The Japanese air traffic controller sat at his console, calmly speaking into his headset to a Japan Airlines jet that was an hour away from reaching its destination. Even though it was 4 AM there was plenty of traffic, both inbound and outbound, as the dozens of transponder codes on his screen witnessed. His job was to stack the inbound flights, assigning them their landing slot times at Narita airport, and he performed this task with the utmost in Japanese aplomb and efficiency. Like a calligrapher or a swordsmith, he was a master of his trade and took great pride in it.
It was a night like any other; the same flights would queue up every night. Due to delays and an occasional flight cancellation there was some variation each night, and he was used to it. That night however he saw a transponder code he had never seen before.
It was Titan002.
He furrowed his brow. He had never heard of such an airline, and he was pretty sure he knew them all. He asked his partner, an older woman named Michiko, if she had heard of such an airline. She informed him that it wasn't an airline, but rather it belonged to the Titans. He asked her how she knew that and she told him that she was on duty the night over a decade before when the then Teen Titans first visited Japan.
His perfectionist ego was slightly bruised by not knowing that fact, but he swallowed his pride as he keyed up the radio.
"Titan002, this is Narita Control."
"Good morning, this is Titan002." A gravelly female voice replied in an eerie monotone.
The controller checked his screen. "Titan002, radar shows that you are travelling at Mach 3.4, you need to reduce to subsonic speed. Change to 450 knots and 45,000 feet."
The controller keyed off his mike and turned to his coworker.
"I wonder why they're here. We have our own superheroes now."
The woman shrugged. "That's immigration's problem. Our job is to make sure they land safely."
-( - )-
Even though the sun had yet to rise, the airport was busy and the lines for customs and immigration were long and slow. Terra grumbled her displeasure.
"Why are we in this stupid line?"
"Because we aren't here on official Titans business, we've come as private citizens. Or do you want Nightwing to find out that we're chasing Jillian?"
Terra crossed her arms and frowned. "Fine, I get it. You don't have to get all huffy about it."
"I don't do huffy."
Raven rolled her eyes and the line began to move. After a few more minutes they reached an immigration agent, a stone faced middle aged man who raised d an eyebrow when he saw the two famous women before him.
"Your passports, please."
They handed their passports over. One was Azarathian and the other was from kingdom of Markovia. He calmly examined them.
"You are Titans?" He asked.
"That is correct." Raven replied in a deadpan.
The officer picked up a telephone handset and spoke into it in Japanese. A few moments later a women with the rank of lieutenant arrived. The officer handed their passports to her and after quickly examining them she looked at the two gaijin women.
"Please come with me."
As they were led away Terra fumed. "They can't treat me this way." She muttered to Raven. "I'm from the Royal House of Markovia, I'm a princess. It says so on my passport."
"Let's not make a fuss, so we can get this over with and be on our way." Raven whispered back to her.
The woman led them into a conference room and gestured at a table. "Please, have a seat."
After they complied the woman also sat down at the table, opposite of them. She opened their passports and laid them down on the table.
"So what do I have here? Two Titans, one of which has an official Royal Markovian passport."
"That is correct." Raven calmly replied.
"May I ask why you didn't contact us before coming to Japan?"
"We are not here on official Titans business."
"I see, do does that mean that you are here on unofficial superhero business? I ask this question because we now have laws in Japan regulating superhero activities."
"What does that mean?" Terra asked.
"What it means is that if you are here as heroes you need to have a special superhero visa, which you would have to apply for back in your home country at one of our consulates."
Raven locked eyes with the woman. "Then it's fortunate that we are here for pleasure and not business."
"Yes, it is. And Miss Raven, if could make a suggestion … I'm not saying that your Azarathian passport is a forgery or a fake, but Japan does not have diplomatic relations with Azarath. I would suggest that you procure a more … conventional passport, perhaps an American one." She turned to Terra as she handed them their passports. "And in your case, your Highness, if you will be using an official passport that identifies you as Markovian royalty, that makes your visit official and subject to state protocols. I would also advise you to procure a more conventional passport next time."
