Teen Titans Fan Fiction ❯ The Real World: Titans Tower ❯ Desire vs. Duty ( Chapter 16 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

DISCLAIMER: The New Teen Titans were created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Those characters and all other related characters are owned by DC Comics, and I use them without their permission, though certainly with much respect.
“All Star Teen Titans”
“The Real World: Titans Tower”
Chapter 16: Desire vs. Duty
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.
The legend of Brother Blood dates back centuries to a conflict between two races of interdimensional beings, and he has created havoc with his lust for power ever since. Professor Sebastian, a disgruntled teacher at DCU University, was the latest to don the mantle, and he immediately took control of his students and set his sights on a far loftier goal: attaining the powers of the Teen Titans!
Unfortunately for those young heroes, he was 1/7th of the way there!
Cyborg: “'Kay, so a power hungry madman's got my girlfriend, and is gunning for my friends an' me! So, as if that weren't bad enough, he's taken control of Wally—maybe our most powerful teammate!”
Wally West, the specter of momentum known as Speed, stood between his supposed-teammates and the Blood-led army of warped students. “Surprised to see me?”
“Wally?!” Starfire, ever the eternal optimist, was shocked. “What are you doing?”
Wonder Girl, however, had never been an optimist, especially where Speed was involved. “Isn't it obvious, Star? He finally turned on us!”
Raven: “Indeed, it certainly was obvious. With Koriand'r as the main exception I felt very little surprise from the Titans—there was plenty of sadness and fear, but little surprise.”
“That's harsh,” grumbled Wally as he outstretched his arms, absorbing golden energy from the six teens. It was their movement, and without it they were helpless, motionless! “Than again, so's life. Not all of you guys have been terrible to me—like you, Kory. I'm sorry you have to be here for this. But Blood's offered me something you guys never even bothered to try—he's going to give me my body back!”
Speed: “I mean, everybody from Vic to the Flash to even my Aunt Iris tried to get me to `make the best of this', and to use my powers to `do some real good out there,' but dammit, I can't anymore! For once I just want to think about myself and what I need, and finally somebody else is thinking about what I need too!”
Cyborg: “Blood made me the same offer he made Wally, and while it was temptin' there was no way I could accept it. But Wally…I had no idea he was that far gone. I've always seen a lot of myself in Wally. I was hopin' he'd learn to live with what happened to him, and that it would help him mature like it did me. Guess I was wrong, though. I don't think he'll ever learn to handle it.”
“You are a fool.” Black exploded beneath the speedster, sending him soaring amidst a storm of uprooted rock. Raven soared forward, the shadow-like fringes of her cloak leaping to life and engulfing Speed. “You really believe that madman's promises? He will only use you, Speed. He has your powers and your mind—he has no reason to keep his promise!”
Raven: “My Soul Self is powered only by my mind and my empathy. I did not need the motion provided by the Speed Force to break free and attack.”
As the black dissipated the Titans could see that Wally was nowhere to be found. “I teleported him as far away as I possibly could,” said the empath as her teammates regained their mobility. “After all, we have far more important things to worry about.”
“Like me?” asked Blood coyly, shrugging his shoulders.
“Exactly,” replied Raven, the outlines of colorless birds growing around her as she charged the master manipulator. “You shall no longer tamper with the minds of innocents!”
Brother Blood just shook his head. “Raven, Raven, Raven…you know better!” An aura of crimson energy, sapped straight from his mind-washed cronies, exploded around the former Professor and ate straight through the Titan's Soul Self! Blood palmed the empath's face and drove her into the ground before him, her body smoking from his attacks.
“The records this wonderful cowl keeps showed me everything about its creation, and filled me in all about you as well, Raven. We both well know you can do nothing against me!”
Raven: “He knows everything about me? That could be far more dangerous than just his mental powers…
Turning to the others, he continued, “Come now Titans, hear me out. I'll make you the same offer I made your speedy friend—I can give you whatever you want! Your fondest desire can be yours!”
Beast Boy: “Man, I can't blame Wally for fallin' for it, not really! I know I'd give almost anything to have my parents and the Doom Patrol and Terra back in my life!”
Vic had heard it all before, and had the same response. “Yeah, you give us what we want, but you take our free will and our superpowers in return! No deal, jerkface!”
Beast Boy: “Heh, I knew there was a downside. Wally should've read the fine print!”
The crowd behind Blood rustled at Cyborg's unkind words, but their leader easily calmed them. “Don't be upset, my children. He's just cranky because of his girlfriend.” Three spotlights lit on the ceiling, all focused on Sarah Simms, strung up and gagged atop a tall statue of Blood himself!
`That's it!” exclaimed Vic as he leapt forward, powered by the boosters in the soles of his feet. “You're mine, Blood!”
A field of blood red energy erected itself at Blood's command and deflected the half-machine. “Haven't you learned you're no match for me alone, Mr. Stone?”
“That's why I'm here!” Taken by surprise, Brother Blood was knocked off balance by a roundhouse kick from Donna Troy.
Wonder Girl: “I don't know why Vic has to keep grandstanding against this guy, but I'm not letting him fight Blood alone, and I'm certainly not letting him take all the glory!”
With the wave of both of his hands, Blood immobilized the two leaders within dual spheres of pulsing power. “Please, not even all six of you could take me on together! It'd be as pointless as six flies trying to take down an elephant! So…let me give you something a little easier to combat!”
