Teen Titans Fan Fiction ❯ The Real World: Titans Tower ❯ Inspirations ( Chapter 22 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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 22: Inspirations
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.
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: Pure-hearted alien powerhouse.
And, much to the Titan's surprise, their newest member:
Terra—Tara Markov: Runaway and wanderer with control over the very Earth itself!
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—MEETING ROOM, TITANS TOWER. SAN FRANSCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
“Okay Jupiter, let me get this straight…”
Wonder Girl, dressed shabbily in street clothes like she'd been rushed and her face still smeared with dried tears, leaned over the team's meeting table, a death glare pasted across her face. Surrounded by her five remaining teammates, she stared down their manager, Mr. Loren Jupiter, and his guest, the wandering terrakinetic Tara Markov. He was proposing that Terra join the group, and Donna Troy wasn't too pleased with the idea.
“First,” continued the Amazon, “Deathstroke kidnaps our friends and family and executes my boyfriend in front of me, then it costs me my oldest friend, plus at the same time we find out that one of our teammates manipulated the mind of another of our teammates, causing him to quit the team for good—which, by the way, nobody bothered to tell me—”
“You said you wanted to be left alone,” interjected Raven curtly—the empath didn't even bother to acknowledge her role as the manipulator.
Donna just rolled her eyes. “Sure didn't you stop you guys from bugging me about everything else!”
“Now now, my Titans,” intervened Mr. Jupiter, “Let's not fight. Wonder Girl, your point, please?”
“My point,” growled the traumatized Titan, “Is that this is the worst possible time to be throwing something like this on us!”
Standing up, Cyborg chimed in with his two cents as well. “I agree with Donna. Wally's barely been gone ten minutes, an' this is probably one of the worst days of all our lives! You couldn'tve given us a day or two to get things figured out first?!”
Pondering their arguments, Loren scratched his chin—but his pleasured grin never left his face.
Beast Boy: “Man, that guy always creeps me out! I used to think it was just his crappy clothes, but there's something seriously off `bout that guy!”
Starfire: “I have always admired Mr. Jupiter's enthusiasm and cheerfulness, but there is just something not right about his actions today, well intentioned or not!”
“I understand what you're saying, Cyborg,” finally spoke Jupiter, “And I apologize if I've upset any of you. Please, my Titans, believe me when I say I only did this when I did to end the day on a good note. You do need a replacement to fill the hole Speed left in the team, undoubtedly, but if that was all I had intended I would have waited—but I wanted to cheer you up and maybe bring some new hope to this team!”
Wonder Girl: “And in the process completely ignore our feelings on the subject! I understand that Jupiter runs the show, but I still think he should have consulted us about replacing Wally and especially about who that replacement would be! I sure wouldn't have voted for Terra!”
“But Terra doesn't give me hope!” insisted Donna defiantly. “She scares me! This is the girl that killed one of our enemies because she lost control of her powers, then refused to leave Zandia so she couldn't be punished for it! Mr. Jupiter, I'm sorry—but I don't want her on my team!”
As soon as the subject of Rouge's death came up Garfield Logan nearly hurled—and Jupiter's chuckle just made the nausea churning in his stomach worse.
Beast Boy: “I…I love Terra—I've never felt things for anybody like I do her! But this…this is why it just made me nervous when I saw she was back! There's no way to keep our secret from the Titans now! What'll they do to her, to me, for keeping it so long?!”
Terra lowered her head as Jupiter raised his hand, his grand gesture signaling the screen behind him to start playing a clip. “Dear Wonder Girl, that's not something you have to worry about—because Terra didn't kill Madame Rouge!”
A round of stunned exclamations came from the Titans, minus Gar, who just buried his head beneath his arms.
Beast Boy: “No! Why'd he hafta do that?!”
Robin: “Wait, seriously? Hell, it's about time somethin' interesting happened in this stupid meeting.”
Cyborg: “Dammit, it's like Jupiter just wants to crush the whole team himself!”
“You see,” explained the director as the footage of Gar and Tara's fight with the sadistic shapeshifter played behind him, “All along it was Beast Boy who killed Madame Rouge Terra only selflessly sacrificed her own happiness to ensure Beast Boy's place on this team!”
Even Donna had lost some of her anger, more confused than anything else. “Then,” she stuttered, “Then that doesn't change anything I said! If Gar killed then he shouldn't be here!”
“Again,” added her boss, “Taken care of. You can't blame your teammate there—he was defending himself from a vicious opponent, protecting a friend from certain death, and overwhelmed by animal personalities roaring within him! Rouge's death was an accident, and the courts agree with me! They've declared Beast Boy innocent of any charges, hence allowing Terra to drop the charade and return to the US!”
Beast Boy: “An accident?! I'm…off the hook? Funny…the courts were apparently much easier on me than I was on myself…”
Cyborg: “'Kay, I know Gar has no poker face, and he's definitely surprised—an' that just confuses me! If Gar didn't know he was cleared, then how was he cleared in the first place? He obviously didn't show up in court!”
Brushing her hair aside, Terra cast a glance across the massive table to the boy she loved. She was delighted to see his smile—and again, his happiness was the only thing that ever made her happy.
However, Donna Troy was much more befuddled. “But…why?” The question was directed towards Terra. “Why did you cover for him? If Gar was innocent, then he had nothing to hide!”
“Because you scare him.” Finally Tara Markov spoke up, tired of being scrutinized and embarrassed by her role in this debate. “We both knew you wouldn't understand what happened, and I couldn't let that cost Gar his role on this team! I was glad to help out my friend!”
Terra: “Wow, so this is the confessional room! Somehow I imagined something grander with everything I've heard…heh, but I guess I should be talking `bout the show, right? Sorry, first episode gitters, y'know?
“But what a first episode I'm having! It felt so good to tell her off like that! People with perfect lives like her don't understand the s--- people like Gar and I've gone through—though, maybe now with all this Deathstroke stuff, maybe she'll actually get it!”
