Teen Titans Fan Fiction ❯ The Real World: Titans Tower ❯ The Moment of Truth ( Chapter 24 )

[ 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 24: The Moment of Truth
THE TEEN TITANS—Teenage heroes and reality TV stars:
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.
Starfire—Princess Koriand'r: Pure-hearted alien powerhouse.
Terra—Tara Markov: Runaway and wanderer with control over the very Earth itself!
TITANS EAST—Teenage heroes aiming for fame, fortune, and the honor of being a true Teen Titan!:
Omen—Lilith Clay: Telepath and precognitive in search for her parents.
Flamebird—Bette Kane: Spoiled rich heiress, athlete, and Robin fangirl.
Arsenal—Roy Harper: Former bad-boy sidekick and current government agent and weapon master with perfect aim.
Impulse—Bart Allen: Hyperactive super speedster from the future with no understanding of danger.
Bumblebee—Karen Beecher: Cybernetic genius with an insect themed power suit.
The Herald—Malcolm Duncan: Ex-thug armed with a wormhole generating horn.
Magenta—Francis Kane: Timid girl possessing tremendous magnetic power but cursed by its bi-polar aftereffects.
And we don't know exactly what side these guys are on:
Mr. Loren Jupiter: Manipulative, power-hungry telepath in control of the Brother Blood cowl.
Raven: Cynical empath shrouded in mystery.
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.
Wonder Girl: “So, we just had the worst day of our lives…what's a good way to follow it up? How about finding out our manager has been manipulating our team the entire time we've been together, all just so—”
Cyborg: “—He can get whatever the hell he wants—which in this case was to raise the ratings of our show so that he could use the Blood Cowl to absorb our fans' strength and make it his own! Damn, nobody should have that weapon…it makes your hunger for power unstoppable, drains away all of your conscience! That's sure what it did to Jupiter, just ask his secretary—”
Robin: “Lilith showed up, and somehow kept Jupiter outta our minds so we could actually fight back! G—damn she's a hottie—I sure do love redheads! Anyway, she brought Titans East with her, thinkin' she had solved all our problems, but turns out Jupiter kept just as many secrets from her as he did the rest of us! Turns out he—”
Beast Boy: “Only brought Tara here to use her against us! When he `helped' her gain full control of her powers, he did something to her head so he could take over her body whenever he wants! Now he's usin' the girl I love against us, usin' her just like the scientists and her family an' everybody else who's screwed up her life! On the other hand, Raven—”
Starfire: “Would never have betrayed us! Jupiter must have done something to her like he has Tara! Those things Raven said, about working with Jupiter the entire time, about making our world a dark place, about killing Jupiter, they are not something she would do! Raven is my friend, and although she has made some mistakes, she is not evil! I will do—”
Beast Boy: “—Whatever it takes to get Tara outta there! She's been hurt enough, and, and…well, I just can't stand to lose her again! I don't think—”
Cyborg: “—Gar could take it, an' I don't think I can stand to see the little guy hurt again either! We've gotta—”
Starfire: “—Rescue them both! After all, Tara and Raven are both our teammates, both our friends! If we are ever to stop Jupiter's evil we first must save them, we must—”
Wonder Girl: “—Figure out what in Zeus's name is going on with Raven! She's been working with us all this time, but how much do we really know about her?! She's done some terrible things, and I think Wally may have been right about her! Or maybe she's under mind control, maybe she has multiple personalities, or maybe she really is just evil, but regardless I can't let her hurt us anymore, hurt me anymore, not after all we've just been through! I've—”
Robin: “—Got to hold it together, for all of us! Everybody's lookin' to me to have confidence! It's like Superman said, I can inspire `em! If we're ever gonna win, I've gotta believe we can, and I've gotta make sure everybody else believes that too! I'll make sure they do! We can win this! That motherf---er Jupiter'll never know what hit `im!”
So, that's how the assembled group of twelve Teen Titans wound up in the decimated remains of Alcatraz Prison, surrounded by over 100 of Jupiter's armed soldiers, faced by their mind-washed teammate, and with the prospect of two even stronger enemies above on the balcony.
Jupiter peered from beneath the Cowl of Blood at the assemblage of teenagers below him. He certainly figured he had created enough of a distraction to keep them busy for quite some time, but with Raven as his opponent, he had to take things a step further. It would take all of his attention to fight her—he had to save the Titans for afterwards!
So the malicious manager sent out a mental command, and Terra—without any other choice—followed it, raising her arms as a wall of rock similarly rose behind her, creating a barrier between the team of teens and the two combatants.
With them out of the way, it was time to turn his attention to his true enemy. “Raven, I do hope you'll reconsider this battle.” The color of his eyes shifted from purple to crimson as he tapped into the power of his cowl, placing mental pressure on his empathic opponent. “With the power at my disposal I can give you anything you want…”
It was a simple strategy, one used to great advantage by the previous Brother Blood: temptation, a one sided offer that, when taken up, would grant Raven's power to him, turning her into his slave with even less effort than it would take to use his telepathy. Unfortunately for him, the dark girl wasn't falling for it.
The pitch black wings of her Soul Self exploded around her, nullifying the cowl's influence effortlessly. “Do not think me so easily manipulated, Mr. Jupiter,” she growled. “You would never give me what I desire…and that goal can be reached much more simply, just by taking the Cowl of Blood from you…”
“Fine then,” shrugged Jupiter, not seeming too concerned as he took telekinetic control of debris scattered across the balcony and sent it flying towards Raven. “Truth be told, I'll have a lot more fun just killing you anyway!”
Raven replied in kind as darkness sprouted across the room and took possession of even more rubble. All the time she had been with the Titans Raven had constantly been hiding beneath the shadowy veil of her Soul Self, and now that she'd finally let the charade fall and revealed her true form, she was no longer burdened by the constant strain of holding her dark disguise together. Therefore, she attacked with unexpected speed, overwhelming her former partner's assault and nearly connecting with her projectiles.
Jupiter barely managed to dodge, levitating above them at the last second. As they flew into the wall behind them, the devious director thrusted out one arm, releasing a blast of pure psionic force. It barreled towards Raven like a bullet train, but she never lost her cool—the attack was simply swallowed up by her Soul Self.
Another portal opened behind Mr. Jupiter, and his psionic blast emerged from it, striking him in his own back before the telepath even knew what happened. As he fell on his face and skidded across the floor, Raven allowed herself an uncharacteristic chuckle.
“You'll regret that!” growled Jupiter as he took control of the dust around him, whipping it up into a frenzied storm. Before Raven could even try to calm it herself a blast of red tore through the clouds—again the empath tried to redirect the attack, but it actually shattered her Soul Self and struck her dead in the chest, sending her flying!
As the dust cleared Jupiter just stood with a smug smile on his face and crimson lightning crackling across his hand. “I told you this cowl would be your downfall,” he gloated. “You can't stop its power, and as long as I'm wearing it, you can't manipulate my emotions or get into my head! All you've got left is your telekinesis, and I can do that just as well as you can!”
Raven frowned as she floated onto her feet. “As I told you before, I am not so weak as to be stopped by such a minor inconvenience.” In a flash of black she disappeared, and only a moment later her Soul Self surfaced beneath her telepathic target, destroying the floor and sending it flying straight into the air like a geyser.
Emerging from the darkness, Raven sent the debris flying forward, following the path Jupiter had taken as he reeled from the attack he'd suffered. However, unleashing a flash of magenta, he stopped in his tracks and destroyed the empath's grip on the projectiles, instead taking full control of them himself.
“Well look at that,” he said with a sly smile, “Even my telekinesis is stronger than yours! Tell me Raven, how do you plan on winning now?!”
A puddle of black formed beneath her as Raven disappeared into the floor, easily dodging her redirected attacks. “My plan to defeat you has been the same this entire time,” she said with utmost confidence as she appeared across the room. “You are distracted, your mind focused both on myself and the Titans. You will let your guard down, and when you do, I shall make my move.”
Rolling his eyes, believing it would never happen, Jupiter just scoffed. “Right.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the thick stone wall, a fight just as intense was raging. As soon as the barrier has been erected Jupiter's troops opened fire, unleashing uncountable waves of purple laser fire throughout the room. Fortunately, Cyborg reacted rapidly, throwing his arms to the side and erecting a giant dome-like energy shield around both teams.
“Whatever you guys're gonna do, better figure it out fast!” exclaimed the metal-man as he strained to hold the shield together. “I don't know how much longer I can keep this up!”
Cyborg: “I've never done a shield this big before, plus I spent a lot of energy protectin' myself from when Jupiter blew up my lab!
“How's there even any debate on what we're gonna do?!” asked Gar incredulously. “We've gotta save Tara!”
“But how?” asked Bumblebee worriedly. “We can't get to Mr. Jupiter with that wall there, and my scanners show that it's ridiculously thick—we're not going to get through without some effort!”
As they talked, Lilith Clay used her telepathic abilities to scan Terra's mind—it didn't take long for her to find what she wanted. “We use Beast Boy!” exclaimed the former secretary. “He's the key! Terra's mind has nearly been overridden completely by Jupiter's consciousness, but I can still sense some of Tara's thoughts—they're weak, but they're there! The only ones breaking through are about Beast Boy—all she can think about is his safety!”
