Teen Titans Fan Fiction ❯ The Real World: Titans Tower ❯ I vs. I ( Chapter 25 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
OOC: Wow. It…it's been a year to the day since I last posted a chapter of this story. I am so sorry! There is no excuse for taking that long to finish the story. Indeed, that's part of why I took so long, because after a certain point I felt ashamed to even start putting up chapters again.
Why it took me so long to write this is a very long, and not very entertaining story. I just want to thank the fans that wrote to me wanting more of the story, and inspired me to take up my pen again and start to finish what I started. There are two chapters left to this story, and I promise, they will not take a year to finish.
For now, please just enjoy the story, and please, let me know what you think! I appreciate everybody who ever has read this story and ever will! Thank you!
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 25: I vs. I
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.
Omen—Lilith Clay: Telepath and precognitive searching for her parents.
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.
Over 300 years ago, a child was born. Though her mother was human, her father was a great evil, the source of all darkness in existence, the scourge of the universe. This girl's name was Raven, and her and her mother were rescued by the monks of a pacifist haven known as Azarath.
On Azarath Raven was raised to stifle her emotions and not interfere with the worlds she observed, but she could not follow these guidelines. She was an empath, able to sense and feel the emotions of others, and the suffering and evil she observed was too much for her to take.
Time moved differently in Azarath, and in her 18 years of life she watched 300 years of human history…and gave into the cynicism that was slowly building up within her. She came to believe that humanity was incapable of innocence, that all of creation deserved to be destroyed.
So she destroyed Azarath herself, then set her sights on releasing her father, Trigon the Terrible, so he could bring ruin and punish all within his reach. To this end she assembled a group of teenagers into a reality TV show super-team: The Teen Titans. Through manipulating them and a man named Loren Jupiter, she finally reached her goal: releasing Trigon.
In the process, however, Raven lost her life.
Just before her death, Raven had nearly been talked out of her path by her only friend, the alien princess known as Starfire. She had made a promise to the alien, that if humanity could overcome the darkness within them, they could still win. However, that promise seemed in vain now…
The sky seemed to explode as Trigon entered this dimension, the massive twenty story tall monster shaking the ground as he took his first steps. His voice rattled deep with bass as he proclaimed his newfound dominance over this planet. And immediately a wave shot from his body, traveling across the entire world in mere moments.
The sea turned to piping hot magma as the wave passed over it. The sky turned red as lightning perpetually cracked through it. Everything else was instantly petrified, buildings and people becoming nothing more than fancy statues.
Only the telepath Lilith—former secretary to Mr. Jupiter himself—was spared, but she didn't know what good she could do. The Teen Titans were stone, and with them gone, so was all her hope.
Indeed, it seemed nobody on the planet could fight back now…
***A FEW MOMENTS EARLIER***
***OFF THE AIR—ALCATRAZ ISLAND. SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
“C'mon, I'm serious!” Roy Harper, the government sanctioned ace archer known as Arsenal, yelled into his communicator. “Just because I'm with Titans East doesn't mean I'm full of crap! It's the end of the world! Get me some help here!”
Around the weapon master paced the rest of Titans East. Lilith had told them to have faith before she teleported away, but it wasn't easy when their friends were facing the fights of their lives. They could be dead already, and they couldn't do a thing to stop it!
“I hope Impulse is having better luck than Roy is,” lamented Magenta as she stared at her feet, on the verge of tears. “I feel so helpless…guys, there has to be something we can do!”
“If I knew where the League's HQ was I could `port us there faster then even Impulse can run,” said Herald, “But right now, ain't much more I can do! Dammit! Stupid dome! How can she stop my horn?”
His girlfriend, Bumblebee, was kneeling, her back leaning against the wall. “What could we do anyway?” she asked, her voice weak, hollow. “I only got into this team in the first place to show off my tech…I never thought I'd be fighting to save the world! We're not ready for this! We can't do it!”
“Yes we can!”
Bette Kane, the heiress known as Flamebird, grabbed all their attention.
“Maybe the Titans put us down before, but we helped them in their time of need! We're gonna do everything we can! We're gonna fight back! We're go—”
Suddenly, though, she stopped dead in her tracks.
“Bette?” Her teammates all perked up a bit, concerned over the fate of their friend. Fran started to move towards her. “Bette, what's wrong?!”
What was wrong was that Flamebird had seen, though one of the holes their battle had torn in the wall, Trigon's wave of power heading towards them. Her eyes grew wide as saucers, and as they met their doom, she couldn't even find the strength to move.
“Oh my god…”
***A FRAT HOUSE—SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
It was a perfect day at one of the many fraternity houses that littered the campus of DCU University. Scattered unconscious bodies of the drunk students lay randomly across the front lawn. Inside the party was still going strong, and as would be expected, Matt Logan was in the center of the ruckus.
“Wooohoooo!” cheered Beast Boy's cousin as the skinny slacker stood atop an end table with a lampshade over his head. “This party is kickass!”
Two of the fraternity brothers passing by gave him an awkward look. “Who's this loser?”
“Beats me,” replied his friend. “I don't even think he goes to this school.”
Matt paid them no attention. “C'mon guys, party hardy! We're gonna live forever!”
And then Trigon's petrification wave tore through the house in less than a moment. The bodies littering the lawn became nothing but stone, and Matt became nothing but a lampshade-wearing statue…
***DCU UNIVERSITY CAMPUS—SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
“Sean! Sean, wait up!”
Sarah Simms, girlfriend of the Teen Titan Cyborg, dashed down a sidewalk, past tall brick buildings housing the prestigious college's classrooms. Finally she caught up to her infamous brother: Sean Simms.
“Oh, hey sis,” said the boy offhandedly. A year older than his sister, Sean was the subject of many stories from the blonde girl, yet, oddly enough, he hadn't yet met her new beau. “So, you've finally got a minute away from your guy of the week?”
“Please Sean, Vic's not like the others!”
The boy frowned. “I hope so. You know I love ya', sis, but you've got some awful taste in guys.”
Sarah chuckled. “You're telling me. But like I said, Vic's not like the others! He's the nicest guy I've ever met!”
Her brother gritted his teeth. “Yeah, but he's also nearly getting you killed on a weekly basis!”
“And he's always been there to protect me! I'm not gonna let him pass me by cause of being a coward, Sean!” She grabbed her brother by his shoulder, finally stopping both of them in their tracks. “Please meet him! That's all I ask!”
Sean looked down at his little sister and the puppy-dog eyes she was flashing him, and he just couldn't resist. “Fine sis, ya got me. When you wanna set this thing up?”
Suddenly, though, their attention was captured by the wall of white that was moving across the city at speeds that would make the Flash envious. As it turned everything in its path to stone, Sarah Simms only had one thought.
“Vic…where are you?!”
***THE ALLEN RESIDENCE—KEYSTONE CITY, KANSAS, USA***
“I wonder where Wally is?”
Barry Allen and his wife, Iris, both sat around their dining room table, waiting for their nephew, Wally West, to return from his first day of school. After the trials he'd been through as a Teen Titan, they thought he deserved a reward: a cake in his honor sat in the center of the table, and they were ready to celebrate.
“Maybe he went somewhere,” replied Barry, stroking his chin. “Who knows, maybe he made some friends. I sure hope so…”
“Me too,” said Iris hesitantly as she walked towards the front window. “But still, even as much as Wally's grown up these past few months, it still seems odd for him to make friends this fast.”
“Granpa Barry! Granpa Barry!”
Suddenly Impulse came barreling through the wall, skidding to a stop in the living room. The young speedster was Bart Allen, Barry's grandson from the future, and he had a dire message.
“Bart, what's wrong?!”
“Granpa Barry, it's bad! We need you! We need to get the JLA now!”
Barry's eyes shot open wide. He'd never seen his grandson so focused and concerned—something really must have been wrong!
He pressed a button on his ring and a scarlet costume emerged, expanding on contact with the air. In less than a second Barry had donned the suit, becoming the Flash, the fastest man alive!
“Be careful, hon.” Iris planted a kiss on her husband's cheek. “Come back to me in one piece, both of you.”
“I always do, Iris. I love you.”
Impulse, meanwhile, was hopping impatiently—which was much more like him. “C'mon granpa, we hafta go now!”