Wonder Girl: “Gar's…scared of me? I'm supposed to be leader of this team, and my teammates are scared of me. Great. What's sad is it has to be true…because she's right about what she said, about how I wouldn't have understood. If I had known back then that Gar accidentally killed Rouge, I'd have condemned him immediately. I would never have understood wanting to kill somebody, never have believed that it was an accident.
“But today, I wanted to kill Deathstroke. I would have, too, if Kory hadn't stopped me. So what kind of hypocrite am I? I don't deserve to be on this team anymore…”
Stunned silence filled the room as the Titans considered the exchange. “This is a complete waste of time,” Raven said, finally breaking the ice. “If you have something to say, just say it, and if not, then let us end this pointless meeting and get on with our lives.”
Raven: “There is no way Jupiter would change his mind regardless, so even this is admittedly pointless, but anything to end this ordeal even a few seconds earlier is indeed worth it.”
“I say Tara stays!” exclaimed Starfire with her usual enthusiasm. “Her devotion to her friends is very impressive, and that is something we most definitely need right now!”
“But she still lied to us,” countered Victor Stone. “Ain't any of you concerned `bout that?”
“It is true that the lie is slightly disconcerting,” said Raven, “But Beast Boy was also involved in the lie, yet he has proved quite trustworthy and reliable in the time since. I think it would be reasonable to give them both the benefit of the doubt.”
Beast Boy: “That…that's from Raven?! Holy crap!”
Starfire: “Raven is giving them the benefit of the doubt?! I am so proud of her!”
Raven: “Let me clarify: I do not approve of lying and secrets, but in Beast Boy's case it is obvious that he does not plan to repeat his offense. I can see no point to distrust him or to prolong this futile discussion any further.”
Vic just scratched his chin. “Well…I dunno. Donna, what do you think?”
Cyborg: “Don't get me wrong, whether the trial's fishy or not I know Gar wouldn't purposely kill Rouge—I'm more worried `bout Terra's big secret here! Who knows what else she could be hiding!”
“I don't care.” Sliding her chair in, the Amazon succinctly summed up her feelings on the matter. “It doesn't really matter what I think. Whether she joins or not…I don't really care.”
Wonder Girl: “After all, what am I? Just some useless leader, some fake superhero who's really the daughter of some worthless mobsters? I have no right to be a part of this discussion at all…”
“Then it's decided!” exclaimed Jupiter joyfully. “Terra is our newest Titan!”
Gar couldn't help but to cheer.
Beast Boy: “Tara gets to come back and be a Titan and everything works out without a hitch?! This is too perfect! It's just…awesome!”
But despite her love's celebration, Tara Markov was more focused on the despondent Donna Troy walking through the door like she'd given up all hope in her team.
Terra: “Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be happier to be a part of the Titans! I was cool with everybody on Titans East, but the real Titans are a ton more dependable, and that's always great!
“But…something just doesn't feel the same, and it's not just Wally being gone. This stuff that happened with Deathstroke…it must've really done a number on them. I don't like seeing them all this mopey…I wonder what I can do about that…”
***THE NEXT DAY***
***OFF THE AIR—INFANTINO HIGH SCHOOL. KEYSTONE CITY, KANSAS, USA***
A throng of teenagers poured into Infantino High, all rushing to make it to homeroom before the late bell, despite their lack of sleep. However, one of those teens was actually well rested and more than eager to begin his first day: Wally West, the former Teen Titan! Without powers a new life of normalcy awaited him—just what he had always wanted!
“Well, here you are, kiddo,” said his aunt, Iris Allen, as she pulled up to the front door. Giving him a kiss on the cheek, she continued, “Good luck with your first day!”
“Thanks, Aunt Iris.” Wally shook his head as he thought about how fast he had been enrolled here—between his uncle the Flash and his aunt the reporter, he supposed they had enough connections to pull off just about anything.
The world seemed to be greeting Wally with open arms as he walked up the front steps, basking in the sheer mundane pleasure of it all. A year ago he would have dreaded going to school—now he couldn't believe how happy he was just to be there, in the flesh!
Heads turned as Wally passed them, examining the former speedster from top to bottom—something that surely wasn't normal! Hushed whispers filled the air, and the red-headed teen overheard numerous mentions of his name. He was a celebrity!
`Hell,' he thought, almost smirking, `This sure isn't normal…but I sure could get used to it.'
***ON THE AIR—TITANS TOWER***
It was eight in the morning, and the halls of Titans Tower were filled with nothing but silence. Their former teammate, Wally West, had to rise over two hours earlier for school, but these seven teens had absolutely no reason to be awake that early.
Unless, of course, something woke them up.
“Breakfast time!” Suddenly a voice screamed to life over the loudspeaker, sending ridiculous decibels into each and every room of the tower. “C'mon you guys, the food's not gonna get any warmer!”
Tara Markov stood by the dining room table, now covered with simmering food, as she screamed into a microphone. “Come and get it! Sooooooooooo-eeeeeeeeeeeey!”
Terra: “Heh, I bet they'll be pissed I woke `em all up this early, but I just couldn't wait any longer! I can make one helluva breakfast if I try, and even if it's just a small thing, I bet it'll cheer everybody up!”
“What's with the farm noises?” grunted Cyborg as he stepped off the elevator. “We're not pigs.”
No sooner had the words left the metal-man's mouth than a green pig came barreling through the stairwell door and into a seat.
Cyborg: “Me an' my big mouth…”
Stretching back into Garfield Logan, the green kid ate several pancakes in one bite and swooned. “Tara, these are the greatest!” he exclaimed, though much was mumbled through his full mouth.
Beast Boy: “And I'm not just sayin' that `cause Tara cooked `em, though it sure helps!”
“Thanks, Gar!” exclaimed the earth-mover, happy her gesture was doing some good.
Scarfing down another pancake, the changeling replied, “No problem! Heck, I'm just happy to get some breakfast! Nobody's wanted to cook any ever since we moved in here!”
“But Gar,” objected Starfire as she sat down across from him, “I have offered numerous times to make us breakfast and you have always refused!”
