The figure on the back of the shiny, red motorcycle kicked down the break stand and swung his leg over the seat. He tugged off his equally red and glossy helmet before tucking it against his hip and stepping forward to take in the gleaming structure before him. The 9am sun gleamed against the glass, nearly blinding him. It was an architectural work of modern art. While it lacked subtlety, the slender, five-story T-shaped building was the embodiment of everything he'd been working toward—a fresh start.
Robin walked his bike toward the garage bay and discovered that he wasn't the first Titan to arrive. Cyborg's hulking figure was partially turned away from him as he did something with one of the security panels beside the door. Robin took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Hey Cyborg, how's it going?" he greeted. Cyborg twisted his head to stare at him. His eyes landed on the sleek, powerful motorcycle at Robin's side, widened momentarily, and then narrowed with the resentment Robin had begun to expect from him.
"As soon as I upload the last of these security codes she'll be open for business," he said, turning back to the panel. Up close, Robin could see a cable running from his robotic arm to the panel on the wall. A holographic projection of the downloading computer codes hovered in the space just above his forearm.
"Great," said Robin with a smile. Cyborg glanced at him as if waiting for something. After a moment he nodded.
"The others should be here soon," he said. "Beast Boy called and said the Mayor was giving them a ride. You think that's a good idea?" Robin shrugged.
"The Mayor wants to see what his money's paid for. And if he's hoping to score some good press I can't say that I blame him. Not every city is willing to work hand in hand with its heroes. It won't always be easy, but it's a whole lot easier than having to watch your back from the bad guys and the good guys."
"I'm sure you'd know all about that. I thought there was a warrant out for Robin's arrest. How'd you talk Mayor Collins and the police commissioner out of locking you up the moment you walked through their door?"
"They tried," said Robin with a shrug. "I even let them put handcuffs on me just so they would hear me out. It took five seconds before the handcuffs were twirling around my finger. The cop that tried to put them back on wound up with his ankle cuffed to the leg of the chair."
"I'm surprised they didn't taze you."
"They might have tried that too," Robin said, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. "Let's just say that by the time the interview was over they realized it was easier working with me rather than against me." Robin puffed out his chest. Cyborg didn't grin.
"You could have called us. We'd have backed you up. I thought that's what this team was supposed to be about." Bitterness laced his words. Robin's smile faded.
"I thought it would be better if I went alone—less intimidating that way," he murmured. Cyborg's head came up fast, and he whirled so fast he nearly yanked the cable from the security panel.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
"It means," said Robin through clenched teeth, "That you're a half-robot with sonic cannons strapped to your arms, Beast Boy's green and can change into a tiger in the blink of an eye; Starfire nearly tore apart the city single-handedly, and Raven…kinda creeps people out. Compared to that, I come across pretty tame." Cyborg continued to scowl. He mumbled something under his breath and went back to what he was doing. Robin frowned. It had been like this between them ever since the Gordanian attack. Cyborg challenged him over everything. When Robin offered the olive branch of working together to design the security systems for the new tower, Cyborg grumbled that he'd have been better off asking Batman. After all, no one had ever been able to break into the Bat Cave. When Robin showed him a blueprint outfitted with Bat-level safeguards though, Cyborg had plenty to say about how to upgrade the systems so that they could come and go freely without tripping off the alarms.
Behind them, a silver Escalade pulled up the drive. Robin glanced down to the water where a ferry was waiting. When the SUV came to a stop, the three passenger doors opened to reveal the remaining Titans. Beast Boy bounded from the front seat, grinning toothily up at the silver tower. Raven floated out of the car and went to retrieve her bags from the back. Starfire shot straight through the sunroof, wrapping her arms around herself in a hug.
"Friends!" she cried, spotting Robin and Cyborg immediately. "It is good to be doing the relocation of our possessions from our previous dwelling to this one." She touched down beside Robin and wrapped her arms around his neck in a strong embrace. His face went red and he patted her awkwardly on the head.
"It's good to see you too, Star." Cyborg snorted and mouthed, 'Star?' with a suggestively lifted eyebrow. Starfire, oblivious to his teasing, swiftly pounced on him next.