So two of the fastest men alive took off, but even they couldn't outrun Trigon's attack as it made its way across the planet. The Flash and Impulse were both petrified in mid-stride, unable to call for help…
***DEO HEADQUARTERS—HOLDING CELLS. WASHINGTON D.C., USA***
A man in his late fifties was sitting on a bench in a tiny cell, so small it was surprising it didn't collapse in on itself. He was tied up in a straightjacket and chained to the wall, and the collar around his neck provided random bursts of low level electricity to keep him under control. His living conditions would be sure to have human rights activists in an uproar, if they knew the cell existed.
But the prison was a secret to anybody outside of the U.S. Government, and the prisoner, in all honesty, needed every bit of that security just to keep him from escaping. After all, he was Slade Wilson, Deathstroke, the most deadly mercenary alive.
A guard stood outside Slade's door, peering in through a small slot. “Tell me, punk, just what makes you decide to pick on a bunch of kids anyway?”
Deathstroke just chuckled. “The Titans' ages had nothing to do with it. They ruined my reputation and my pride—I had to make them pay. And now that they've taken my children away from me…
“When I get out of here they will pay dearly for robbing me of such valuable assets.”
The guard frowned. “You're insane. Hope you rot in here for the rest of your life.”
Slade only laughed harder, for he saw it coming before the guard even had an inkling of what was in store for him. “Amusing. Despite your stupidity it appears you'll get your wish after all…though you'll be going to hell first, it seems.”
Before the guard could even try to figure out what his prisoner meant he was turned to stone. The unstoppable wave moved towards Deathstroke, and despite being trapped, chained, weakened, unable to even try to escape, the mercenary only smiled.
`I've always been prepared to go down at some point…some day when somebody gets a lucky shot or when I finally pushed a cape too far…and I never thought I would have any regrets when the time finally came.
`Yet with the Teen Titans I finally felt regret. I would never allow myself to die while they still lived, but now…the whole world is going to die.
`Looks like, in the end, I got what I wanted after all, Teen Titans. Enjoy the afterlife…'
***A CAVE BENEATH WAYNE MANOR—GOTHAM CITY, NEW JERSEY, USA***
As a child, Bruce Wayne watched his parents murdered by a desperate robber. Traumatized, he made a vow to rid the world of the evil that took his parents' life—he traveled the world, learning every skill imaginable, before returning home and becoming the Batman, the dark knight, the scourge of the underworld!
Bruce now sat at a lab table in his cave, the lair he'd created under his home to serve as the Batman's base of operations. He mixed two chemicals together, waiting for their reaction—at the same time, his mind was running over several concurrent cases. Suddenly, though, he heard somebody else enter the cave.
“Looks like you win, Bruce,” grumbled Robin, the Batman's young partner and the namesake of the Teen Titan Dick Grayson, as he walked down the stairs and past his mentor. “I tried everything I could, but Dick just wouldn't change his mind!”
“Good,” said Batman bluntly, without ever looking up from his work. “It's about time he embraced his destiny. Dick has a lot of potential, but he's just been holding himself back by playing the fool.”
Robin paced across the room, mumbling under his breath, until he turned and faced the dark knight. “He's going to end up just like you, y'know,” spat the young detective. “He's going to grow up and be angry and miserable and alone, nothing to live for but his work. Maybe you can handle that, but it's gonna tear Dick apart and you know it!”
“You don't get into this line of work for personal benefit, Robin,” lectured the caped crusader. “It's about time Dick learned that.”
“You just don't get it!” exclaimed Robin in frustration. “For once, this isn't about crime fighting! It's about having a life, and he's going to throw his away! I was trying to help him! I was trying to help both of you!”
“And you've been a tremendous help on the streets, but I don't need any help with my personal life, thank you very much.”
“Then maybe I should just quit this. Batgirl and Oracle more than have your back on the street—the kind of help I was offering is obviously unwelcome here!”
Finally Batman looked up and locked eyes with his young partner. “Robin, don't threat—”
Suddenly, though, the crime-fighter's sentence was cut off mid-word as he gasped. “Robin, look out!”
The boy just raised an eyebrow. “Wha—”
Robin span and saw a streak of white consuming everything. Even deep underground, they could not escape the unending march of Trigon's destructive wave. The boy's jaw fell like it had come unhinged—he tried to move, but he'd gone into shock. He just couldn't find the strength!
“Robin!” Batman leapt from his seat and charged for the tiny detective. “TIM!”
But even Batman was not fast enough to save his partner. Instantly Tim Drake was petrified, turned to stone, and only a second later Bruce Wayne met the same fate…
Straining, Superman pushed the top twelve stories of a building back onto their bottom half. With a quick blast of his heat vision he welded the two halves together, again reuniting the skyscraper into one coherent whole.
Floating higher above the skyline, the man of steel looked down happily at the city. The earthquake had taken its toll, of course, but thanks to his timely intervention, many lives had been saved and millions of dollars in property damage had been prevented.
Suddenly, though, Superman's peace was disturbed. His prodigious hearing picked up thousands of panicked screams—then suddenly, nothing. Turning, he soared over the Pacific Ocean, all the while using his telescopic vision to check it out.
The sight he was greeted with chilled him to the bone. A red monster stood victoriously while all around him flared a blinding white wave of destruction that left everything in its path beyond repair.
He could only think of one thing to do, but there wasn't much time! Superman slammed on the breaks, then immediately soared in the other direction. His only chance was beating the wave to New York, and with its point of origin being San Francisco, he certainly couldn't take the quicker path across the United States.
So instead the Kryptonian barreled over Asia, Europe, and the Atlantic Ocean—and while he couldn't reach the time-bending speeds that the Flash and his crew could, he sure could come close. In only a few seconds he'd reached New York, and he didn't stop his flight as he tore straight through an apartment building's wall.
Inside was the magician Zatanna, preparing for her stage show later that night. As she twirled her rod in her hand, she was immediately brought to attention by Superman tearing through the wall of her apartment!
“Clark?! What're you—”
“There's no time, Zee!” cried Superman as he dug his heels into the room's floor and grinded to a halt. Grabbing his teammate's shoulder, he continued, “Get us to the Watchtower now!”
Suddenly Zatanna could sense it—and a moment later, Trigon's wave came into sight through the newly-torn hole in the wall. The girl's eyes shot open wide.
“Tropelet su ot eht Rewothctaw won!”
***THE WATCHTOWER, JLA HEADQUARTERS—THE MOON***
The Justice League of America was the mightiest team of heroes ever assembled. Countless heroes, nearly all the super-powered protectors of the world, were a part of the massive group, and a team that expansive needed a base just as impressive.
The Watchtower fulfilled that need quite nicely.
That base stretched for several miles and just as many stories, and just to add an extra layer of prestige, it was located on the moon! Inside several dozen heroes worked at a time, working out, preparing for missions, using its resources, or simply just keeping in contact with other members of the League.
"Can you believe that, Diana? Can you really believe she did that to me?!"
Kyle Rayner, the young space cop known as Green Lantern, sat at a table in the Watchtower's cafeteria, his face in his hands, as he talked to Princess Diana of Themyscara, the legendary icon known as Wonder Woman. Just the day before Kyle had returned from a long case on the far reaches of the universe only to find that, while he was gone, his girlfriend Donna Troy, the Titan known as Wonder Girl, had cheated on him. Twice. To say he was crushed would be an understatement. Fortunately for him, Wonder Woman was the perfect shoulder to cry on. Not only was Diana one of the most compassionate, empathetic members of the League, but she was also Donna's adopted sister—so obviously, she was quite knowledgeable about the young Amazon.
"No," said Diana, still rather shocked herself, "That is rather hard to believe, indeed..."
Growling, Kyle countered, "What, you don't think she did it?!"
"I didn't say that," said the Amazon princess in a tone that, while not overtly angry, definitely let the young Lantern know she meant business. "Donna is certainly as capable of making mistakes as anybody else.
"I wish I could help you more, but I have to admit love isn't exactly an area I'm overly familiar with. Honestly, I'm glad Donna is taking chances and being more human; it is a huge part of heritage, after all. But Kyle, I'm sorry she treated you the way she did. That is inexcusable. I'll be sure to have a talk with her, find out exactly what's wrong...but I urge you to do the same."
The Green Lantern just gave her another stupefied expression. "I already did that! What a disaster that was!"
