former circus star, acrobat extraordinaire and hopeful ladies man.
Wonder Girl—Donna Troy: Adopted sister of Wonder Woman, bestowed with the powers of the Amazons.
Speed—Wally West: A bitter, living embodiment of the mythical Speed Force.
Cyborg—Victor Stone: Half flesh, half machine—all human.
Beast Boy—Garfield Logan: Goofy, insecure animal shapeshifter and former member of the Doom Patrol.
Raven: Cynical empath shrouded in mystery.
Starfire—Princess Koriand'r: Honest, caring newcomer to Earth capable of flight and generating energy blasts.
This is the true story of seven teenaged superheroes, picked to live in a house, fight crime together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when heroes stop being polite, and start being real. The Real World: Titans Tower.
***ON THE AIR—TITANS TOWER, MEETING ROOM***
The Teen Titans were the young, superpowered stars of the reality TV show “The Real World: Titans Tower.” They were a smash hit, and quickly became MTV's most popular program. Still, despite that fact, when the individual Titans found themselves under attack by mobs of crazed fans—crowds so frenzied that not even Raven's abilities could calm them, yet they scattered as soon as their target Titans escaped—they knew it wasn't just their rampant popularity that was to blame. Indeed, they were correct, for Raven had discovered the true cause of their woes: Brother Blood!
“Wait a sec,” said Beast Boy, “Did I miss something? Who the heck's Brother Blood?!”
Beast Boy: “And why am I always the last to find stuff out?!”
“I think we'd all like to know that, Garfield,” commented the Titans' owner, financer, director and personal fashion disaster, Mr. Loren Jupiter. “And since Raven here seems to have the information at hand, why don't you share it with us?”
“Certainly,” replied the empath. “Brother Blood is not any one person: The title is a mantle, passed on from generation to generation to anyone possessing the cowl of Blood.” Despite having a large book containing all this information opened before her, Raven never once looked down. It was as if she had all this memorized.
“That cowl is the source of Brother Blood's significant power. It was created by a band of interdimensional travelers who nursed a grudge against the Monks of Azarath, the interdimensional haven where I was born and raised. At its most basic level, the cowl is capable of influencing emotion, which was a formidable offense against the Monks' empathic abilities. Though the Monks eventually overcame the travelers by sheer numbers alone, they were unable to manipulate the emotions of anyone under Brother Blood's influence. I was similarly unable to calm the mob that confronted me, which is what lead me to believe that somebody using the Blood Cowl is behind this.”
Starfire: “Odd, Raven did not mention that everyone in Azarath was an empath when we talked—in fact, she sort of implied her powers were unique to her! Oh well, it is no doubt simply an oversight—I still believe her hunch!”
“That is enough for me!” exclaimed the alien as she leapt to her feet. “Where do we find this Blood?! He must be taken care of!”
“Nobody knows, Koriand'r,” said her friend somberly. “The cowl fell to Earth after the battle between the travelers and the Monks of Azarath. Though we kept track of the atrocities each Brother Blood committed, the last one died heirless over a thousand years ago. Not even the oldest living inhabitant of Azarath knows where it is now.”
Speed: “So wait a minute, those monks watched these guys to do terrible things for a thousand years and did nothing to stop it?! Okay, maybe it's not Raven's fault she's such a b---- if she was raised by guys like that!”
Raven: “The monks' inaction in matters like this and many more was one of the largest reasons I eventually left Azarath…”
“But there must be some way to find him!” entreated Kory.
“Would it matter?” asked Donna Troy. “Wherever this Blood is, we have nothing concrete to tie him to the riots. Even if we did, we couldn't charge him for anything more than inciting a mob! Are you sure this guy's even a threat, Raven?”
Wonder Girl: “It's not that I don't trust Raven, but…Hera, yes, I just don't really trust her. She never really ever speaks to us, now all of a sudden she spills her guts? I can't quite put my finger on it, but something's fishy here…”
“I am certain, Wonder Girl,” answered Raven, casting a piercing glare towards the Amazon. “You see, Blood's abilities extend far beyond simple mental influence. The cowl absorbs will and power from those it influences, increasing Blood's power. The more people he manipulates, the more powerful he becomes, and the more abilities he acquires. The Brother Blood cowl has the potential to grant unlimited power, and has never failed to entice the selfish greed of its wearer. That is why it is so dangerous!”
Raven: “Indeed, I can think of no greater threat than mankind's greed in weapon form!”
“Okay, so this is definitely one bad dude,” mused Gar. “So why is he using this ultimate power to bug a buncha teen superheroes?”
Dick Grayson smirked. “If he wanted to meet us that badly he shoulda just manipulated us. He may got ultimate power, but I don't think the guy's the swiftest, if you know what I mean.”
If Wally West had eyes to roll, they'd certainly have been rolling then. “Why nooo, I never would've known what you meant if you hadn't tacked that on the end there! I wish I was as clever as you, Dick!”
“Thanks druggie,” replied Robin nonchalantly, “But not everyone can be as talented as me!”
Speed: “Good God he's a moron!”
Robin: “Alright, now I got another thing to add to my list of stuff that pisses off Wally!”