Suddenly he was singing another tune. “Eh, breakfast ain't that important.”
Beast Boy: “Believe me, I've eaten her cooking once, and that's enough!”
“So where's everybody else?” asked Terra as she sat down with her teammates, tired of waiting. Suddenly, across the table, one of the plates full of food was sucked into a vortex of black, disappearing entirely.
Smirking, Vic observed, “Well, there's Raven…kinda.”
“I wondered if she actually ate,” chuckled Gar.
“But what about Dick?” chimed in Kory, concern in her voice. “Even he could not sleep through Tara's calls!”
“Oh, he came down while I was still making the food,” answered Terra. “He said to tell you guys that he was going out, and that his communicator was on this time. Then he took all the bacon I was cooking and left.”
Victor Stone pouted. “He took all the bacon?! Jerk.”
Cyborg: “What?! It's good!”
Koriand'r, however, found more to be concerned about in that statement than her half-robotic friend.
Starfire: “After everything that happened…it is odd for Dick to just run off again. I do hope he is okay. Despite it all…I still love him. He was hurting me too badly and I could no longer allow him to continue, but it broke my heart to tell him that. So even though we are no longer a couple, I hope he gets through whatever is going on in his head right now. I cannot just stop worrying about him so easily…”
However, the Titans' thoughts were redirected by the sound of the elevator door opening as Wonder Girl entered the room. Though she looked agitated and was grumbling under her breath, she still looked in better shape than she had the night before.
Wonder Girl: “A shower felt pretty good—it helped take some of the edge off. Still, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't wash away the memories of yesterday…”
“Good morning, Donna!” exclaimed Kory in her usual boisterous way. “Tara has made breakfast for us! Please, eat!”
“It's really good,” added Gar with a smile, his face covered in syrup, “Even if we are eating it at eight A.M.!”
Donna toyed at the food with her fork, but she didn't look very hungry. “It's that early?” she asked, fairly surprised. “I'd completely lost track of time. Not sleeping will do that to you.” Sighing, the Amazon continued, “And when I did finally manage to drift off even for just a few minutes, it was nothing but nightmares—and that was worse.”
Terra: “I know how she feels. Sometimes I still have flashbacks `bout those bastard scientists and everything they put me through…”
The earth-mover slid a bottle of syrup across the table to her new teammate. “C'mon Donna, try it for me. Please?”
Terra: “After all, she's the main reason I went through all this trouble in the first place! I was probably a brat once too—a princess who had everything handed to her—but then those scientists took it all away! Now Donna has it just as bad, and I can't help feeling sorry for her now…”
Begrudgingly the warrior took a bite, but as she chewed she couldn't help but to smile, even if just slightly. “Tara, this is actually really good! Where did you learn to cook?!”
Cyborg: “A compliment with just a hint of condescension?! Now that's our Donna!”
“I've been everywhere, remember?” Terra reached to the counter and opened a tattered scrapbook, filled with handwritten notes, some scrawled on napkins or on the book's pages themselves. “Whenever I found some really good food, I made sure to get the recipe no matter what!”
“So,” asked Beast Boy playfully, “Does this mean you'll be leavin' us for a plush contract on Food Network?” The five Titans laughed, and for the first time in a while, they felt like a real team. But even as the pleasant breakfast continued, Donna just couldn't silence the voice in the back of her head.
Wonder Girl: “Look at them. I never thought my teammates could really pull together like this. Everything we've been through has made them better, but Hera, I just feel as if things have only gotten worse and worse for me…”
With her food gone, Donna Troy dumped her plates in the sink and headed for the elevator. “Thanks for everything guys, really, but…but I still just need some time alone. I'm sorry.”
The four remaining Titans stared sadly as the doors closed, and after nobody spoke for over a minute, Koriand'r leapt to her feet and raced to the stairs. “None of you are going to go after her?! Fine, then I shall!”
Starfire: “My friends should not have to suffer alone!”
“She really doesn't understand what privacy means, does she?” asked Terra with a chuckle.
“Yeah,” replied Vic Stone, grinning as he loaded his dishes into the dishwasher. With a shrug he added, “But she means well. Believe me, sometimes it's hard to know when to butt in or not.”
Cyborg: “An' while I'd like to think I've gotten a lot better `bout it, it's something you still never quite master!”
Tara Markov nodded, but then dashed off to the living room, while the metal-man instead headed for the elevator, his best friend right behind him. “Where ya goin', man?”
“To my lab,” replied Vic, a determined look on his face. “There's something I…really need to look into.”
Cyborg: “An' I've let it slide long enough as it is!”
Sensing his friend's disappointment, however, the mechanical man slapped the green kid on the back playfully and continued, “Hey, don't get me wrong, it's fun hangin' with you and Tara, but I'm sure you guys could use some alone time!”
Garfield Logan immediately caught the drift.
Beast Boy: “Yeah! Just me an' Tara—I should've thought of it sooner!”
Meanwhile, the former wanderer had made herself comfortable on the couch, flipping through the hundreds of channels available to the tower happily. Suddenly a green head popped out of nowhere as Gar hung upside-down over the back of the couch. “Hey Tara, let's do something! You can watch TV anytime!”
Terra: “Sure I could, but I haven't gotten to watch any since I was a little girl, back in Markovia! I was hoping to catch up!”
Still, Terra could only smile as Beast Boy nearly dragged her from the TV. “C'mon, I got somethin' to show ya!”
***OFF THE AIR—MR. LOREN JUPITER'S OFFICE***
Mr. Loren Jupiter, devious director of The Real World: Titans Tower, leaned back in his office chair, his feet on his desk and a sickening smile on his face. Suddenly an alarm rang, and the man slowly lowered his feet and leaned forward, slamming the snooze button on the clock on his desk. However, despite his rest being interrupted, he didn't seem perturbed—if anything, he only looked more happy.
“Finally, it's time!”