Diana shook her head. "No, when you talked to Donna, you were hurt and angry, and so was she. Neither of you was in any position to try to figure out what was going on. Give it some time, a week or several, whatever you need, then go back and work things out. It's obvious a lack of communication was to blame here, so the best thing you can possibly do is just talk."
Finally some hope sparked in Kyle's eyes. "And you think that will help me win her back?!"
Wonder Woman cringed. While her main objective here was to help out her friend, and while she would never be blunt about it, she was an embodiment of truth. She couldn't lie to Kyle. "Perhaps...but perhaps not. I wouldn't hope for it too much...let's just aim for repairing your friendship first, shall we?"
"Hey, it's fine with me," said Kyle as he flashed his killer smile. Diana smiled in return—he just may make it through this after all, she thought!
Suddenly, though, the two Leaguers' attentions were stolen completely by the whaling siren and flashing red light that constituted the League's emergency beacon. Without a thought Green Lantern and Wonder Woman took off, dashing to the Watchtower's main deck in seconds.
Standing on a bridge was an African-American man in a black and gray uniform and jacket, and with a black 'T' shaped mask obscuring his face. He was Mr. Terrific—a.k.a. Michael Holt, one of the top three smartest men alive and one of the few Leaguers capable of running the Watchtower's complicated main console on his own.
As Diana and Kyle skidded to a stop before him, several dozen heroes followed them, pouring into the room from every entrance. "Terrific, what's wrong?" asked the Amazon.
"Yeah!" chimed in the Lantern. "It's not everyday you hear an Omega Level alarm!"
"And it's not everyday it's justified to set one off," countered Mr. Terrific, "But today's certainly one of those days!" He pressed a button and suddenly the entire deck was covered in holographic images of Earth, and the catastrophic damage Trigon had caused there—or at least what had managed to been captured before the JLA's cameras were petrified as well. The League was stunned. Of all the heroes there, not a single one of them had ever seen an attack so ruthless, so sudden, so utterly devastating.
Flapping her wings, Hawkgirl flew through the holograms, growing grimmer with each passing image. "What the hell's going on there?!"
"I hate to admit it, but I don't know," sighed Terrific as his fingers moved across the keyboard so fast they were practically dancing. "All I know is that our monitors picked up a sudden energy fluctuation, and all of a sudden a wave of white turned Earth into...that!"
"Fine," growled the Thanagarian as she gripped her mace tightly, "Then how about another question: What are we going to do about it?!"
Mr. Terrific finally stopped moving. His head hung low as he leaned over the console. "I've tried contacting our Earth bound agents, but none of them are responding."
"What?!" Kyle practically blew a gasket. "But half the teams down there!"
"Then we better get down there and take care of this ourselves!" exclaimed Hawkgirl as she turned and flew towards the docking bay.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." A deep, commanding voice stopped the winged warrior in her tracks. Everybody looked up, and there they saw J'onn J'onnz, the Martian Manhunter, phasing through the ceiling. He slowly hovered to the floor, standing fully erect in perfect posture. "I sent a probe down a few minutes ago to investigate the problem further, but it was unable to penetrate the shield currently enclosing the Earth. To try to take a ship down would only be suicide."
Hawkgirl tried not to look angry, but that certainly wasn't easy for her. Meanwhile, J'onn flew onto the bridge. "Mr. Terrific, what about the teleporters?"
"It's too risky to try to send a human into that," said the genius as he leaned down and placed an apple into one of the teleporter tubes, "But if we run a little test first..."
He dashed back to his console and pressed a few choice buttons. The teleporter came to life with a loud humming noise, and a second later the tube filled with blue light. The League watched with baited breath as the light enveloped the apple. It shook, started to fade away—then exploded into a million pieces, sending apple chunks and apple sauce all across the bridge.
"Alright, that's obviously out," grunted Kyle Rayner, running a little low on patience. "What the hell are we supposed to do now?!"
Suddenly, though, the room was filled with a tremendously bright flash of purple sparks! They escalated into a full-fledged explosion, and as the smoke cleared, Superman and Zatanna now stood on the Watchtower.
"Kal! Zatanna!" Wonder Woman dashed to her teammates' side and helped both stunned Leaguers to their feet. "Are you okay?!"
"I'm fine," grunted Superman. He didn't look too badly hurt, but his teammates were still rather shocked—they didn't even usually get to see the Man of Steel get winded!
Panting, Zatanna added between breaths, "Yes, it simply...was harder to escape that wave than I thought it would be."
"What's going on down there, Superman?" asked Mr. Terrific, not having time to waste. "We simply can't get enough data up here, and I can't contact anybody down there who would be able to do anything!"
"I don't think there's anybody left there to contact," said Superman in an uncharacteristically downtrodden tone. "Everything's just...stone now. I saw the monster responsible for it with my telescopic vision, but I have no idea where he's from. I even looked at him at a molecular level, but I couldn't recognize anything about him. Its completely foreign...a total mystery..."
“Fortunately, that doesn't mean I can't stop it.” Zatanna allowed herself a slight grin as her tophat and wand appeared on her head and in her hand. “Esrever eht ygrene evaw taht si gnimusnoc Htrae!”
Energies of all colors burst to life, billowing around the magician, but just as it looked like her spell was going to work, a burst of black and crimson power exploded, sending the fishnet-clad woman sprawling across the room.
As she tried to climb to her feet, she could only mutter in amazement, “So…so powerful…” However, the more she thought about it, the more she realized…it was familiar.
“Oh god!” Zatanna exclaimed. “It feels like…it feels like Raven!”
Kyle nearly lost it. "Wait, the creepy Teen Titan I never liked? That Raven?!"
"She's right," said Superman solemnly, "It makes sense. I don't know about Raven, but where I saw the monster...it was in California. And today, I was with Robin, and when I left him he was called away on some sort of Titans mission..."
"Then I suppose it is up to the Titans to come through now," said Martian Manhunter as his eyes lit up orange. "I am trying to telepathically contact Adam Strange on Rann and see if he can modify their Zeta Beam to perhaps teleport past the barrier, but in the meantime, we have no other choice but to wait...and hope."
"We have to hope the freaking Teen Titans can save the world?!" Kyle Rayner was rather appalled at the idea. "God, we are so doomed."
However, suddenly Superman stepped into the center of the crowd. He stood straight and crossed his arms, a pose that always commanded attention. All eyes were on him.
"No. I think they can do it. They're still heroes! Right now, they're the only hope we have! We have to believe in them!"
The Green Lantern looked back and forth at the crowd of assembled heroes as they slowly accepted their inspiration's speech. And then, even Kyle Rayner had to admit it. No matter what had gone down between their two teams, no matter what had gone down between him and Donna, he knew they could pull through. They had to.
"Yeah," he said with a smile. "They can do it!"
***TITANS ISLAND. SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
Meanwhile, on Earth, Lilith Clay was the last human who hadn't been turned to stone, the only living being left on the devastated planet.
She shook as around her stood the five petrified bodies of the Teen Titans. She tried to hold back her tears, tried to be brave in the face of the end of the world, but she just couldn't. She'd seen this in her premonitions, but she still wasn't prepared for it!
"Human." The ground shook as Trigon the Terrible spoke. The titanic red monster's eyes were filled with crimson energy that flared around them, as if it was eager to escape and reek havoc. "How are you still alive?"
Lilith tried to answer, but was shaking too much to reply.
"No matter, it does not concern me." Trigon took a step forward, which practically shook the entire planet. "I will simply exterminate your insignificant, pitiful life in a more conventional way. You deserve no more of my time."
The former secretary fell to her knees as he continued. "Indeed, the privilege you have received even just from hearing me speak is far too high for one of your miserable species. Die."
And as Lilith Clay's heart nearly stopped beating in her chest, she was too preoccupied with her impending doom to even sense the faint mental signatures still coming from the five Teen Titan statues at her side. Unlike everybody else on the planet, they could still think.
Indeed, inside their minds was a whole world of activity...
***INSIDE THE MIND OF CYBORG, VICTOR STONE***
Victor Stone's head was groggy—his mechanical eye full of static. Slowly it faded away as he pulled himself to his feet, his attention diverted as he tried to access his sensors and find out exactly what was going on!
After all, his last memory was of Raven betraying the team, of her releasing her father, then—nothing! He expected to see ruin, destruction, death, but instead, he was greeted by…Harlem?!