Waves of mental power radiated from the madman's head and overtook his mindless students, transforming them in a flash of light. “As I told Mr. Stone when this all began, I've already broken my students! I promised them the one thing they all desired: power! And now, I think I'll give them enough power to even defeat their idols…namely, you!”
As the light died down, the students all emerged with new disguises and appearances, each taking on the form of their own personal super-person. With Raven down, Speed gone and Donna and Vic trapped by Blood, the newly formed army charged for the remaining three Titans, the floor rumbling beneath their feet.
“Well,” sighed Starfire as her eyes and hands lit up green, “It looks like it is just the three of us verses all of them!”
“Those are terrible odds!” squealed Garfield Logan.
“Yeah,” grunted Robin as he reached for his utility belt. “They don't stand a chance!”
Robin: “Damn, that sounded badass!”
Dick Grayson tossed half a dozen disks from both hands, and as they hit home smoke, explosions and sheets of thick ice thinned out the crowd. He and his two friends wasted no time in charging and meeting the rest of the army!
Meanwhile, Raven finally managed to regain consciousness, floating from the hole Blood had put her in ready to take him down!
Raven: “It is for my own good that I feel no emotion, lest my powers rage uncontrollably and bring pain to all! Yet, at that moment I found myself consumed with the need to bring vengeance upon Brother Blood. Perhaps it was for the good of everybody that I was not only unable to, but had another task handed to me, because none of the other Titans could have done what I did that battle anyway…”
“It's about time you got up,” growled Wally, materializing before his hurt love. “Did you really think teleporting me across the world would do any good? I could've ran back here two dozen times by the time you woke up!”
“Of course I knew that, Speed,” replied Raven, not missing a beat. Again her cloak leapt to life, immersing the avatar of the Speed Force in her Soul Self. “I simply wished to distract you long enough to engage Blood. Now calm yourself, and allow yourself to again see clearly…”
The red indicator of Blood's control within Wally West's eyes just grew even stronger as he resisted his teammate's empathy. “Geez, you were the one who told us you couldn't control Blood's guys! What makes you think it'd work against me?”
“I was simply hoping to appeal to your humanity, Speed.”
“Bulls---!” Stone exploded as Wally broke the sound barrier and hammered Raven in the face, sending her exploding through Blood's army. He was in hot pursuit. “Don't act like you've ever cared about me, Raven! After all the times I tried to get close to you and you shot me down and insulted me, you have no right to say anything to me!”
As Raven's trip ended with her plowing into the far wall, Speed was right behind her and attacked with a vicious uppercut. “Something inside me still loves you Raven, but I sure as hell don't know why! I guess Blood's given me two gifts today, cause the rest of me is sure gonna love beating the living snot out of you!”
Faring much better than Raven was Robin, who had used a grappling launcher to soar above the crowd and fire off more disks. The explosions sent half a dozen grunts flying, but several kids dressed as devils started firing off red blasts towards the acrobat. Unfurling his staff, he swiped them aside and took out several more of their friends with helicopter kicks before even landing.
He exploded into a martial arts frenzy, striking ferociously against any target that neared. Somersaulting over one opponent, he threw a bolo to ensnare another while attacking a third with his staff—while still upside-down.
Robin: “Impressive, ain't I? Sure glad Kory's watchin' this! I've been trainin' a s---load lately to get this good! Y'know, fighting with Bette an' trainin' with the little Robin's sure made me think about how I fight. I can't be the big goofball anymore, not unless I wanna be as useless as Bette!”
Starfire: “Dick's fighting sure is impressive! Lately I have been rather upset by all the time he has spent training alone, but I am glad to see something nice result from it! Still, there is something rather…off about this. That is not the Dick Grayson I fell in love with! He is fighting so…joylessly! Dick has always been funny and full of life, never this quiet! I…I do not think I like him like this…”
Suddenly the acrobat was struck from behind by what felt like a pile of tiny wooden feet! Pivoting to see the new threat, he was sure enough faced with a small boy surrounded by several floating wooden puppets! “You've got to be kidding me…”
Robin: “Hey, do you know how f---ing hard it is to hold the jokes in? If I see some goon looking as stupid as this guy, of course I'm gonna let one slip!”
“Kidding?” The voice came from one of the mannequins as it and two others launched themselves towards Dick, ensnaring him within the nearly invisible strings attached to their limbs. “Of course we're not! Our master's dream was to be a ventriloquist, but he never had the talent for it! But Brother Blood granted him his wildest desires! Now our master is: The Puppet King!”
Dick burst out laughing, but quickly silenced himself. “Oh, I'm taking you down hard for being so stupid!”
Robin: “I mean, hey, it's his fault I'm having trouble staying dark!”
Knives emerged from Robin's gloves as he easily sliced through his bindings and, at the same time, launched a handful of Redbird boomerangs. As the projectiles easily decapitated the King's puppets, Dick knocked their master unconscious with one well placed hook. He smirked victoriously for only a second before somersaulting backwards into the crowd once more.
Starfire: “I do not understand what is going on! It is obvious Dick wants to be himself, yet he is holding back from speaking! When this is over I am going to find out why!
“Still, I was mid-battle, and that was probably a good thing, because I did not have the time to dwell on it!”
Indeed, the alien princess was battling just as hard as her baffling boyfriend. Green energy exploded around her, scattering the crowd—she followed up with scattershot Starbolts from both hands, further inundating as many opponents as possible.