Pulling a key from the cuff of his sleeve, Jupiter unlocked the oversized bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a garment that was both fearsome and freakish: the Brother Blood cowl, a weapon of unimaginable power!
Energy erupted from the cowl, engulfing Mr. Jupiter—then it began to compress until it surrounded only the cowl and the man's hands. Finally it disappeared completely, only leaving behind crackling bolts of crimson lightning.
The door to the waiting area swung open, and Jupiter's secretary, the ever reliable Ms. Lilith Clay, only gave her boss a cursory glance—until she noticed that he was unusually happy, even compared to his normal, cheerful demeanor!
“Hot date?” she asked with a chuckle, amused by the notion of Mr. Jupiter landing a girl of any sort.
“Why yes, yes I do,” said Jupiter smugly as Lilith's face fell. “A date with destiny!”
***ON THE AIR—TITANS TOWER, ROOFTOP***
Donna Troy sat facing the ocean, her feet dangling over the edge of the Tower's roof as she reflected on the landscape somberly.
Wonder Girl: “The waves crashing against the shore reminded me of Themyscara, back with the other Amazons. With everything that's happened, I was wondering if it might just be best to return—everything was so much simpler there…
“But, could I even be happy on Themyscara anymore? I don't know if I can go back to that much simplicity! I mean, they don't even allow men there—and despite all their faults, I don't know if I can imagine a life without them anymore!
“It's so hard sometimes, to have so many conflicting heritages. I thought joining the Titans, that finding my parents might really help me find just where I fit in…but if anything, it's only made things more complicated…”
“Donna, there you are!” Suddenly Starfire soared past the adopted Amazon, arcing above her before landing on the roof herself. “I had searched the entire tower and was beginning to grow worried! I am so glad you are okay!”
The Tamaranian's friend, however, wasn't anywhere near as pleased to see her. “Of course I'm fine, Kory,” she grumbled. “Okay's kind of stretching it, though.” Sighing, Donna sensed Koriand'r preparing to again speak, so she quickly cut her off. “I know you mean well, but I meant it when I said I needed time alone. None of you can even comprehend what I'm going through!”
“Of course we cannot,” replied Starfire calmly. “Your pain is your own, and anybody who tells you they know what you are going through is lying. Still, your pain should not be something you have to bear alone—we all want to help you!”
Filled with doubt, Wonder Girl replied, “How can any of you help? I've lost everything, Kory! None of you can understand that!”
“Now that I am not sure of.” The adopted Amazon gave her friend a surprised look. “I lost my entire world when my sister sold me to the Gordanians. Gar has now lost two families, and Vic and Wally both lost what they thought made them human! We have only recovered and moved on because of each other, and we would like to help you do the same!”
Starfire: “I do not understand why she refuses to believe me! It is almost as if she does not want to feel better!”
Wonder Girl: “Kory really does want to help me, but the others…why would they want to?!”
“Why would they help me?!” demanded the girl wonder in a sentence that was somehow both a snarl and a sob. “They're all either intimidated by me or hate me! And you know the worst part? I deserve it! I've never done a single thing to help them! I've been judgmental and mean!” Gasping for breath between sobs, Donna punched the floor, cracking the concrete. “I don't even belong on this team anymore! Hera, my parents are criminals, even! Can I even be trusted?! What if I turn out like them?!”
Kory slid her arm around Donna. “That is ridiculous,” she said, not harshly, just as a matter of fact. “We all have a choice in who we are and who we will be. Tamaranian legend tells of our all powerful Goddess, X'hal, who brought all life on Tamaran into being. She is wise, powerful, and kind, but her children were misled and became the greatest evil the Vega system ever faced!
“Or, there is even the example of my sister Komand'r and I. Our parents are considered generous leaders, and while I have tried to follow their example, my sister betrayed everything we stood for! Only we decide who we will become!
“Donna, you have poured more blood and tears into this team than anyone! You have always fought hard, and always tried to do the right thing! We all have our faults, but we cannot condemn ourselves because of them! We must fight hard to overcome, and that is what we all want to help you do—so please, let us!”
A smile filled Donna Troy's face. “Kory, if I wasn't going to let you I never would have listened this long.”
Wonder Girl: “There's been times when Kory's eternal optimism has gotten on my nerves, yeah, but it sure is hard to dislike that girl for very long! She always tries to see the best in people, and it's something I sure needed…and something I need to try harder to do myself.”
“Wonderful!” cried Starfire, embracing her friend and leaping to her feet. “This calls for a celebration! I shall make us milkshakes!”
Raising an eyebrow, the Amazon warrior could only reply with a confused, “Milkshakes? For breakfast?!”
“Of course,” answered Kory with only a hint of hesitance. “When else would one consume milkshakes?”
Donna chuckled, amused. “Beats me. That sounds great.”
And the alien princess was off, soaring down the Tower's side, again leaving her teammate with just the waves and her thoughts. This time, however, Donna didn't feel so alone.
Wonder Girl: “So only I can decide who I will become? I thought that's what I was doing, but maybe I was just waiting for somebody to tell me who I should be all along…well, I sure know what I need to do now!”
Meanwhile, Princess Koriand'r zoomed through an open window like a jet, touching down in the kitchen and heading towards the freezer.
Starfire: “I meant everything I said to Donna! Yes, she has her faults, but this was no time to point that out! She needed to be cheered up, and hopefully inspired, so how could I not do that? After all, that is what friends are for!”
“Amazing, Koriand'r—you really got through to her.” Startled, the alien in question jumped and span to see Raven floating behind her, once again making the silent, unnoticed entrance that had become her trademark. “I would have never believed that Wonder Girl could be so truly touched had I not sensed it myself.”
Raven: “Indeed, the fact that it took a tragedy of this magnitude for Wonder Girl to reexamine her life makes it even more surprising that Koriand'r's words sank into her heart so easily. Koriand'r…is truly amazing—unlike any human I have ever encountered. She loves unconditionally and opens her heart to all she meets. I find it…inspiring.”
“You underestimate Donna,” replied Starfire. “She cares more than she lets on. All she needed was somebody to show her the same concern back.”