The woman smiled as she rose from her chair. "You're free to go. Welcome to Japan, I hope your visit is a pleasant one."
-( - )-
A black circle flew overhead, unnoticed by the few souls already up at the pre-dawn hour. It landed in front of a small, ordinary looking hotel in a Tokyo suburb. Terra looked around with bewildered eyes. Absolutely all signage was in Kanji.
"Raven, I don't know about you, but I can't speak or read Japanese."
The sorceress opened one of her belt's compartments and handed her what appeared to be large pill made of gelatin.
"Here, eat this." Raven replied before swallowing a similar pill.
Terra looked at it with a jaundiced eye before swallowing it. She suddenly felt dizzy as her surroundings began to blur. The sensation passed quickly and the world came back into focus. To her amazement everything appeared to be in English.
"Whoa!" Terra moaned. "Is that magic?"
"Yes, it is and you're welcome. The effect lasts 72 hours."
They entered the hotel's reception area, which was little more than a counter. A bored looking man put down his manga and gave the foreigners an irritated look.
"We have reservations." Raven announced in flawless Japanese.
-( - )-
Terra frowned as they entered the hotel room.
"Where are the beds?" She asked.
"I expect they are in the closet." Raven replied as she began to unpack her small suitcase
Terra opened the closet and her frown intensified. "Futons? Tell me again why we aren't staying at a real hotel."
"This is a real hotel. As to why here, we want to stay out of the limelight."
"Stay out of the limelight? In case you forget, we both look foreign, especially you. No offense Raven, but you really stand out like a sore thumb here."
Raven tossed a small box at the geomancer.
"Yes, we are going to color our hair. Black, both of us. And we're not going to wear our Titan uniforms."
Terra snorted. "This blows."
"I couldn't ask Cyborg for holorings, so this will have to do." Raven replied as she stepped in to the bathroom. When she emerged later, her violet locks were gone and were now black. Terra gave her a look over.
"Not bad. Black suits you, Raven."
"Your turn. After you're done we should get some sleep. Dark hair isn't much of a disguise, but it will work better at night, which is when we want to look for Jill anyway."
"Where exactly are we going to look for her? Tokyo's huge."
"We'll visit Tokyo's underworld."
"You mean the Yakuza? The Japanese Mafia? Why would they help us?"
Raven setup her futon on the floor. "Because we will pay them handsomely for clues."
-( - )-
Later that afternoon …
The sound of two women snoring softly permeated the Spartan hotel room. The sound of rush hour traffic outside became louder. Terra was unaffected by the sound while Raven began to toss and turn in her futon. Her eyes suddenly popped open and she reached out with her senses. There was someone outside their door. The sensation felt familiar, as if she should have recognized the aura, but she didn't.
Two envelopes were slipped under the door, sliding across the well waxed hardwood floor in the room. Raven bolted out of the futon and ran to the door, opening it. She peered out into the empty hallway. Not only did she not see anyone, the aura was gone. Whoever it was, they were quick to leave. She returned to her room, closing the door behind her. Terra was up and had the envelopes in her hands. She locked eyes with Raven.
"What's this all about? One of them is addressed to me, in Markovian. The other one is … I don't what it is … I'm guessing it's for you."
Raven took the letter from her. "It's in Azarathian." She remarked as she opened her letter.
"So much for going undercover." Terra retorted.
Raven ignored her and read the letter. Terra decided to do the same with hers. Upon finishing, Raven looked up from the sheet of paper.
"Mine says that they know where Jillian is and that they want me to meet them at an old bookstore I visited a long time ago, the store where I bought the book about Brushogan. What does yours say?"
Terra put her note down. "The same thing. And it's signed 'A Friend'"
"I wonder if it's the bookstore owner?" Raven mumbled to herself. "He was very helpful last time."
"How did he know where to find us?"
Raven shrugged. "I have no idea. I guess there is only one way to find out."
-( - )-
It felt all too familiar to Raven. It was the same dark, deserted street she remembered from years before. The bookstore was still there.
"Really? That's a bookstore?" Terra mumbled. "How does he stay in business? I don't see any customers."
