CHAPTER 2: Winds of Change

BBBBBBBRRRRM. BRRRM-BRR-BRRRRM, BRRR, BRRRR...

Virgil Hawkins clenched his eyes shut for the moment, setting both his elbows down on the desk and putting his head in his hands, dropping the pen to run his fingers through his hair. But it'd take more than a ham-fisted half attempt at a scalp massage to try and cope with that. "Yo, Richie!"

Standing over in the opposite corner of the Gas Station, Richie Foley was too engrossed in his own little world to even hear him, running around his small workstation- the 'Gear-shop', as he liked to call it- and tinkering away on his latest custom-built, 'new and improved' whatever-ma-jig to his heart's content. Pausing for a sec or two every now and again, before shaking his head and going straight back to work with the angle-grinder, metal buffer, Backpack's built-in laser and all of the rest of loudest, noisiest tools he'd been able to get his hands on...

Gritting his teeth, tossing the almost completely blank sheets of paper that he'd been trying to work on for the past hour or so off to one side, Virgil upped the volume to holler it out again, his eyes literally shooting sparks in Richie's direction. "YO, RICHIE! EARTH TO RICHIE!"

Screeching to a halt, coming back down out of the clouds and 'exiting the Gear-Zone'- awakening from that frantic, mad-inventing trance-like state he'd go off into- Richie switched whatever power tool he'd been using that particular moment off, and slowly turned to look his way, his eyes still a little hazy for a moment or two. "Huh? Oh, hey there, Virgil- what's up?"

"Look, just... Just try and keep it down over there, alright? I'm tryin' to do my homework here!"

"What, you're still busy with that? I, like, totally feel your pain- that must be such a major drag...!"

"Yeah, thanks for rubbin' it in, Richie." Virgil muttered, floating the strewn sheets of paper with his powers as easily as if they'd been feathers, and clinging them back together into a neat, tight stack.

"...I mean, I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like. Stuck doing homework, for hours on end. The horror! The torture!"

"Why, you got amnesia? You should remember. It was only last year that you were in the same boat as me, and it was like that for you too."

Still shaking his head in amused disbelief, Richie raised his hands, wiping the smug smile from his face to replace it with an over-the-top expression of mock horror- for a couple of seconds, until that smile plastered itself back on again. "No, no- I have purged those traumatic memories from my mind, never to be reawakened! Besides, it's not the exercise itself- it's the time. All that wasted time, all that effort, for stuff that was actually oh-so-simple all along. Like, mind-numbingly simple. Seriously, Virge, how could you not be finished? That's like struggling with the alphabet, or with your times tables! Come on. You're smarter than that- just gotta get that brain on full charge and out of standby mode, that's all. How 'bout a Zap-cap?"

Richie plucked one out of his utility box, holding it out to him and grinning practically from ear to ear. Virgil just stared back at him for a moment or two, his frown getting even deeper. "Er, NO- I do not need a zap-cap for my brain! Look, Richie, cut me some slack, alright? I'm a genius too, remember? Just 'cause you manage to finish all of your homework in five minutes flat nowadays, it doesn't mean I'm not doing it right just 'cause I can't do it as quick as you can any more. Besides, not every piece of homework's about knowing the answers to questions, and giving a perfect set of right answers. You didn't take any subjective subjects, not like Art or Theater- I did!"

"Eeugh, don't remind me." Richie groaned, slotting the zap-cap back into its place in the box and slumping over his workstation. "What was I thinking? At least if I had taken those kind of subjects, I'd still be able to enjoy classes at school, instead of feeling like I'm stuck in kindergarten. I mean, come on; those were the subjects worth doing, the subjects of life! What I wouldn't give, to be doing what you're doing right now."

I wish... Virgil stretched his arms out, leaning back in the chair, before levitating his pen back into his hand, hunching in over the desk and trying to set it to paper once more. "Anyhow, I've got a three thousand word essay due in for tomorrow, that I hadn't even started until fifteen minutes ago. So no, I'm NOT finished, and I'm not gonna be finished any time soon. But hey, if you're volunteering to offer a hand by doing my homework for me, seeing as how it's so great and all, I'm game. It'd be a helluva lot quieter than you tinkering with those new and improved zap-caps of yours, that's for sure..."