“Still,” added the empath, “I do not understand how you are capable of such concern for someone who so rarely reciprocates…”
Crossing her arms, Kory made a rebuttal. “It is not difficult at all, truthfully. To me it seems harder to deny compassion…”
Starfire: “I simply have hope that my friends will come through. It seems so much more difficult to abandon that hope—and much more miserable!”
“Not when you have felt what I have.” The Titan avoided eye-contact with her friend, almost as if her mind was in another place entirely—reliving the emotions she had sensed over her eighteen years of life. “This world is filled with greed, selfishness, evil—it permeates everything, corrupting the planet and everyone on it…”
Koriand'r wasn't buying it. “You cannot truly believe that,” she said, appalled. “Raven, you are an empath! I know there are many evil people, but what of the good things in life?! Wonderful first experiences, the joy of children and love and friendship! You must sense them—why do you ignore them?! To me they are what life is all about—they make enduring the hard times worthwhile!”
“Of course I sense them, Koriand'r—but in the end, evil is what truly makes this world run.”
Starfire: “Poor Raven. I do not know what she has gone through to so thoroughly scar her, but I cannot let it impair her life anymore!”
“That is only true if you make yourself believe it, Raven,” said the alien princess, putting her arm around her darkness clad friend. “The world can be a wonderful place if you let it—but you are too busy shutting everybody out! Raven, I consider you my friend, but lately you have been doing some things that make me very uncomfortable!
“You were rude to Donna, and what you did to Wally, manipulating his feelings…Raven, that was awful! I know you were trying to help, but you only made things worse! I wanted to defend you, but I could not, because there is no excuse for such actions!”
Stammering, the empath replied, “I—I only did what I thought right…”
Raven: “Indeed, I am not sure Koriand'r understands that sometimes hard choices must be made. I do not know if I can ever change the way I view people after everything I have felt from them…but she is a good friend and I actually respect her opinion. I will hear her out.”
Kory sighed. “I know. Your heart was in the right place, but you cannot manipulate people like that and expect to help them! Raven, do you truly want to be our friend? If so, then believe in us!”
The empath was unsure of what exactly to say—she was overwhelmed by her extraterrestrial companion's strong, heartfelt feelings. “I…I shall try, Koriand'r. I really will.”
Raven: “I was speaking the truth. Koriand'r is the only friend I have…so I will try this, for her.”
And despite Raven's on-camera lies and manipulations, and despite all the evil deeds she had committed and the ones she had yet to perform, there was a part of her that really did mean everything she said.
“Great!” exclaimed Kory, her face lighting up. “Shall I make you a celebratory milkshake too?”
Starfire: “I was worried about both Donna and Raven…I am so glad I got a chance to talk to them as I did! Being able to help them has truly brought me joy, but…still, I worry. Dick is out there alone, his heart broken, and the things that weigh on his mind only growing heavier. I wish I could help him as well…oh Dick, wherever you are, I hope you are okay…”
***SAN FRANCISCO ROOFTOPS***
Dick Grayson, the Teen Titan known as Robin, had spent his morning leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Finally he had stopped, kneeling on a roof's edge, his cape whipping behind him in the wind as he looked down at the bright city.
Robin: “G--damn, it was a lot easier to be brooding in a dirty city like New York. This place at least needs a few Gargoyles to sit on!”
Still, the acrobat had much on his mind, thus his thoughts of architecture were fleeting—quickly replaced by more dire concerns.
Robin: “What a s---ty day! I spent all yesterday tryin' to find Donna's parents, only for `em to be f---ing mobsters and crush her heart even more than it already was!
“But even worse was the little Robin and Kory just abandoning me like that…Am I really that bad? All this time I've just been tryin' to be as useful as I can to this team. I thought bein' like Batman would be the way to do it, but hell, is it worth losin' all the people I care about?!”
Suddenly, though, the boy's ears perked up as an alarm echoed throughout the streets, finally succeeding in snatching his attention away from his personal life. Across the street a bank was under attack, a stream of ski-mask clad robbers pouring out the entrance and towards a getaway car.
“Finally!” smiled Dick, “Some action is just what I need!”
He leapt into the air, tossing a handful of Redbird boomerangs into the fray, pinpointing their machine guns. As the weapons flew Robin soared into the crowd, landing atop one of the thug's face, driving it into the ground.
“C'mon guys, there're safer ways to make withdrawals!” quipped the Titan as he fired a series of punches into one of the robber's guts, following up with a flat-palmed strike into the bottom of his chin, snapping the man's head backwards. “I mean, don'tcha guys have ATM cards?!”
Across the street one of the thugs managed to recover his gun—just in time for a blue disk to strike its target, encasing his arm and the weapon in a thick layer of ice. Dick barely gave it a second thought, focusing more on the two opponents circling him. Leaping straight into the air, the martial artist span and planted one foot into each of their faces.
As he landed he unfurled his staff—it extended to full length as he again span, finishing off both thugs with one deft strike.
Robin: “Man, these guys ain't even a challenge! But breaking their bones is sure making me feel better!”
Another robber charged Dick Grayson from behind, but not even turning to look, he straightened his staff so it was parallel to his body and swung it over his shoulder—it struck the thief square in the face, shattering his nose. Before the man could even make another move Dick dropped and span his staff, striking the back of the thug's knees and sending him falling onto his back.
Robin was next greeted by the sound of a roaring engine as the final two robbers attempted to run him down in their getaway car.
“Please,” he scoffed, “I ain't roadkill!” One-shot boosters in his boots flared, sending the souls flying and propelling Dick over the car. He tucked into a somersault, and as he cleared the vehicle he grabbed his grappling launcher and aimed for its bumper—until he saw something that stopped him in his tracks: a man in the middle of the road, right in the car's path!
His arms were crossed defiantly, and he was hovering just off the street, his feet pointed towards the ground. A red cape flapped behind him—he wore a blue and red costume and his black hair curled in the front. Across his chest was emblazoned a stylelized `S' logo that was known world-wide.
