Teen Titans Fan Fiction ❯ The Real World: Titans Tower ❯ Tangled Web ( Chapter 18 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
OOC: Sorry this took so long, guys! I've had a ton of stuff going on, but things are settling down now, so we should be back on a monthly schedule. Still, despite missing a chapter in October, I got you two in September, so hopefully it all evens out. Anyway, I appreciate all of you readers sticking around, and I hope you enjoy what's to come—I've waited a long time to write this arc!
DISCLAIMER: The New Teen Titans were created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and are owned by DC Comics.
“All Star Teen Titans”
“The Real World: Titans Tower”
Chapter 18: Tangled Web
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—CARDY CAFÉ, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
Donna Troy doesn't know who she is.
Okay, maybe that's not wholly accurate. She knows who she is: she's Wonder Girl! What she doesn't know is who she was before Wonder Woman rescued her from a burning building as a toddler. The mighty princess took the child back to Themyscira, mythical home of the Amazons, where she was raised as one of their own.
Growing up on that magical island, the girl was surrounded by loving sisters, and was even granted some of their mighty power. However, something always felt…off. Despite it all, Donna was still human, and she wanted to explore that part of her life as well—and even more importantly, she wanted to find out where it was she came from. Who she was before she became Donna Troy.
So, with the blessing of her Amazonian sisters and the assistance of Wonder Woman, Donna came to Man's World, becoming the super-hero Wonder Girl. And, while she has yet to find out the truth behind her origins, she has found something else that was just as sorely missing from her life:
Wonder Girl: “The first man I ever met was Superman. Now, while Themyscira isn't an island of man-haters like most people think, men were still foreign to me. Superman, he helped me warm up to men immediately. Not only was meeting him inspiring, but he was warm and comforting as well.
“But standing right behind him was this cute boy that really caught my attention: Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern. He was the first man I ever really knew. He would always take the time to explain the world to me and make me feel wanted and special. Looking back on it, though, I suppose I was boosting his ego as much as he was mine.
“I mean, don't get me wrong, I still care about Kyle. He'll always be one of my best friends. But, our relationship is starting to feel like…kid's stuff. Plus, he's never here anymore! I know being a Green Lantern means being away from home a lot, but if that's how he's going to have to live the rest of his life, then maybe he's better off without a girlfriend…”
Miss Troy, not wearing her costume but, instead, a much more causal outfit, sat at an outdoor table at Cardy Café, the quaint restaurant that had become the regular meeting place for her and her new beau, Terry Long. Mr. Long, an aspiring history student and gofer on `The Real World: Titans Tower' set, had slowly but surely been winning over the heart of his long-time crush.
Wonder Girl: “When Terry first approached me back in Jupiter's office, I was less than enthused. He came off as…well…stalker-ish, for lack of a better word. But, it was a different kind of stalker-ish than, say, Dick. Terry really cares about me! That's not to say that Kyle doesn't, but I mean, Terry asks me questions about myself, about my past too. Kyle loves to talk about himself. Terry and I, we have real conversations.
“So despite the slow start, I think I finally know how I feel about Terry Long. So, why should I wait to tell him?”
“Donna? You okay?” Terry was half-way across the table, staring intently at his girlfriend. “You sure seem distracted today!”
The adopted Amazon blushed slightly. “Sorry, I guess I have been a little distracted. There's a lot on my mind.”
“So…” The red-head waited for a second, and with no answer, ventured, “Are you gonna tell me about it?” Chuckling, he continued, “I mean, we can talk about your meeting the Greek Gods or my overbearing mother any day, so we might as well figure out what's wrong with you now.”
“Fine, fine,” conceded Wonder Girl. Resting her elbows on the table and her head in her hands, she met the gofer's stare with one just as resolute. “I'm sure you realized how I wasn't exactly…eager to go out with you at first.”
“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” drawled Terry sarcastically. They both laughed, and he continued, “Seriously Donna, I know what a doof I am. Ya kinda get used to it after a while. I wasn't gonna let it get in the way of meeting you…”
Smiling, Donna interjected, “And that's just it. Your…'doofiness', it's, well, adorable. I've had the “macho man”, Terry, and I'm ready for something different. You listen to me, treat me more like a person than an object or an ego-boost. Everybody won't look at you and think you're a prize like they have Kyle, but I don't need them to. You're my prize.
“As for Kyle, I'm not sure what I'm going to say to him yet. But what I do know is that, well…I love you, Terry. And I'm not going to hide it or you anymore!”
Terry Long looked like he'd been shot, or as if he'd had a heart attack.
Wonder Girl: “Okay, not exactly the reaction I expected, but then again, why wouldn't Terry be taken by surprise? I'd never even really called him my boyfriend before this, but as much as we've been talking lately, wouldn't he have figured it out?”