The robotic Titan scratched his head in confusion—he was born there, but why did he show up there now? How did he get here? Cyborg's keen mind was running a mile a minute, but instantly his attention became focused elsewhere as he saw a familiar man and woman walk out of a just-as-familiar building.
Indeed, it was Silas and Elinore Stone, Victor's parents, but…”But, they're, you're…dead!”
“Of course they are,” said a voice that echoed from nowhere, one that was just as familiar as Vic's folks. “After all, they died saving you…”
As the voice spoke the scenery around them warped and changed, showing the Stones grafting the metal limbs and organs onto Vic's body, then the future Titan's horrified reaction. “They neglected treating themselves so that they could save you, and how did you thank them? You threw a damn tantrum and ran off! An' I mean, sure, eventually all of you made up…but you never really got over it, did you?”
Cyborg growled, his fist clenched, then screamed, “Who are you?! How do you know about all this?!”
Immediately a bulky figure materialized before the metal-man. He was exactly identical to Victor, only with one major difference—he was devoid of all color! He was only highlighted by black, white, and gray, like the negative of a photograph!
This didn't improve Cyborg's mood any. “Very funny. C'mon, I don't have time for this! Who are you? Some shapeshifter?”
The sepia-toned doppelganger just grinned evilly. “Man Vic, you know better. I'm your dark side! I'm all your fears, all your flaws, everythin' you hate about yourself given human form!”
“Funny,” chuckled Vic, “I figured you'd be a lot smaller…”
In reply his dark side blasted away with his Sonic Cannon. A quick energy shield protected Victor. “So where's my light side? I could use a hand!”
“Ain't no light allowed in Trigon's world!” exclaimed his counterpart as he continued to fire. That made Cyborg pause. Trigon and Raven both had mystical ties—he figured either of them could have easily given his inner darkness physical form somehow. Unfortunately for him, that didn't mean he knew how to fight it!
“What's the matter?!” taunted that physical form as he watched his more balanced persona lost in thought. “Don't tell me you're psyched out already! Ya' can take a lot more pain than just this!”
“Yeah, I know, it's not that,” said Cyborg hurriedly, almost as if it was an afterthought. “I'm just worried `bout the others…what's Trigon putting them through?”
His dark counterpart grimaced as his shoulder hatches popped open, unleashing a flurry of small-but-potent missiles. “There you go again, worryin' `bout everybody `cept yourself! You're gonna get yourself killed that way!”
Vic leapt, propelled by the boosters on the soles of his feet, scrambling out of the way of the missiles, still hot on his tail. “And what good is it doin' ya?!” asked the doppelganger as he switched to the concussive cannons in his chest. “You haven't helped anybody!”
“The hell's that supposed to mean?” growled Victor as he skidded to a stop, erecting his shield to deflect the fire, if only for a moment. “Me being a part of the Titans has saved a ton of people, stopped a lot of bad guys, not to mention I've helped out Gar, Wally…”
“All completely pointless! All the time you spent doin' that distracted you from the real problems! You could've figured out what Jupiter and Raven were up to a lot sooner if you hadn't been worried `bout everybody else! But because you wasted so much time nobody stopped `em, and now the worlds over!
“How's it feel to know you could've stopped the end of the world, Vic?! Feelin' guilty?!”
Vic's lip quivered, but he dug his heels into the ground and tried to ignore it. His arm folded into his Sonic Cannon as he let down his shield, taking a few shots to the chest but firing off his own attack, which sent his darker-half scrambling for shelter himself.
“I can still stop it!” countered the machine man as his shoulder popped open and he delivered his arsenal. Evil-Vic this time produced his own energy shield, taking the attack without a scratch.
“Please, you're too late!” he exclaimed as he shot forward, straight towards his more balanced counterpart. Cyborg tried to dodge, but his opponent launched his hand, grabbing the Titan by the arm and pulling him in close. “You're always too late!” As he screamed the dark doppelganger sank a sickening punch into Vic's gut.
“You were too late to save the world, too late to save your parents—”
“Leave them outta this!” cried Victor, enraged, as he caught his rival's next punch and countered with one his own.
Vic's evil side chuckled. “Why? Everything's about them, right? Everybody you `help', every good deed, it's just you sayin', `Please, Mommy, Daddy, please forgive me!' Well guess what Vic, they can't hear you anymore! It's pointless! You're never gonna make it right!”
Fueled by his own aggression, the evil being hit harder, faster, leaving Vic unable to react. “You're never gonna keep a girl happy either!”
He hurled a hook into Vic's face.
“You'll never really fit in anywhere!”
He kneed Cyborg in the gut.
“You're never gonna be anything other than some poor sap tryin' to cover up every little fear and insecurity you have with good deeds, never movin' forward, never getting anywhere or resolving anything, until you're just an empty shell on a dead world!
“That's what you are, Vic! It's all you'll ever be!”
The dark doppelganger slipped behind his better half and raised both arms above his head, holding both his hands together and bringing them down on the metal-man's back, knocking him face first onto the ground. As Victor laid there his darker half stepped on his head, pushing his face further into the dirt.
Snarling, he finished by asking, “So why don't you just lie down and accept it?”
Blue flames shot from the thruster on his foot, and Vic barely managed to turn his head in time. As the fire chipped away at his more enduring metal-half, he wondered whether he was even worth saving…if everything this doppelganger was saying was somehow true.
And as he pondered that, feeling the flames roar against his head, he came to a much more comforting realization:
Even if it was true…why did that matter?
“I don't care what you say…” growled Victor as his hands dug into the ground. The neon hatches on his shoulders started to glow blue as his shield materialized between himself and his dark counterpart—and then suddenly expanded, pushing the two away. “I ain't givin' up!”
Boosters propelled Cyborg to his feet—as soon as he was upright he launched his hand, ensnaring his doppelganger and unleashing an electric shock that kept him immobilized.
“I'm happy, an' I'm making others happy, so I don't care about my problems!” Vic's arm retracted, and having pulled his dark side closer, he laid on hard with a powerful punch. “God, you're as bad as Sebastian! He was always tryin' to find some fault with me, but he didn't realize that I've got plenty of them—but I'm not gonna let them hold me down!”
“For now…maybe,” taunted the eviler Cyborg as he gasped for air, “But how long…d'you think you can last?”
Victor Stone dropped his opponent and took a step backwards, chuckling. “For as long as I need it to! All you're tryin' to do is distract me! You're so worried about my problems that you can't look past them! You can't see the good things in life! But I can!
“Hell, if I gave in, I'd never figure anything out! I'd never be able to do anything but feel sorry for myself! But I'm gonna do whatever it takes to make sure I'm never like you!”
Suddenly the metallic Titan began to glow as brand new hatches began to open all over his body. He started to shake and hum.
“For example, instead of worrying about what you told me, I was able to figure out that if I'm arguin' with my dark side, I'm probably still inside my own head! And in here, I make the rules!”
Suddenly a blazing blast of blue sonic energy shot from his whole body, barreling towards the dark doppelganger like a bullet train. His eyes wide, there was no time for him to react at all before he was completely immolated.
Vic was finally able to smile as his body transformed and returned to normal. Meanwhile, the sky behind him slowly started to glow, until it was nothing but bright white. Cyborg's body began to glow just moments later.
“Alright,” said Vic, “Time to go find the others!”
***INSIDE THE MIND OF STARFIRE, PRINCESS KORIAND'R OF TAMARAN***
The sounds of battle raged around her. As they entered they warrior's ears, she began to stir, brought to life by the arousing sound of war. This was the stuff she was trained for all her life—to fight.
Starfire instantly awoke and leapt to her feet, lashing out with a Starbolt before she could even see what she was attacking. As her vision cleared and her sparkling green eyes finally took in the sights around her, though, she was shocked!
Koriand'r's jaw nearly fell to the floor as she took in the unexpected sight of her home planet. “I am on Tamaran?! How?!”
Unfortunately for her, there wasn't time to find out. Several large spaceships blocked out the sky, unleashing legions of Gordanian troops into the fray. All around her she watched her Tamaranian brethren charge into battle, struggling with everything they had to win the uphill fight.
With a roar her father, the king, Myand'r, and his wife, Luand'r, leapt into battle, followed by the alien princess's younger brother, Ryand'r.
“Father! Mother!” For a moment, Kory's face was filled with joy. After she was sold to the Gordanians by her sister, Komand'r, she thought she might never see her family, her home, ever again!