“Those puny attacks can never stop Adonis!” A massive hulk of a man leapt above an exploding Starbolt, his face covered by a rage-filled expression. Veins and muscles bulged across his overtaxed body as he tackled Koriand'r to the floor. “No matter how much I worked out I could never bulk up before, but now Brother Blood's given me enough muscle to take down anybody!”
In defiance of that statement Kory kicked upwards and rolled, sending Adonis soaring.
Starfire: “He is at least as strong as I am—fortunately, I am quite used to dealing with ones stronger than myself! After all, I trained with the Warlords of Okaara!”
Adonis landed on his feet, and the ground beneath him sank into a crater, taking out some of his own teammates! The entire subterranean church rumbled as he charged his extraterrestrial opponent, but she dug her heels into the floor and slapped aside his opening punch like it was nothing!
Focusing all of her solar-powered strength into every blow, Starfire unleashed a flurry of Tamaranian martial arts blows all across the monster's body. She finished with three finger jabs into his neck, and the supposedly unbeatable Adonis fell like a brick!
“All the strength in the world is nothing without the skill to properly use it!” declared the warrior princess.
Unlike Adonis, skill certainly wasn't a problem for Beast Boy, who had been a superhero since he was quite young. However, today Garfield Logan wasn't fighting with his usual finesse, and even the under-confident boy himself noticed it.
Beast Boy: “I've had off days before, but this takes the cake! I guess I could blame it on bein' shocked about Wally or worried about Vic an' Sarah, but the truth? I killed Madame Rouge because I lost control of my powers! What if it happens again? Ever since that fight I've just been nervous to go all out!”
Zombie-like students rushed the animal changeling from all sides. He grew into increasingly larger animals, swiping them aside with gorilla arms, bear claws, and the trunk of a green elephant. Still they crowded him, so he escaped beneath their legs as a snake, hoping to escape the feeling of claustrophobia that certainly wasn't helping his current feelings of paranoia.
Beast Boy: “And there I fall back on my same ol' forms again. Now that I've got TV in the Tower I've been watching so much Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, I know a ton of animals nobody else does. Like the Sydney Funnel Web Spider, ever heard of it? I have. And I'm too nervous to use em in battle…just sticking with gorillas and birds and stuff…I know they work…”
“Mumbo Jumbo!”
A bolt of magenta lightning struck the ground, and the boy was barely able to take flight as a green bird before the attack changed the ground into a pile of roses. Landing on his haunches in human form just beyond the flowers, Gar saw a blue skinned magician floating above him.
“Let me guess,” grumbled the green kid, “You always wanted to be a magician but couldn't even shuffle a deck of cards, then POOF!, Blood makes you one!”
“Quite perceptive!” exclaimed the magician. “Now what do you want to be? A frog? Mumbo Jumbo!”
In a puff of smoke Garfield became a frog, but calmly just shapeshifted back into himself. “Nope.”
Growing angry, lightning exploded from Mumbo's wand. “Then how about a platypus?! Mumbo Jumbo!”
Needless to say, Beast Boy was human again in a second. “Dude, this is pointless. I'm Beast Boy. Haven't you watched the show?”
“Fine! I'll just turn you into something that's not an animal! Easy enough! Mumbo—” Mumbo was stopped in his tracks—his target was gone! Suddenly, above him a tiny hummingbird expanded into a mighty green T-Rex, crushing the inept magician beneath his massive foot.
Beast Boy: “Well that was too easy. Good thing that guy wasn't very creative, or I'd never've been able to take him down the way I feel today! Heh, I guess good thing do happen to me sometimes.”
Brother Blood didn't seem too worried that his pawns were being smacked around so easily. After all, he had true power—the brainwashed students were just time wasters. There were more important challenges at foot!
“Your friends are strong, Mr. Stone,” said the madman, looking on at Cyborg's teammates in awe. “I just can't wait until their power is mine!”
Cyborg: “Blood used to be Sarah's psychology teacher before he got his hands on that cowl, and she said he thinks everybody's screwed in the head somehow! He's determined to prove I am too an' break me, and maybe I can use that to our advantage! If nothin' else I know I got his attention for a while!”
“You're not taking it!” screamed Vic as his energy shield exploded around him, using the last of its energy to neutralize the sphere the madman had him and Donna trapped in. As Blood staggered backwards the mechanical man landed on his feet and simultaneously fired concussive blasts from the cannons in his chest and missiles from the pods in his shoulders.
Even as Brother Blood was still regaining his footing he fired a blast of crimson that deflected Cyborg's shot, and followed up with a handful of small beams that intercepted his missile storm. Fortunately for the Titan, he had planned for them to be nothing more than a distraction, and was already firing his Sonic Cannon.
Blood disappeared in a flash, zooming into the half-robot and clotheslining him in the chest. “I'm faster than sound now,” he taunted as he sent red electricity sizzling through Vic's body.
Cyborg: “Man was I dumb! Blood's whole reason for lurin' us here was to take our powers, so of course he'd take Wally's when he manipulated him! Well, that scratched physical attacks right off the list of stuff that would work…”
“Leave him alone!” Wonder Girl knocked aside the former Professor with a fierce two handed swing. Her magic lasso was already tied and whirling through the air, but Blood simply extended his hand and stole the speed from the weapon, leaving it frozen in mid-air.