“Wow.” Terry was still stunned. “Just…wow Donna, that's…awesome. I, I don't know what to say.” Donna was starting to look a little agitated, ready to tell him what he should be saying, when the student pulled out his phone. “Oh s---, the studio needs me! Donna, I'm sorry, looks like we're still not gonna be able to make it through a full date. I promise, we'll talk about this later tonight.”
“How about you come by the tower?” suggested the Titan. “We can talk more, and then I can introduce you to the other Titans.”
Wonder Girl: “What, surprised? I hid Terry from the Titans because I didn't want them thinking I was cheating on Kyle and giving me a hard time, and then, once things got more serious, because I wasn't sure what I was going to do about Kyle. But now, like I said, I'm not going to hide him anymore! Besides, Dick already knows about Terry and has actually been reasonable about it! If he can handle this, then there's no excuse for the others not to!”
“Sure,” smiled Terry. “Sounds great.” He kissed his girl on the cheek and ran off, but somehow, Donna Troy wasn't feeling it.
Wonder Girl: “I don't get it! Hera, I thought he'd be thrilled as much as he pursued me to begin with! But I guess it isn't his fault, after all, his phone call is what stopped me from finding out what he really thought, and as much as I've done that to him lately, I can't be mad.
“Oh well, there's still tonight. I know everything will work out then. It's going to be wonderful.”
***OFF THE AIR—LOREN JUPITER'S OFFICE***
Mr. Loren Jupiter, the man behind `The Real World: Titans Tower', sat at his desk, nearly buried beneath a mountain of papers. He leafed through several booklets as villain profiles flashed by on his computer screen at a furious pace. He needed a new enemy for the Titans to fight, and bad.
“Mr. Jupiter?” The voice of the fashion disaster's secretary, Ms. Lilith Clay, suddenly sounded from his phone.
Growling, he responded, “Ms. Clay, unless you have located a new enemy for my Titans to fight, I suggest you follow my wishes and leave me be. All I need is one more significant threat to drive ratings through the roof, then I can—”
“It's Terry Long, Mr. Jupiter,” interjected the red-head. “He wants to speak to you.”
A grin covered the man's face. He shouldn't have doubted her—Ms. Clay always knew what he wanted to hear, after all. “Ah, I see. I'm sorry, Ms. Clay—please, please, send him right in!”
The door slowly opened as Terry Long crept into the office. His head hung slightly, like he didn't want to make eye contact with his boss.
“Hello, Mr. Long!” Grinning, Jupiter leaned over his desk and leered at the boy. “What brings you to my office today?”
“Donna told me she loved me.” He still didn't look pleased. Jupiter, though…
“Perfect.” Pleased beyond all belief, the director clasped his hands. “Why the long face, Mr. Long? You've done what you set out to. And, as I promised, you'll receive your reward.”
Terry still didn't budge. “I feel like a heel. Y'know, at first this was a dream come true. You offered to pay for my college tuition completely if I'd make Donna Troy fall in love with me. An offer like that doesn't come around every day, and I sat there thinking, why me?”
“Because you fit the profile perfectly,” interjected Jupiter. “You were exactly what she was looking for, but didn't realize herself.”
“Plus,” continued Terry Long, “I'd seen the first episode working on the set, and Donna came across as a real bitch. I figured she could use some heartache. She was the kinda girl that always broke the hearts of guys like me. But…”
”But I was wrong. Donna's got issues, yeah, but I've seen a side of her most
people haven't. She's kind and smart and despite it all, she wants to do the right thing, no matter what. She told me she loved me, and what's scary is, I think I love her too.”
Jupiter chuckled. “So what you're trying to say is…”
“I can't do this to her.” Terry Long had never been bold, never been popular, never stood up for what he believed in. Today, he aimed to change all that—nothing had ever motivated him the way Donna did. Emboldened, he got to his feet, leaned over the other side of the desk, and stared Jupiter straight in the eye. “So either you tell her what's going on, or I will.”
Despite the threat, the boy's boss wasn't even slightly intimidated. “But, then she'll know your part in the whole affair too…”
“I know,” sighed Terry, “And I don't care. She deserves the truth, even if it screws me over. I mean, it's not just me even! You're here hiring villains to fight your own team, hiring people to mess up their personal lives…what kind of director are you?!” Despite being wound quite tightly, he still chuckled as he said, “I mean, I know everybody says reality TV's scripted, but this is ridiculous!”
Leaning back and clasping his hands, Jupiter was working quite hard to keep a straight face. “Terry, Terry, Terry…you know what I've done to this team, the people I've hired, and the contacts I have, and yet you threaten me?! What do you think I'm going to do to you?”
Terry's heart fell so far it practically landed in his feet. He backed up slowly until he was right by the office door—it took everything he had not to run. He could kick himself for being so stupid! Of course Jupiter was going to fight back! Still, taking every last bit of his nerve, the gofer just said, “I don't care. I—I'm going to go tell her right now!”