The car struck the man, but he didn't budge. Instead, the vehicle's front buckled around him, eventually grinding to a halt.
Dick's jaw dropped to the ground. “Holy f---ing s---!” he exclaimed. “It's Superman!”
Robin: “Hell, `holy f---ing s---` ain't anywhere near strong enough to describe meetin' Superman! The guy's legendary! Everybody wants to meet `im!
“S---, Vic's gonna be so jealous!”
Indeed, Superman was the most famous superhero who ever lived. Born on the planet Krypton, he was shot to Earth on a rocket by his scientist parents, just barely escaping Krypton's destruction. The last survivor of the doomed planet was found by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who raised the boy as their own son, Clark.
The Kents instilled a strong sense of right and wrong in Clark, and these morals have served him well his entire life. In fact, when his alien physiology eventually endowed him with tremendous abilities—including flight, invulnerability, and super speed, strength, and senses—his conscience drove him to use these abilities to protect mankind as the man of steel, Superman!
Superman's amazing powers and good heart endeared him to the world: he became an inspiration to all. The only people who were truly afraid of him were those he fought against: super-criminals, monsters, or even just the petty bank robbers who now found themselves at the Kryptonian's mercy!
The car's windshield shattered as it made impact with the super-hero—the sound managed to rouse a few of the battered thugs, only for them to instantly wet their pants at the sight of their getaway car bent around Superman! The impact of the crash and airbag had knocked the driver unconscious, but the passenger—in a move that could be considered brave, stupid or just sheer insanity—opened fire with his machine gun. The bullets simply ricocheted off the Justice Leaguer's chest, not even leaving a scratch.
“I wouldn't try that again if I were you,” said Superman, coming off as both slightly amused and slightly annoyed. He squinted and his eyes lit up red—a quick flash or his heat vision turned the weapon piping hot.
The thug screamed as he scrambled out of the getaway car and tossed what remained of the immolated gun, frantically—and futilely—blowing on his hand to cool it off. Suddenly the thief was knocked off his feet by a bolo—by the time he hit the ground, he was wrapped tighter than a mummy in its steel cables.
Robin, however, walked right past his capture, interested in only one thing. “Superman! Dude, it's so cool to meet you! I'm a big fan!” He extended his hand. “I'm—”
“Robin, I know.” Superman shook Dick's hand firmly and flashed a winning smile. “I guess you could say I'm a fan myself.”
The Titan's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “Wait—a fan of us?!”
The Justice Leaguer replied with a nod, only working Dick up more.
Robin: “Holy s---, I never woulda thought a guy like ol' Supes here would watch MTV!”
The Kryptonian knew exactly what his admirer was thinking. “I don't usually like to spent what little free time I have watching reality TV,” he explained with a chuckle, “But this is different. You and your team represent the future of superheroes—maybe even of the Justice League! All of us are interested in how you're advancing.”
Dick didn't know whether to be honored or frightened—the prospect of being watched by the League had him feeling a little of both. “So,” he asked, his throat feeling scratchy, “What's the verdict?”
Robin: “I'm `specially interested in what Batman thinks…he was always gripin' `bout me not livin' up to my potential, but now that I've been tryin' what he always wanted me to do anyway, will he notice?”
“Well, a lot of us were worried about having a team governed by a television network—would any of you have real heart and good motives, or were you just out to fulfill selfish goals? Sadly, the first encounter between our two teams didn't end too well, and we still have a few minor concerns, but you kids have definitely impressed us. You've accomplished quite a bit in a short time, and you all have a lot of potential—and a lot of heart.”
Robin: “So maybe I didn't find out what Bats thinks, but hell, getting' a compliment from Superman is even better!”
As Dick reveled, though, his new friend noticed a few of the bank robbers struggling to get back on their feet—and a thick crowd of reporters and fans closing in. “I'll just be a second,” Superman said—and he didn't lie. Becoming a red, gold and blue streak, it only took him a second to round up all the thugs and tie them up within the two fenders of their own getaway car!
Then Dick Grayson was suddenly in the Man of Steel's arms. “Let's find someplace a little less crowded.” He took to the air, flying them to a rooftop two miles away almost instantly.
“S---,” gasped Dick, nearly out of breath. “That's a rush!”
Robin: “If flying always feels like that, then no wonder Kory's always so happy and pumped! That's f---in' sweet!”
“Sorry about that,” said the Justice Leaguer. “Crowds like that can make it pretty hard to carry on a conversation.”
“Yeah,” replied the Titan, “Reporters can be a real pain in the ass sometimes.”
Superman frowned. In his guise as Clark Kent he was a reporter—but still, he thought, there was no reason to ruffle the boy's feathers. Secret identities were best kept secret, especially when on Cable television!
Meanwhile, though, the acrobat didn't want to seem anymore awestricken than he already was. “So,” he asked, as calm as he could, “What brings you to San Francisco anyway, Supes?”
“I was helping to stop a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific,” explained Superman, “And on my way back I heard the bank's alarm go off. I had time to stop by, so I did—looks like you had things pretty much under control anyway, though.” However, the hero could tell not everything was quite right. “What about you? What were you doing responding to that robbery all on your own? Where's the rest of your team?”
“They're fine,” responded Dick solemnly. “I just needed to be alone for a little while.”
“Why? Is everything okay?”
Robin: “I didn't wanna tell him everything that happened, not really. But he was so f---ing concerned, I just couldn't hold back. I mean, hell, it's Superman! If anybody really wants to help, it's him!”
So the Titan spilled everything. He told him of Donna's tribulations, of Wally leaving the team and of how Raven had manipulated his mind, and, most importantly—to Dick, at least—he told him all his problems.
He told Superman of his failure fighting Dr. Light, and how he'd trained until he held his own against Deathstroke. Though his teammates praised him, he again felt inadequate when faced with the similarities between himself and the inept Flamebird. So he tried to reinvent himself, to emulate the dark and brooding Batman, but that only ended up hurting the little Robin, Donna and Kory! Now he didn't know if he could be both a great crime fighter and a great friend—or which one he'd rather choose.