“Thanks to Mr. West I'm more powerful than the Pope!” bragged Blood as he slapped aside the half-Amazon. Donna sank when she hit the ground, already under the pressure of her attacker's mental influence. “Don't you want to help me too, Ms. Troy? You know what I will grant you in return! I can find the information you can't, y'know, as easy as if I'd just typed it into Google…”
Cyborg: “What the hell's he talkin' about?”
Wonder Girl: “It was so…frightening. Blood, he brought back memories I forgot I had, memories of a happy home and the people I know were my parents! I could feel the warmth and love and a sense of belonging I don't know if I've ever had since, but he kept their faces, all the details really, just out of sight and reach. He wanted me to give into him for those last details, and I really wanted to so, so, so badly. Maybe I can't be mad at Wally for this after all…”
A sick grin filled Blood's face as Donna started to curl into a ball on the ground, weakening under his assault. “Leave her alone Blood,” demanded Cyborg as he leapt into the air, meaning to tackle his rival from behind, “It's me you want!”
“I want all of you, Mr. Stone,” chuckled the madman as he shot a blast into the ground, which rose beneath Victor and sent him flying into the ceiling. A few seconds later he hit the ground with a sickening thud, and Blood extended his control to the half-robot as well. “You're simply the only one who poses a challenge!
“See how much she's already given into my control? And Mr. West, why, he wasn't even a fight! But you, Mr. Stone, you're the tough egg to crack! It's been a fun ride, really, but given that your friends will all be under my control in hopefully the next five minutes, it's time to give in already!”
Vic dug his fingers into the ground, but Blood's force of mind was more powerful than ever. “He's not going to give in! Cyborg's too strong for that!” Actually surprised, Blood soared across the room from the full speed impact of Wonder Girl flying into his back.
Wonder Girl: “It was tough, super tough, but honestly, there was no way I could help out Blood just to learn who my parents are! Maybe I don't know exactly who I am or where I belong, but I know I'm a hero, and that's enough to know I could never live with myself if I gave into Blood!”
Still, breaking free took a lot out of Donna. She helped pull her teammate to his feet, then slumped, trying to catch her breath. Vic started to panic as he saw Blood easily get back to his feet. “Donna, I don't think you can take another attack from him! Go help Raven, she needs it more than I do!”
This, of course, didn't please Donna Troy. “That's stupid! Blood's the biggest threat! Why do you keep insisting on taking him on alone?!”
“Because he's just after me right now! I'm the only one who can resist his mental attack fully, so he's gonna keep focusin' on me unless the rest of you interfere! If I can take him down than great, but if I can't then at least it'll give you guys the chance to come up with some sorta strategy!”
Donna was speechless.
Wonder Girl: “Well, there goes the whole Vic grandstanding theory. I don't know if Vic has a death wish or what, but it's pretty touching how he's always willing to put himself on the line to help the rest of us! Hera, and all I was thinking about was not wanting to be pushed out of the spotlight! Maybe he should be leader, not me…”
“As if it wasn't enough that you wouldn't even try to love me, you weren't even kind about it!” Speed's `fist', composed of compressed Speed Force energy, shattered as he tagged Raven with a right cross, continuing his merciless beating of his pseudo-romantic interest.
Finally, Raven was able to counterattack, possessing a slab of underground rock and raising it between herself and Wally. The speed specter, still under Blood's influence, simply became intangible and phased through, but by the time he reached the other side, Raven was gone.
“I had to be short with you, Speed.” The empath, having teleported across the room, possessed one of the stained glass windows and shattered it, sending dozens of tiny glass shards hurtling towards her opponent. “I told you I could not love anybody, that it was too dangerous for me to feel emotion, but you would not listen, and insisted upon continually badgering me. You left me no choice but to be curt!”
Raven: “I could feel his anger growing, just like I knew it would. Keeping Speed angry, and thus distracted, was truthfully the only strategy I had. He does not realize it, but he has more raw power than anybody on this team. Due to his emotional difficulties he sticks to his human form, but if Speed wished he could shape his Speed Force shell to any design he desired. However, it is fortunate for us he has not embraced that side of himself, because I can barely hold him back as it is…”
With one gesture Wally stole the projectiles' speed, leaving the remnants of the window floating before him in mid-air. “No choice? Yeah right! I told you that I could help you work through whatever problems you have, but you wouldn't give me the chance!”
Raven just glared. “That would have been a waste of time. Nothing can stand up to the havoc my unleashed emotions would create.”
It was Speed's turn to glare. “God you're a pessimist!”
Raven: “Considering who that statement came from nearly made me laugh. Considering who I am, that is pretty momentous.”
Seething, Wally thrusted both his arms forward, both returning the shards' speed and reversing their flight in one action. His empathic opponent's cloak billowed around her, absorbing the attacks and redirecting them halfway across the world. Speed had already run twice that far, circling the globe and rushing the back of Raven's head at least at Mach 6.
However, surprising an empath is nearly impossible. As the speed specter grew close, a boulder surrounded by deathly black shot from the ground with perfect aim, shattering his shell. Deflected for the moment, Wally simply reformed his body, even angrier than before, yet, he was smiling!
Speed: “When we fought Dr. Light and I got shattered like that, it seemed like it took forever to reform myself. With Blood's power it wasn't hard at all!”