And then the door flung open. A teenaged girl covered in black and orange chain-mail leapt into the room and landed a roundhouse kick to Terry's face, knocking him unconscious instantly. She wore a mask, half orange and half black, that covered the top half of her head, and only had one eye-hole. Snow white hair hung out the back, falling about halfway down her back. On her back was an x-shaped sheath holding four swords—she drew one and, grabbing the boy's limp body around its waist, held the weapon to his neck.
She was Rose Wilson, Ravager, daughter of Deathstroke, the most deadly mercenary alive. “Alright, don't move or I kill him right now!”
Behind her was her brother, Joe, Jericho. He wore a black Kevlar vest, and the rest of his uniform was comprised of blue chain-mail. Unlike the rest of his family, he didn't wear a mask—his face was left uncovered, as was his short blonde hair.
“Good job, my dear.” Next entered her father himself. Slade Wilson was one of the most dangerous men in the world—he could kill with pretty much anything, and with his cold and uncompassionate demeanor, nothing stood in his way. Months ago, Jupiter had hired him to fight the Titans and lose. Slade had never planned to actually lose, but that's exactly what happened, and now he had returned to make sure everybody involved paid dearly for the damage this did to his reputation.
Mr. Loren Jupiter was surprised, but not scared. To him, Deathstroke was about as threatening as Terry was—which, of course, wasn't much at all. “Deathstroke, it's been ages! Out early for good behavior?”
“No,” said Slade bluntly as he aimed a sub-machine gun at Jupiter's head, “I'm out to kill you. And really, I've wasted far too much time attending to this already, though, on the bright side, it's certainly built up my anticipation.”
“Hm,” chuckled Jupiter, “Well I hope your hopes aren't too high. You know nothing ever lives up to expectation in life.”
Deathstroke's face was hidden beneath a full face mask, his emotions just as effectively disguised. So, when he next spoke, it was slightly unclear whether he was amused or angry—or perhaps both. “Jokes—even you aren't stupid enough to be serious. What's your plan?”
Right about then Jupiter's secretary, Lilith Clay, peeked around the corner. When she saw Slade's gun pointed towards her boss, she nearly smiled. He'd be doing the world a favor killing him—Terry, however, was another story altogether. That's why the girl didn't hesitate for a second as she leapt into the air, hoping to knock Ravager away from the boy.
Jericho, however, had other plans. He made eye-contact with the red-head while she was still in mid-leap, and instantly he took control of her body. As he landed just inches short of Rose, his host's stiletto boots gave out and he tripped.
“I hate high heels,” grumbled Joe, through Lilith's mouth.
“Well, there goes your escape,” said Slade, nearly chuckling.
Jupiter however, was even more amused. “Ms. Clay had nothing to do with it. I don't have a plan, per say—consider it more of an offer.”
Frowning, Deathstroke shared his feelings about this by firing a bullet through Jupiter's shoulder. “Taking one of your offers started this whole mess. No deal.”
Blood leaked from the wound as Jupiter clamped down tight on his shoulder—still, he wasn't done. It was time to pour on the…charm. “T-that boy your daughter has…he's Terry Long, he—he's Wonder Girl's boyfriend. Just i-imagine the damage you could do with him…with the Titans' family and friends…tell me D-Deathstroke…how sweet would that be?”
“What do you think we are, dense, retarded?” scoffed Rose. “Quit trying to w—”
“Quiet, Ravager!” The mercenary cut off his daughter, and was obviously deep in thought. “That's actually not a half-bad idea, Jupiter. You surprise me.”
He also surprised his children. Jericho, still in Lilith Clay's body, certainly felt uneasy. If his dad was thinking of letting Jupiter go, then something was seriously wrong here. “Dad…”
“If you're actually gonna listen to the jerk's plan, at least off `im first!” interjected Rose.
Slade frowned—he'd have to up their dosages of mind-control serum after the mission was over. “Both of you: enough! This is my decision and my decision alone.” Activating his comm-link, he continued, “Wintergreen, find me files on the Titans closest allies, and ready the weapon. We'll be going into action as soon as I return.”
Despite his injury—and despite how bleak things seemed—Jupiter was grinning from ear to ear. He'd never been able to go this all-out before, and he was quite pleased at the results.
“You're a lucky man, Jupiter,” complimented Deathstroke as he sauntered towards the door. “This time things won't work out like before, but I'll let you live just long enough to see me break your team. Then, I'll be back. Enjoy your respite.” Walking out of the office, he beckoned, “Children, come! And Ravager, bring the boy!”
She followed, complaining all the way. Jericho exited Lilith's body, pushed her to the floor, and exited as well. As he caught up, he heard his younger sister loudly objecting to their father's actions. “Dad, how could you let him live, even for just a little while?! Don't you remember what happened last time?!”
Suddenly Slade Wilson span and lashed out with a devastating back-hand that knocked Rose into the wall. “Don't you ever question me again!”