Cyborg: “Okay, can't let that bickering go on!”
“It's a trap,” interjected the metal man, looking as serious as he could with his girlfriend Sarah Simms perched on his lap. “Yer right Dick, he wouldn't waste his time bein' so round about with his attack if it wasn't some kinda trick!”
The acrobat looked confused. “I said that?”
“More or less,” chuckled Vic. “Anyway, I think the mobs were some kinda lure—I think he wants us to find him.”
“So, that still doesn't answer my question,” sighed Beast Boy. “Why's he after us?!”
“Even I am not sure of that,” Raven sadly explained. “The only link connecting Blood and the Titans is my tie to Azarath, but there should be no way anyone on Earth could know of that.”
Starfire was frustrated at the lack of action. “It does not matter why!” she exclaimed. “We must stop him!”
“And walk right into a trap?!” Donna interjected indignantly. “We're not that stupid!”
Wonder Girl: “Well, most of us aren't, anyway.”
“Trap or not, Blood cannot be allowed to continue,” insisted Raven. “If his power is allowed to continue to grow, then we might not be able to stop him! We would be helpless against his immense strength!”
“Besides,” explained Vic, “I doubt Blood's gonna give up after just one try! The mobs're gonna get worse `til we do somethin' about him!”
Flustered, Donna didn't want to admit she hadn't thought of that. “Good point. Fine, so how are we going to track him down?”
Wonder Girl: “See, part of being a good leader is knowing when you're wrong and being able to take the advice of your teammates!”
“Finding Blood? That's where I come in.” Stepping forward from the shadows in the back of the room was the younger Robin, the mysterious partner to the Batman and the namesake, teacher and student of Dick Grayson, the Titans' resident Robin. “If Blood is trying to lure you guys, then he had to leave you a trail to follow. The question is, are we smart enough to find it?”
Gar Logan looked back and forth for a few seconds, then shrugged and asked, “So, are we?”
Chuckling, the young detective replied, “Of course! Dick, what's the most important rule of detective work?”
The acrobat's trademark grin filled his face—he actually knew the answer! “The number one rule? Easy: nothing's ever random!”
“Exactly! So, what about this case seems random?”
To their credit, several of the Titans figured it out, but Dick was the fastest. “The mobs themselves!”
“Ya got it,” commended the Batman's protégé. “Titans, do you have any way to get info on the guys that attacked you all?”
“Already on it!” exclaimed Cyborg enthusiastically as his mechanical eye lit up neon blue. “I took pictures of the mob that went after Sarah, Gar `n I that I'll upload to our holo screen, and I should be able to tap into the security cameras of the store Starry and Rae got attacked at.”
“I was on TV when I was mobbed: the Channel 4 news,” interjected Wally.
Vic instantly grasped the speedster's point. “Got it. I'll hook into our TIVO and upload their pictures too. Dick, Donna, any way I can find your mobs?”
“Nah,” laughed the older Robin, “I can't remember where we were anyway, y'know? `Sides, don't you have enough info as it is?”
“Guess ya got a point,” replied Cyborg with a shrug. “Alright, just give me a sec to pull up the vids.” As the half machine worked his magic, Dick winked at his Amazonian pal.
Robin: “If that didn't impress her, then nothin' will!”
Wonder Girl: “Well. Perhaps I underestimated Dick. He's still childish and reckless, but I'm impressed at how smart he's been deciphering the Blood case so far, and he was able to help hide that I was with Terry when the mobs attacked!
“As for Terry though, this is getting complicated. I've got to figure out what to do about him before the show catches up and puts us together on-air!”
A thin sliver of bright blue light leapt from the center of the table, projecting holographic images of the mobs. “How many girls can say their boyfriend's a living Swiss Army Knife?” asked Sarah Simms as she looked towards Vic lovingly. “I am so lucky!”
Cyborg: “See, from anybody else that could be an insult, but not Sarah!”
Speed: “Okay, so Vic and I both lost our bodies, in a way our humanity, but he's got that girl all over him while they treat me like a leper! What's the difference?!”
“Alright,” continued the smaller Robin as he leaned over the table to get a better look, “Now that we've got info on these guys, how do you think we track them down?”
“Holy s---!” exclaimed Sarah, interrupting the proceedings as she took a closer look at the mug shots. “Don't worry about it, kid! I know all these guys!”
Victor Stone raised an eyebrow. “All of them?”
“Well, I'm not friends with most of them or anything, hell, I don't even know a lot of their names! But I know the faces! Everybody in those mobs goes to my college!”
“Then that's where we'll find Blood!” exclaimed Dick happily.
“Brilliant deduction,” deadpanned his young counterpart as he headed for the door.
“Hey, where're you goin'?”
Grinning, little Robin left the room. “Hey, I'm the one with no free time, remember? I've done my part here! See ya next lesson!”
Robin: “Heh. It's frustratin' to everybody else, but that “kid of mystery” acts still pretty cool.”
“Finally, it is time to act!” exclaimed Starfire. “I say we go down to this school right this instant and find this madman!”