"How do I know? Maybe his sales are over the internet." Raven whispered as they slowly approached the store. Raven entered first, parting the curtain that served as the store's main door. Terra cautiously followed her in.
The store was dimly lit, with long and sinister shadows cast on the wall. Terra felt goosebumps form on her skin
"Raven, I have a bad feeling about this." Terra whispered.
"So do I … we need to find the shopkeeper. Something is wrong here."
Raven glanced around the deserted store.
"Hello?" She called out. There was no answer. "Terra, you look in the back, I'll search over here."
The geomancer nodded and her eyes glowed yellow. She wasn't going to give anyone a chance to ambush her. She began to explore the store, wandering through the seemingly endless rows which reminded her of the stacks at a library. There wasn't a sound; the place was as quiet as a graveyard.
She came around a corner and gasped when she saw him. The bookstore owner, the same small man who befriended Raven years before was tied to a chair and was gagged, he was struggling in vain to break free.
"Raven! I found him! He's tied up!"
"Wait for me!" The sorceress replied as she ran to the back of the store.
Terra pointed to the old man, who was at the end of a long hallway, squirming to break free from his bonds. Raven ran to him, followed by Terra.
"Mr. Takamichi! Are you OK?" She shouted as ran to him. He didn't seem to notice their approach and continued with his futile struggle to break free.
"Who did this to you?" She asked as she reached for his gag, intending to remove it. To her immense surprise her hand went right through his face.
"He isn't real! It's a hologram!" Terra shouted.
Before she could reply Raven felt a sharp prick in her neck. She instinctively reached for it and found a small dart in the back of her neck, which she pulled out. She saw Terra's eyes roll back as she collapsed onto the floor. The shopkeeper's image began to fizzle and blink, and then it vanished altogether.
Raven could feel the powerful narcotic taking effect. Her half demonic physiology fought back against it, but it was a battle she couldn't win. Her legs were now feeling rubbery but summoning all her willpower she turned around, eager to see who shot them.
Her eyes widened with shock when she saw who it was.
Terra was holding a dart gun in her hand and had a smug grin on her face. Raven looked at the floor and saw that Terra's supine figure was still knocked out. She looked back at standing Terra and saw a figure hiding in the shadows.
"Slade?" She croaked, struggling to retain consciousness.
She gasped when the mystery figure emerged from the darkness.
It was … herself.
"Hello Raven, thanks for accepting my invitation." The doppelganger greeted her in her own voice.
"Who … who are you?" She slurred.
A grin, a not so nice grin appeared on the other Raven's face.
"I'm you, the you that calls this reality home."
"Why? Why are you doing this?" Raven asked as she lost her balance and stumbled, grabbing onto a book case to stop her fall.
"All in good time, sister."
Raven collapsed and lost consciousness. Their local twins immediately snapped power cancellation collars on them. Terra had an ear to ear grin.
"It worked Raven! You did it!"
She shook her head. "Not until we're reunited with him. We aren't there yet, but now that we lured them into our trap, we can proceed with the next step."
The local Terra pumped her fist. "We've waited so long for this! Finally, he'll be mine."
"And mine too. But first we need to get them out of here."
They each picked up their twin. Local Raven's eyes glowed black and her spectral bird appeared. It engulfed the four of them and flew out the door.
-( - )-
"Ow … my head." Raven groaned as she woke up. Her head felt as if it was about to explode. As she sat up she noticed that she was shackled and was wearing a power cancellation collar around her neck. She saw Terra resting in a cot next to her, also shackled and wearing a power cancellation collar. They were in some sort of prison cell. Raven trudged over to Terra and shook her.
"Terra! Wake up!"
The geomancer moaned as she woke. She immediately noticed her shackles and power cancellation collar.
"You don't remember?"
"I remember we were in the bookstore … I see … it was a trap."
"So who trapped us?"
"We did." Raven sighed.
"We did? What are you talking about? How come you never make any sense, Raven?"
The cell door opened and Terra's jaw hit the ground when she their doppelgangers. She quickly recovered and turned to face her friend. "Let me guess, they're the locals?"