“That's…terrible Dick,” said the Kryptonian, filled with genuine concern. “I'm so sorry.” He placed his hand on Robin's shoulder. “Tell me though…what are you planning on doing now?”
“I told you,” sighed the boy, “I dunno! Either way I lose something I really like.”
Superman's brow furrowed as he contemplated what he was being told. “So you like fighting crime, and you like your friends…do you like being dark?”
“No way,” scoffed Dick. “It's no fun at all—but I thought it was worth it, if I could be better than I was before.”
“But why are you so worried about that? You weren't having any problems until you convinced yourself there was a problem!”
Robin: “Man, that struck a nerve! The guy was too close for comfort—I mean, hell, a great guy like me can't be worried about failing, right?! But s---, I was, an' just as worried `bout impressing the rest of the team. I didn't wanna let them down, but I also just didn't wanna humiliate myself! Lame!”
Still, as the boy said, Superman had struck a nerve. “What do you know `bout this anyway? You're the most powerful guy on the planet!”
Fortunately, the Justice Leaguer didn't seem offended. “You know, I hear that a lot, but it doesn't mean I don't know what I'm talking about. My teammates come to me all the time for advice, and while I never thought I had all much to tell them, they seem to appreciate what I have to say.”
He paused to catch his breath. “So if you don't want to hear this, Dick, then you don't have to—but I consider Batman my friend. I can see why you would want to be like him. He's feared, respected, and from what I'm told, pretty cool. I would trust him with my life, but Dick…Batman is a miserable person.
“All he can live for anymore is his mission. He's pushed more people who care for him out of his life then I can even begin to count. I don't want to see you end up the same way.
“After all, it's not like he's the only successful hero without powers. In this line of work, it's far too easy to lose yourself in the pain and misery around you. I hope it's not too late for Batman, but you shouldn't even have to worry about that path, Dick. You're a completely different person, and that's not a bad thing!
“You have your own skills and strong points! You've already seen that staying distant and pushing your teammates away isn't something you like, so try something different! Make it up to them, inspire them! Really, all that matters is that you be yourself! Everything else will work out!”
Dick Grayson's jaw dropped.
Robin: “S---…it was that simple the whole time?!”
“Wow…thanks, Superman.” Smiling, Robin playfully asked, “How the hell'd you know just what to say?”
The alien shrugged. “Like I said, I've had to do this for a lot of my friends.”
Robin: “Seriously, the guy knows what he's talkin' `bout! I knew all along I hated what I was doin'…all I really needed was somebody to tell me I didn't hafta do it!”
Suddenly Superman winced as his incredible hearing picked up on something. “Uh-oh, there's an earthquake coming on in Japan!” Smiling, the hero asked, “Want to help?”
“Hell yeah!” exclaimed Robin without a moment's hesitation—and then a siren and flashing light came to life in his utility belt. “S---, looks like I've gotta get back too…can't keep `em waitin' an all…”
And only a second later the boy was swept into the Man of Steel's arms and deposited back on Titans Island. “Good thing it was on my way!” he exclaimed with a smile before disappearing again. “Take care!”
Robin: “F--- yeah, that was the coolest thing ever! Forget tryin' to be Batman! From now on, I'm just gonna be me again—and things will finally be back to bein' fun!”
***OFF THE AIR—THE KANE MANSION, NEW YORK***
In the basement of the lush East-coast Kane mansion, the heiress Bette Kane—formerly the hero Flamebird of Titans East—was dressed in a white robe, circling her sensei in a boxing ring built specifically for them.
Suddenly she screamed and lashed out, attacking with an impressive stream of martial arts strikes. Ever since she'd hired her new teacher her fighting had improved tremendously—her moves had always had speed and power, but now she had the skill and flow behind them to truly make something of herself!
Her sensei agreed. “Fantastic job, Bette! Keep it up, and I'll see you again next week!”
She blushed as he walked out, but as she turned around she suddenly heard a voice in her head. `He is correct, Bette. You've improved quite a bit.'
Last time she'd nearly gone crazy, but this time Bette was expecting it. “Oh, Omen. What's up?”
The air in front of her rippled as the mysterious Omen again appeared to the girl, the figure's true identity hidden beneath an all concealing black and red cloak. “It's time—Jupiter is making his move!”
Though slightly scared, Bette still smiled. Finally, it was time to put her new skills to the test! “So you mean…”
“Yes. Assemble your team—it's time to save the world!”
***ON THE AIR—OUTSIDE TITANS TOWER***
“How much further are you gonna drag me, Gar?” protested Tara Markov as her green skinned friend pulled her through the front doors of Titans Tower and onto the rocky island below.
“Don't worry, I'm done,” said the shapeshifter with a smile as he picked up a pebble and tossed it slightly into the air, catching it again. “I just wanted to show ya something!”
“What, the outside of the tower?” joked Terra. “You showed me that last time!”
Beast Boy rolled his eyes. “Nah, it's not that! Don't you remember what we did back then?!”
His crush stopped in her tracks. “Gar, of course I do!”
Beast Boy: “Phew! If she forgot that I'd be crushed! I mean, I dunno how she could, but I always worry `bout stuff like that! But, man, she didn't, and I'm so glad that she's the same girl she's always been!”
Terra: “When I talked with Gar out here last time, before we fought the Brotherhood, it was amazing! I've never connected with anybody like that! No way I could forget it—I was just yankin' his chain when we first walked out!”
“Well, then check this!” Pulling his arm back, Garfield span and tossed the stone, and both Titans watched it skip three, four, five times across the water. “I can do it now, without you helpin' out!”
“Oh Gar, that's great!” cried the earth-mover as she leapt and hugged the boy. He smiled, but then slumped as more thoughts started to weigh on his mind. Tara could feel the sudden change in his mood. “Hey, what's wrong?”
He paused, not sure what to say, but then just finally came out with it. “Why did you do it, Tara? Why did you take the heat for me back with Madame Rouge?”