“Perhaps I am a pessimist,” continued Raven, “But how should I react when you propose to stop what cannot be stopped? You do not even have the courage to stand up to Brother Blood. Face it, Speed, today you took the coward's way out.”
“B----!” Wally exploded forward, but was instantly caught within Raven's Soul Self. As the darkness receded, he was gone. The other Titan took the second's respite to catch her breath.
Raven: “Goading Speed like that causes him to act predictably, which I can use to my advantage. It is perhaps the only way to combat somebody that fast. Regardless, I teleported him to the bottom of the Dead Sea. That should give me perhaps an extra second. Fortunately, I will be able to sense him coming…”
Speed: “Like sending me underwater would buy her any extra time. There were a dozen different ways I could've got out of that, but all of them involved running right back to Raven, and she can sense me coming! So, I decided to try something a little different. Remember how I got into Blood's class by traveling through the Speed Force? Well…”
A fat red-headed boy leapt toward Robin with a quadruple-bladed lightsaber in his hands—Blood had no doubt granted his deepest desire to be a Jedi. His opponent, however, ducked beneath his weapon and lashed out with a kick to the face, sending the fan-boy flying! As he barreled through the air, suddenly a stream of lightning erupted from the pawn, feeding off his momentum and soaring straight into Raven!
The empath was knocked halfway across the underground church, electricity crackling up and down her body as smoke billowed from her cloak. The energy that had put her in that condition collected at her feet, retaking the form of Wally West.
“Didn't sense that coming, did you b----?” gloated the inhuman Titan. “See, I'm stronger than you think!”
Raven: “The poor deluded fool…even under all that hatred he still loves me.”
Lying defenseless at Wally's makeshift feet, the dark Titan only had one more idea. Her Soul Self again sprang to life, enveloping the speedster within its dark embrace. Speed found himself floating in a void of endless black, just as Warp had not that long ago.
Speed: “Well that's something else I can add to my list of my most unpleasant moments…It felt like death in there! I don't know how I know that's what it felt like, I just did! It scared the hell outta me, yet, at the same time there was a feeling of calm, like if I let it, her Soul Self could sort out all my problems. That's just like Raven: scary yet captivating…no wonder I can't keep her off my mind…”
The empath's voice sounded from the darkness, echoing all around her captive. “Speed, this is not about you and me. That can be resolved later. What we need to address is you and Brother Blood.”
Wally was a little disoriented by what he was experiencing, and though he tried to hide it, it was plainly evident in his voice. “He promised me my body back!” he exclaimed, though it was starting to sound unconvincing even to him.
“Why would he?” asked Raven. “You are only an asset to Blood in your current state. Why would he strip you of your usefulness?”
“Because, because…”
“He does not care about you, Speed. If he did, he would not be asking so much in return. If he did, he would have already given you your body back. After all, he already granted his other pawns their wishes. The only difference is that they are more powerful that way.”
Though he was technically floating in nothingness, Wally managed to fall to his knees.
Speed: “I'd never even considered that Blood's promise was just a dupe...I went after his stupid promise like some puppy he could lead around blindly…I just can't believe I didn't notice it until Raven showed me!”
Raven: “With Speed under Blood's power there was no way I could influence his emotions directly, but within my Soul Self I was able to provide him with a place more conducive to thought, and provide myself with a more direct path into his head. It was the only way my words could mean anything to him…”
The black faded, leaving Wally West crumpled before Raven. He sure didn't stay there for long!
“Blood!” The power-hungry man heard his disgruntled servant's cry and batted aside Cyborg to give him his full attention. “Give me my body back, now!”
Blood nearly choked from laughing so hard. “Mr. West, I offered you a gift. It's terribly rude of you to make demands about it!” Suddenly Speed found himself frozen in place—Blood had taken command of the Titan's body!
Speed: “Raven was right. Dammit, she was right and I couldn't even listen to her! I tried!”
“Leave him alone!” growled Victor Stone as he charged, but for the umpteenth time he was deflected.
“Save your energy, Mr. Stone. He's not worth your time. The boy hasn't any of the resilience you have.”
Cyborg: “The punk. The last thing I needed was Wally's problems pointed out to me. I was already worryin' `bout `em enough as it was!”
“It doesn't matter!” exclaimed Donna Troy, who stood next to Raven, both in opposition to the merciless dictator. “He's our teammate, and we won't let you have him anymore!”
Wonder Girl: “Despite everything he did, Wally turned around and talked back to Blood! I don't know his motivation, and truthfully, I don't think I want to. I just know he still deserves to be stood up for!”
Looking skeptical, Blood asked, “Ms. Troy, didn't I already defeat you and your friend effortlessly? What's changed? How could you possibly defeat me?”
“Now they've got help.” Robin landed besides his teammates, and Starfire and Beast Boy quickly followed. Behind them lay dozens and dozens of unconscious bodies!
“Your army has been vanquished!” declared Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran. “Give up!”
“Yeah!” added Gar Logan. “What she said!”
A crimson flame burst to life in each of the ex-professor's palms—he stared the five Titans dead in the eyes and replied with a simple, succinct: “No.”
The five Titans collapsed like anvils had been dropped on them, each under Blood's extra-strength mind control. “Just because your friend Mr. West has squandered his gift doesn't mean it still isn't open for you,” he offered. “Yes, I know you're all painfully aware that accepting my offer will make you my tools, but won't it be worth it to have all your fondest desires come true?” Blood paused, pondering what he'd just said, then chuckled. “Well, truthfully, it isn't, but by now you're all so far under my control you'll think it is anyway!”