"Ooh, no can do, I'm afraid. I can help, sure, but can't do it for you- pretty sure that'd come under the bracket of 'using my powers for evil', and all that. And these things I'm working on aren't zap-caps! Well, not like the regular ones, anyway. You'd still have to change them up, but once you do, all you'd have to do would be to toss it at something, and Hey Presto! Instant Static Cling, on everything and everyone in a ten-meter radius! Wouldn't that be sweet? When I get it working properly, that is. Nearly there- just a few more tweaks, and it'll be..."

Virgil groaned, loudly enough to cut Richie off in mid-sentence. "Richie, I can already do that with my powers anyhow, remember?"

"Yeah, well, that's what you said about the zap-caps as well, and look how that turned out. No such thing as too much prep...! Wait. Hold on there just a sec- Backpack's picking something up. Is it...? YES! Score- we've got ourselves a metahuman alert! Time to Gear up!"

Well, looks like my grades are gonna keep on tumbling. Resigning himself to having to hand in yet another unfinished, shoddy half-attempt at an assignment, Virgil flicked the pen aside, watching it rebounding off the desk and clatter to the floor. "Terrific. So? Where is it?"

"It's... No way! It's the new Patty's Patties, the one that was opening downtown today!"

"The what now? Patty Patty? Never heard of 'em before."

"Well, they're supposed to be really big on the West Coast, but this one's their first fast food franchise in Dakota. And someone had the nerve to crash the place on its opening day, ruin the special event for everyone else? Come on, Static- let's teach this punk a lesson! Let's go, go, go! Okay, let's see, what should I take? This, definitely. Those...? Meh, could come in handy. These things, well they're kind of heavy, but you never know. Should I leave 'em, or take 'em? Hmmm... Leave, take, leave, take...?"

No such thing as too much prep, huh? Already in his Static outfit, standing in the doorway atop the Static Saucer, Virgil let out a heavy sigh. Taking the weight off his feet, and taking a seat on it instead, hovering there in mid-air, he watched on as Gear rummaged through pretty much every piece of gear he had to hand, his expression steadily getting more sullen as the seconds ticked away. Eventually, he cleared his throat loudly; then, when that didn't work, snapped off a loud, crackling bolt of electric energy with a click of his fingers to get Richie's attention. "Gear? I got an idea. How 'bout you take whatever you've already got, and then maybe, just maybe, we might still be able to catch whoever this is before they can make a clean getaway? 'Kay?"

"But, but, what if- I mean, we could really need that gadget over there, if..." Gear stared at a clunky, fist-sized metal box sitting close to the middle of his workstation, with such a wistful, pining look painted across his face that Virgil had to fight the urge to burst out laughing.

He couldn't keep the smile off of his face though; standing back up again, Static hovered across to float beside his closest friend, crouching down and leaning in to clap a hand on the back of his shoulder. "Don't sweat it, Gear. I got your back- whoever it is, between the two of us, we can handle 'em."

"Alright alright, fine. Fine... Race ya!" Brushing his disappointment aside in an instant, as if at the flip of a switch, Gear grinned, shoving Static out of the way, engaging his rocket blades and shooting past him, out through the open door. Caught off guard, Static fought to regain his balance for a moment or two, whirling around to watch Gear skyrocketing up, up and away into the distance, off in the direction of the metahuman alert. Chuckling lightly, Static reached up to put his shades on, switching on the communicator he had in his right ear at the same time. Shooting out through the doorway, slamming it behind him, before sending a crackling surge of electricity through the saucer, supercharging his slick ride to propel himself skywards in hot pursuit.

"Hey, no fair! Oh, so you wanna race there, huh? You know that head-start won't do you any good...!"

XxXxX

"See? What'd I tell you?"

"You know, I'm upgrading the rocket blades all the time. You'll see, soon enough- one of these days, I'm gonna win, I swear I will..."

"Yeah, I know. Just wasn't today. And I'm bettin' it won't be tomorrow either. Or the day after that, and- well, you get the idea..."

"Grrr."

"Okay, okay. Chill, Gear- I was just messin' with your head, that's all. So, anyway, who're we gonna be dealing with? How much further is this place anyhow?"

"Oh, we're almost right on top of it- it's right down there, on that boulevard just across from the performance venue in Dakota Central Park. As for the perp, they didn't say. But wait, Backpack's picked up a couple of in-flight updates- they're talking about it being some fat bla- African American guy, wearing a cape and shades..."