“Then I've gotta get to her!” exclaimed the green boy. “Maybe I can get through to her somehow, snap her outta it!”
Beast Boy: “I can't believe all she can think about is me! I mean, that's really cool, but I wish she'd think about herself a little more too! I don't want her pullin' another stunt like what she did back in Zandia, even if that was a huge help!”
“Heh, then all you flying guys should make sure Gar can get close enough to talk to Tara!” announced Robin as he unfurled his staff and span it in front of him. “The rest of us can take care of these stupid goons, no problem!”
Donna couldn't help but to smile. “Sounds like a plan to me!”
Wonder Girl: “I can't believe I'm saying this, but Dick's really been impressing me today! He seems totally different from the, well, the dick he was with he first got here, and even from the mopey guy he's been lately! I don't know what got into him, but I'm glad it did!”
“Then let's light these guys up!” exclaimed Victor Stone as he let up on his shield, using its energy as a weapon and sending it flying in all directions, toppling a couple of lines of soldiers. “Go!”
So Wonder Girl, Starfire, Beast Boy, Bumblebee and Magenta took to the sky, zooming between flying boulders that swirled around them. The girls launched attacks, doing everything they could to avert the deadly rocks with Starbolts, stinger blasts, magnetically controlled metallic objects, or just their bare fists—all the while Garfield lingered behind, staying aloft as a pterodactyl, just waiting for his chance to get close to Terra!
Robin: “Hell, look at that! `Sides Gar, it's only girls that can fly! That's not f---ing fair!”
Still, the acrobatic wonder didn't let the injustice slow him down for even a second as he leapt into the air, somersaulting above the soldiers. They fired at him relentlessly, but he replied by simply spinning his staff, deflecting the laser shots with pinpoint accuracy and redirecting them back into the teeming crowd of disposable flunkies.
His feet never even hit the ground as he gracefully moved from opponent to opponent. He span, his legs spread, into a windmill kick that tagged two heads—immediately tucking and flipping upside down, he grabbed those same heads with his hands and slammed them together, using amazing upper-body strength to push himself back into the air.
Lashing out with his staff, he slammed one of the soldier's face into the ground and then used the momentum to vault himself yet again into the sky. This time he flew high, and at the apex of his leap he unleashed a handful of explosive and freezing disks that thinned the crowd even further. As they took their toll, however, Dick was distracted by the sight of Flamebird taking on the thugs as well!
Robin: “Well s---, I guess that's how you can tell I'm a different guy now—if I was still so f---ing focused on being the best, I'dve never've let her go in there alone! But you guys wanna know what was really crazy?! Bette was actually pretty good!”
Indeed, while the heiress didn't have the amazing ability to combat the entire crowd at once like Dick did, she was still putting on quite a show. She span, lashing out with a kick to a soldier's shin—as he grabbed it in pain, she pulled him close and landed a vicious uppercut to his jaw.
As that opponent fell to the ground, Flamebird couldn't help but to smile—behind her was another soldier, but she just jabbed her elbow backwards into his gut then swang her fist upwards into his face. As he reeled she noticed a mob forming around her, but never once did her smile waver. “Hey, it's too bad you guys don't have some sunglasses!”
A blinding burst of light flared from her goggles, and taking advantage of the crowd's momentary distraction, she hurled her former opponent into the group—immediately she followed this up with a handful of Flamebirdarangs. As they detonated she cart-wheeled forward, rolling one soldier over. Another threw a punch blindly, but she grabbed his arm and snapped the poor man's limb backwards, breaking the bone.
Robin: “Holy f---ing s---, Bette's gotten good! I always knew she had power and speed, but she must've been trainin', cause she's got some killer moves to back that all up now! Hell, here I was tryin' to be anything but her, and she's managed to make herself better an' still keep a smile on her face! She's sure got the right idea!”
“Hey Bette!” called the acrobat as he somersaulted past Flamebird, attacking more of the foot-soldiers all the while. “Sweet moves! You're doin' awesome out there!”
She was stunned. “T—Thanks!” Bette had only gotten into the super-hero business at all to gain Dick's attention, and now, after he'd insulted her and nearly drove her out of the game, after she'd sworn she'd never feel anything for that asshole again, he'd paid her a compliment! It felt wonderful!
“Wow, he's still as gorgeous as ever…” she swooned.
Meanwhile, a white and red streak zoomed through the cell-block, snatching the guns and weapons from soldiers that, to him, were nothing but frozen statues. The figure's massive mane of hair billowed behind him as the wild-child from the future, Impulse, ran random zig-zag patterns until he had disarmed every enemy he could find, piling all their weapons in a stack that was almost as tall as the room.
“Yo, Herald!” called the speedster. “Get rid of these dumb things!”
“You got it, kid,” smiled Mal Duncan as he span his horn and blew, opening a portal beneath the pile-o-guns that brought them to who knows where. Then, moving his fingers in a pattern that no doubt would have made a terrific solo were his horn a normal trumpet, he created two wormholes near the roof, one about ten feet above the other, and then started opening portals beneath random soldiers.
The grunts disappeared and reappeared in the first of the two wormholes. They fell into the second, then reappeared falling out of the first again—trapped within the loop until the Herald saw fit to let them go.
“Sweet!” exclaimed Impulse as he skidded to a stop next to his portal-creating friend. “It's like that painting where it shows somebody lookin' at the painting and then in the painting there's somebody else lookin' at it then inside that there's somebody else lookin' at it, an'…” Bart trailed off, suddenly feeling woozy, rocking back and forth. “An' it's makin' me dizzy…”
Arsenal, meanwhile, was surrounded. He could've kicked himself for letting the soldiers get so close! He fired wildly with a laser pistol in each hand, but for every thug he knocked out, it seemed like another one just popped up in his place. Fortunately, with as many weapons as he had, Roy was never out of options.
Gritting his teeth, the ace-archer pointed both weapons towards the ground and gave them everything they had—the recoil propelled him into the air! The crossbow mounted on his wrist popped open and he fired an arrow attached to a steel cable into the far wall—it retracted, pulling him across the crowd and to a safer position!
By the time Roy landed his bow was already in hand, and half a dozen explosive arrows detonating right in the mob's path easily slowed them down. Then he looked to the sky and fired arrows high into the air—they exploded as nets and bolos fell. As they ensnared their targets he let loose with explosive arrows, glue arrows, boxing-glove arrows, even a few real arrows, aimed for non-vital spots.
Arsenal grinned smugly, having shut down nearly that entire mob so easily. Suddenly, though, he saw Wonder Girl above him. The adopted Amazon smashed through a boulder, but she didn't notice one soaring right towards her back! Without time to even warn her, Roy fired an explosive arrow and obliterated it.
Donna didn't even notice the rescue as she flew off, but Roy Harper was relieved anyway. Ever since he'd first met her as Speedy he'd crushed on that girl, and even if she chose some geeky intern over him, even if she'd only used his body as a rebound, he still cared about her. After seeing how vulnerable she was after Terry's death, maybe more now than ever.
However, while Arsenal had gotten himself out of his jam rather easily, Lilith Clay was having a little more difficulty. As she fought off a soldier, what little self-defense she knew was put to good use. She took a punch to her gut like a pro, grabbing his arm and hurling her high-heeled foot into his crotch. As he howled in pain she struck his neck with a judo-chop and watched him fall.
Still, no matter how good of a weapon they were, it was hard to fight in high heels! Lilith had been using her telepathy to shield the Titans' minds from Jupiter's control, but with the situation so dire and Jupiter's focus on other goals, she figured she'd better take a chance and focus it on her new opponents instead, before it was too late!
`All of you, stop, now! Freeze!'
She smiled as the soldiers surrounding her stopped in their tracks.
`Those of you who were under Jupiter's control are now free! I've erased these horrible memories from your mind—go home, call your parents and tell them you love them! Those of you who joined Jupiter of your own free will—shame on you! Go turn yourselves in, and if any of you try to do anything like this again, you're going to throw up until you're more dehydrated than astronaut food!'
With blank expressions in their eyes, the soldiers all wandered off, doing no harm to anyone. Lilith couldn't help but be happy with herself—being a telepath was so cool!
“You punks're goin' down!” cried Cyborg as he stiff-armed a row of soldiers, knocking them flat on their back. At the same time he fired laser blasts from several different cannons on his body, knocking out close to a dozen soldiers at once. Those who managed to dodge were uprooted by his Sonic Cannon, blown off their feet by the intense waves of high-decibel sound.
Cyborg: “These punks're nothin' but distractions, cannon fodder to keep us busy so we can't focus on Jupiter—so I'm not wastin' any time taking them down! We've got much more important fish to fry!”
Those Titans in the air, though, faced far more than a distraction. Donna Troy span, lashing out with punches and kicks, constantly on her toes. Rocks of all sizes flew at her from every side, relentless in their assault.
Wonder Girl: “Jupiter sure knew which ones of us to get on his side! Terra's powers at this level are nearly unstoppable! I can barely even get my bearings enough to try to think of a way to do more than defend myself!”