"Starfire, what've you got in here, a rhinoceros?" called Beast Boy from behind the car where he heaved on a large orange bag that didn't so much as move against his weight.
"Now now," said Mayor Collins, coming around to help him.
"You are my guests in Jump City. Let me take those bags." He waved Beast Boy aside and reached to take the innocent-looking handles. Starfire darted over to assist, but he flashed a smooth, charismatic smile that held a trace of condescension. Robin folded his arms and smirked as the mayor gave a gigantic heave that did nothing more than tear one of the straps. Taking pity on him, Starfire smiled and swooped down to scoop up her belongings in her arms. For her they appeared no weightier than the half-empty cardboard box Beast Boy scooped up with his name scrawled across the side in green marker. There was nothing but comic books, a couple of pairs of socks, and a spare set of boxers inside.
"Ah, I hope you don't mind, but I've taken the liberty of bringing along my photographer," said Mayor Collins, valiantly trying to hide his embarrassment. Before Robin could answer, a fifth person got out of the Escalade. "This is Mr. Fields." He was a young man with a checker-patterned camera strap draped around his neck. As soon as he was out of the car he snapped a shot of the tower. Robin knew it was not the first photograph he had taken since he'd been on the island.
"Of course, Mayor," he said with false enthusiasm. He waited for the others to assemble around him. Starfire hovered just behind his right shoulder while Cyborg took up a position behind his left. With a bored expression on her face, Raven glided over to hover beside him, and Beast Boy scrambled to sprawl at his feet, arms thrown ridiculously wide. Robin folded his arms while the photographer snapped away. At the first flash, Starfire let out a loud 'eep' and lifted her hands instinctively to protect herself. Green energy coated her fists.
"Easy Star," said Robin out of the corner of his mouth. "It's called a camera. It takes pictures." Her eyes were round with confusion—she didn't know what pictures were—but she glanced around and saw Cyborg and Beast Boy grinning as they struck more playful poses, and let her starbolts fizzle out. Robin made a mental note to explain about cameras and the paparazzi later.
"Are we finished?" Raven cut in drily a few moments later.
"Get one with me, Fields," said the Mayor, smoothing his salt and pepper hair back from his forehead and straightening the lapels on his coat as he strode into the frame. He turned toward the camera at the same time he thrust out his hand to yank Robin toward him. The look on Robin's face was less gracious than the one he'd been hoping for. They tried again.
"I'll be in my room," said Raven before any more shots could be suggested. There was a loud screech as a towering black cloud in the form of a Raven engulfed her before flashing out of sight and taking her with it. Mayor Collins gasped and put a hand over his heart.
"Yes Robin, may we now see our new living quarters?" Starfire implored, tugging on his arm with all the eagerness of a child begging to open presents on Christmas morning. He grinned reluctantly just before he heard the click of Field's camera.
"Knock yourself out."
She reared back in surprise.
"He means 'make yourself at home,'" Cyborg corrected with a knowing smile. Her mouth opened in a silent 'oh' of understanding before she giggled, scooped up her orange bag, and flew through the sliding glass front door that parted the moment she flew within range. Robin turned to follow her but Mayor Collins cleared his throat.
"I was hoping you might offer me a tour, Robin," he said expectantly, rocking onto the balls of his feet. Cyborg took one look at the expression on Robin's face, chuckled, and quickly walked away to help Beast Boy pick up the comics he'd spilled tripping in his haste to get inside.
"Sorry, but tours are strictly prohibited. It was in the contract we signed, remember?" Stony-faced, Robin folded his arms again. The Mayor held up his hands in instant retreat.
"Can't blame me for trying," he said quickly. "In any case I wanted to express Jump City's deepest gratitude that the Titans have chosen our fair city as their new home. My wife and I would be honored if you would join us at a small banquet we are throwing in your honor next week." He fished around in his pocket and pulled out a small envelope decorated with gold leafing. Robin took the invitation with a nod.
"Thank you, Mayor. We'll be in touch." With another curt nod to Fields, he walked into the tower and punched the security codes just inside the door that initiated the cloaking system that made turned the clear glass utterly opaque. Every window in the tower fogged over with an iridescent finish that made it impossible for even the longest-range telescope to penetrate. Titans' Tower was officially open.