Flying in over the row of trees lining the avenue which overlooked Central Park, approaching the scene of whatever was going down, it wasn't hard to work out where. Not with the hordes of panicked, screaming civilians still streaming out of the place, lining the street on both sides. Or with 'PATTY'S PATTIES' written large and bold in neon lettering, right up there above the front door. Setting the saucer down in the middle of the road, hopping off it, folding it back up and stowing it away in his pocket in one swift movement- he'd had enough practice by now to do it with his eyes closed- Static jogged forward, towards the front door.

"...Now, who do we know who fits that description, who's caused trouble at a fast food joint before?"

Whooshing down behind him, Gear disengaged his rockets and roller-bladed forward to join him. Gear's reflective helmet didn't let anyone get a glimpse of his face, but he didn't have to see Richie's face to know just from the tone of his voice that he'd have a smug, knowing grin plastered across it right now. It wasn't like this was hard to figure out- he knew exactly who it'd be. And as he flung the doors open with a jolt of electric energy, and the decent-sized crowd of onlookers still hanging around in the fast food joint parted in front of the two of them to reveal their perp, it came as no surprise when he was proven right. "Slipstream."

"Called it," Gear said gleefully, starting to raise his hand for a high-five- before taking notice of the surging arcs of electricity encompassing Static's clenched fists, and thinking better of it.

With a swish of the big purple bath-towel that he always wore, tied around his fat neck as his pathetic excuse for a cape, the squat, pork-bellied man with the insane wind powers standing there in front of the counter swiveled around to face the two of them. Pulling up his baseball cap and pulling down his sunglasses to take a good look- using his free left hand to do both, with the other hand clenched around the tops of at least four fast-food takeaway paper bags, all of them heavy and packed full to bursting- Slipstream peeled back his lips, baring his teeth in an irate grimace. "Dang! It's Static!"

"Ah-hem; 'and Gear'?! I mean, seriously, why don't I ever get a mention...?" Gear muttered rapidly, under his breath, but still loud enough for Static to hear every word through the 'shock-comm' miniaturized earpieces and mouthpieces they were both wearing. Doing his best to ignore Gear's ongoing soliloquy, about how no-one ever cared about whether he was there or not, Static strode into the restaurant, raising an electrically charged accusatory finger at the biggest, fattest Bang Baby of them all.

"I was wonderin' when you'd show your face again, Slipstream. All these freak wind events we've been having in Dakota- the weird gusts of wind that've been carrying property away, the tornadoes springing up out of nowhere any time o' the year and then just dying away into nothing, in the space of seconds- it's all been you, hasn't it?"

The corners of Slipstream's pudgy lips turned upward, contorting that ugly grimace into a broad, condescending grin that was just as ugly. "What, this the part where I'm supposed to 'fess up an' incriminate myself? Ha! I know my rights, Static. You can't prove shit- you know it, and the PD knows it too. I'm a re-spect-a-ble, re-formed citizen now. And I'M the one who THEY tryin' to rob!"

Static frowned fiercely, his finger twitching with the itch to shoot a bolt of electricity at the obnoxious blowhard. But like it or not, the guy was right. He couldn't prove anything with any of those other cases- he'd have to let 'em lie. "Whatever, windbag. What is it this time?"

"These fools," Slipstream yelled out in that whining baritone of him, dramatically flourishing his arm in the direction of the three employees standing there behind the counter, all standing there with their arms raised in the air, "said they were giving out free burgers today! Thousands of 'em! And they're good- Soo goood! But now, they're sellin' me short, tellin' me how I can't have any more, and tryin' to make me fork over cash for the ones I already ate...!"

"Whoa there, hold up a sec." Gear interjected, slowly walking forward to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his crime-fighting partner, raising the palms of his hands to try and calm the guy down. "Dude, they said they were handing out a free Patty's Pattie to each customer. As in, ONE free Patty's Pattie per person." Static turned his head to toss a furtive glance at Gear, raising an eyebrow. Gear shrugged nonchalantly, whispering under his breath so that only the shock-comms would be able to pick it up. "Read about it in the paper. I was gonna come pick one up later. Anyway, that's beside the point..." Upping the volume of his voice again, Gear turned to address the crowd. "How many has Slipstream here already had?"

"H-He's eaten at least nineteen already!" One of the servers behind the counter called out shakily, her voice wavering as Slipstream spun back around to glower at her menacingly. "When we, refused to k-keep serving him, he started t-threatening the other customers, f-forcing them to hand theirs over to him..."