Not even yet finished a roundhouse kick, the adopted Amazon saw two boulders approaching her from opposite sides. Just glaring, at the last second she dropped below them, lasso in hand—spinning its golden cords, she ensnared both stones, one on each end of the lasso, and again began spinning, using it as a makeshift, larger-than-life set of nun chucks!
Wonder Girl: “Alright, maybe now I'll have some room to think!”
“This is amazing!” marveled Bumblebee to nobody in particular as she soared through the debris. When boulders got close to her she destroyed them with her suit's stinger-shots, but her curious mind was far more concerned with her former teammate. “I always knew Tara's powers would be off the chart with a little more control, but I never imagined something this catastrophic!”
Suddenly, though, her sensors blared, and she shrank just in time to slip between several colliding rocks. Though she was now the size of a bee itself, her stingers still packed the same punch, and she continued zapping down rocks.
Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran was following a similar strategy, lashing out with Starbolts from her eyes and both her hands. With her impeccable aim and ability to shoot her signature projectiles rapid-fire, the stones weren't even getting close to her, but still, the alien warrior just felt frustrated.
Starfire: “I feel as if I am only wasting time! I could create a Starbolt that could break through this entire field of rocks, but at that strength it would end up killing Tara when it hit! I cannot do that to her, not to my friend, not to someone innocent! But at this point I do not know what I can do!”
The nearby green pterodactyl was just as concerned with the terrakinetic's safety. A massive boulder soared straight towards the airborne animal, but it somehow just span and took the form of am Ankylosaurous, shattering through the massive rocks with its spikes and barbed tail before resuming its former shape.
Beast Boy: “Man, I'm next to useless up here! To attack anything I have to become some sorta animal that can't fly, and then, y'know, I can't fly! I just need somebody to clear me a path, but there's too much rock to get through!”
That was certainly the problem Magenta was having. Hers was the power of magnetism, to control anything metallic, and fortunately for her, there was plenty of metal debris left lying throughout the cellblock by the initial tussle between Raven and “Psimon”—which, in hindsight, was likely a ruse from the start. Still, she could only find and locate it so fast, and after a while she started to lose speed, to lose control.
She pulled a cell door into the air, using it to intercept a boulder—all the while she dodged more attacks on her own, weaving her metallic costume, and her with it, through the obstacles to the best of her ability. She couldn't keep it up forever though, and soon she found herself surrounded by boulders from every side.
Then, Frances Kane snapped.
A magnetic pulse exploded from her body, filling her eyes with a purple power as everything with even a trace of metal was pulled into the air. Even the rocks stopped in their tracks, veiled with thick magenta auras that seemed to be overpowering even Terra's control over them, if just for the moment.
“So,” smirked the Titan, her voice filled with a confidence that was quite unusual for the timid country-girl, “There's enough traces of iron and other metal ores inside these rocks that I can actually do something with `em—that's good to know.”
She thrusted her arms to the side as the rocks and her other projectiles began to spin, and as she pointed forward, the objects followed, spiraling until they'd made a small tunnel straight through the storm and to Terra.
Behind her, Beast Boy was thrilled to see that somebody finally figured out how to get him through, but his elation was quickly lost as a metal beam floated up behind Fran, twisting until it was pointed at its tip, like an arrow.
“Time to take you down!” cried Magenta—but before she could fire her weapon she was tackled to the ground by a green gorilla. They fell at least two stories, landing with a thud, and though her thick suit shielded the girl from most of the damage, she still felt it—she was hurt, bad.
“What's wrong with you?!” cried Gar as he resumed his human form, shaking Fran and raising his fist, ready to strike. Tears were welled in the corner of his eyes. “We're not gonna hurt her!”
Suddenly, though, Wonder Girl hit the ground, and before he knew what'd happened she grabbed Gar's arm. “What are you thinking?! I know you're stressed but you can't hurt your teammate!”
“Not-relative!” Flamebird came rushing to her teammate's side, cradling Frances's head and patting her lightly on the cheek, trying to rouse her. “Fran, wake up!”
Finally the girl opened her eyes and stuttered. “W-what happened to me?”
“You tried to kill Tara!” roared Garfield Logan as he pointed to the twisted girder she'd nearly impaled her former teammate upon. “What were you thinking?!”
Beast Boy: “Tara doesn't deserve to be hurt, but I was startin' to think we'd have to if we didn't get through soon…but she might've killed her! That's way over the line!”
“Oh no…” cried Fran, covering her mouth as she stared, shocked, at the weapon she'd created. “It was Magenta…I, I…I can't always control my powers. They've messed with my mind, created a second personality that takes over when the magnetism is too much for me…I can't control what she does, and she…she's not the nicest person…”
Beast Boy: “Well no duh!”
Wonder Girl: “Great, with everything going on the last thing we need is another teammate going rogue on us!”
“Well don't worry, `cause now you've got all our help too—no reason to lose control!” Suddenly the rest of the ground troops came marching forward, having finished disposing of Jupiter's goon squad. Arsenal strung several arrows and aimed towards Terra, waiting for a clear shot. “We'll finish this, no matter what they throw at us!”
Before they could do anything else, though, they were distracted by a nearly blinding flash of green. Only two Titans were left in the air, and Jupiter was taking advantage of it, directing half of the debris towards Starfire. Though she shot down practically a whole quarry that flew straight at her, another cluster of rocks came from behind, taking the Tamaranian by surprise and knocking her to the floor almost instantly.
“Kory!” Dick cried out and started to run towards the pile of rubble. He couldn't even see his former girlfriend, the girl he still loved, beneath the rocks—but before he could get there she arose, knocking the stones from atop her.
Koriand'r was bruised and dirty, and slightly disoriented, but she was fine. “Do not worry, my friends—I am unharmed, mostly. I am f—”
“Guys! A little help up here?!” And that's when the rest of the Titans realized that, now, Bumblebee was the only one left in the air—and the only one on the receiving end of Jupiter's wrath!
She'd grown to full size so her teammates could hear her cries, and she continued zapping away with the zig-zag stinger blasters on her wrists. She maneuvered with everything her mechanical wings had in them, but it wasn't enough, not for the power Terra had! Suddenly Bumblebee was surrounded by boulders from all sides, floating around her like a globe, just waiting to crush the Titans East-er!
“Karen!” Her boyfriend, the Herald, blew into his Gabriel Horn in a panic, just as the rocks contracted and crushed everything within their grasp. A hushed silence fell between the Titans as a wormhole opened next to Mal, and after an excruciating second that seemed more like hours, Karen fell through. She was a little battered, but Mal had saved her from the brunt of the damage.
Mal dashed forward and caught his love, who still hadn't quite regained her footing. “Mal…” smiled Karen, her love and gratitude shining through even her compound-eye goggles. “God I love you.”
Wonder Girl: “Finally, somebody saved somebody they loved! I'm glad to see it…just wish Terry and I could've turned out this way…”
Robin: “Is that what I need to do to get Kory back? I still love her, I…feel about her just like they do, and Jupiter says she still loves me too—and hell, even if that guy's a f---ing liar, I still think he's right—so maybe that's what it's gonna take…I have to show her some way…”
Beast Boy: “I wish that could be Tara an' me…I need to save her like Herald saved Bumblebee! An', fortunately, they gave me an idea, a way to get to her—an' it's so simple, I don't know how none of us figured it out earlier!”
Above the recovering group of Titans floated a single rock—atop it stood Terra, her golden aura still simmering around her, her eyes still purple, Jupiter still in control, gazing out them at his enemies gathered below her. His soldiers may have been out of the way, but now they were all in one place—maybe it would be even easier to keep them out of the way now!
So suddenly the ground began shaking, trembling like it would in an earthquake! Jagged rocks shot through the floor, as did geysers of dust and stone. The Titans were scattered, disoriented and confused, and as boulders began circling above them so quickly they were almost a blur, they realized that they were also completely immobilized, confined to the ground!
Smashing through a rock and somersaulting past a jutting pillar, Wonder Girl dug her heel into the floor, making a stand. “I'm sorry Gar, but we've got to do something more drastic! Titans—”
“Donna, wait!” Gar was rushing towards Mal and Karen, persevering through the severe duststorm despite only being in his human form. “I still have a plan! Give me one more chance!”
Wonder Girl: “I didn't know what he would do, and I was afraid that if he had some half-baked scheme he could put us all in even more danger, but…he was trying to save the girl he loved. I just thought about Terry, and there was no way I could try to stop Gar…”
“Herald, I need a portal, now!” The green boy was dashing right towards the ex-thug, giving it everything he got, and even if Mal didn't know what exactly was going on, his horn was pressed right to his lips anyway. “Get me to Tara!”
So as Robin and Flamebird somersaulted away from rocks spiking out of the ground, as Cyborg and Starfire blasted their way through the new obstacles, as Wonder Girl pulled Lilith from harm's path, Beast Boy dashed through the open wormhole—and emerged right in front of Terra!
Below him was a duststorm so thick he couldn't see through, but it wasn't much better at her level—Gar was nearly blown away by the spiraling winds! He only saved himself by taking the form of a squid, lashing out and grasping the rock Tara was standing on with his sticky tentacles. Reverting to his human form, he clawed with everything he had, just barely holding on.