He marched off, leaving Joe to help his sister to her feet. “What's wrong with him, Joey?” she asked, and the body-jumper had no answer but a shrug. He didn't know what was wrong with his father, but he knew something was up. Slade never would have let Jupiter live unless something was influencing his actions.
Back in Mr. Jupiter's office, Lilith had the same sinking feeling Jericho did. She climbed to her feet, and saw her boss, still clutching his injury, yet smiling. It made her nauseous.
“What did you do to him?!” demanded Ms. Clay. “I know there's no way Deathstroke would spare us unless you somehow made him do it!”
“Then you should be grateful, Ms. Clay,” slowly replied her bleeding employer. “As for the how of the matter, let's just say that you have your secrets, and I have mine.” Suddenly a wave of pain racked his body, and nearly doubling over, Jupiter continued, “And can you please get my doctor in here?!”
***ON THE AIR—ALLEN RESIDENCE, KEYSTONE CITY, KANSAS, USA***
Wally West was once just a typical teenager from Blue Valley, Nebraska. That all changed the day an accident in his uncle's lab turned him into a living being of energy, an avatar of the mythical source of all momentum, the Speed Force. Traumatized by the loss of his body, he joined a reality show assembling a group of teenaged super heroes in order to strike back at the man he thought responsible for his predicament: The Flash (secretly his uncle, Barry Allen.)
His plight was made even worse by his involvement with his cynical, withdrawn teammate Raven and the bi-polar Magenta, Francis Kane. At the height of his depression, he was offered his body back by the megalomaniacal Brother Blood, and was turned into his pawn. Needless to say, after Blood was defeated, Wally wasn't a happy camper.
Speed: “I screwed up big time. It's like, y'know, I didn't feel bad enough about myself already without this. I mean, I've never been as into this `super-hero' thing as the rest of them, but it's not like I want to see some retarded professor with a huge ego enslave the world either, and that's almost what I helped him do!
“With that, and with Raven being more of a b---- every day, I don't really have any reason to stay there anymore. The girl I love beat the crap out of me and blew me off at the same time—that's a new one! I know we could make a relationship work, but she's not even going to listen to me about it…so why do I even bother?
“At times like this, there's only one person I can talk to. As of now, my Aunt Iris is the only person I trust to help. She's always cared about me, always been there even when no one else was. She advised me to try to fit in at Titans Tower, and…and I'm sure she was right…how could she have seen what would happen?
“If anybody would know what to do, she would.”
“So that's the whole story, Aunt Iris…”
“That's a tough one, kiddo,” replied Iris West-Allen. The reporter tapped her chin and crossed her legs, deep in thought. She'd advised Wally to stay with the Titans because she didn't know if her nephew's condition could ever be reversed, and she wanted him to make the best of it, to make friends who could help him through it.
Instead, he'd got caught up in Raven. She sighed as she remembered how girls had always been his downfall—then again, she couldn't blame him for his hang-ups. Wally's parents had beaten into him the idea that he'd never go anywhere, for him to keep his head to the ground and aspire to be as normal as possible. Wally literally couldn't comprehend this chance he'd been given to do so much good!
Iris wanted to kill her idiot brother for that. “Well, I don't really know what to say. If you aren't a Titan, I don't know where else you can go. Look, you don't really have a choice. When I recommended you rejoin the team, I just wanted you to make friends, not get a girlfriend.
“Which isn't to say that would be bad, but from what you've told me, it seems like you've spent all your time pursuing Raven. What about the others? I know you don't like Wonder Girl or Robin, but what about Starfire and Cyborg? They both seem to really care about you, Wally.”
Speed: “God, she's always right. Freaking always.”
The specter of speed sighed, his head hanging so low it was nearly between his knees. “Yeah, I know Aunt Iris. It's just…”
“Seeing Raven every day?”
Speed: “And that's why she's always right, she knows me like a book…”
“Exactly! How am I supposed to deal with that?!”
“The same way you deal with everything else: you just do.” Speed just gave her a puzzled, slightly disgruntled expression. “Don't give me that look, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Sometimes we just have to do what we have to, damn our excuses. And Wally, there's no way you're going to survive without friends.
“And besides, if you want to make up for your mishap with Brother Blood, I don't see any other choice for you but to go back!”
Climbing to his feet, Speed smirked—she totally had him with both of those points. “I know, Aunt Iris.” He kissed her on the cheek—she tried not to bristle at how abrasive his Speed Force shell felt against her soft skin. “And, as always, you're right…Thanks.”
“Anytime, kiddo,” smiled his aunt. “And don't be such a stranger. Anytime you have something to tell me, anything, just come and tell me!”
“Of course, Aunt Iris.” Nearly blushing, Wally burst forth, melding through the house's walls and taking off at break-neck speed for San Francisco.
Speed: “Really, nothing changed from last time I talked to Aunt Iris. Raven, she's the problem! I'll show her, I'll ignore her completely. I don't need her. I can have friends! I mean, where else on Earth am I gonna fit in at if not Titans Tower? Screw my screw ups, I'll show them all what I can do!”