A chorus of agreement echoed from the members of the crowd. Right alongside where Gear stood, a chubby little girl so small that she just barely came up to his knee pulled away from her mum and stepped out of the crowd, toddling over to tug at the leg of his costume, and levelled an accusatory finger of her own up at the fat aerokinetic. "Yeah! He even snatched mine away! He's a naughty food thief...!"

Gear gasped audibly, gaping behind the visor of his helmet. "Really? He did? Wow, that's... That's just plain evil!"

Unrepentant, Slipstream shrugged nonchalantly, sneering at them. "Hey, not like that little brat was gonna be able to eat hers anyhow. And she shouldn't have neither- Damn, I guess I was doin' a proper public service, sparin' her by taking it for myself! I'm no killer, but childhood obesity sure is! And when they as moreish as they are, how the heck're you supposed to stop after just havin' one?! That's just cruel, that's what it is...!"

"Yeah, right. And snatching food right outta the hands of tiny little toddlers isn't, huh?" Static scoffed. The little girl pulled away from Gear, putting her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes and pouting fiercely up at him.

"Hey! I'm not tiny, I'm not little, and I'm not a todhey... todha? Not a toddela! Only two more months, and I'm gonna be five whole years old- I'm a big girl! Tell them, Mommy!"

They couldn't help it- both Gear, Static, and every single person in the crowd of onlookers gave a loud, collective "Awww!" Then, as one, they all turned their glares on the fat man in the middle of the circle, who snorted indignantly, spluttering in protest. "SEE! See what I mean?! Givin' a humongous, calorie-soaked, adult-sized burger patty to a kid that age? Cloggin' up her arteries that young? It's CRIMINAL! I'm tellin' ya, I'm a bonified hero for snatchin' it away from her! Where the heck's my medal? 'Cause I damn well deserve one...!"

"Put a windsock in it, Slipstream! We got dozens of witnesses- I'm takin' you in. Now, hand those burgers back over to the people you stole 'em from, and come quietly!"

"Never! They're MINE, all mine! And no-one's gonna take 'em away from me!" Slipstream bellowed, sending a massive gust of wind howling at them with a sweep of his arm. Several people in the crowd screamed, either ducking for cover down on their hands and knees or being blown onto their backsides by the blast. Static managed to see it coming, fast enough to send a surge of electricity through his feet and keep himself firmly planted to the ground where he stood, with the wind only affecting him by blowing his hair back over his shoulders.

Gear wasn't so lucky though. Still standing there balanced on the wheels of his rocket blades, the blast of wind flung him backwards like a rag doll. His arms flailing, trying to keep his balance as best he could, he only just managed to pull out a sphere from his utility belt, and toss it off in the right direction- with the metal restraining tentacles shooting out of it to clasp around the little girl in mid-air and anchor her safely to one of the tables, just in time to save her from getting flung out through one of the windows- before smashing through the door at a rate of knots, sent sprawling out into the street outside in a shower of broken glass. "Whaa- Urgh!"

"GEAR? You okay?" Static yelled out, flinging a bolt of electricity at Slipstream. The fatso was irritatingly fast as always though, scooting up into the air atop a mini-tornado to evade it easily- trying to hit the guy was like trying to zap down a fly.

"Nggh..." Gear's voice came crackling through the shock-comm. "Uh-huh. Just, gimme a second, 'kay? You've got this..."

"Sure do," Static muttered, shooting off another few bolts of ball lightning. In the enclosed space of the restaurant, Slipstream couldn't get out without going through him first, and it was easy to keep the dude penned in by placing his shots. "You're all hot air, Slipstream! You're trapped- give it up!"

"Oh, I am, am I?" Slipstream jeered, flying back over the counter and ducking for cover behind it. "Y'know, that gives me a fine idea! How 'bout we have ourselves a fry-up?" Holy shit... Static's eyes widened in horror, and everything seemed to move in slow motion, as Slipstream conjured up a wind funnel over the deep-fat fryer, sucked all the bubbling grease out of it in a heartbeat, and transforming it into a whirling windspout of searing-hot, oily death. Then, started sending it out over the counter, not just towards him, but towards the crowd of cowering innocent bystanders.

That tore it- screw the softly-softly approach. If he was gonna attack innocent bystanders, he needed to be taken down now, and taken down hard. Silently apologising to the franchise owner for the damage, Static raised his hands to reach upwards and outwards with his powers, all the way to the ceiling panel directly above Slipstream- wrenching it out and propelling the heavy roof tile down with all the force he could muster. With nowhere to go, and no time to react, Slipstream didn't even have time to squeal, as the panel came crashing down on top of his head with a blow hard enough to shatter the inch-thick ceramic in half, knocking him out instantly.