“Chill out Kory!” commanded Donna. “Maybe we know where he is, but we still don't know who Brother Blood is! We don't know if he really is a he!”
“Sister Blood?” Beast Boy mulled that over for a second. “Ew.”
“Damn, Blood's smart,” grumbled Vic. “He gives us a trail straight to `im, but leaves it up in the air who he really is! This way we can't just run in an' bash `im like Starry wants to or run surveillance or anything either! There's only one way we can play it: we have to give `im what he wants!”
“But doesn't he want ultimate power?” asked Gar, scratching his head. “I didn't think we had that to give.”
“No, Gar,” sighed Donna, “He wants us, remember? And Vic, I'm not going to lead this team straight into a trap, no matter what!”
Victor wasn't dissuaded. “That's right, you're not. I'm going in there alone.”
“What?!” Donna Troy, to say the least, was angry. “That's an even stupider idea!”
Wonder Girl: “And besides that, he keeps going against my decisions in this case! Vic's called orders several times before and though its pissed me off, I didn't say anything because one, they were very good orders and two, I could tell he didn't mean anything by it. Today it's like he's deliberately trying to usurp me! I'm not saying his plan didn't turn out to be a decent idea, but he sure could have introduced it better!
“Plus, I think that girlfriend of his makes him cocky!”
“But it's the only idea that might work!” insisted the metal man. “I actually have a reason to show up at that school, remember? My girlfriend goes there! If I visit campus with Sarah, Blood doesn't have much reason to suspect we know! Sure, it's a long shot, but I can't think of anything that might work better—can any of you?”
An awkward silence filled the room—obviously, there were no better ideas to be found in the Titans' collective craniums.
“So, take my boyfriend to school day?” asked Sarah, shattering the silence. “Sounds like fun. Everybody's gonna be so jealous!”
Starfire: “Oh, it is so wonderful to see two people so in love!”
Wonder Girl: “Yeah, not a big fan of the public displays of affection either.”
“This may be the only way to penetrate Blood's mental probing,” added Raven. “Our entire team would most certainly rouse his suspicions.”
Donna was outnumbered. “Fine. Mr. Jupiter, what do you think?”
“It seems like you don't have much other choice. Still, I want the rest of you to be scouted out a couple of blocks away and wait for Cyborg's signal. If he needs help, I want you to be able to get there fast.”
“Fair enough,” acquiesced the team leader. “But still, I think Vic needs somebody close for back-up, just in case. Speed! You can turn intangible! Stay like that so nobody can see you, and keep an eye on him, okay?”
“Fine,” grunted Wally, barely audible.
Speed: “What? It's not like I'd get out of it no matter what I tried, and shadowing Vic all day should be more bearable than staking it out with the rest of the team. Just barely, but still, definitely more bearable.”
“So,” asked Cyborg, “Tomorrow?”
“Sounds fine with me,” said his girlfriend with a smile. “I've got most of my classes, so we lucked out with that.”
“Then tomorrow it is!” exclaimed Jupiter with much gusto. “Sleep well my Titans, tomorrow will be a big day!”
As his team started to clear out, however, the director called for their leader. “Donna! Hold up!”
“Yes?” asked Wonder Girl curiously.
“I just wanted to point out that you and your team tracked down Blood and formulated a workable plan all on your own. You guys are really coming along!”
The girl's eyes lit up. “Thank you!”
Wonder Girl: “And he was right! That was enough to make me feel a lot better about everything! Maybe this will all work out after all!”
***DCU UNIVERSITY—SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
One of California's most prestigious colleges, DCU University had given rise to scholars, doctors, lawyers, Nobel prize winners, and—unbeknownst to anyone outside the Teen Titans—the newest Brother Blood! On this certain day, one of those Titans had transversed its halls in search of this Blood—but that goal certainly wasn't stopping him from noticing plenty of other details!
Cyborg: “Wow, this is one impressive place! Pretty intimidating, really. I'm not used to bein' around people with so much money! Not since I was a kid, at least, when my pops would drag me to these fundraisers his bosses at STAR Labs would throw. Even back then I felt outta place, and I do now too.”
“Pretty ritzy place here,” whistled Vic. “How do ya afford this kinda tuition?”
“Actually, my father's pretty rich,” replied the machine man's girlfriend, Sarah Simms. “Not that we were really treated like it. My father's not a huge fan of money, really. He's made a fortune on all the patents he holds, but he barely touches it. I mean, when I was a kid I still had to work for everything I got. The last thing he wanted was for my brother or me to be spoiled.
“Come to think of it, our tuition is the first real big purchase he's made in years, but then again, education is one of the most important thing in the world to him. That's where he really stuck his neck out when we were kids. Dad always had some kinda experiment going on he'd let us be a part of. Really fueled my brother and I to love to learn. I'll always appreciate that.”
Victor had become slightly misty-eyed. “Wow. That's pretty cool, Sarah. My folks tried the same when I was a kid, but I didn't really appreciate it until it was too late…”
Cyborg: The accident that destroyed my body also bathed both my parents in intense radiation. It took almost all their strength to rebuild me, and like I've said before, I freaked. I didn't appreciate it at all! I did manage to come around and apologize to them before they died, but even now I still feel guilty `bout all that time I wasted.”