“Enough, Blood!” Cyborg leapt between the villain and his friends. “If you want them, you're goin' through me!”
“Quite noble, Mr. Stone, but all of you are starting to sound like broken records.” Blood opened and closed his hand, imitating a gabbing mouth. “Isn't it as plain as the cybernetics on your body that you can't take me on alone?!”
Victor Stone just gritted his teeth. “I can look past my robot half, so I can sure as hell ignore what you say!” The cybernetic teen leapt into the air and fired a net from his hand. “You made this personal when you challenged me and took Sarah!”
“Yes, I knew that would get a rise out of you,” replied his opponent drolly. The maniac's eyes glew crimson as he turned to his defeated army. One of the students, though still unconscious, leapt to his feet and intercepted the net!
Only just then did Vic land, using the momentum of his fall backed by his robotic strength to thrust his hands into the ground and rip the floor from beneath Blood! Of course, he still had access to Wally's super speed, and was behind his opponent before he could even finish his attack!
Brother Blood simply backhanded away the metal man. Spinning to face his opponent as he reeled through the air, Victor's hand folded back into a flamethrower and released a potent plume of fire. Blood responded by extending his arms, bringing to life two small spheres of red energy that encircled his feet, whipping up enough of a breeze to extinguish the flames before they could even begin to be of use!
Before he could even ready another weapon he was caught within the shimmering mental attack of Blood's temptation, but for once the half-robot had the upper hand. Thrusting both arms to the side he broke through the attack effortlessly! “C'mon now Blood, you losing your cool? Y'know that ain't gonna work on me!”
“Exactly, Mr. Stone.” Blood didn't look amused. “That was merely a reminder for you. I considered you a challenge because of your mental prowess, not your physical!”
Again using his new-found connection to the Speed Force, Brother Blood exploded forward in a crimson streak. Vic frantically countered with a blast from his Sonic Cannon, but by the time the weapon had even fired his opponent had already outran it, sending a devastating uppercut into the mechanical man's stomach. As he skidded backwards, his mechanical eye lit up bright white.
Cyborg: “When I became a Titan I designed a sorta `fight simulator' program that would help me anticipate and counter my opponent's moves. I hadn't had much opportunity to use it before, but now sure as hell seems like the time to give it a go!
“Then again, I'm pretty much pulling out any weapon I can think of at this point! I've been preparin' this whole time for it to come down to me versus him, yet I still don't have any idea how I'm gonna beat `im! The only reason he hasn't already fried my circuits or overwritten my brain's `cause he thinks it's a fun challenge to try t'break my spirit, but even with all the extra time he's givin' me I still can't think of anything!”
So instead Cyborg just fought on, determined never to give up! His new program actually helped him defend himself briefly—until Brother Blood caught on, that was.
“Heh, stubborn,” grinned the professor-turned-megalomaniac as he upped his speed. Blood extended two fingers on each hand and immersed them in sparking energy, jabbing Cyborg with them mercilessly. In the space of one second he'd been turned into Swiss cheese!
Not letting up for even a moment, Blood followed up with two crescent shaped blades of crimson that severed the machine man's arms from his shoulders. Victor screamed, and his cries only grew louder as his opponent sent duel beams through each of his feet, obliterating them!
With no way to support himself, Victor Stone fell flat on his face, totally helpless.
“Arrogance.” A sick smile filled the face of the man who had once been Professor Sebastian. “I've finally found it, Mr. Stone! I've found your weak spot, the thorn in your flesh—or I suppose, in this case, the thorn in your promethium! You're arrogant! You've endangered all of your friends because you had to take me on, because you couldn't realize that you had no chance to defeat me! You told yourself you could win and you were wrong, Mr. Stone! Dead wrong!”
The air around Cyborg ignited as Brother Blood launched one, final mental attack. “Now that I know how to manipulate you, now that your weakness is out in the open, I'll break you like an egg!”
Victor's screams echoed throughout the underground church.
Cyborg: “Blood breaking me—that's what I'm afraid of! Still, he's wrong `bout me bein' arrogant. I'm not tryin' to take him down because I have to prove something or `cause I think I'm the only one who can—I'm doing it because none of the others can! Who else is gonna step up and fight him right now? What choice to I have?!
“Still, that doesn't mean Blood's all wrong! The only way I can fight him is by usin' my head, not my fists—so it's `bout damn time I started doin' that!”
Lying under the full mental onslaught of Brother Blood, his body in pieces, Vic gasped for breath. “B-Blood…”
The villain raised an eyebrow. “My. You have something to say, Mr. Stone?”
“I…give…” The metal man looked pained. “C-can't take…anymore…”
A smug, satisfied grin crossed Blood's face, though he tried to act like he felt sorry for the Titan. “Of course. After the fight you put up, I'm sure it hurts more than a root canal without anesthesia! I'll just—”
“But…” Cyborg interrupted his soon-to-be benefactor. “N-not like…Wally…Make it…f-fast…”
For once, Blood seemed truly touched. “Yes, a valid concern. I know I've delayed with the gifts for Mr. West and several more of my students, and I have my reasons for that. Still, Mr. Stone, you've been a brave and worthy opponent, and a most amusing experiment. For that alone, I shall grant you your fondest desire—right now.”
Cyborg: “Pefect.”