Watching his yellow trail disappear in the distance, Iris sighed. She hoped she did the right thing. Wally always left her so enthused, but it never took long for life to drag him right down again. How long could he follow her advice this time?
Still, it didn't matter. Her husband had been working with Cyborg ever since the Blood incident to reverse Wally's condition. All she had to do was keep him sane a little longer…and hopefully they would have an answer!
Suddenly, she heard a noise from the other room. `That's odd,' she thought, `Barry shouldn't be home this early…' Still, when you're married to the Flash, you get used to him showing up at random hours. Or, it could've been Bart, skipping school again—it wouldn't be the first time.
Still, as Iris rounded the corner into the living room, she never expected the figure she was met by. As the house lit up, she could only scream one word:
***TITANS TOWER—SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran sighed as she flipped through the channels. Despite the tower picking up nearly every station known to man, she was bored and restless. She didn't want to watch TV—she'd done enough of that when she first joined the team to last a lifetime—but nearly everybody was gone from the Tower. Everybody was out doing something on their own, except for her boyfriend, Dick Grayson, the acrobat known as Robin.
This should have been good news, because what Starfire wanted to do was be with him—unfortunately, he wasn't exactly being cooperative in that area.
Starfire: “I do not understand what has been wrong with Dick lately! When we first met I admired his honesty and enthusiasm, but ever since his fight with Flamebird he has been withdrawn, spending all his time training by himself or with the little Robin! He used to let me watch him train, or help, but now…
“And it is not just that! He even seems to be shutting himself out! When we fought Brother Blood he was so joyless, almost like he was another person! Why would he be trying to be so…dark?”
Suddenly the alien powerhouse was startled out of her thoughts by the phone ringing. She hit a button on the oversized remote, and Matt Logan's face appeared on television screen.
“Matt!” exclaimed Koriand'r. Matt was the cousin of Gar Logan, Beast Boy, who had stayed at Titans Tower a while back, until his disastrous union with Kory's sister, Blackfire. “It is wonderful to speak to you! How are things?!”
“Not bad babe, not bad at all,” replied the slacker with a smile. “Yo, is Gar home? I have a new video game I was gonna bring over an' let him try out.”
“Actually, he is spending the day with Animal Man and his family,” replied Kory. “Should I tell him you called?”
“Totally,” laughed Matt as he winked and pointed his fingers toward the camera like a gun. “I'll see ya around, hot stuff.”
***OFF THE AIR***
Matt Logan turned around and kicked back open the door of the unkept house he was staying at with five of his closest pals. “Yo guys, looks like I'll be `round today after all!”
His friends were all sitting around a keg, each with a beer bong in hand, and they just stared at the boy. “C'mon, pull out a bong for me!”
Before they could, however, Matt was snatched away by a supersonic streak of light, disappearing as if he was never there. His friends looked on for a second, stupefied, before turning back to the keg.
“More for us!”
***ON THE AIR***
Kory, meanwhile, was riding the elevator towards the training room.
Starfire: “Matt went through a lot with Komand'r when he stayed at the tower. Gar seemed to think he would never come back again. Well, if he can face his problems this easily, so can I! Besides, I know well enough that hiding my feelings will only cause trouble. Maybe that is what everybody on Earth does, but that only makes problems worse—just like the one Dick and I are having!”
She knocked on the steel door several times, and several minutes later Robin answered the door. “Oh, hey Kory! What's happenin'?”
“Nothing really,” said the princess coyly, “I just wanted to be with you!”
Dick blushed and started to grin, but just as quickly lost the signs of happiness. “Awesome, but…I'm kinda training right now, y'know, the little Robin an' me.”
“So?” shrugged Starfire. “You used to let me sit in on your practice sessions all the time!”
“Yeah, but we're goin' into the city for on the spot training today. We're trying to blend in with the shadows, and, well, everybody would notice you!”
Robin: “I mean, everybody already does, and I love it cause they must be so jealous of me, but we don't need that during detective training!”
The Tamaranian just glared at her boyfriend, but he pulled her close and laid a passionate kiss onto her lips. “C'mon Kory, we'll do something really fun when I get back.”
“Fine,” she replied, but she wasn't at all happy about it. As the door slid shut, Koriand'r unfurled a scream of pure frustration and unleashed a Starbolt into a nearby trashcan, reducing it to steaming cinders.
Starfire: “What is wrong with him?!”
On the other side of the sound-proof training room door, Robin couldn't hear her cry. The guilt, however, still lingered like a stale odor.
Robin: “Y'know, honestly, I would like Kory to come with us. I know it doesn't look like it, but I care about her a lot. Hell, I might even f---ing love her. But I need to keep my life as Dick and my life as Robin separate. I can't f--- around anymore! Not if I don't want to be as useless as Flamebird!