“That's too bad, Vic,” replied Sarah somberly. “If they could see what you've done with your life, they'd be proud.”
Vic grinned from ear to ear, yet, at the same time, felt slightly melancholy, and not just because of his parents.
Cyborg: “Sarah's so perfect, and it's kinda scary, `cause all that perfection's kinda suspicious!”
“So, my next class is psychology,” continued the `perfect' girlfriend. “Psychology with Professor Sebastian—sometimes I wonder if that guy'd be better off with a psychologist than teaching it!”
Her boyfriend only half caught that, being somewhat preoccupied. “Vic, what's wrong? Are you still worried about not finding any sign of Blood yet?”
“It's not that,” sighed the metal-man. “It's just that, well, Brother Blood took control of probably half the school when he attacked us, yet, one of the students is dating a Titan and he ignores her completely?” If Victor Stone still needed to sweat, it'd have been coming out bullets by then. “What if this, what if our whole relationship is all manipulated by Blood, just a part of his stupid plan?!”
Sarah frowned. “Let's not even think about that, Victor. I've been burned plenty of times before—my fault for being too eager to love somebody, I suppose. Nowadays I only date somebody I really care for, Vic, and nobody's going to make me do otherwise!” She clenched her fist. “I know what I feel, and the way I feel about you can't be faked!”
She was expecting to have to go on, but the once doubt-filled half-robot was once again cheerful. “You've got no idea how good that makes me feel!” he exclaimed. “I was hoping I was wrong, and I just needed to hear it from you!”
“I'm sure Professor Sebastian'd have some sorta of name for that,” chuckled Sarah as she wrapped her arm around his elbow and pulled him through an open door. Inside was her psychology class, nearly full of teenagers and twenty-somethings occupying tiered rows of desks that descended like seats at a stadium, all facing a desk and a large whiteboard.
“HEY EVERYBODY!” Sarah shouted, trying to act like that was a casual greeting.
Cyborg: “She did that at every class we went to, and it never stopped bein' embarassin'!”
Loud conversations between students trailed off suddenly as they turned to see what all the hubbub was about—and shocked murmuring filled its place just as suddenly. “Holy s---,” exclaimed one student, “Is that Cyborg?!”
“In the flesh!” replied Sarah. “And metal too, I suppose.”
Half the class jumped to their feet and crowded around the couple.
Cyborg: “I was afraid it was another mob, but nah, they really were just that excited to meet me! I wanna say that I don't understand why those kids care so much, but I'd kinda be a hypocrite, `cause I'm sure that's just how I felt back when we first met the Justice League!”
The questions, complaints, and jealous stares continued for several minutes, until Professor Sebastian entered the room. He was an unassuming man, only standing about 5'9”. He wore an outdated checkered gray suit with brown pads on the elbows, a white shirt, and a gray and blue striped tie. Small streaks of gray were starting to invade his brown hair, though a receding hairline seemed to be racing to see which could take over his head first. The expression he wore was actually rather forlorn—until he noticed Sarah and Vic!
“Cyborg?!” Rushing to the Titan's side, Sebastian's face was getting flushed. “This is a wonderful surprise!”
“Vic and I've been dating,” bragged Sarah. “He wanted to see my school, and I, well, hell, I just wanted to show all of you!”
“Outstanding,” smiled Sebastian. “I trust you've been enjoying it here thus far, Mr. Stone?”
Shrugging slightly, Vic replied, “Sure.”
Professor Sebastian laughed. “Good! If you weren't, we'd have to kill you!” He only received blank stares. “What?! It's just a joke!”
Cyborg: “You meet some pretty damn strange people bein' a superhero, but this guy is still pretty high on the strange list! He's just…weird.”
“Anyway,” continued the odd teacher, “Guest or not, it's time to begin. Class, take your seats!” As everybody shuffled into a desk, Professor Sebastian grabbed a marker and began to write on the board. “Mr. Stone, I trust you know how popular your show is? Who here watches it?” The hands of most of the class went up. “So, I hope you can see how much of an honor it is to have you here!”
As he spoke, Sebastian scrawled the name of the seven Titans on his board. “I've been mulling this lesson over for a while now, but with Mr. Stone's arrival today, it seems like a most appropriate day to give it a shot! You see class, what fascinates me the most about the Titans and their show is all the psychological motivations of the Titans!” He started to write next to each Titans' name. “Overactive egos, inferiority complexes, superiority complexes, self loathing, anti-social tendencies, these kids sure are a varied bunch!”
“Professor Sebastian seems to think everybody's got something wrong with them in their heads,” whispered Sarah into the one flesh ear of her beau. “You guys're like a field day to him!”
Cyborg: “I didn't really appreciate bein' used like a workbook in some lesson of his, and this theory about everybody bein' sick is just stupid, but I can see why that'd draw the guy to us Titans. Wally alone'd be enough to keep a shrink busy for years!”
Sebastian stepped away from his board and sauntered towards his desk. “Really, the only Titan that doesn't have some glaring personality flaw is our own Mr. Stone here!” Vic sank further into his seat. “So tell me, is there something hidden deep within your psyche we should all know about?”