Jupiter was just amused by Gar's efforts, though, and he had Terra smile as the winds picked up. The poor Titan could barely hold on as the rest of his body flapped in the wind behind him—but he paid it no mind anyway. His focus was on one thing, and nothing else could deter him.
“Tara!” Garfield Logan yelled with all his strength, all his soul. “Tara, I know you're in there, I know you can hear me! You've gotta break free, please!”
There was no recognition on the earth-mover's face—just more of Jupiter's arrogance.
Beast Boy: “I've seen a lotta crappy stuff in my life, a lot of creepy stuff, weird, scary…but nothin' was as bad as seein' Tara like that. It's like, like she was just dead inside…”
Still, he didn't give up. “Tara, it's me: Gar! I'm here to save you! I'm not gonna let him hurt you, but the only way I can do that is if you listen to me! You have control now! These are your powers! Maybe those scientists gave them to you, maybe Jupiter let you control them, but who cares?! Their yours, and only you should control them!
“Tara please, you sacrificed everything for me back in Zandia, and I'm not gonna stop at anything less to save you! We need your help! We can't get to Jupiter unless you take control! If you break free, then you save the day!”
Beast Boy: “All of it was true, and I was throwin' out everything I could think of to try to get through, but I s'pose that, all along, there was only one thing I ever needed to say…”
“Tara, I can't lose you like this! I love you!”
The changeling had screamed with all his might, and nearly lost his grip on the stone—but as he started to slip, nearly sucked into the raging vortex whirling all around them, he heard a feeble voice that gave him the strength to hold on. “…Gar?”
“Tara?! That you in there?!”
Beast Boy: “Dumb question—of course it was! I could see it in her eyes—that's Tara!”
The earth-mover was struggling with all her might, but even as she spoke, her body still controlled all the surrounding rock against her will. “Gar…I can't stop him…”
“Yes you can!” countered Beast Boy. “I know you can! I believe in you!”
Amazingly, Terra smiled. “I'm glad…somebody does…”
And much to both of their amazements, the storm started to die down. Terra screamed as rocks fell and dust settled—even the rock her and Gar were on slowly descended, finally touching down on the ground.
“See?! I knew you could do it! Tara, you're awesome!” Still, as Garfield got his grips and climbed to his feet, he realized it wasn't over—Terra was on her knees, struggling to overcome the purple aura surging around her.
Beast Boy: “Why won't he just leave her alone?!”
“No Gar, I'm not…I'm not…” Tears fell from Tara's eyes as she gritted her teeth. “I can't do anything right…I try, I've always tried so hard! I tried to be a hero, but my powers went out of control and I just hurt people! I tried to make up for it and things only got worse! I finally…I finally thought I did something right by taking the rap for you, but then Jupiter took me back, and now look what I've done…”
The green boy couldn't believe what he was hearing. “Don't say that! You haven't done anything! Jupiter has!”
“I have too!” she screamed. “You don't know how many people I've hurt! Accident or not, my powers've killed people! Well, I'm not going to kill you too!”
Terra's golden aura spiked, her power finally breaking through. One of the boulders laying besides them floated into the air, shedding some of itself until it was a jagged triangle shape, like a dagger.
Beast Boy: “I…I had an idea what she was doin'…but I didn't wanna believe it…I still can't…”
“Tara, what's wrong with you?! You're finally free!”
“No, I'm not. I'll never be free.” The frail girl slowly climbed to her feet, amazingly calm, almost peaceful despite everything going on. “Jupiter will always have his controllers in my head, as long as he's alive—and you won't kill him, I know you guys won't…and that's a good thing.
“Gar, you guys have been so good to me…you especially. I never thought I'd have somebody love me, or be able to love somebody again. I wish it could last forever, but I'm not going to stick around and be used again, I'm not going to let myself hurt anybody else!”
“Tara, I don't understand what you're saying!”
“Yes you do, Gar.” Her body started to seize as Jupiter desperately tried to regain control, but with a newfound determination she'd never felt before, she broke through. Moving her hand, the jagged boulder turned and pointed towards her. “As long as I'm alive I'll be putting all of you in danger.”
Beast Boy: “God, no…not that…”
“No, you can't!” Garfield dashed forward, but Tara only kicked up a small gust of dust, blowing him backwards.
“I have to, Gar. It's the only way to keep you safe.” A tear leaked from her eye. “Please don't be sad, Gar. I'm not. You've made me happy…and going out saving your life…that makes me happy too.
“I love you, Gar.”
And then the stone fell, its sharp edge striking Tara Markov and then the ground, impaling her right through the chest.
“NO!” Garfield Logan fell to his knees, unable to comprehend what had happened.
Beast Boy: “Why…why did she do that? Why did she always do that?! She never thought about herself…it's almost like she wanted to die! Why didn't she think?! I don't care if she put me in danger, it'd be worth it to have her around…and now, I'll never get that chance…”
Behind the changeling the rest of his teammates gathered, overwhelmed by the events of the last few minutes.
Wonder Girl: “Hera…poor Gar. I know what he's going through…and I know what he must want to do to Jupiter! Well, I'll make sure he it happens!”
Starfire: “It does not make any sense! Why would anybody take their own life?!”
Cyborg: “That's it. Jupiter's going down!
“Tara?” Suddenly Impulse dashed to the girl's side, circling her body in saddened confusion. “Guys, what's wrong? Why isn't she getting up? Did she run out of lives? Do we need more tokens or something?”
“Shut up, Impulse!” The speedster stopped in his tracks as Garfield Logan yelled at him, not even looking up from his knees. “She's not coming back! Life isn't a video game! Here, dead means dead!”
Bart Allen had nothing to say in reply. Nobody really had time to digest what had happened, though, before the next event. Jupiter's telekinesis leapt to life, taking control of several more unopened entrances to the room. They flew open and through charged several more streams of soldiers.
“More distractions?” grumbled Robin. “S---, this guy don't know when to quit…”
“He's got some nerve,” growled Vic Stone.
“Indeed,” echoed Donna Troy. “There's no more time for mercy, guys! Take them down, fas—”
Before the adopted Amazon could even finish her sentence, they were taken down. Impulse, filled with a rage he'd never before experienced, flew through the massive crowd, a white and red streak that pummeled each soldier into oblivion in the time it would take someone to blink. Not even stopping to admire his work, he skidded across the floor towards a pile of small rubble and started tossing them towards the wall Jupiter had erected between himself and the Titans—with his speed, the rocks hitting the stone slab sounded like machine-gun fire.
“What're you guys waiting for?!” cried Bart, not letting up for a second. “We hafta get through that wall!”
The Titans knew he was right. They wasted no time aiming their weapons, their power, towards the one remaining obstacle in their way. It didn't stand a chance.
Beast Boy: “Man, at least when Donna lost Terry she had some time to stop an' try to deal with it…but I don't get that, do I? Instead, we still had Jupiter and Raven to worry about…”
“Yo, Vic!” Herald dashed to the mechanical man's side, his horn ready. Despite it all, Cyborg only gave him a quizzical look—last time they'd spoken, Mal pretty much hated Vic. “'Member that move we used to take down that racist punk Plasmus? Well Karen upgraded my horn, so just follow my lead an' we'll have that wall down lickety-split!”
Cyborg: “Losing somebody has…interesting effects on people. Donna seems to almost have mellowed a bit, learned to trust us more…Impulse had a serious reality-check, and hell, Mal's actually talkin' to me! Still…it ain't worth the pain. Seeing everything we've all been through, I'd rather have all these guys' old faults back then have to see them go through this much s---!
“An' Gar…poor Gar…that kid's never done nothin' to deserve all the grief he's gotten.”
So stinger blasts, Starbolts, magnetic pulses, arrows and explosives all soared for the wall—instantly followed by a massive wave of sonic power from the combined efforts of Cyborg and the Herald. The rock shook and vibrated for a second before exploding, filling the room with debris—the first of which hadn't even hit the ground before a green dragon soared through the wreckage, his sights only on one target: Mr. Jupiter!
Beast Boy: “I still don't know how I do that, how I can become crazy creatures like that…when I get that mad, when I lose it, it just happens…it hurts like crazy, but I didn't care…I just wanted to get Jupiter. I wanted to make him hurt! Heck…with Rouge I was just tryin' to protect Tara, but with Jupiter, I really wanted to see him die!”
Raven disappeared within her Soul Self as the sound waves continued, shattering the balcony on which her and Jupiter had been fighting. Jupiter tried to buffer himself from the sonic attack with a telekinetic shield, but this left him completely open to Beast Boy. Lashing out savagely with his long, scaly tail, he knocked the telepath to the floor.
Jupiter didn't even have time to think as Gar landed atop him, having taken the form of a Gordanian. His massive alien hands were clamped across the director's throat, his eyes filled with rage.
“Tara died because of you, you bastard! Tell me why I shouldn't do the same to you!”
“Because you are not a cold-blooded murderer, Beast Boy.”
Suddenly the green boy felt himself swallowed up within the cold embrace of Raven's Soul Self. He reverted to human form as it knocked him across the room—yet, at the same time, he felt himself losing his anger, the rage just…disappearing.