Taking a step backwards, Terra looked confused. “Gar, I did it for you! I couldn't let you lose your family!”
Terra: “I mean, he had everything to lose! He was me, but he got a cool new life! What did I have to lose—nothing! Me, I could live with a little more pain.”
“That's great, but…I didn't wanna lose you either!”
Sighing, the blonde bowed her head, letting her hair fall over her face. “You needed them a lot more than just me Gar.” She lifted her head and flashed a bright smile. “But hey, I'm here now! What else matters?!”
Beast Boy: “Hey, she's got me there! Tara's back, so what else could I ask for?!”
Terra: “Enough of this depressing stuff! I spend way too much time thinkin' `bout this stuff as it is—so now that my dreams come true, let's forget it all!”
“Heh, I guess you're right! So, whaddaya wanna do?”
Thinking for a second, Tara giggled and grabbed the green boy's hand, pulling him in close and, wrapping her hand around his neck, planted a passionate kiss onto his lips. Garfield gasped at first, like he was choking, but it only took a second for the shock to wear off and the pleasure to begin.
Beast Boy: “Wow, that was better than I ever imagined my first kiss would be! Man, I hate to curse, but really, only Dick's favorite expression can even begin to describe that:
“'Holy f---ing s---!'”
Terra: “And that made every second I spent in Zandia worth it!”
Suddenly an alarm blared. Red lights flashed through the Tower's windows as the two Titans' communicators started shrieking.
“Dammit!” exclaimed both teens—but they knew what their duty was.
As they got inside, though, the Earth-mover took off in another direction. “Wait for me—I've gotta hit up the confessional! It's like you said: I better use it now, in case I can't later!”
Beast Boy looked worried. “Tara, don't say that!”
Beast Boy: “Even if I did say it back then, I don't wanna hear that from her!”
“Don't worry Gar,” dismissed Tara with a wave of her hand. “I'm gonna stick around here a long time!”
Terra: “Finally I have a place where I'm loved! I have control of my powers! What more could I ask for?! This is one place I never wanna leave!”
Victor Stone stared into the tremendously large viewscreen mounted slightly above his head. Smaller monitors all around it—attached to an expansive, state-of-the-art computer system—were all running reference checks and cross references, but the main screen only displayed Wonder Girl.
“So let me get this straight,” said Cyborg, still a little jarred by the sudden sounding of the trouble alarm, “A terrorist group calling themselves the `Fearsome Five' has invaded Alcatraz Island and claimed the prison as their new base, taking all the tourists hostage?!”
“Yeah, that's the story,” replied Donna with a sigh. “I looked up these guys' FBI records and they seem more of a joke than a real threat, but still, if they've got that whole place under siege then we need to get there fast!”
“Good thing Alcatraz is just across the bay, then,” replied Vic with a smile, though it quickly disappeared as he realized what had to come next. “You guys should go ahead. I still got some machines runnin' that take a bit to shut down—I'll be right behind ya in the T-Ship!”
Despite his reassurance, Donna looked worried.
Cyborg: “Man I hated doin' that to her. After Dick and Raven didn't show up to fight Deathstroke I know this only has to dredge up bad feelings!”
“Don't worry Donna, I'll be there—I promise.” The adopted Amazon actually seemed appeased with this.
Wonder Girl: “I feel like I should be angrier about this, but I'm trying my hardest not to let myself get so upset! I trust Vic anyway, so I think he'll definitely come through!”
“Got it,” said Donna Troy with a smile as her face disappeared from the screen. “See you there!”
As soon as the team leader signed out, Victor's fingers again started flying furiously across the keyboard.
Cyborg: “I feel bad now, dammit, `cause I wasn't all honest with Donna. I'm not worried about shuttin' down my machines—I just wanna finish my research!
“Y'see, somethin' really suspicious is been brewing behind the scenes here, and I'm tired of doing nothin' about it! Both Dr. Light and Deathstroke were initially hired to take us down, but we never found out who hired `em! We still dunno who manipulated us an' the Justice League into attacking each other, or how Deathstroke got his hands on Dr. Light the last time we fought—not to mention how Gar's case got tried without him even knowin' about it!
“I'd been too distracted worrying `bout Gar and Wally to look into all this, but that was a mistake. Maybe if I'd tried to track this mastermind down sooner, I could've done something to help save Terry!
“But, I guess there's no point feelin' guilty now. Instead, I'm just gonna track this guy down! I've already managed to trace some phone calls from Light and Deathstroke's bases—I had a helluva time finding them and even more trouble breaking through encryption—so hopefully I'll be able to see who these guys got in common!”
A phone number popped onto the screen, the only number that had placed calls to both mercenaries. “Finally,” smiled Vic as he cracked his fingers and began typing. “Let's see who you are!”
Cyborg's encryption codes traced the number through 15 states and 37 countries, following it through every effort to shake off any nosy intruders until finally the name of the true caller was revealed—much to Victor's surprise!
More upset, outraged, and curious than ever, the technical master managed to hack into Jupiter's system—the manager's files opened one after another, revealing to the Titan all of his corrupt dealings and shady alliances.
“Damn!” cried Cyborg as he slammed his fist on the console. “How could he do that to us?! What's he tryin' to pull off, playin' us like this?!”
Unfortunately, he wouldn't have time to find an answer. Suddenly red lights started flashing, accompanied by an obnoxiously loud siren that made the trouble alert seem tame in comparison. “Security breach—Terminal has been remotely accessed,” announced the computer in a monotone and ironically calm voice. “Complete self-destruct in five, four…”
“No no no no NO!” shouted Victor Stone, growing more panicked with each word as he frantically jammed buttons, the numbers still counting down behind him—but there just wasn't enough time.
Windows were shattered by intense, raging flames that lit up the sky surrounding Titans Tower.
Cyborg's lab had been completely destroyed.
Next time: Begin Endgame!
OOC: Man, I've been waiting a really, really long time to make that cameo!