“The little Robin's gonna teach me to be as good as him an' Batman are, and while I'm workin' on that, that's what I'm gonna focus on!”
“She could've come,” grumbled the younger Robin, the mysterious partner of the equally mysterious vigilante, the Batman.
“You're trying to show me how to be a detective,” replied Dick. “She'd have gotten in the way.”
A small, wry grin cracked the smaller boy's face. “Please, you would like her there as much as I do. We all appreciate the distraction.”
This time Dick couldn't retain his laughter. “Perv.”
“Oh please, you're one to talk.” The smaller Robin pulled a book from beneath his cape and tossed it to his counterpart. “Here, if you're so eager to get to the lesson, then take a look.”
“What, this the latest Harry Potter or something? I thought they were over.”
“Just read it…”
“Diary?” Dick Grayson raised an eyebrow quizzically. “You keep a diary? Dude, if you're trying to come out to me, well s---, I'm flattered, but shouldn't you tell the bat first?”
Robin: “I mean, if a guy has to keep a diary, at least call it a `journal', that'll take away at least 10% of the gay, but still, just don't!”
“It's not mine, moron,” sighed the detective as he smacked his face with his palm.
Opening the front cover, Dick discovered a name inside. “Oh, right—holy f---ing s---, this is Donna's?!” The acrobat could barely contain his excitement. “Oh, this is too good!”
“Calm down, you're only going to read the page I have marked in there.”
“How the hell'd you even get this, kid?!”
“That's not important right now! Just read it!”
Robin: “Heh, he's gonna tell me, whether he wants to or not! I'll never forget!”
The older Robin finally scanned the page in question. “Woah, Donna doesn't know who her parents are? Why didn't she ask any of us for help finding out?!”
“She was going to at first,” explained the younger crime-fighter. “It was the main reason she joined the Titans. But, well, it's no secret she wasn't really impressed with you guys, and then she got involved with Terry, and next thing you know…”
“The whole thing just falls apart.” Dick shut the book and looked at it for a second, still trying to figure out its significance. “So what's this have to do with training?”
“Everything,” replied his young friend with a smile. “Today, you're taking your first real test as a detective: you're going to figure out who Donna Troy's parents are!”
Dick smiled like the Chesire cat. “Now that sounds like an adventure!”
***OFF THE AIR—AZARATH, BETWEEN DIMENSIONS***
Azarath was a haven. Located in a pocket between dimensions, it was safe from attacks of almost any nature. Its elegant and majestic towers and monuments glistened against the backdrop of a multi-colored, nearly psychedelic sky. At its epicenter was the most impressive building of all: a temple to the Goddess of Pacifism, Azar.
Those who founded Azarath were monks, looking to escape the violence inevitably found in every dimension, every world. The haven they created was a place of peace and inaction—violence could never be permitted.
It was here that the empath and Teen Titan known as Raven was raised. The monks taught her to control her emotions lest she give birth to a great and uncontrollable evil, but that proved nearly impossible, for from Azarath she could monitor any world. She saw the wicked deeds of the humans on her birth world, and every evil act ate away at her soul.
She begged the Monks of Azarath to intervene, but they refused. And every life they could have saved but didn't ate away at her soul as well.
Soon, Raven grew to hate mankind. Soon, Raven grew to hate her mentors.
That was why she destroyed Azarath.
Now the once-peaceful haven was nothing but ruins. The towers had all been knocked down, the monuments defaced, and the temple of Azar had been reduced to rubble. Even the bright sky seemed darker, as if in mourning of the city that had once been a radiant jewel floating through its endless air.
Raven now floated above the desolated sanctuary, her dark cloak flapping behind her through an otherworldly breeze. This was where she came to think, to remind herself of why her mission was so important, to focus and keep her goal plainly in sight.
Focusing was something Raven desperately needed to do. Lately her mind had been starting to feel…clouded. She'd made a friend in Starfire. The empath truly admired the alien's honesty and compassion. Unfortunately, this only raised further issues in her mind. Could she truly go through with her endeavor if she had a friend?
But, as always, seeing Azarath set her priorities straight. And now, nothing could deter her.
Suddenly a voice came over the radio in her ear. She was needed—but not by her teammates. “Yes, Jupiter,” replied Raven, “I am on my way.”
The Titan was enveloped by her black cloak, its energy growing into a bird-shape before dissipating and leaving only Azarath—empty, desolate Azarath, a warning of things to come.
Unfortunately, nobody knew it.
***ON THE AIR—THE STREETS OF SAN FRANSISCO***
“Wow, this city's actually pretty nice when it's not bein' robbed or attacked by supervillains.”
Chuckling, Sarah Simms held on to the metallic arm of her boyfriend, Victor Stone, the half-machine member of the Teen Titans known as Cyborg. “Yeah,” she agreed, “We should've got you out here sooner! You spend too much time cooped up in your lab!”