Sarah sprang to her feet, slamming her hands on her desk. “Not everybody has something wrong with them, Professor Sebastian! Vic's the oldest and I'd say the wisest, and he really holds the Titans together! You've seen how Gar looks to him for friendship, and even Donna respects his opinions!”
“Indeed,” replied Sebastian with a smile. While Sarah had been talking the teacher had opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out something large, and now he stood up, revealing the object to be a cowl in the shape of a skull, with an open mouth and eye holes—no doubt the Cowl of Brother Blood!
Before anybody could say or do anything, he slipped it over his head. Immediately he was enveloped in red energy, and as it started to fade, a red and black suit could se seen adorning him, though most of it was covered by a blood red cloak. Professor Sebastian had become Brother Blood, but neither the teacher-turned-supervillain nor his students seemed surprised—only Cyborg and Sarah!
Cyborg: `Kay, Sebastian's Blood. Pretty obvious now looking aback on it, but at the time I was pretty surprised. I mean, yeah he was odd as hell, but I was tryin' to give him the benefit of the doubt!”
“You were right, Miss Simms,” continued Blood, “Your boyfriend there is the glue that holds the Titans together. He's a tough egg to crack—but I do enjoy a challenge!”
Immediately the rest of the class surrounded the couple, moving supernaturally fast. They were quiet and stood rigid and still—like zombies. Their eyes glowed blood red.
Cyborg: “All those kids were just victims, bein' used like puppets! I didn't want to hurt `em too bad, but I definitely couldn't just let `em attack us either!”
The Titan thrusted both of his arms to the sides as a dome of fluorescent blue energy erected itself around himself and his girlfriend. With a grunt the shield dissipated, sending energy flying in all directions and scattering the mindless mob. “Sarah, stay back!” commanded Vic as a cannon emerged from his chest, firing a concussive blast. Grinning slyly, Blood extended his right arm and nullified the attack with a small burst of crimson energy that radiated from his fingertips.
Cyborg: “Well, Raven didn't mention that. I guess he can convert all that will he siphons from his pawns into pretty much any kinda power he wants—damn, that really is ultimate power!”
The madman reciprocated with a blast of his own hijacked energy, and his opponent met it once again with his shield. As Cyborg's defenses lowered, however, he found himself suddenly frozen in place! Crimson electricity crackled across his head.
“Your pretty little girlfriend was right, you know, that wasn't a lie,” taunted Blood. “As I said, I enjoy a challenge—so I'm certainly happy you're the Titan they sent! Firing blasts and punches and all that rot, it's a waste of time! A battle of wills between you and I—now that's fun!”
“Leave him the hell alone!” screamed Sarah Simms as she charged, her protection instincts overpowering her common sense. Blood barely batted an eyelash as he mentally commanded her classmates to restrain her.
“Sarah!” As much as Victor Stone wanted to take action, it was simply a physical impossibility at the moment. His diverted attention broke his concentration, and Vic was knocked to his knees by the weight of the mental attack.
Always a fighter, Sarah struggled with all her might. “You're a lunatic, Sebastian! This all, it's just, it's just f---ing crazy!”
“Why Miss Simms, you're mistaken on both accounts!” The man who was once Professor Sebastian gleefully expounded upon his thoughts. “I'm certainly not a lunatic, and I am no longer Professor Sebastian! When I was that fool I had nothing! I was a lonely, middle-aged teacher! But finding this cowl, ah! That changed everything! It gave me confidence, and the power to have everything I ever wanted: money, respect, women! All at my fingertips!”
“Then Robin was right,” grunted Vic. “You're pretty damn stupid to use all that power just to come after us!”
Cyborg: “As Gar would say, `He got owned!' As worth it as that was, though, I s'pose it was pretty damn stupid on my own part to insult the maniacal supervillain holding myself and my girlfriend captive!”
“Mr. Stone, as I'm sure your empathic friend told you, I absorb power from those I influence. However, that doesn't just top at mental strength—for people like you, people with powers, there's much more! If I take full control of you, I can claim your abilities for my own!”
Cyborg: “Great, now I don't even know if I should call the other Titans or not! They have the power to beat this punk, but not if he takes it first!”
“Of course,” continued Blood, “Attracting the attention of most of you super-hero types isn't easy. There's no way to draw out, say, Superman without planning some elaborate robbery or hostage situation and that would be bringing down too much heat on myself! But you! The Teen Titans' identities are public, your lives broadcasted on television, your base is practically a public monument! Luring all of you and taking your abilities was so easy, a fast food employee could've done it!”
Cyborg: “Finally, I get a villain that loves to hear himself talk, and I can't even take advantage of the weakness! I was too distracted by the fact that this was partially our fault! Prolly was just what the bastard wanted…”
Vic pushed against the floor, but trying to lift himself up felt like he was trying to carry the Earth on his shoulders!
“My my, you won't give up, will you?” Blood's eyes started to glow, and small sparks of red static leapt from his fingertips. “I could keep this up all day, but why should I? After all, after a while even sparring with the strongest adversary gets boring!