“Calm yourself, Beast Boy,” commanded Raven as she manipulated Gar's emotions. “Terra sacrificed herself so you would not have to murder Mr. Jupiter…I do not think you would want to go against her wishes.”
Beast Boy: “What I wanted was to stay angry…I felt like I was letting Tara down if I didn't do something! But, man…Raven was right. If I just killed Jupiter, I would've been letting her down. She never got over the guilt of killing people even by accident…no way she would've wanted me to kill somebody on purpose
“Y'know, I dunno what I think about an afterlife. I mean, none of my families have really been religious or anything, but after everything I've seen as a superhero and `specially with the Doom Patrol…I think there has to be something out there. I hope there is. I hope Tara is finally someplace where she's happy…and I hope she's happy with me…”
Mr. Loren Jupiter, meanwhile, saw this as the golden opportunity he'd been waiting for. Springing to his feet, he thrusted both his arms in opposite directions, unleashing two sparking blasts of crimson energy. Garfield barely managed to become a rhinoceros before it hit, but although the other blast had been directed towards Raven, she was nowhere to be found by the time the attack hit.
“I told you distraction would be your downfall.”
He couldn't believe it. Raven was fast. He hadn't even sensed her behind him, yet, in the time it took him to fire upon Beast Boy, she had teleported there and pulled the Cowl of Blood right off his head! Jupiter lashed out with a blast of psionic power, but by then she was already across the room.
“Give that back!” cried Jupiter, anxiety building inside of him.
“No.” Raven couldn't have been more blunt. “You are an arrogant man, selfish and full of misplaced egotism. You have already oppressed the Titans, and would only cause more suffering if you had control of all that power. I am here to punish the wicked, and it appears you are first on my list.”
Magenta colored energy leapt to life in Jupiter's palms as he prepared to take back what had been stolen from him, but Raven wasn't done yet. “Your confidence throughout this entire debacle has amused me. You never doubted for one second that you would win, yet…look what has happened.” The empath just glared as she thrusted her arm forward. “Feel fear.”
Suddenly black exploded around Jupiter, the wings of Raven's Soul Self spreading out of his body as the purple glow in his eyes was replaced by darkness that looked as if it was seeping from his very soul. He screamed, his body wracking in agony, then he simply fell to the floor, dead as a doornail.
The frightened Titans had gathered around Raven, staring stunned at Jupiter's lifeless body. “What…what did you do to him?” asked Donna.
“I made him finally feel fear,” said the dark empath. “I released all his deepest nightmares, made him see images that frightened him so deeply that his heart could no longer take the strain.”
Wonder Girl: “What…what's wrong with her?! She's so casual, so calloused about murdering him in cold blood! Even if Jupiter deserved everything he got, still…there's just something not right about her!”
Starfire: “I can see how worried Donna looks, but…I do not think this makes Raven evil! It is as with everything else she does…definitely out of place, but she meant well! I cannot blame her for killing Jupiter, after all—I would have happily done the same if given the chance!”
“Wait…so Jupiter's dead?” Gar's confusion quickly turned to anger. “If he's dead, then Tara died for nothing! She would have been safe after all!”
“Doubtful,” replied Raven curtly. “Terra had a death wish, Beast Boy. Had I killed Jupiter before she killed herself, she would have just found some other way to make a noble sacrifice. Despite her cheerful façade she was drowning in the guilt of the accidents she had caused. She was desperate to find some way to atone for them…you could never have saved her, Beast Boy.”
Beast Boy: “No surprise there…I've never been able to save anybody close to me…”
Whether the statement was valid or not, not even Raven's only friend was happy with the way she was acting. “Please, Raven, friend…we have lost so much here, endured so much. Please, tell us what is going on!”
“At this point, I don't care!” From across the room Arsenal aimed his bow, releasing several explosive arrows right into the dark Titan's path. Without even batting an eyelash she redirected their flight—they landed right in front of Roy, sending him flying. Black then took control of Roy's suit, pulling his weapons and costume right off of him!
As he landed across the room, buck naked, Flamebird's eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Wow! No wonder Donna couldn't keep her hands off Roy!”
Wonder Girl: “…No comment.”
Bette wasn't immune either, however. Before she could even react Raven tore her utility belt off of her and flung it across the room. Her darkness did the same to Herald's horn, and then possessed Fran and Karen's costumes, holding them down so they would cause no trouble.
“Leave them alone!” roared Impulse as he dashed towards Raven, but she simply opened a portal with her Soul Self, teleporting him halfway across the world.
`You will stop in your tracks,' thought Lilith, trying to project her thoughts into Raven's head, take control of the girl's actions. `You will tell us everything we want to know, you will—' Suddenly, however, she screamed, psychic feedback roaring through her mind. She grabbed her head and collapsed, falling to her knees.
“Raven, stop it!” cried Starfire. “Leave them alone! I do not understand why you are doing this!”
“Doesn't matter at this point,” growled Robin as he gripped his staff—behind him, Cyborg likewise readied his weapons. “Whatever's behind it, it's obvious the b--- ain't on our side!”
Robin: “It's weird, but I never really thought about Raven much one way or another. She never really let any of us get to know her…yeah, I ain't got no problem believing she's evil.”
“I suppose you could say that,” said Raven as her Soul Self enveloped her—and then each of the five Teen Titans. “All of you have gone though much sorrow because of my actions. You deserve answers to your questions before the world ends…”
And six explosions of black teleported the Teen Titans away.
This left only Titans East still at Alcatraz. As they recovered from the attack, still reeling, Bette Kane noticed something through a hole that had been torn in the wall—Titans Island, in the distance, being overwhelmed by a black dome!
“She took them to Titans Island!” exclaimed Flamebird.
“I'm on it!” replied Impulse. Nobody had even realized he'd made it back, but instantly he was running across the water—only to collide with the wall of black! “It's no use!” cried the wild-child as he dashed back to his teammates. “I can't even vibrate through that thing! She really doesn't want us there!”
Flamebird wasn't going to give up that easily, though. “Mal, what about your horn, can you open a portal?”
Retrieving his Gabriel Horn, the Herald tried to open a wormhole straight to the other team of Titans—however, sparks just flew from the instrument, sending a small jolt of electricity through Malcolm Duncan's body.
“That's not supposed to happen,” marveled Bumblebee, the weapon's designer.
Meanwhile, Lilith Clay slowly climbed to her feet. “Guys, I…I think I might be able to get there.”
Quickly Bette and Fran dashed to her side and helped her regain her bearings. “Are you okay?!”
“I'll be fine,” dismissed the secretary. “I tried to get into Raven's head, but her mind, it's so dark, so cold…” She shuddered for a second, remembering the disconcerting feeling. “But, that said, I think I can get past her barrier. When I teleport…I don't actually teleport, per say, like you do, Mal. I have to focus on the mind of a particular person, and then I just pull myself to them, somehow. That's why I needed you to bring us to Jupiter's fake lab…
“Anyway, it's all really abstract and I've never really figured out how it works myself, but I think it will work. I think I can get to Titans Island!”
“But what do the rest of us do?”
Immediately Lilith replied, “Impulse, can you find the Flash?”
“Then get there as fast as you can! Tell him what happened, and make sure he contacts the Justice League! Roy, you—”
“Already on it.” Indeed, Roy Harper had already managed to retrieve much of his costume, and a communicator was already to his ear. “I'm dialing up the DEO now, and the FBI's next on my list. None of them are going to be too happy about the end of the world.”
Francis Kane swallowed a lump in her throat. “Omen…is this really the end of the world? Have you had any more of your premonitions?”
Lilith wanted to tell her the truth…but she couldn't crush their hopes. Her visions could still be changed—but they needed all the hope they could get to make it come true. So as she closed her eyes and focused on the minds of the Titans, as the air rippled around her and she felt herself starting to be pulled away, she instead just left her teammates with two words:
“Good luck.”
A red-headed teenager in jeans and a hockey jersey leaned against a set of bleachers, his arms crossed in annoyance. He was Wally West, formerly the Teen Titan known as Speed. He'd lost his powers and returned to his normal life, but much to his chagrin, he hadn't been as easily able to leave behind his newfound celebrity.
Indeed, while he'd returned to High School with much excitement, his first day back just reminded him why he had always hated school so much. Things finally reached a boiling point during sixth period, when he was confronted by a horse of a kid named Joe Polanski. Again Wally's temper had gotten the best of him, and now he was waiting for the inevitable fight.
`God this is stupid,' thought Wally with disgust as he waited for Joe to show. `Y'know, I really don't hate the work or learning, but the kids here are just so dumb. This whole situation is just way too high school—I can't believe it, but I was actually better off with all the drama from the Titans! At least then there was a reason to get all worked up!'
The former Titan was snapped out of his thoughts as Joe walked around the corner, the massive boy followed by a large crowd of students eager to see the two teens throw down.
“You ready to settle this?” asked Joe, the words coming out with a low rumble. He cracked his fingers and grinned cockily.