“Well, if there's one thing that can get me out, it's you,” grinned Vic. “So, where to next?”
Cyborg: “Sarah's been goin' to college here for two years, so she knows this city like the back of her hand. Y'know, it's weird. I keep forgetting she's older than me! I guess, I dunno…not to brag or anything, but I feel a lot older than the other Titans, a lot older than I actually am. I guess maybe that's why I worry about `em so much. They're all like my little brothers an' sisters, an' it's my job to take care of `em.
“So I like Sarah gettin' to be in charge for a day!”
“Oh, I've got just the place in mind,” said the slim blonde, but as she started to describe it, her boyfriend lost his focus. His internal radar was picking something that didn't belong in the nearby airspace, and it was moving fast. His enhanced hearing focused in on the sounds, and—
“DOWN!” Cyborg tackled his date as she was in mid-sentence, spinning in mid-air so that he'd land on his back, cradling his fragile cargo in his arms. Only a second behind him, a streak of light blew through where the two had been standing. Not having achieved its goal, it suddenly stopped its flight in mid-air, and the subsequent shockwave broke windows up and down the block.
As the blinding light diminished it revealed a man in a black costume with a white cape, wearing a black mask with a white fin running vertically across the middle of his head.
As Victor's jaw dropped to the ground, Sarah Simms had only one question: “Who?!”
Cyborg: “Dr. Light was the first enemy we faced on our first day as a team! I dunno what the hell he's doin' here, though—Raven blanked out his mind! Last time we saw him, Mr. Jupiter's men were takin' him away an' he was a zombie! What the hell's he doin' here?!”
“No time to explain, Sarah! Just stay behind me!” Indeed, Cyborg didn't even have a chance to attack as Light sent two blinding projectiles of his namesake speeding towards his targets. A shield of pure, solidified energy erected itself between Victor Stone and the attack, saving their lives—if only for the moment.
For a being capable of moving at the speed of light, however, a moment was more than enough time. While Vic was still busy with his shield, Light took off and zoomed behind the machine-man, setting his sights on Sarah!
Dr. Light was rewarded for his efforts with a steel fist to his face, sending the villain zooming through a building.
Cyborg: “'Kay, like I thought, that's definitely not Light—least not his mind! He never moved that fast before, and the real Light wouldn't shut up, so this can't be him!”
Starbursts came to live in both of the not-so-good doctor's palms, but suddenly a voice started chattering into his ear, over a small radio transmitter. Noticing his enemy's hesitation, Cyborg brought his sensors to life, and managed to pick up a few garbled pieces of the transmission.
“Get back here…forget the girl…you're needed…” Dr. Light slowly turned and prepared to do as he was told.
“No you don't you bastard…” A small tube emerged from the top of Vic's wrist, and as he aimed carefully, it launched a small tracker onto the villain's cape. Then Light was gone, leaving a trail of light over the city like the St. Louis arch.
Sarah was shaken as she climbed to her feet. “S---,” she gasped, “He was after me, wasn't he?”
Cyborg: “I didn't want to tell her the truth, `specially since I didn't know why he wanted her. I figured she went through enough with Blood as it is…”
“I'm not sure,” said the half-machine, “But you'd better get somewhere safe, just in case. I'm gonna follow him!”
“No.” Suddenly Sarah was on her boyfriend's back, both her arms around his neck. “If he is after me, then the safest place I can be is with you!”
Cyborg: “Heh, I shoulda known she would do that.”
“Alright then, I can't argue with ya there.” Crouching slightly, Cyborg suddenly took to the air, leaping with every bit of his tremendous leg strength. As they reached the peak of their flight, boosters on the soles of his feet kicked in.
“Better hang on, though,” advised Vic. “I don't know what the hell we're gettin' ourselves into!”
***THE BAKER RESIDENCE—SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
“Wow, Mrs. Baker! This stuff is delicious!”
Tiny Garfield Logan, the green animal shapeshifter known as Beast Boy, was shoving a plateful of food into his mouth like he was a garbage disposal. Around the table four other figures watched the Titan in amazement.
“I'm…glad you think so, Garfield,” said a slim red-head in her early thirties. She was Ellen Baker, wife of Buddy Baker, the animal rights activist and super-hero known as Animal Man. “Buddy told me you were interested in learning some vegan recipes, and this was one of my favorites…”
Swallowing another giant spoonful, Gar replied, “I can see why!”
Beast Boy: “I like these guys! When I first met Animal Man I thought he was a real weirdo, but that wasn't his fault. He's really cool, and so is his family! They all care about animals as much as I do! I mean, I've been like a billion different kinds of animals, so there's no way I could eat one, and not many people understand that.
“And jeez, this stuff's a million times better than plain ol' tofu!”
“If you like it so much, want mine?” Cliff, the Baker's son, was maybe thirteen years old at the most, dressed in a grungy metal band t-shirt and a backwards baseball cap. Pushing his plate across the table, he offered, “Please?”