“These students, I broke their free will nearly immediately—now controlling them is no longer a strain, it's simply more like, say, moving my finger. But your mind, Mr. Stone—and the mind of most super-hero types, I might add—it's much stronger than normal. So instead, I offer you a deal: Submit freely to me and I will reward you with your fondest desire!”
Both Vic and Sarah gasped aloud.
“What, do you think I'm unable to fulfill this?” Brother Blood nearly fell over from laughing so hard. “Please! With my power I can give you anything you want, no matter how impossible it seems! Come now, Mr. Stone, surely you want something! Would you like your body back? Your parents restored to life? Or perhaps you'd simply like the hand of Miss Simms in marriage?”
Cyborg: “At the moment I sure could've gone for Sarah, and my folks deserve to be brought back. But my body? I dunno—bein' a cyborg doesn't bother me that much anymore. I guess I'm used to it now, as much as I can be at least. Besides, before the accident I was a totally different person. Becomin' Cyborg has taught me a lot, and more importantly, it let me help a ton of people! I…I dunno if I want to give that up—not without a lot of thought at least!
“More importantly, though, I can't give into what Blood wants! I'm not sure if he can even do what he says he can, but it don't matter! If I had to choose between my happiness or the fate of the world, I'll choose the world anytime!”
The weight of the world now pressed down on Victor Stone's shoulders both literally and figuratively, but the burden of that responsibility only gave him the motivation he needed! “What do I want, Blood?” With a tremendous push Vic managed to hoist himself back onto his feet! “All I want is to save Sarah and stop you!”
“That's my man!” exclaimed Sarah. Unfortunately, her celebration was premature. Bands of blood red energy leapt from the ground and ensnared Cyborg, pulling him onto his back and sending a shock through his system.
“Your man couldn't save his woman,” growled Brother Blood as he beckoned the pawns that held Sarah. “But don't worry, he'll be a lot useful to me than he was you. Come! We've still got some errands to complete before the others arrive!”
On the professor's command the wall before him slid open, revealing a secret passage that lead deep underground. Sarah Simms barely noticed it. She was more worried about her boyfriend—he wasn't moving, and his mechanical eye was simply blinking, and dimly at that!
Alas, he couldn't hear her cry. The wall slid shut behind her as her mind-washed teammates followed the path to whatever laid below.
***THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE SEBASTIAN'S CLASSROOM***
Wally West, the living energy being known as Speed, had been tailing Victor and Sarah all day. Frankly, he was sick of it.
Speed: “Okay, I know I should've gone with them into class. I know that more now than ever! But I just hate seeing those two together, so happy! It'd been wearing on me all day, and then after that conversation they had about her childhood and whether she was being controlled, I'd reached my breaking point! You can't blame me for taking a little break, right? They're disgusting!
“All I did was run around screaming for a few minutes anyway, just enough time to run off my anger for a little bit. Didn't actually think I'd miss anything while I was off doing it!”
Unfortunately, Wally was dead wrong. As he slowed, finishing his venting, he reverted to only a thin wisp of energy, essentially invisible to any who might be looking on. He floated outside the door to Professor Sebastian's psychology classroom, debating whether he was up to taking a peek inside.
He didn't have very long to debate—bright flashes of red light escaping through the slim crack beneath the door made up his mind for him.
Speed: “Great, the one time I didn't follow them and they get attacked by Blood! Can't they take care of themselves for a second?! I'm the one who'll get blamed for this, just you watch!”
The specter charged for the door. In his intangible state he expected to move straight through it—instead he was intercepted like a poorly thrown football! A shield of Blood's power blocked Speed's path, igniting with a fierce blast that even threw Speed's supposedly intangible form soaring backwards.
He was only energy, but despite that Blood still managed to give him quite a shock. Speed Force energy fluctuated wildly for a few seconds, taking all shorts of random shapes before slowly reforming Wally's human figure, hunched against the corner wall.
Speed: “It figures Raven would be right about this. If Blood could hurt me that bad he must be some seriously bad news!”
Laying still, Wally took a few seconds to think. Though he wasn't happy with his new state, the abilities it granted him sure made being a super-hero easy for him. Now he really had to be creative!
Speed: “Blood thought he was keeping me out, and if I was just a normal fast guy like Impulse or Flash, he'd be right. Unfortunately, I'm not—I'm just energy. I'm not connected directly to the Speed Force like they are—I am the Speed Force. I f---ing hate it, but it's definitely gotten me outta some jams, this one included!
“Y'see, everything that moves is given that speed and momentum, the energy they're using to move, from the Speed Force. If anything in that room's moving, I should be able to lock onto the source of its movement, and travel through the Speed Force into the room!
“Considering I can pretty much run faster than light anyway, that power used to seem pretty stupid, but I guess it came in handy today!”
Wally didn't know exactly what he was doing, but he gave it a shot anyway—scoping through the annals of the Speed Force, he felt a small movement that seemed to be coming from the barricaded room. Retreating into the force itself, Wally focused only on that movement, until he felt himself merging with the motion.