However, immediately that joy was replaced by fear. The Tamaranians were a proud warrior race, but as their mortal enemies, the Gordanians possessed a raw savagery unparalleled by any species in the galaxy. All around her Starfire watched her people fight a losing battle—and she just couldn't stand by and let it happen!
“Do not worry, I am here to help!”
With a scream the bronze-skinned beauty leapt forward, unleashing a potent beam of green solar energy from her palm—but it simply flew through her Gordanian opponent, as if he wasn't even there.
Without a word Koriand'r lashed into a stream of attacks on multiple opponents, but none were any more effective.
“It is too late to help them now. You have wasted too much time!”
Starfire span when she heard the voice coming from behind her, and was greeted by a dark silhouette of a familiar figure. Matched with the voice, the princess could reach only one conclusion.
“Sister?” gasped Kory, breathless, first with surprise then with slight fear. “Komand'r?”
“No.” The figure stepped forward, revealing herself to be an exact replica of Princess Koriand'r herself, only monochromatic, lacking all color! “But I shall take that as a compliment!”
Wasting no time, the dark doppelganger shot forward, ensnaring her better-half in her sepia tone Starbolts. “I am your dark side, every part of you that is mean, evil, and selfish, come alive!”
“Then this is your doing?!” surmised Starfire as she strafed through the rapid-fire attacks. “Why would you do this to our home?!”
“You should ask yourself that!” countered the dark Tamaranian. “You have known your whole life of the war between our people and the Gordanians! Hawkgirl told you of the recent escalation! Yet you still ignored it! Raven offered you a way back to Tamaran! Even the Justice League probably could have gotten you back! This is all your fault!”
As if to help drive the point home, the evil alien jammed her knee into Kory's chin. She hit a weak point—and not just physically. Starfire had been feeling guilty about passing up Raven's offer already—in fact, she had been feeling guilty ever since Komand'r's ship was destroyed, cutting off all ways to get back home. Still, despite it all, she had her reasons for staying…
“Tamaran has an army!” declared Kory. “I want to help protect my home, but I cannot alone turn the tide of war! But here on Earth, my friends needed me—now, more than ever!”
“And yet it has done you no good!” Explosions detonated across the landscape, the land trembling with every attack fired. “Your friends have betrayed you! Trigon has won!”
Koriand'r tumbled across the ground, bouncing like a discarded toy, but she was far from out. She pulled herself to her feet, wiping blood from her face. “No, he has not! Raven promised us a way to win!”
Her darker side scoffed. “Raven lied. She lied about everything: especially about being your friend! You care about her so much, even now, but she never did anything but hurt you! Right down to the very end, she lied!”
“You are the liar!” cried Kory with every ounce of fury in her body. “I refuse to believe it!”
“That does not mean it is not true,” quickly added the dark doppelganger with a smirk as she backhanded away her lighter side. Spinning, she pointed downwards and started carpet-bombing the ground beneath her. “Face it! You have given these humans everything and they have done nothing in return!
“Even the one you love has betrayed you!”
Her teeth gnashed, her heart raced, and before Starfire knew it, she had exploded into the air and unleashed a deadly uppercut onto her malicious opponent.
“Leave Dick out of this!”
“Why should I?!” countered the dark doppelganger as she also physically countered Kory's attacks. “He has hurt you most of all, yes? Suddenly ignoring you, being distant and aloof for no reason…did you do something to hurt him? Or does he simply not love you anymore?
“Either way, it breaks your heart, does it not?”
This time, however, the evil alien was prepared for her opponent's anger and managed to intercept her with a point-blank blast. Starfire spiraled towards the ground, and her dark thoughts weren't far behind.
“Why?! Can you not bear to hear the truth?! Can you not accept that the humans you have abandoned your own people for—your so-called “friends”—have done nothing but lie to you and betray you?! Can you still not see that you were never truly loved?! That there is nothing here worth saving?!”
The Dark Starbolt still raged, pinning Koriand'r to the ground, but despite the nearly overwhelming power that threatened to tear her body to pieces, the alien princess managed to climb onto one knee.
“I refuse to give up on them,” she said quietly, but even Kory wasn't sure she believed in them anymore. After all, all of this was Raven's fault in the first place. Still, she wasn't letting her opponent see her weakness!
“After everything you have been through, you should never have believed in anyone again!” cried Starfire's evil side as she continued her devastating assault. “When will you understand that?!”
Kory's red eyebrows arched. She remembered all her sister's cruel acts towards her during childhood. She remembered how the Gordanians tortured her, experimented on her, did…even worse things to her.
Maybe the dark doppelganger was right. Maybe Kory should haven given up. Maybe she should have lost all hope.
But there's no way Starfire can ever give up hope!
Throwing her arms to the side, the alien finally mustered up the strength to negate her dark-side's attack. “I will never understand it!” she cried as she shot into the air, lashing out with a remarkable display of Starbolt attacks of her own.
“Maybe I should have given up hope for people after what I have seen, but it still makes no sense to me! A few heartless, evil people do not make everybody evil! Most lives still have meaning! Most people deserve to live and be loved! I cannot give up on them!”
Even as the explosive projectiles knocked about the evil Tamaranian, she still had something to add. “Why not?!”
“Because then my life would have no meaning!” cried Kory, every word coming from the bottom of her heart. “After the Gordanians, everything I had was taken away from me! All I had to make me happy was the good I saw around me—the good in nature, in the world, in my friends!
“They have gotten me through the hard times, and no matter how many mistakes they have made, I believe they are good people! I will never give up on them! I will fight until Trigon is destroyed, and eventually, I will return to Tamaran and fight as well!”
The light began to fade as Starfire's body began to absorb solar power. In a few seconds the only sight visible was the fluorescent green glow of Starbolts simmering in the alien's eyes and palms.
“And now, the only thing in the way of my goal is YOU!”
Starfire gave it everything she had, unleashing all that power into one unparalleled blast. The dark doppelganger never even knew what hit her as she was turned to ashes—and yet, the Starbolt didn't stop there. It kept flying, eventually cracking even the sky itself.
Kory could only smile as she was enveloped in the warm white light. If only for a moment, she had won…
***INSIDE THE MIND OF BEAST BOY, GARFIELD LOGAN***
Garfield Logan, the green animal shapeshifter known as Beast Boy, slumped on his knees, his head hanging low in despair. His mind was now a dark prison, displaying only his worst experiences over and over.
He watched as the raft containing his parents, Mark and Marie Logan, drifted over the edge of a waterfall. Geneticists, they had been on a safari when the tragedy struck. Flapping above the rapids was a green parrot, young Gar himself, unable to do a damn thing to save his parents' lives.
He watched as the Doom Patrol, his adopted family, was captured by their arch-enemies, the Brotherhood of Evil, and given an ultimatum—their lives, or the lives of an entire village of innocent people. The Doom Patrol made the only decision, and paid the ultimate price. Again, Gar was the only survivor, forbidden to go on the dangerous mission by his adopted father, Mento.
He watched as Terra committed suicide, driving a rock through her own heart to prevent herself from being controlled by Mr. Jupiter, to save her friends. Gar tried to talk her out of it, tried to tell her that she was worth the risk…but she wouldn't listen. He stood by, helpless, as she needlessly killed herself.
Over and over Beast Boy was forced to watch the scenes replay in his mind, the dismal display crushing his spirits like a bug.
All-in-all, it wasn't really any different from usual.
“It's all your fault, y'know.” Suddenly a small figure emerged from the shadowy recesses of the room. He was an exact duplicate of the Titan, only devoid of his green hue—or of any color, for that matter. He was a dark duplicate, a physical manifestation of every self-loathing thought in the changeling's head. That made him a dangerous being indeed.
Finally looking up, Gar barely found the energy to glare at the new arrival. “Yeah dude, I know.”
“You're the only one that knows,” said the doppelganger as he paced before his downtrodden counterpart. “Everybody just sees the act you put on, the little green doofus constantly cracking jokes…but it doesn't change a thing! You're still a failure, no matter how hard you try to cover it up!”
Beast Boy only sighed. “Normally I'd try to argue with you, but…but I don't even think you're wrong anymore…”
“Then for once, let's do the right thing.”
The monochromatic changeling leaned, placing something into Gar's hand. It was cool and hard—it took every bit of effort in his lethargic body for Gar to see what it was.