Brother Blood thrust his arms to the side, and his cloak billowed behind him as a storm of stolen mental energy brewed around his body like a tornado. The mental field around Cyborg changed into a soft glowing light, slowly overtaking the Titan and the rest of the room.
So far, all that was normal. Everything afterwards wasn't.
In a flash of crimson Blood's suit and cloak disappeared, reverting him to the tacky yesteryear stylings of Professor Sebastian. The attacks on the other Titans eased, allowing them to groggily climb to their feet. The new personas, disguises and weapons of the madman's brainwashed students faded away, returning them to their previous appearance.
However, the most miraculous events were happening to Victor Stone himself. Still shining, his body floated into the air, and the destroyed and dislodged parts of his robotic body hovered around him, all blending together until the light faded, revealing a reassembled Cyborg, good as new!
“What?!” Blood's eyes bulged from his forehead. He thrusted both his hands forward, but nothing happened. No energy attacks, no mental fields, not even a tiny spark of red. The former-powerhouse only had time to utter, “Uh-oh.”
Then Vic's foot landed upside his head.
Cyborg instantly followed up with a double-handed spike that sent Blood hurtling face-first into the floor. He bounced, and Victor used the opportunity to get in close and deliver an uppercut to the stunned man's stomach. Blood soared into the air, leaving a trail of blood leaking from his open mouth, but Cyborg's rocket-propelled hand retrieved the man and pulled him back in close.
One last right cross was all it took. The Blood Cowl soared off Sebastian's head and landed with a thud—Sebastian himself span like a top and landed on his back. He was too beat to move, even to speak, but his eyes were wide open. He wasn't blinking, just staring intently at Cyborg. Those eyes asked a question as plainly as if they had a voice of their own: “How?!”
Picking up the cowl, Vic smiled. “Don't get too confused there. You did grant me my fondest desire, you didn't do anything wrong there.” Pausing for a second, the Titan chuckled. “It's just, well, you weren't payin' enough attention earlier! I told you the first time we fought: All I want is to save Sarah and stop you!
“So, y'know, thanks for helpin' me out there.”
Those words were like a final punch, and Sebastian fell into unconsciousness, a look of shock still pasted across his face.
Cyborg: “Well, that was pretty risky. I hoped Blood's powers would grant my wish before they took my mind, but that's it, it was just hope. I had no evidence it would or anything! Fortunately, it all worked out. Ain't it great when that happens?”
Tossing the cowl to himself, Vic mused, “Now all that's left is to figure out what we're gonna do with this thing.”
“Give it to me.” Raven appeared beside her triumphant teammate, her dark cloak moving like it was alive. “Only the Monks of Azarath are properly equipped to dispose of that weapon—I will bring it to them.” Shrugging, Vic hesitantly handed it over.
Cyborg: “I sure hope that was the right thing to do…”
Raven: “The Blood Cowl is too dangerous to even leave in the hands of the other Titans or the authorities. My home is the only place where its corrupting influence can be overcome.”
“Vic!” Suddenly the half-robot was tackled to the ground by an overenthusiastic Tamaranian. “That was amazing! I am so overjoyed that you were victorious!”
“Yeah,” strained Vic, “I'm glad you beat up those brainwashed kids too.” Looking up from the ground, he was reminded of his prime motivation for fighting: tied to a statue of Blood was his girlfriend, Sarah Simms! “Hey Kory, y'think you can go…”
“Already on it!” Two well-placed Starbolts freed the student from her bonds, and Starfire quickly laid her in her boyfriend's arms.
That was about all it took to rouse her. “Vic?” There was no place Sarah'd rather be than in Victor Stone's arms, and she instantly pulled him close and squeezed him tight. “You won!”
“You bet,” smiled Vic. “There's no way I'd let you down.”
“Then you better tell me all about it as soon as we get outta here.” Sarah noticed for the first time the gigantic underground church they were in. “Wow, this is under my school? S---, no wonder our tuition's so high!” Next she noticed all the unconscious bodies, including that of Professor Sebastian as well. “Still, I guess all's well that ends well.”
“Y'think?” Agitated, Wally West was just a blur despite standing still. “It never ends well for me! Vic saves the day, but god, I blew it! I nearly damned the whole world just to get my body back, and I didn't even realize I was being shafted all along!” Bursting forward, he shattered his makeshift fist against the wall. “Stupid stupid stupid!”
Speed: “I don't care about being a hero, but what else am I supposed to be like this?! I don't even know where I can go anymore! There's no place for me! I just wanna run off into the Speed Force and let myself fade away, and not deal with all this anymore…but I don't think I can…I can't do that to Aunt Iris, and even after everything that's happened, I don't think I can give up on Raven yet either…”
Surprisingly, it was Wonder Girl who came to the speed specter's aid. “Wally, it's okay. You came through in the end!” Sighing, Donna lowered her head. “Nobody can blame you for giving in to Blood's offer. I know I nearly did myself!”
“Indeed,” added Starfire. “Wally, you should not be so hard on yourself.”
“I…I…” Wally West wanted to believe the girls, but he just didn't know if he could anymore. He didn't know what to believe anymore, other than this was making his head hurt! “I just have to get outta here and think!”
A Sonic Boom cracked the walls, and Speed left only a trail of dust to remember him by.