His sister Maxine, several years younger, was apparently quite used to her brother's antics. “Mommy, Cliff's trying to get rid of his dinner again!”
“I know, Maxine…” sighed Ellen.
“Cliff, you know you're not leaving this table until you eat your food,” lectured Buddy. “Why do you keep trying this?”
“Cause I'm missing my show!” countered Cliff.
Despite all the arguing, Gar just smiled.
Beast Boy: “Heh, despite how it looks, I actually really like this. I guess you all know by now how my parents died with I was just a little kid, and then how I wasn't with the Doom Patrol long before they were murdered. What I don't think I ever mentioned is what I did after that.
“I traveled the world, surviving anyway I could. It's not like I could just get a job, I really can't do anything besides becoming animals, and no way was I going to an orphanage!. Anyway, I definitely didn't like it. Finally I saw the ads for the Titans, and I joined right up! I just wanted a home again, and maybe more than anything, a family. And I was kinda surprised, but it delivered!
“But bein' with Animal Man and his family is different. It reminds me of a real family, like I had before my parents died. So even if they're fightin', to me it's just kinda comforting. I…I miss all this chaos.”
“Don't do this tonight Cliff, we have a guest!”
“I don't mind,” interjected Gar. “I mean, I don't want any trouble `cause I'm here.”
Leaping from his seat so hard that the chair tipped and fell, Cliff went running into the living room. “All right!”
The changeling chuckled, which prompted Maxine to ask, “Maybe you want him?”
“I'm sorry Gar,” said Buddy, “I was hoping things would be a little more peaceful for your visit.”
“Don't worry about it,” said Beast Boy with a smile. “I kinda like it.”
Animal Man just raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you're okay?”
Suddenly a slight scream cut off their conversation, and Cliff came running around the corner. “Greenie, you've gotta see this!”
“What?” Beast Boy dashed into the living room, and only a minute later he screamed as well. The kid came rounding the corner back into the dining room, angry and nervous and more worked up than he'd been since they fought the Brotherhood!
Beast Boy: “Great, this is the last thing I wanted, lunch out or not!”
“Gar, what's wrong?!”
“No time to explain! It's on TV anyway!” Looking towards his meal, Gar sighed. “Sorry to run out, you guys. I really did appreciate this. Mrs. Baker, think I could get a green doggie's bag?”
She nodded and moved towards the counter, and this time the shapeshifter turned towards his superhero colleague. “And if you don't mind…think you could let me use your JLA transporter to get back to this Tower? This is bad!”
“Donna! I am so happy to see you!” Starfire floated eagerly behind her half-Amazon teammate, who wasn't very happy to see her.
Starfire: “Finally, somebody is here! This tower was far too empty!”
“Kory, I'm really not in the mood.” Wonder Girl sighed and dropped her purse angrily onto the table, scanning the living room.
Wonder Girl: “I shouldn't have been so mean to Kory, but I was just annoyed that my date with Terry didn't go as planned. Plus, I had to get the Tower ready before he got there, and that's no small task with my housemates!”
Suddenly a light shone in the middle of the room, and Beast Boy appeared from nowhere! “No, I can't teleport!” he exclaimed, knowing every second counted.
Starfire: “How did he know what I was going to ask?!”
Beast Boy: “Hey, that's what I would've thought!”
“What's wrong with you?” grumbled Donna. “I thought you were going to be out for the day.”
“I was, but this is bad!” He turned into a cat and leapt for the remote, but it was intercepted by a golden streak.
“The kid's right, I saw it on my way back here” said Wally as he started pressing buttons at super speed. “Check this.”
Koriand'r's eyes lit up, if only for a second. “Wally, you're back! I knew you wouldn't quit!”
Beast Boy: “Well, duh.”
However, any joy any of the four Titans felt instantly evaporated as they watched the newswoman on the television. “…and we've yet to receive a statement from the Teen Titans' representatives. Again, this is the video that was sent to all media only thirty minutes ago…”
The image on the screen switched to one of Deathstroke waltzing through a building, a semi-automatic in hand. “Teen Titans: you have humiliated me once, and for that I deserve revenge. I have some things that belong to you. If you value their safety, you'll show up here alone.”
The screen flashed to the image of a scrawny boy strung up on a wall.
“Matt!” exclaimed Kory, and behind her, Gar gulped.
Next it showed a slightly older woman similarly restrained.
Wally was ready to kill. “Aunt Iris…”
Finally, in the middle was tied up a young man with red hair.
“Terry?!” Donna's jaw dropped.
Wonder Girl: “No! Deathstroke is not going to do this, especially not today! No way!”
The sadistic mercenary gave directions, and they barely finished before Wally went speeding away, and for once, nobody could blame him.
“Find the others, Kory,” growled Donna Troy, seething. “And do it fast.
“This is going to be a war.”
Next time: Hostage Situation!