A gun. In Garfield's hand was a gun—loaded, ready to go.
“You know they'd be happier if you weren't here,” growled the evil Beast Boy, “If you weren't getting in the way, if you weren't screwing everything up…they'd still be alive if you'd done this sooner. Mom and Dad, Steve and Rita, Tara…
“Whose gonna be next? Are you gonna let Dick or Kory down? Are you gonna let Vic take a bullet you should've? It's not gonna stop with Tara.
“You're doomed—we're doomed. Cursed! This crappy green skin, the animals, yeah it's cool, but its killin' everyone! You've gotta stop it, Gar! You're the only one who can!”
Garfield Logan could only stare at the gun in his hand. He felt its weight, like the weight of the people he'd let die. He wanted to get up, he wanted to argue, he wanted to believe everything he'd told Raven, but the truth was, he couldn't.
He couldn't, because he knew in his heart his dark side was right.
Trembling, he moved his hand. Slowly it worked his way to his temple, until the steel barrel was pressed against his green head. Beast Boy swallowed a lump in his throat, tearing up and trying not to think about his friends, trying not to think about the giant red monster destroying Earth.
There was nothing he could do to stop Trigon anyway. He'd only get in the way!
“That's it, dude,” laughed Gar's doppelganger. “Just pull the trigger. They're waitin' for it, y'know!”
Gar stopped in his tracks, as if the breath had left his chest.
“Tara and the rest, it's your fault they're dead!” screamed the other changeling. “They deserve justice! Finish this, for them!”
Beast Boy's finger moved—his counterpart gasped in happiness, but his joy lasted only a split second. By the time the gun hit the floor, his elation had turned to fury.
Garfield Logan was on his feet—smiling!
“You almost had me,” growled the Titan. “But I'm not as stupid as I look!”
Suddenly he was a bull, trampling through the space between the two changelings in an instant and colliding with all his might. Before his dark doppelganger could even be sent flying from the attack Gar had become a gorilla, sideswiping him with his massive arms for even more damage.
The color-less shapeshifter took the shape of a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex, but by then his opponent had already sped between his legs, retaking his human form behind him.
“I tried to save all of them, and yeah, I failed! I know that!” Beast Boy almost couldn't speak, but he had to. He couldn't quit now! “I tried to save Mom and Dad, but I didn't have control over my powers yet! They told me to run! They wanted me to survive instead of them!
“Mento wouldn't let me go with the Doom Patrol on that last mission! He said it wasn't safe! I was pissed cause I thought he was treatin' me like a little kid, but he was just tryin' to protect me!
“An' Tara…everything she ever did was for me! I didn't deserve it, but she didn't care about herself, just me! She even said that savin' my life made her happy, even if she had to die for it! All she ever wanted was for me to live!”
The boy seemed to be screaming even louder. “So no, I'm not killin' myself! That's not what any of `em wanted! I'd just be letting them down!”
“Let them down?!” Despite being in the form of a dinosaur, the dark doppelganger spoke, lashing with his massive tail at the same time. “That's all you've ever done! Why stop now?!”
However, by the time his attack landed, his better half had disappeared. Taking the form of the miniscule hummingbird, he dashed above his massive opponent's head—then, taking the form of a behemoth, the blue whale, he fell upon that same head!
The ground crumbled as Dark Gar took a face plant.
“Because my friends need me!” answered Gar. “I don't have too many important people left, and that crappy Trigon monster's out there right now doing who knows what to `em! Maybe I can't do much to help, but I can't let my friends down!
“Even if I do screw up…wouldn't it be even dumber to just give up?! Like I said, I'm not that stupid!”
Growing, the sepiatoned monster became something even more frightening—a massive dragon, flames billowing from its mouth, incinerating his better half in the blistering heat.
“Yes you are!” he cried. “You can't help them!”
Suddenly a small form burst through the flames. Spinning, the green, armored Ankylosaurous shrank into the skinny, tiny green boy in purple and black tights.
“Maybe,” he growled, “But no way am I giving up!”
Taking a deep breath, he screamed and hurled a vicious uppercut into the mythical creature's chin. Backed—not by the power of any animal—but by his very convictions, it was exactly what he needed. The darkness inside the Titan took one, two, three steps backwards before exploding into nothingness.
Meanwhile, the tiny Titan landed, falling to his knees for a moment as he tried to catch his breath. “Man,” he gasped, “I'm glad that's over…”
All around him, the black skies, which formerly showed nothing but Garfield Logan's greatest failures, began to shine brighter than any star. The tiny Titan watched in disbelief as his parents, with no fear of their own deaths, watched their young son fly above them, nothing but relief on their faces.
He watched as his adopted mother, Rita—Elasti-Girl—kissed him goodbye, as the Doom Patrol embarked on what would be their final mission.
And he watched as Tara actually smiled despite her imminent suicide.
Then the images finally faded away as the shining light enveloped the green superhero. Wiping a tear from his cheek, Beast Boy still couldn't hold back a wistful smile.
“Thanks, you guys,” he said. “Thanks for never giving up on me…”
***INSIDE THE MIND OF WONDER GIRL, DONNA TROY***
As Donna Troy came to her senses, it took her only a second to realize she was surrounded. She cursed her luck—after everything that had happened, one event right after another, it seemed like every step forward was followed by two steps back. Had she really escaped Trigon only to be surrounded by a new enemy?
How did she escape Trigon, anyway?!
She didn't have time to think about it. Trained as a warrior, she knew the immediate threat had to be dealt with first. Leaping to her feet, she took a martial arts stance and pivoted towards the nearest opponent—
And was faced with herself.
“Hera!” cried the adopted Amazon as she stared at her mirror reflection. This doppelganger's every feature was identical, but her fashion sense certainly didn't follow suit. She wore a coat of armor, intricately detailed, with an ancient Roman helmet. She held a shield in her left hand, and the palm of her right hand rested uneasily on the hilt of her sheathed sword.
“Donna Troy is an Amazon,” growled the warrior double.
Unsure what to do, Wonder Girl span toward the next threat—and was instantly greeted by another duplicate! This version of the terrified Titan was dressed in a red strapless top emblazoned by a golden “W” logo, blue star-spangled trunks, knee-high red and white boots, and a golden tiara—the outfit that belonged to her older sister, Wonder Woman!
“Donna Troy is a super-hero,” smiled the duplicate as she pulled her lasso taut in her hands.
Afraid to find out what she'd be faced with next, she pivoted anyway—and this time found her clone wearing an expensive Italian suit. A similarly dressed man stood beside her, and both held tommy-guns in their hands. They sat on a pile of money, while dead bodies strewn the ground around them.
“Donna Troy is the daughter of a criminal.”
Barely moving, it only took a second for Donna to be confronted by another aspect of herself—this one in a trendy dress and high heels, walking happily, arm-in-arm with Kyle Rayner.
“Donna Troy is a trophy.”
The next Donna was dressed in Deathstroke's black and brown armor, minus his telltale mask. In one hand she held a bloodied sword—in the other, the decapitated head of Terry Long.
“Donna Troy is a murderer.”
Another duplicate quickly flanked her—this one wore nothing at all! Draped seductively over the similarly naked body of Roy Harper, she kissed his neck.
“Donna Troy is a whore.”
“Enough!” cried Wonder Girl. She span, lashing out with her lasso like it was a whip. The mystical lariat, sparking electricity like a downed power line, tore through the various Donna Troys, instantly demolishing them. It was like they were never even there.
Even with the repugnant images gone, the Titan wasn't satisfied. She gritted her teeth as tears rolled down her cheeks. The last thing she needed were her fears thrown in her face!
“Show yourself!” she cried with every ounce of anger she had. “Whoever you are, show yourself now! I'm sick of this game!”
Only a moment later a gray figure plummeted from the sky, landing with a thud before Wonder Girl. She rose, a monochromatic, lifeless copy of Donna Troy, this time identical down to every detail.
“It's not a game,” said the devious doppelganger with a sly smile. “It's your life, and I'd say it's more of a tragedy.”
“Who are you?!” demanded Donna, more and more lightning flaring from her weapon as her anger built.
Suddenly the grayscale Amazon burst forward in am impressive display of speed, snagging her opponent in her lasso. As she dragged her forward across the battlefield, colorless lightning exploded from the rope.