“C'mon, do we really need to fight?” Wally wasn't scared—more than anything, he was just annoyed by the whole situation. “I mean, I had this girl literally make me fall in love with her, but I'm not picking fights over it anymore. You're really gonna let yourself get this upset over one guy calling you a dumbass?”
A punch landed in his gut, nearly sending the red-head onto his knees. “Guess so,” he managed to remark as he gasped for breath. There wasn't much he could do but brace for impact as Joe wound up and leaned into another punch, but as he threw it, something strange happened…
Joe started moving slower and slower, until finally he was practically frozen in place, his fist still inches away from Wally's face. Staring at his rival, Wally slowly climbed to his feet and took a look around—the entire crowd had suffered the same fate!
Wally couldn't help to smile as he took advantage of the situation and repaid a sucker punch with a sucker punch, landing an uppercut with a sickening thud into Joe Polanski's stomach. Time snapped back to normal as the brute flew backwards, landing on his butt.
“What t'hell was that?!” cried the massive boy furiously as he quickly got back onto his feet.
“I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's called a punch,” taunted Wally with an uncharacteristic chuckle. He was surprised at how giddy he was feeling, but he couldn't deny it felt good to give this bully what he deserved.
Seething, Joe again charged. “Oh, you're gonna die for that one, West!”
But yet again time slowed down for Wally, and this time, feeling cockier, he ducked beneath the other's boy arm and delivered several punches, three, four, five in succession. As time snapped back to normal Joe was knocked into the air, spinning until he hit the bleachers.
The crowd of student onlookers went wild—but not in the way Wally expected.
“Hey, he said he didn't have his powers anymore! That's no fair!”
“Yeah, talk about a cheap fight!”
“Man, I'm tellin' the principal about this!”
That's when it finally snapped in Wally's head—time slowing down like that, it must have been super speed! But, there was only one way to know for sure—and with all the trouble he'd started, he certainly didn't want to stick around anyway.
So Wally West ran. In two seconds he'd broken the sound barrier, becoming faster than sound itself. Fear coursed through the boy's veins—he expected his body to dissolve away any second, to become a phantom, to become Speed once again! Yet, as he continued to run, something completely unexpected happened: he actually enjoyed it!
Wally's hair flapped behind him in the wind, his feet smacked against the pavement and the water, and no matter how fast he went, his body showed no signs of going away!
`This is great!' he thought as he circled the globe for the fifth time in thirty seconds. `I have super-speed, but I still have my body! I can handle that!'
However, as he continued to pick up speed, as light started to bend around him, worries again crept up. `But what if I just lose my body later?! What if I try to be a hero again and it doesn't work out?! I mean, I've hated going back to school, but it's only been a day…but God do I hate it.
`I know one thing: I'm tired of running. Whenever something's gone wrong in my life I've just run away from it, even now, that's all I'm doing! No, this time I need some answers. No matter what I decide to do, I'm thinking it through this time.
`And I think I know just the place to find out everything I need…'
So he ran even faster and faster, surpassing even the speed of light. The phenomenon of swirling colors and sights was nearly indescribable—as he approached terminal velocity, even the time-stream itself began to bend around him! Then though, something even more fantastic happened—lightning struck. Thunder boomed.
Wally West entered the Speed Force.
In the middle of San Francisco bay sat a small island. Once it had been tiny, insignificant, until a tower in the shape of a giant `T' was erected. Since then it had been the home and base of operations for the Teen Titans, making it a hotbed of action and drama.
Today, it was the stage for the beginning of the end of the world…
Five small bursts of black shot from the island's sandy shore, and as the remaining Teen Titans emerged from the dust, still shuddering from the chilling insides of Raven's Soul Self, the dark empath herself appeared, her inky power shooting from right before the tower into the sky, erecting a dome around the isle.
“What the hell's that?!” spat Robin as he watched Impulse charge towards the dome from the outside, slam face first into the dark barrier, then race back towards Alcatraz before he even had time to sink. “Why're you keepin' us all bottled up like this?!”
“My barrier is not intended to trap you,” explained Raven, standing in front of the Tower's entrance and facing her teammates. “It is meant to keep everybody else away. This business does not concern them.”
Before the words even finished leaving the Titan's mouth, the air before her teammates began to ripple, twisting as a strained screaming emerged. Suddenly, accompanied by a brief, bright flash of light, Lilith Clay fell to the ground, frantically gasping for every last breath she could take.
“Lilith!” Starfire leapt to the secretary's side, taking the disoriented girl by the arm and helping her to her feet. “Are you alright?!”
“I—I'm fine,” whispered Lilith, still out of breath. “Getting here…was harder than I thought.”
“Indeed,” remarked Raven. “It is incredible that you made it through my barrier at all. You should not have been able to. The courage and perseverance you have shown is…quite impressive.”
Wonder Girl: “I'll say. When she first showed up she really had me worried. I didn't trust her anymore than I did Jupiter—why should I have? But she's proven herself. All along she was planning to stop Jupiter. She protected us and fought at our side. Even though nothing's really worked out, she still hasn't given up. I respect that.”
“Still,” continued the dark empath, “Why do you act? I sense much guilt within you, regret for not trying to shut down Jupiter's operation sooner. And why did you ever take a stand on this matter in the first place? You think yourself benevolent, and there may be a degree of that involved, but you again simply felt guilt. You were afraid that if Jupiter truly was your father, you would be held accountable for his actions, correct?”
Lilith grimaced. “Maybe, a little, but why should that matter?! It was still the right thing to do! I would have tried to stop him no matter who he was!”
“Doubtful,” stated Raven with utmost certainty.
“Leave her alone!” cried Koriand'r. “Raven, I thought you were learning to give people the benefit of the doubt! If anybody has ever deserved that, Lilith does now!”
However, Raven only frowned, her eyebrows furrowing, sending shivers down the Tamaranian's spine. “Forget it, Kory,” grunted Gar. “She doesn't see good in anybody! Tara made the ultimate sacrifice to save us from her, even if she didn't have to, and Raven just smears her anyway! That's just sick!”
Beast Boy: “Far as I'm concerned, Raven's as bad as Jupiter! Death wish?! That's a bunch of crap!”
Starfire: “I hope the others are not right, I hope Raven can still be saved…after all, something must be wrong! She keeps ignoring me! I am her friend and yet she will not respond to anything I say! Why?!”
“Year Gar, I'm with ya all the way there!” Cyborg leapt forward, his arm launching from his body and soaring towards the Cowl of Blood held within the empath's pale hands. “I dunno if she was ever in her right mind before, but she definitely ain't while she's got that thing! She's the one I gave it to when we defeated the first Blood, and maybe that's what did this to her!”
Raven actually smiled. “Cyborg, you know better.” A field of black leapt to life around the machine-man's robotic hand, stopping it in its tracks and sending it snapping back into place. “But, that is always your problem, is it not? You worry so much about others that you place yourself in danger trying to protect them. Someday it could be the death of you.”
Cyborg: “She acts like I don't already know that. Believe me, that's why I stay away from bein' the leader an' stuff like that…but hell, if I do die savin' somebody else, it ain't a bad way to go. I'd be proud of it!”
“Hey, lay off `im!” objected his best friend, Garfield Logan. “You say that like it's a bad thing, but that's why Vic's so cool! He'd do anything for any of us! Yeah it's gotten on my nerves once or twice, but y'know what? I wouldn't have it any other way!”
“You would not, would you?” Raven's conceited words caused the boy's green face to turn red with anger. “What if he does die, then? Could you forgive yourself? After all, this virtue of his you so admire would be the main cause of his death. Could you stand to have the guilt of another weighing you down?
“After all, you already carry so much guilt within you. Terra, your parents, the Doom Patrol…you truly believe you could have saved them all. You blame yourself, Beast Boy. How much more guilt can you possibly shoulder?”
Beast Boy: “God she knows how to cut somebody to the core…”
“Alright, that's enough!” Dust exploded behind her as Donna Troy shot into the sky, flying straight towards her curt teammate. “Whether you deserve it or not I've been trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, trying to hang back and see what's wrong with you before we do anything, but I'm done with that! If you're going to attack our friends then I'm going to attack you!”
Raven simply raised her arm, and her Soul Self exploded to life around the adopted Amazon, taking possession of her costume. “Friends? It is reassuring to see that your hypocrisy is as rampant as ever.”
Waving her arm to the side, the empath sent Donna flying. “Since when have you considered the other Titans friends? Allies, pawns, nuisances, yes, all of those you have called them, but…friends? Even now as you try to endear yourself to them it is only to satisfy your own need for redemption, and to try to drive off the anger, the guilt, the self-loathing you feel after losing Terry, after finding out the truth about your parents…your emotions are in such upheaval I am surprised you can even think.”
Wonder Girl: “No, she's…she's wrong! I mean, yes, I want to redeem myself, I don't want my own teammates to be scared of me, but I was trying to do this for them too, to let them help like Kory said I should! I mean, Hera, as annoying as she could be I've always thought of Kory as a friend, and Vic too, and today even Dick and Gar have been amazing…
“I just don't understand her! Anything anybody tries to do, no matter how well intentioned, she can't look at anything but the downside!