"Good guess, Terra." Her twin remarked in a sing song voice.
"What is going on here? Why are you guys doing this? You're Titans, for Pete's sake!"
"Isn't it obvious, Terra? They're going to take our place back home." Raven calmly remarked.
"Wait ... are you saying they're gonna steal our husbands and families from us?"
"That's exactly what we're gonna do." Local Terra cheered.
"And what about us? You think you can just leave us behind here?" Terra protested. "And what about Jillian? Where is she?"
Local Raven stepped forward. Terra felt a chill go down her spine. She wasn't an empath, but she could feel the evil oozing from the local sorceress, who smiled sweetly at them.
"You're quite right; my twin would no doubt be able to find a way home. So, you see, it's going to be very tragic. A murder/suicide I'm afraid."
"You can't be serious! Terra's right, you're Titans, how could you even consider doing something like this. And what have you done with Jillian?"
Local Raven walked around the shackled women. "Poor Jillian, she missed her husband so much. She told me that she'd do anything to bring him back. So I used her in a spell to create the reality shifts. It really is a terrible spell, one that requires great sacrifice. And it almost failed. I was trying to get you here and I was afraid that she would die before we could bring you over. You have no idea how close it was."
Raven's eyes widened. "You mean … she's dead?"
"I'm afraid so. But now that you're both here it will be easy to jump back to your reality."
"WHAT THE FRAK IS WRONG WITH YOU!?" Terra bellowed. "What kind of psychos are you?"
Local Terra slapped her across the face. "Do you have any idea of what it was like to lose Gar to that airheaded bimbo? Or what it felt like when he died?"
Terra glared at her twin. "Stealing my Gar won't bring yours back."
"We know." Local Raven calmly replied. "But as the saying goes, it's close enough for all practical purposes."
The local demoness drew an evil looking dagger from her cape. "But the time for talking is over. This is the end of the line for you. Please don't take this personally; if there was a foolproof way to maroon you here I would do it."
Local Raven gestured and her doppelganger was enveloped in dark energy.
"You don't have to do this Raven, it's not who you are! You're a hero, not a villain." Raven attempted to reason with her.
"I was a hero, but right now I want him. And once I take your place I'll resume being a selfless hero. And don't worry; I'll be good to your kids … when you think about it, they're my kids too."
Raven began to panic. Her mad twin was about to murder her and she couldn't think of any way to defend herself. She was trapped in the dark energy and couldn't move.
"Raven, please … do you really want this on your conscious?"
The local twin paused. "Not really … but I can live with it."
The other Terra was busy preparing a noose. "I've already written the suicide note. You blame Raven for BB's death and you killed her. You then felt remorse and hung yourself. Very tidy, don't you think?"
"Nightwing will never buy it." Terra seethed between clenched teeth. "He'll investigate."
"And he'll find nothing. Sorry sister, I'll make sure your neck snaps immediately, you'll die instantly, with no pain."
"You can't take them from me."
"I think we already did." Local Terra remarked as she fitted the noose around her twin's neck.
"Any last words?" Local Raven asked.
"Frack you!" Raven shouted.
Local Raven raised her arm, ready to plunge the blade into Raven's heart.
"I'm sorry, sister."
As she trust her arm down a laser bolt hit her back. She screamed in pain and dropped the dagger. She grimaced when she saw over a hundred robots pour into their lair. She was too injured to fight and retreated to safe distance, staggering in the process.
"Terra! Stop them!"
The local geomancer began to counter attack, smashing the droids as fast as she could. She was able to fend them off from herself, but she couldn't keep them away from the prisoners.
"Raven … those are Sladebots." Terra gasped.
"I know." She replied as two droids picked them up bridal style and escaped while covered by the others. Soon they were out of the lair. A familiar figure awaited them.
"Good evening, ladies."
"Slade? You saved us?" Raven asked, unable to conceal her disbelief.
"Don't thank me all at once." He growled as his droids loaded them into a helicopter.
"But why? You hate us. Even if we are from another reality."
As the chopper lifted away he undid their shackles.
"I have my reasons."