“I'm the darkness within you, Ms. Troy,” laughed the dark double as she dragged her better half behind her. “I'm every doubt you've had, every condescending thought you've harbored, every dumb mistake you've ever made—”
“I get it already!” cried Donna as she grabbed hold of her opponent's lasso and pulled. Her footing gone, the dark doppelganger soared towards her light counterpart, and was greeted with a knee to the stomach.
Following up with a two-handed strike to the back, Donna sent her opponent falling face first to the ground. “I'm tired of everybody telling me what a horrible person I am!”
Though down, the evil Amazon was far from out. She swept a leg, knocking Wonder Girl's feet from beneath her. “You're not a person at all!” she cried as she leapt to her feet. “You're just a bunch of abstract ideas! You don't know which one is you! None of them are!”
Leaping into the air, she jutted one elbow before her and attempted to pile drive her fallen foe, but at the last second Donna rolled out of the way, transferring her momentum into a somersault and spinning to her feet.
“Enough!” commanded the adopted Amazon. “I know who I am!”
In response, Wonder Girl was greeted by a fist soaring towards her face. The
Titan barely managed to cross her arms, blocking the assault before deflecting it by throwing her arms to the side.
“Then tell me,” taunted her evil counterpart, “Who are you? That's why you came here, isn't it? You joined the Titans to find out all about yourself, right? What did you find?!”
Sweat poured from Donna's body. She was fighting back with everything she had in her—with her words as well as her powers. But despite her brave act, she didn't have an answer—despite everything she'd been through, everything she'd found out, she knew even less about herself than she had when she started.
This only served to piss Donna off!
Leaping into the air, she span, delivering a blindingly fast roundhouse kick right towards her dark duplicate's head, but by raising her forearm she easily deflected the attack. She instantly followed up with a punch that sent Wonder Girl reeling, her body bouncing across the landscape.
“You don't even know who you want to be, do you?!” accused the pale powerhouse as she burst forward. “You want to be a hero, but you're scared of the Amazon and the criminal—the killer—inside of you! And face it, desperate or not, we both know you wanted to kill Deathstroke!”
Before Donna Troy could even recover she'd already been knocked off her feet by her dark doppelganger flying straight into her stomach like a battering ram. “And yet when you wanted to kill, you were held back by morals! Don't you see what a contradiction you are?!”
Wonder Girl hit the ground like a boulder. Wiping blood from her mouth, she slowly pushed herself onto one knee, but she didn't like how things were shaping up. The sky flashed and the ground shook as her evil twin stretched her lasso, smiling wickedly.
“You don't belong on Themyscara! You don't belong in Man's World either! You certainly don't belong on the Teen Titans or the JLA! Face it, you're better off dead! You certainly wouldn't drive away anymore friends that way! You wouldn't lose anymore boyfriends that way!”
Donna bit her lip, holding herself back from making another rash move—it would only be playing right into her opponent's plans. Instead she wrapped the golden cords of her lasso tight around her hand, gripping it like she planned to never let go. Finally, she spoke.
“I may never stop blaming myself, but deep inside, I know Terry's death isn't my fault,” stated the adopted Amazon with a newfound calm and clarity. “If I could, I'd go back and change it—I'd save Terry. Hera, I'd change a lot of things. I wouldn't have been so rude. I'd have been a better friend, I'd have been a better leader.
“But I can't change things—I can't change anything but myself. I've learned from all of this! I think I've finally found my answer!”
Screaming, the dark doppelganger tossed her lasso, sending her bolt of gray lightning snaking forth at unfathomable speed. “Like Hades you have!”
Donna stood her ground, ducking beneath the brunt of the electrical assault and reaching into the remainder, grabbing the edge of the rope and twisting it in with her own, the original. Immediately the lightning dissipated.
Finally showing fear, Donna's worse half tried to pull her opponent to her, but the Teen Titan didn't budge an inch. Instead, with her other hand she started to spin her lasso. Channeling strength from her counterpart's rope, a fantastic display of yellow and gray filled the sky.
“I'm not just an Amazon!” cried Wonder Girl. “I'm not just a super-hero, or a criminal's daughter either! I'm all of those things! My mistake was believing I had to be defined as one or the other, when in truth, all the parts of my past make me who I am!
“Only I can choose who I become, and I'm sick of spending all my time worrying about the past! It doesn't matter anymore! All that matters it the present! I'm a Teen Titan, and my friends need my help! Trigon has to go down, now!”
Despite herself, Donna's dark duplicate laughed. “Take down Trigon?! Just who do you think you are?!”
Disappearing in a blinding burst of speed, Wonder Girl immediately ensnared her opponent within her lasso and its blinding fusion of power, leaving her immobilized from its electric shock.
“I'm Donna Troy, bitch!”
With one final punch backed by every iota of her Amazonian might, Donna tore through her dark tormenter, leaving nothing but a foul stench in the air. She landed with a triumphant thud, finally smiling for perhaps the first time since the death of Terry.
The room's chaotic atmosphere calmed as a door of intense white appeared before her. Tying her lasso back onto her belt, the Titan spent only another second wiping away her sweat before approaching the exit.
“Trigon,” she growled, “You're next!”
***INSIDE THE MIND OF ROBIN, DICK GRAYSON***
A harsh voice—somehow both a raspy whisper and a harsh scream at the same time—sounded in Dick Grayson's ear and startled the acrobat out of a dead slumber. Leaping into the air from pure fright, he quickly regained his senses and somersaulted, landing on his feet.
“Okay, okay, I'm up! Shit, what do you—” Robin was cut off in mid-sentence as he finally took notice of the figure before him. Dressed in gray body armor and hidden beneath a black cloak, with a black cowl and pointed ears, he was the dark knight, the Batman himself!
Despite whatever differences they'd had in the past, the Titan was relieved to see the Justice Leaguer. “Holy fucking shit, you showed up right on time!” he exclaimed happily. “Hell, I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but we could really use your help! Y'see, there's this monster, this Trigon guy, and—”
“I know all about Trigon!” exclaimed Batman—who was suddenly leaping through the air, covering the distance between him and his young opponent in a split-second. “And I know you and your pathetic friends can't beat him!”
Crossing his arms, Dick blocked a kick from above, and used the momentum to leap backwards, out of the caped crusader's range. “Ugh,” he groaned, “Is this about all my wasted potential again? Don't you realize how goddamn old that's getting?!”
“Potential?!” Batman scoffed indignantly as he lashed out with a Batarang. “That ship's sailed! You've already lost! None of you have what it takes to take on Trigon!”
“Bullshit!” countered Robin in his usual elegant style as he unfurled his staff and leapt into the air. Spinning, he batted aside his opponent's projectile and struck the Leaguer himself in the side. The vigilante winced, and Dick used this opportunity to knock his legs out from beneath him with a sweeping low kick.
Dick chuckled. “Seriously though, bullshit on all of this. First of all, Batman's a much better fighter than that. Second, Batman's all about this potential shit—as big of a jackass as he is, he thinks I'm some sorta fighting god, so you've got that all wrong too. And third…
“Batman totally doesn't snarl like that. Have you even heard the guy talk before?! If you think you're intimidating me imitatin' Batman, then you're a dumbass, dumbass!”
Despite the brutal beatdowns—both physical and verbal—Batman only smiled as he rose to his feet. Instantly the color drained from his body as he changed shape, shrinking into an exact duplicate of Dick Grayson, a dark doppelganger like his teammates had faced!
Robin raised an eyebrow. “That's a bit better, but you've still got the color all wrong.”
“Really? I thought this was right,” said his counterpart with a snarl. “Isn't `dark' what you're all about now?”
“Nah,” replied Dick, refusing to take the bait, “That shitty phase is officially over!”
Quickly brushing his hands past his utility belt, the acrobat of concentrated evil unleashed a handful of Redbird boomerangs. “Over too late! Your mini-Batman shit hurt Donna! It pissed off our little clone!
“But worst of all, you drove away Kory!”
One skilled swing of his staff deflected the red and yellow boomerangs, and Robin leapt into the air, again falling from above with the metal pole, ready to wreak havoc.
“Yeah, I did, but that's none of your fucking business!”
Suddenly Robin's staff was met by an identical weapon—behind it the dark doppelganger smirked, still fully confident he could crush his better half's confidence. “You loved her, didn't you? You, Dick Grayson, ladies man extraordinaire, fell in fucking love—and she dumped you!”