Inside Sebastian's classroom, a standard white clock sat high on a wall. The second hand started to tick faster and faster, then it span, quickly becoming a thin red blur. Suddenly the clock erupted as lightning struck, Speed's malleable body exploding from the Speed Force and slowly condensing into its solid form on the ground below.
Unfortunately, he was too late. The room was trashed, and everybody gone—except for Cyborg, unconscious on the floor. Wally rushed to his side and tried to rouse him, and when that didn't work, he leaned over the mechanical man and lent him some of his energy. Vic's mechanical eye started to flash faster and faster, until the blinking green light was nearly a blur.
Speed: “I could feel that the only thing in him with any speed was his self-repair thingy, so I lent it as much speed as I could. Instead of a few hours, he'd be on his feet in a few minutes—but I didn't have time to wait. Patience has never been one of my virtues, and now that I'm the fastest thing on this planet it's no better!”
Probing the Speed Force once more, Wally felt a whole crowd moving behind the far wall—and instantly he had run through it, planning on punching Blood's lights out before he even knew. With the room sealed off, Blood hadn't even bothered to seal the wall—still, the Titan suddenly found himself bouncing as he had when he tried to enter the room the first time!
Landing on his butt of compressed speed energy, Wally West looked up to see Brother Blood looming above him, energy crackling across his chest. Instantly he was back on his feet, ready to end this fast!
“So I guess you're Brother Blood, huh?” Speed stated the obvious. “I don't know what you're trying to do, but I've screwed up enough today, so I'm making up for it by taking you down!”
Blood seemed crushed. “But why? Seriously, that hurt! I only wanted to help you!”
Wally took a step backwards as Blood reached for him, but something made him stop. A crimson light shone from the professor's palm, and slowly the Titan started to change. He grew skin, his head sprouted short red hair, before he knew it he was even wearing jeans and a t-shirt—and then it was all gone. He'd returned to being a speed specter—but more than ever, he didn't want that!
“See, Mr. West? I can give you your fondest desire. I can give you your body back! All I ask is your complete and total devotion…I want your will.”
Speed: “Don't think I'm an idiot. I knew all along Blood didn't want to help me—he just wanted what I could give him. I knew that, when faced with the choice between my happiness and the fate of the world, I should choose the world. It would've been the right thing to do.
“But he could give me my body back—my life back! I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but really…can you blame me? What else could I have done?”
***THE T-SHIP—SEVERAL BLOCKS AWAY***
The T-Ship—the appropriately t-shaped hover-jet used by the Teen Titans—sat in a vacant lot several blocks away from the DCU University campus. It was in camouflage mode, essentially invisible to anybody who might be passing by.
“Boy, I hope some kids don't come by and try to play baseball here or something,” mused Beast Boy. “They'd run right into the ship!”
“Eh,” dismissed Robin, “This is San Francisco! All the kids around here play interior decorator, not baseball!”
Starfire floated from window to window, peering out curiously. “Are you sure they cannot see us, Donna? If the outside of the ship is invisible, should not others see us inside?”
“The T-ship's not actually invisible, Kory,” explained Donna. “It's just refracting light around the T-ship so others see a reflection of what's behind us, not the ship itself!”
Wonder Girl: “Now my sister's plane—that's actually invisible!”
“S---, that's how it works?” Dick Grayson was crestfallen, actually falling into one of the cushy leather seats, landing on his butt with a thud. “G—dammit, there goes my plan to create a line of invisible lingerie!”
“But if they were invisible,” asked Koriand'r, “Then what would be the point of even wearing them at all?” Dick just stared at her blankly.
Robin: “I hadn't thought it through that far!”
With a sigh Gar Logan laid on his back, his arms behind his head. “Man, this is really starting to get boring! I wish Vic would just find Blood already so we could get this over with!” Chuckling slightly, the changeling continued, “'Sides, I'm really curious what this guy looks like!”
Suddenly, Raven was at the green kid's side. “Skull-shaped cowl, blood red cloak. All the Brother Bloods have essentially looked the same.”
“Geez, not much for self-expression, is he?”
“Of course not,” replied the empath curtly. “After all, Blood strives to gain the free will of others. A loss of individuality is only a natural side-effect of that.”
“True enough,” replied Gar with a sigh. “I guess if you've seen one supervillain, you've seen `em all.”
Raven: “I can sense that, despite his excuses of curiosity about Brother Blood, Beast Boy is mostly worried about his friend. As dangerous as Cyborg's mission is, I can see why he would be so distressed.”
Ignoring the shapeshifter's words, the empath cut straight to the heart of the matter. “Do not worry, Beast Boy. I have been keeping track of Cyborg, and I sense no distress from him. In fact, quite the opposite—he has felt much pride and wonder today.”
Wonder Girl: “Being in love will do that to you. I…I get that feeling every time I talk to Terry! I used to feel that way when I was with Kyle…sometimes I still do but now sometimes I don't too! I wonder what's changed?”
“What of Wally, Raven?” Starfire was never one to forget any of her friends. “Is he safe too?”
“Speed is fine. He is agitated, of course, but he is fine.”