Speed: “I'm at my rope's end. When things are this bad, there's only one person I can turn to. I just hope she has something to say that'll help me…”
“Well,” marveled Gar Logan as he stared at the trail his lightspeed teammate left. “Y'think he'll come back this time?”
“I sure hope so,” sighed Victor Stone. Suddenly, Donna's hand was on his shoulder.
Whatever was on her mind, she certainly didn't look happy. “Can I have a word with Vic?”
Gar shrugged. “I dunno—can you?”
Vic smacked the kid on the back and turned to his girlfriend. “I'll be back in a minute, babe.”
“You'd better be,” Sarah said with a wink.
Wonder Girl: “Hera, this was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I was mad, no, furious at Vic for taking control of the team before we fought Blood, but now I don't know if we'd have even survived without him leading us. As much as I hate the idea of it, I think it might be best for the Titans if I turn over leadership to him…”
Cyborg: “I knew what Donna wanted, and I was dreadin' it. I was a jerk and just took over without even considerin' her feelings, and I nearly screwed up the entire thing. I better hope she'll take an apology…”
Before the leader could even speak, the half-machine jump-started the conversation. “Look Donna, I'm sorry I pushed you outta the leader role like that. I really wasn't thinkin' straight, y'know? All I cared about was Sarah and Blood, and I took the whole thing way too personally. You know how close I came to blowin' the whole thing?”
Donna actually burst out laughing. “Vic, I was going to recommend that you take over as Team Leader! You…you actually did a lot better than I ever could've. You were the only one who kept your cool.”
“If I'dve kept my cool I'd never've taken over from you in the first place,” interjected Cyborg. “Look, I appreciate the offer, but if I learned anything from fightin' Blood, it's to know my weaknesses, and I know I'm not cut out to be leader. I worry about you guys too much! A good leader needs to know how to delegate and let their team fend for themselves, and I can't do that. You saw me out there, I'dve taken on that entire army just to keep you guys safe from it!”
The half-Amazon still looked unsure, so Victor continued. “Donna, you know I've had your back with the whole leader thing from the start, but now even all the others take your orders! I've always thought you had potential, and I still feel the same way. I know bein' leader's not my thing, but I know it could be for you with more practice. You stay leader.”
Donna Troy's face beamed.
Wonder Girl: “I don't know if anybody's ever said anything that made me feel better! Good ol' Vic…maybe he's right, maybe he's not cut out to be a leader, but we'd still be lost without him!”
Cyborg: “I meant what I said to Donna, too. Every word of it. I do think she could be a great leader. But not everybody's cut out to be a leader, or even a hero for that matter. Hell, just look at Wally!
“I've always said that Wally reminded me of myself right after my accident. I've been pushin' the kid down the path towards bein' a hero thinking it would help `im like it did me, but obviously Wally's not me. He ain't gonna cope with it that way—but it don't mean I can't help him! I'm just gonna have to find a new way to do it!”
High up in the T-Shaped tower that housed the Teen Titans, five of the teenaged heroes slept like babies, utterly exhausted from the Brother Blood ordeal. Several stories below, however, sat Victor Stone, busy typing lines of code and soldering together tiny components. Though he had taken the most abuse of all the Titans, just a few hours spent plugged in had recharged his batteries.
Pausing for a second, Vic looked towards the blinking clock and grumbled, “Where is he?!”
Cyborg: “Wally needs help, we all know that. Like I said though, my kinda help really wasn't workin' that well. So, I figured out a way that'll definitely get the kid out of his funk! Problem is, I need some help myself to pull it off! I just wish he'd show up already!”
Suddenly a man appeared behind him, a scarlet streak that skidded to an abrupt stop. “Sorry I'm late,” meekly chuckled the speedster, the fastest man alive, the Flash! “Bad habit of mine.”
“No problem man, forget about it.” The Flash was secretly Barry Allen, the uncle of Wally West, but that wasn't a secret Cyborg was privy to. He just knew the Flash cared for Wally and had the information on the Speed Force he needed!
“Thanks for helping me like this,” continued Barry. “It's hard to find a lab like this where somebody actually has the time and the money to help me!”
“Well,” smiled Vic, “I sure do! So, let's get to it!
“Let's figure out how to get Wally his body back!”
Mr. Loren Jupiter, the man in charge of all things even slightly related to the Teen Titans, was used to clandestine meetings and immoral dealings. Together with his secretary, Ms. Lilith Clay, he managed contacts of every sort, all across the globe!
However, even Ms. Clay was unaware of one of Jupiter's associates, perhaps his most important. The information was too sensitive even for her!
“Jupiter.” The director span in his chair to face his guest: the Teen Titan Raven! “Everything worked out as we had planned—better, truthfully.”
“I know, I was watching,” grinned Jupiter. “I was most impressed at how you played our friend Wally.”
“At this point he practically does it to himself,” replied the empath. “I was more grateful for Blood targeting Cyborg the way he did. That certainly worked to our advantage.”
“Yes, but still, it never would've worked at all without your information.”
“I know. I was not aware of who currently possessed the Cowl of Blood, but whoever it was, I knew he would be unable to resist the bait of our public superhero team.”
“So,” Jupiter asked as he leaned over his desk, “Do you have it?”
“Of course.” Raven's cloak blew open, and the Cowl of Blood emerged, landing on Jupiter's desk. Beaming, the director pulled it onto his head. Instantly his eyes lit up, glowing a fierce shade of red.
Next time: POV: Deathstroke