Dick struggled as their staffs pushed against each other, neither fighter gaining any advantage. Sweat poured down the Titan's forehead, but if his opponent's taunts were wearing at his morale, he had yet to show any signs of it.
“Hell, I guess I do love Kory,” he said with a wistful sigh, “But don't make fun of that! I love the ladies, but I'd give `em all up forever to be with Kory!
“But I fucked things up with her, so maybe that'll never happen! And y'know what—it fucking sucks! But I'm a big boy, and I'm not gonna sit here and cry about it while some forty-foot tall red moose is blowing my planet apart!”
Grunting, the duplicate's eyebrows furrowed in frustration. Shifting his weight, he threw his left leg into a powerful kick that shattered Robin's staff and landed square in the center of his chest. With his breath nearly knocked out of him, the acrobat stumbled backwards, still gripping tightly onto the severed halves of his weapon.
“You really think you can take Trigon, don't you?!” Robin's evil twin was in disbelief. “Don't you realize you're helpless?! You're just a normal guy on a team of goddamn robots and aliens taking on a monster of pure darkness! You're helpless! Just like with Dr. Light, you can't do a fucking thing!”
Spinning, the monochrome menace lashed out with an explosive disc. Robin barely reacted as boosters activated in his boots, propelling him high into the air over the deadly attack.
“If you were really me, you'd know all your talking isn't doin' shit to me!” cried the acrobat as he tossed one half of his staff. His dark double flinched, but quickly realized that Robin's aim was off—the shattered weapon struck the ground in front of him!
However, Robin's counterpart was in for the surprise of his life as the staff bounced, flinging itself into his unguarded stomach! Blood spurted from his open mouth as he grabbed his stomach in pain.
“Escrima, bitch,” taunted Dick as he fell from the sky, spinning and shattering the other half of his weapon against the side of his opponent's head. “See?! I'm not stoppin'! I've wasted too much time doubtin' myself already—and like you said, it gave me nothin' but trouble!
“I'm not worried about my place on the team anymore—I know I'm not lettin' my teammates down! As long as I'm alive, I ain't giving up, and I'm making sure the Teen Titans don't either!”
Dick's sepia-toned double saw his better half swinging into a punch and immediately crossed his arms to block—only the attack never landed. Stopping only inches away from his opponent's face, the Titan held in his hand a flash disc—which immediately burst into a blinding display of light.
Staggering backwards, the dark doppelganger suddenly felt a foot fly into his gut. Giving it everything he had he span, lashing out blindly with his staff in a frantic effort to keep Dick away. Unfortunately for him, the effort was futile, as the agile Titan dove beneath the attack, tumbling forward, then springing into the air on his hands, driving both his feet into the duplicate's chin!
The evil teen was sent spinning through the air, spiraling half a dozen times before landing face first several feet away from his better half. But even then, the hate and malice in his heart weren't gone.
“Cocky…bastard…” he complained.
“Hell yeah!” exclaimed Robin, looming over his downed opponent. “I'm Dick fucking Grayson! I can do anything!”
That last display of bravado was the final straw—it wasn't Robin's fighting skill that finished off his opponent, but his sheer will. He was done with doubts and worries. If he couldn't have confidence in himself and the rest of the team, then who would?!
In a flash of dazzling light the duplicate vanished, and only seconds later the environment around them followed suit.
“So he was the darkness inside of me?” asked Robin to himself as he started to vanish into the light. “Damn he was lame. So glad I'm done with that shit!”
***ON THE AIR***
***TITANS ISLAND. SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA***
"Indeed, the privilege you have received even just from hearing me speak is far too high for one of your miserable species. Die."
The words left Trigon's mouth in a deep, soul-shaking growl. The monster—red, forty feet tall with hoofed feet, massive horns and four soulless eyes—squinted as his eyes lit up red with deadly energy.
Below, Lilith Clay was on her knees, shaking. She thought it was the end. She was just a simple telepath. She was prepared to take on Mr. Jupiter, but nothing prepared her for the abomination that was Trigon!
Suddenly, five pillars of black energy burst into the air.
Leaping onto her feet, Lilith span to see the energy—very similar to that of the departed Raven's Soul Self—shooting from the five stone statues of the defeated Teen Titans!
Hope finally flashed into Lilith's heart. `Are they…are they alive?!'
The stone started to crack, with white light seeping through the new holes. Soon the black energy had all changed color, filling the stark, apocalyptic landscape with five breathtaking points of pure energy.
With a resounding boom the statues exploded—the light was gone, but in its place were the Teen Titans! As stunned and confused as Lilith, they all stood still for a split second, silent in disbelief.
Then they realized where they were, what had happened!
“We're alive!” exclaimed Garfield Logan as he fell to his knees and kissed the ground. “Earth, I've never missed ya' so much, even if ya' are all stone and lava-y!”
“Dick, you are alive!” Robin suddenly had Starfire latched around him.
“Yeah,” he coughed, squirming in her iron grip, “I guess I am.”
“Hera, we're all alive…” marveled Wonder Girl.
Cyborg raised an eyebrow. “But…how?!”
Cyborg: “I mean, last thing I remember I was fightin' some sorta dark double who said he was all the evil inside of me—and before that the whole world was turnin' to stone! Was…was it all some sorta twisted test?!”
Starfire: “I do not care how we survived, all that matters is that we have! I will let no guilt, no worries, no opponent hold me back! I have come to see this world as my home, and I will defend it from any threat, even Trigon!”
Beast Boy: “I almost didn't survive. I met my dark side, and like I thought, I hated the guy. He almost beat me, but I'm tired of hatin' myself! So many times I've wanted to give up, but that's not gonna help anybody! I may just be a green kid who can turn into animals, but I'm not gonna run away!”
Wonder Girl: “Whatever happened, I figured out a lot about myself and who I am, finally. I've come to terms with my past, and I'm ready to move on with my future—for better or for worse. I've got a lot of things to do and a lot of people to apologize to, but before I can do any of that, I've got to make sure we take that monster down!”
Robin: “Alright, there's no holdin' us back! It's the end of the world, so all there's left to do is fight! Trigon looks unbeatable, but if we believe that then it really is all over! No f---ing way I'm letting that happen! We're beating Trigon, now!”
“Insignificant humans.” Suddenly the Titans were snapped back into reality by the booming voice of Trigon the Terrible. “Whatever respite my daughter's foolish promise granted you is brief and pointless. Your existence is repulsive to me. Begone.”
Starfire: “Raven's promise?! Wait, is that…”
The Titans had no time to figure out what the clue meant, though, because before the words had even left Trigon's mouth he had launched his attack. A massive beam of crimson death leapt from the monster's four eyes, searing the very ground where the Titans stood.
The earth-shook and the ground shattered as the blast tore through the planet, barreling straight through and emerging from the other side in a tremendous explosion! The ground lurched as lava rushed forward to fill the hole and the planet fell even closer to complete collapse.
“A deserving fate for such vermin.”
“Holy f---ing s---, we're alive!”
Even Trigon was surprised as he turned to see the six Teen Titans standing just outside the radius of the blast, unharmed!
Beast Boy: “Man, I thought we were goners! But then, just as everything went red, I felt this crazy breeze go by, and then we were over here all of a sudden!”
Next to the Titans, however, was a new figure. He was a tall, skinny boy in a full body costume. The torso and sleeves were yellow with red gloves—a belt of red lightning crossed his waist, and the leggings were red with yellow boots. A red lightning bolt emblazoned his chest, and a cowl covered the bottom of his head, with red wing-tips on the sides. The top of the cowl was open, revealing a full head of red hair.
Still moving at ridiculous speeds, the boy skidded to a stop, leaving a trail of smoke coming from his feet. Lightning sparked from his costume, which glowed so bright it was almost alive.
“No way!” gasped Gar. “It can't be!”
“Wally?!” exclaimed Koriand'r. “Is that really you?!”
“Sure is,” smiled Wally West as he gave his former teammates a thumbs-up. “But, at least for today…I'm Speed again!”
Next time: Raven's Gift
OOC: Holy crap, Wally's back! But…for any of you Wally West fans out there upset that he didn't get his own kickass one-on-one fight with his dark side, I just want to say that I feel you. Hold on tight until next chapter! Wally's going to get something just as cool!