“So what about me?” Raven's attention was now turned to Robin, Dick Grayson, who stood before her, crouched like he was ready to attack, a Redbird boomerang in each hand. “Whaddaya gotta say about me? Gonna tell me how immature I am, or how I shut everybody out, or hell, how `bout how I've totally f---ed everything up with Kory? I mean, Jupiter already beat you to that last one, but it can't hurt to beat a dead horse, right?”
Robin: “Yeah, she's got no ammo left if I already say everything she was gonna say anyway! If she was trying to manipulate us, make us lose our will to fight, it sure wasn't gonna work on me!”
“Not now,” replied Raven. “I am more fascinated at the moment by your determination. Do you actually plan to fight me? Do you know how futile that would be?”
Dick chuckled. “Yeah, I've got a pretty good idea. No, all I want from you is some f---ing answers! Isn't that what you brought us here for in the first place?!”
A few seconds passed, and then Raven chuckled as well. “I suppose you are correct. Forgive me—it has been quite some time since I have been able to speak freely and not pretend to stifle my emotions. Yes, I did bring all of you here to give you answers to your questions. After all, all of you have been used like pawns on a chessboard all this time—it is only fair that you know the truth before the end…”
Robin: “Holy s---, I can't believe that worked!”
Starfire: “Again Dick has impressed me—but Raven…again she completely ignored me!”
Wonder Girl: “Good going, Dick…if this is somehow the end of the world, if what Lilith said about her visions of the future are true, then we need all the information we can get!”
Beast Boy: “I don't even care about her story anymore—I just wanna take her down! I guess I don't have much of a choice though…”
“I am sure all of you have at least heard of the Salem Witch Trials,” began Raven. “In the year 1692 several young girls, motivated by jealously and desperate for attention, falsely accused numerous people of witchcraft, which at the time was a crime punishable by death. It was one of the most unjust moments in human history.
“However, I am sure it comes to no surprise to any of you that not every accusation was false. One such girl was named Abigail Good, and her curiosity landed her in a situation she never wanted to face. She accidentally summoned a most handsome man, a man who swept her off her feet—it was not until after he had seduced her that he revealed his true form.
“For, in reality, he was the most fearsome being ever known. A monster, the source of all darkness, of all evil…Trigon the Terrible.
“His time in this world was quickly over, but he left a part of himself behind. Despite his nearly limitless power, he was unable to move from dimension to dimension at will. His union with Abigail was meant to sire an heir, one capable of opening the paths between dimensions, allowing Trigon free reign throughout all creation.
“His plan succeeded. I am that child: Abigail was my mother, and Trigon is my father.
“Abandoned, alone, scared, Abigail could not return to her village. However, before her situation could become dire, she was found by a strange hooded figure. He was one of the founders of an interdimensional haven known as Azarath, a sanctuary where pacifists sought refuge from the violence that is so prevalent in every world.
“The monk brought my mother back to Azarath with him, and soon I was born. Just like my father himself intended to, the monks there used me, studied me with hopes of learning Trigon's weaknesses. You see, from Azarath one could see anywhere in existence, and they had been monitoring Trigon with much distress. They did not want to let him bring ruin to anymore worlds.
“So the Monks of Azarath created the Cowl of Blood. They used it to collect energy from across every dimension they had access to—but even that was not enough. They openly confronted my father, but Trigon was too strong for them to defeat. They simply succeeded in sealing him within one dimension, limiting his path of destruction to that one universe.
“But with that final attack, the Monks lost their grip on the Cowl. It fell to the world below, to Earth, with catastrophic results. Brother Blood after Brother Blood emerged, each causing more pain and more destruction than the last. Seeing the awful, unintended results of their actions, as noble as they may have been, the Monks decided to never again interfere with the affairs of any world outside Azarath.
“I, however, never shared their convictions. Time moves differently in Azarath, and in my 18 years of life, I have watched over 300 years of history pass before my eyes. I witnessed not only each and every Brother Blood, but every war fought, every genocide, every act of selfishness and evil and abuse and cruelty. I also saw heroes rise, but I saw those same heroes fall, all either killed or lost to the same evil they tried to fight. What little hope humanity once had has been completely extinguished.
“I pleaded with the Monks of Azarath constantly to intervene, to put an end to the evil they caused, to try to bring the peace they had found in Azarath to other worlds, but they would have none of it. They simply would not break their vow of non-interference.
“Instead, the cowards taught me to restrain my emotions. They were afraid of me, afraid that if I continued to feel disgusted by the other worlds, that I might try to take action—or worse, that my anger would somehow release my father. So they tried to repress my emotions, and forbid me from ever again watching my home planet.
“However, I could not follow their commands. The Monks' inactivity simply sickened me, but so did the appalling behavior of the humans on Earth. It took quite some time, but I finally came to learn the one truth to the universe—there is no innocence, only evil.
“Indeed, I came to believe that all existence deserved to be punished for their overwhelming hatred, selfishness and greed. And who is better qualified to carry out that sentence then my father, Trigon the Terrible?
“First, though, I personally brought punishment to Azarath. I killed the monks, destroyed the city, devastated everything they ever stood for. Then I came to Earth.
“I needed the Cowl of Blood—only by using its abilities could I gather enough energy to break the seal that keeps Trigon imprisoned. However, despite Azarath's technology, I lost track of the Cowl's whereabouts over a hundred years ago. But I knew that all who possessed the Cowl were tempted by great power, and who in this world has more power than a superhero?
“All along, the Teen Titans were my idea. What better than a public group of powerful superheroes to attract the attention of the newest Brother Blood? All along, Titans, your purpose was simply to get the Cowl into my hands.
“However, I did not quite have the understanding to get such a project off the ground, and while my abilities allowed me to manipulate the emotions of others, I could not control actions specifically enough to fit my needs. So, with much effort, I managed to contact my father for a few brief moments.
“And he found Mr. Jupiter.
“A struggling writer, Jupiter already had the contacts in the entertainment industry we needed. Tempted by our false offer of power, Jupiter agreed to work with us, and with help from Trigon, we managed to grant him the power of telepathy.
“So Jupiter was able to get anything he wanted, and he set up the show, recruited all of you, and manipulated events behind the scenes to gain the maximum amount of fans.
“And now Jupiter has paid the required price for his evil deeds, and your fans are engrossed by your recent exploits against Deathstroke. I have all the energy I need to release Trigon, to begin the end of the world…to cleanse the Earth…
All this time the Teen Titans had been listening to her story, their jaws nearly falling off their faces in shock at what they heard.
Robin: “So that's it. Should've known. All along she's nothin' more than a straight up, crazy b----!”
Cyborg: “Dammit, why didn't I try to uncover Jupiter's hand in this earlier?! Instead I spent my time tryin' to help Wally an' the others, and yeah, maybe that worked out, but all of that's gonna be pretty worthless if the whole world's gone!”
Starfire: “Her story…I cannot believe it! Even if she claims these answers are truth, there is still something else missing! This is not the Raven I know, and I refuse to believe I have been lied to all this time!”
Finally, it was Lilith Clay who broke the silence. “You're…you're a monster!
“I have been called that before,” replied Raven with a shrug. “However, it is normally only simple minded, naïve fools who have the gall to level such charges on me. Still, once I embraced my father's path I took on this new appearance, so I suppose those who call me a monster finally have some sort of point.”
“No, they always had a point!” objected Donna. “You're not a monster because of how you look, but because you've condemned all of existence because you don't like the way the world works!”
Raven just looked down her nose at the adopted Amazon. “So you think this world is fair then? You think good still exists in a world where Terry Long is dead and Deathstroke is still alive?”
Wonder Girl: “Hera, she knows how to hurt somebody…she fights us with our own emotions, hits our weak spots so we can't think logically…but I'm not going to give in! I won't see things her way!”
However, it wasn't Donna Troy who answered her question. “Yeah!” cried Gar Logan, “I can't speak for Donna, but I sure know I think it does! I mean, heck, I've been through so much crap I can't even keep it straight anymore, but even with all the people I've lost, even though I spent a few years on the street, I've had a ton of fun in my life!
“Vic an' Kory an' Dick, and Tara an' the Doom Patrol an' my parents…I know good exists in the world `cause I know my friends! None of them deserve to be destroyed!”
“Seriously!” This time it was Victor Stone throwing in his two cents. “You've been with us since the beginning! Don't tell me you haven't learned anything! Yeah there's some pretty damn awful people out there, but there's just as many of us good ones out there, riskin' our hides to stop those evil jerks! If you hate evil so much, you should be workin' with us to protect people!”
There was a slight pause as Raven pondered how to reply—though her mind had long ago been made up as to her stand in this matter. “Once I shared your viewpoint, Cyborg, but…there is simply no innocence to protect in this world anymore. There are only those who are more evil than others…”
The empath stopped talking for a second, as if she was struggling with whether to say this next sentence at all. Finally, though, the words came out. “Truth be told, obtaining the Cowl of Blood was not the only reason I created the Teen Titans. I also wanted to immerse myself in the world of heroes…to see how they acted, how they lived, how they would react to the worst the world had to offer first hand.