Suddenly pulsing red lights started to blink, accompanied by an obnoxiously loud siren. “Well that sure changed fast!” exclaimed Donna Troy as she checked the Danger Signal's notes on the dashboard. “Yup, Cyborg triggered it all right! We've got to move now!”
The Titans dashed for the door of their vessel, but suddenly found themselves overcome by waves of black. “Normally I cannot transport this many people,” explained Raven, “But at this close distance, I should have the strength to bring us all to Cyborg's side!”
“Should?!” Garfield Logan's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “But what if you can't?!”
“I can,” insisted their dark companion. Her four teammates continued to fall into the dark abyss within Raven' Soul Self, floating in an endless sea of nothingness, devoid of scenery and color, of anything except…cold.
Beast Boy: “Man, I really didn't like that! Super super creepy, and super cold too! Good thing I can become a polar bear!”
Robin: “S---, floating `round inside of Raven must be what a bad high feels like, or at least what it's like in space!”
Starfire: “While the darkness did remind me of outer space, it is not actually that cold there. The chill, and the lack of even stars, that made me think more of what death must be like…”
Wonder Girl: “Well, this certainly doesn't make me trust Raven more! Diana once told me of her trip to Hades, and from what she described, Hades and Raven's Soul Self are far too similar! It's unsettling that her powers are so similar to death!”
Fortunately, it was over nearly as soon as it began, and the four Titans found themselves shivering on the floor of Professor Sebastian's disheveled classroom, Raven floating above them.
“Well it certainly beats the bus,” joked Dick, “But I think I'll stick to swinging on ropes. Not quite as cold, and it scores more points with the chicks.”
“VIC!” Beast Boy quickly put his disorienting trip behind him as he rushed to his comatose friend's side, trying desperately to rouse him. “He's not waking up! Whadda we do?!”
There was no time to respond, however, as the blinking light in Cyborg's eye stopped blinking and glowed a solid blue. Victor Stone bolted upright like he'd been awakened from a nightmare. “SARAH!” It took a few seconds for the machine man to reorient himself, and realize that Blood and his cronies were gone, but his teammates had come in their place.
“Sarah's not here, Vic,” said Garfield. “What happened?”
“Last I remember, Blood tried to take over my mind, and when he couldn't, he fried my circuits! My self-repair must've just finished up, but with the damage Blood did that would've taken hours!'
“Hours?” Donna Troy was confused. “But we got here immediately after the alarm sounded!” Leering towards her teammate, she added, “Raven made sure of it.”
Squealing joyfully, Koriand'r realized, “Wally must have sped your healing up, Vic, then went after Blood! I knew we could count on him!”
Wonder Girl: “I don't know whether it would be nice or frustrating to be as constantly optimistic as Kory, but it's sure frustrating for the rest of us!”
“Good,” said Victor joylessly as he climbed to his feet. “Then we need to contact him and find out where Blood went!”
“No need,” interjected Raven. “Behind that wall I can sense many people, though with Brother Blood so nearby I am having trouble focusing on their feelings.”
Vic smashed his fist into his palm. “Then that's where he'll be! Okay guys, we need to—”
“Cyborg, hold on!” Wonder Girl grabbed her metallic teammate by the shoulder. “What are you doing? I'm the leader here!”
“But this was my mission!”
“The recon was all your mission was, and—”
“He has Sarah!” Neither Titan would budge, so Cyborg just turned back to the wall. “I don't care what you do, but I'm going after Sarah!”
“Fine.” Donna crossed her arms with a huff. “But this isn't over.”
Cyborg: “Mean thing to do? Yeah, definitely. I definitely have to fix this soon. I'm…not used to having somebody like Sarah. My emotions got in the way. Y'know, I dunno if I even realized I was pushing her aside. I just wanted to get to Sarah so bad!”
“So Starry, you're always complainin' about having to hold back? How `bout knockin' down that wall for me?”
Green light sparked to life in the alien's eyes. “With pleasure!” The school shook as a bolt of energy barreled through the wall like a bullet train at full speed, revealing a dark passage underground.
“Yeah,” grunted Gar, “That ain't suspicious.”
With nothing but candles on the wall lighting the way, the six Titans hesitantly ventured down the long staircase, trying to move stealthily but still fast. Finally they reached the bottom, and found a large cavern, made to look like a dimly lit church, including several super-tall stained-glass windows portraying Brother Blood!
“He sure grew an ego quick,” growled Vic.
With that one sound, Brother Blood appeared from nowhere before the team, accompanied by his crowd of mind-washed students. “Mr. Stone! How nice of you to return to us! And you brought friends! I'm so pleased to meet all of you!”
“Shove it, Blood! Where's Sarah?!”
Again, the master manipulator acted as if his entire ego was crushed. “Oh, you'll meet her in time, Mr. Stone, but I don't appreciate being interrupted! And just when I was about to tell you about your other friend!”
In a golden streak, Wally West zoomed between the former professor and his teammates. The speed specter's eyes glowed red, just like those of the students. Though he was frowning, the corner of his makeshift mouth was just slightly upturned, like a smile.
“Hey guys,” said Speed. “Funny meeting you here!”
Next time: Desire vs. Duty