“Perhaps I hoped all of you would prove me wrong…but sadly that was not the case. In the time we have been together I have seen within you all arrogance, selfishness, an inability to communicate properly, an unwillingness to cooperate fully with others…I am sad to say you have not restored my faith in humanity…”
Robin: “Well, duh! She expected a buncha teenagers to make her thinks humans're good?! We're f---ing angst factories!”
Cyborg: “Yeah, I admit we ain't always been the best examples, that's pretty obvious! But at this point I think Raven coulda hung with the JLA and come to the same conclusion! She just can't see the good in anybody! Damn, she can't even really ever let herself hope…”
All the while Starfire stood, her mind boggled as she watched her friend, as she heard the heartless, cynical words Raven was speaking. Her heart plunged, but she refused to let herself lose faith. This all couldn't be true!
Lies!” cried the Tamaranian as she shot forward like a rocket, hurling a vicious uppercut into Raven's chin and actually managing to send her flying. She hit the ground, bouncing a couple of times before regaining her composure and floating into the air. She didn't look pained—more than anything, Raven was simply…confused.
“Maybe some of what you say is true!” exclaimed Kory. “Maybe you really do intend to destroy the world! But I cannot believe that you find no good in any of us!
“You told me that I was your friend! That you admired how I treated people and felt about them! Well, I refuse to believe that all those things you told me were lies! Maybe I am not an empath as you are, but I could see it on your face! I just know you were telling the truth! Tell me Raven, is that why you were ignoring me?! Because you could not face the fact that you have faith in me?!”
Robin: “S---, I know it's wrong to get turned on during the end of the world, but hell…just listen to her!”
Indeed, Raven seemed just as moved. “Koriand'r, I…you are correct. What I have told you was indeed true. I admire that you can give everybody a bright smile and the benefit of the doubt. I find within you pure innocence, no malicious intent…but I cannot say this ever completely surprised me. After all, you are not human.”
Beast Boy: “Great, so now she's racist…wait, that wouldn't be right…what the heck would you even call that? Alienist? Specieist? We really need words for this crap…”
“Still, Koriand'r, I apologize.” Raven moved her arm to the side, and a wall of black grew from the ground, a small door of darkness just a little taller and wider than the alien princess herself. “I never intended to include you in my judgment of Earth. Here, this portal will bring you home, to Tamaran. Perhaps you and the rest of your kind can mount a counterattack against Trigon before he reaches your world…”
Her eyes open wide, Kory looked at the door with her mouth agape. Then, she slowly turned and looked back at her friends.
Wonder Girl: “She had me worried for a second…I know Tamaran is fighting a war, I know she misses her home…but she's Starfire! She always comes through for us when we need her.”
Robin: “I thought that was it, I thought she'd leave and it would be all my g—damn fault. After all, last time I let her down she thought she had no other reason to stay here…and here she was, finally with a chance to get home, and without me as a boyfriend…”
Starfire: “I cannot say that Raven's offer was not tempting. I ache to see Tamaran again. I miss my mother and father and brother and my whole world so greatly! But…I could not abandon my friends, nor this world that has welcomed me so warmly! Not in their hour of need!”
“No.” Starfire stared resolutely at her friend, never wavering. “I appreciate the offer, Raven, but I cannot leave! I will not abandon my friends or this planet, not when it is threatened!
“After all, I have been welcomed so warmly here! Raven, in your time on Earth you say you have only seen pain and suffering, but to me it is the opposite! I mean, yes, I cannot deny that those things exist, but they are not all this world is! There are kind and caring people with good intentions, and maybe they make mistakes occasionally, but for the most part, most people are good people at their core!
“So I will not stand here and let them be destroyed! Raven, you have the ability to feel what those people feel, to sense what I feel! Give us another chance! Give yourself a chance to experience all the wonderful things humanity has to offer!”
Starfire: “I mean, as much as Raven admires me, I know I am not perfect, and neither is Tamaran nor the people on it! If she is going to give us a chance to fight back, then Earth deserves the same! She could appreciate humans if she would only let herself!”
Beast Boy: “Man, I can't believe how brave Kory's bein'…but I don't think it's gonna work. It's pretty easy to lose faith in people, an' I know I've come pretty close myself a couple've times. It takes a lot to get it back, and I just don't think Raven's, y'know, strong enough to change her mind!”
A few tense seconds passed before Raven again spoke. “So, Koriand'r, you truly think the humans can rise above their inherent darkness? You truly think they can fight back and prove themselves worthwhile, innocent, pure?”
“I am certain of it!” exclaimed the alien. She didn't need any time to think—she just knew!
“Then…I will give all of you one more chance.” The Titans practically fainted as the words left Raven's mouth. “Prove to me that your light shines stronger than your darkness…that you can overcome the evil within you…and you will win.”
Beast Boy: “Holy crap, I was wrong! She's actually changin' her mind!”
Cyborg: “Wait…what does she mean, `and we will win?' Win what?”
A radiant smile filled Starfire's face, and she was about to hug her friend—then Raven lashed out, thrusting one arm ahead of her and sending her Soul Self exploding around the alien princess, sending her flying backwards across the sandy shore, flat on her back, unconscious, with dark electricity still sparking across her orange body.
Beast Boy: “Crap, I wasn't wrong after all! She lied! Crap crap crap, why of all times was I finally right `bout something now?!”
Robin: “Despite the fact that Raven lied, that she was `bout to end the f---ing world, all I could think about was Kory! I rushed to her side, hopin' she was still alive, and that's when it finally hit me, once an' for all. This time there weren't no doubts, I knew it plain as anything: I love that girl!”
Wonder Girl: “Hera, I actually thought it was over, that Kory's faith had saved us all…how naïve I was. Raven's as bad as the darkness she thought she was fighting: hope never would have persuaded her…”
But before they could do anything to stop her, darkness shot from the rest of the Teen Titans as well. One by one they collapsed, until only Lilith Clay was left standing. Much to her horror though, as she saw her friends fall unconscious around her, she realized that nothing was happening to her! Raven's Soul Self merely fizzled out, leaving her unharmed.
Raven raised an eyebrow. “Interesting. That explains how you were able to teleport past my barrier…you are immune to my abilities…”
Lilith gasped. “But…how?”
“Does it matter now?” asked the dark empath. “The world is coming to an end. Discovering your origins is rather worthless in the face of that.” Lilith growled, but Raven carried on anyway. “I sense your frustration and how frightened you are, but do not be scared. You will be the only person to survive and witness my father's ascension. Consider it a privilege.
“The only person? You'll be there too!” countered the red-headed girl. “Do you think you can live with that? To see all the destruction you've caused? You go on and on about how much you hate evil, but you're just as bad as you think everybody else is! The guilt is going to tear you apart!”
“Of course it would,” stated Raven matter-of-factly. “And you are correct—deserved or not, I cannot continue to live after bringing destruction to this world. Fortunately, I do not have to. To free Trigon, I must channel all the energy the Cowl of Blood has absorbed through my Soul Self, creating a portal…but my mind will not be able to survive the strain of handling that much power. I will not survive…”
“But if you…why didn't you give us a chance? Why did you lie to Starfire?!”
“I did not.” Raven was resolute in this. She almost seemed offended. “I told Koriand'r that if humanity could overcome the evil within them, they could still win…and I meant it. I was never going to change my actions. The fate of the world now rests in their hands…”
Lilith was speechless. She'd tried everything, and nothing worked! It was all beginning to hit her. Her visions…she'd failed! She'd let them come true! What could she even do to stop Raven now?! What was left?!
The dark empath herself, meanwhile, put the cowl over her head. She floated into the sky, rising above the tower and raising her hands above her head.
Suddenly an idea hit Lilith. `Titans, get up! I know you are exhausted, but we need you now more than ever! We need you to fight! You are the world's only hope!'
Slowly the Titans started to stir. They pushed against the ground, trembling and shaking, using all the strength they had—yet they still weren't on their feet.
“Cowl, lend me all your energy,” said Raven, almost chanting. “I give it to you, father. Trigon the Terrible, come forth!”
`Get up!'
The Titans finally managed to stand up thanks to Lilith's mental prodding, but alas—it was too late.
The dome around Titans Island disappeared as Raven's full Soul Self sprang to life around her in the shape of a giant bird, spreading its black wings through the sky. Almost immediately it turned crimson as the power of the Cowl of Blood flowed through it. The Soul Self grew bigger and bigger until it blocked out the entire sky.
Then it exploded.
Raven's body fell, disappearing before it hit the ground. The sky seemed to crack as a new figure stepped through the portal. He was twice as tall as the Tower itself. His massive feet were hooved, and his body was red. His four red eyes were filled with an even darker shade of pure red energy. White hair topped his head, and tremendous antlers crowned his head as well.
“Free at last!” proclaimed Raven's father, his voice booming and shaking the ground. Energy exploded from his body, quickly overtaking the entire planet! The sky turned red, the seas turned to burning magma, and everything on land turned to stone.
Everything except Lilith Clay.
The monster smiled as he looked at his handiwork. “This world belongs to Trigon the Terrible!
Meanwhile, tears fell from Lilith's eyes as she looked at her petrified friends.
The Teen Titans had been turned into stone.
And with them gone, so was all hope for saving the Earth…
Next time: I vs. I