Without his powers to keep it going, the grease funnel collapsed over the counter, a few of the closest people in the crowd yelling and jumping back from the hot drops of oil that splattered onto the floor too close to their feet. A fair few drops splattered off to the sides as well, far enough to hit Slipstream and leave a couple of small, angry burns on the dude's bare forearm. Out cold though, sprawled on the floor, all he could do was twitch and jerk at the pain.

"Phew..." Static sighed with relief, slumping against one of the tables. "Thank you, and do NOT have a nice day."

A rousing cheer went up from the crowd, their applause and whoops petering out as Gear walked back in through the broken door frame, wincing with every step. "Ouch. Y'know, a couple of those cling grenades would've really come in handy. If a certain someone hadn't told me not to pack 'em, this could have been a cakewalk..."

"Gear, we gotta do this now?" Static muttered, looking around at the crowd of the reporters and news crews who'd started flooding in closely behind Gear, snapping away with their cameras to capture the aftermath of their latest fight scene.

"Hey, I'm just saying, that's all."

"Sure. Anyhow, speaking of cakes and walking though, I'm famished." Playing the part for the cameras, Static hollered out to one of the servers who'd been standing behind the counter when they'd arrived on the scene, the one who'd spoken out earlier. "Hey! Think we could still get a couple of those juicy beefcakes you been handin' out? Course, that's be to have on the go- we've still gotta drop Slipstream here off at the police station!"

The girl nodded vigorously, beaming and fluttering her eyelashes at him, before rushing back over to get behind the counter again, followed by the other four servers on duty. Another guy- some scrawny looking white dude with slicked-back blonde hair, wearing a suit and tie- pushed through the newly formed ring of cameras, walking right up to the two of them. "Static, Gear! Thank you, so much. I'm the manager of this franchise, and as a mark of our gratitude for the way you defused that situation, I'd like to officially offer you the Titans Package!"

Static squinted at him, nonplussed. "Say what? What's that...?" Glancing across at Gear though, it looked like his best friend was overjoyed.

"Whoa- seriously? That'd be SO awesome! Thank you, so, so much...!"

"Care to fill me in, Gear?"

"Oh, sure. You know the Teen Titans, over in Jump City?"

That did sound familiar. Static ran a hand through his dreads, racking his head for where he'd heard that before. "Yeah, I think so- that's Robin's new team, right? The one Bats mentioned when we went over to Gotham City, chasin' after Nails when she fell in with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn?"

"Sure is. Anyhow, they saved each and every one of the Patty's Patties' franchises in that city from being annihilated one day, pretty early on, and to show their gratitude, they offered the Titans this totally sweet package deal where they could order anything they wanted, all they could eat, whenever they wanted. Not just on the house either- instead of having to pay, it's the fast food chain that pays them! Is that cool or what?"

"Hell yeah. So, the Titans' Package, huh? Thank you, Mister Manager."

The store manager grinned, reaching out with one hand to shake his, and waving for the cameras with the other. "Please, Mr. Fitzpatrick. And think nothing of it. It's the least we could do." Static put on an artificial grin, groaning inwardly as the moment stretched on, and on, and on, with the cameras snapping away all the while. Okay, okay- Jeez, time to let go of my hand already. Sending a weak electric shock through his palm, Static's smile turned genuine again for a moment as Manager Fitz jolted upright, hastily releasing his grip at long last and taking a couple of steps back. No-one else caught that, right? Nah. We're good- it's all cool...

"Here you go- two Patty's Patties to go, for the heroes of the day!"

"You know what? Might as well make a proper meal of it. Think we could get fries and drinks with these?"

"Coming right up!"

"Thanks a lot-" Static squinted at the server's name tag, did a double-take and re-read it to make sure- what were the odds, huh? "-Patricia."

Fifteen Minutes Later

"Mmnnh- man, this is SOO good!" Gear said, mmhing and aahing on his last bite of the massive burger- with the faceplate of his helmet semi-retracted so he could put it in his mouth- before licking every last trace of sauce, relish and grease off of his fingers, one at a time.

"You bet it is. Kinda makes me feel like a fool for stickin' with Burger Fool all these years..." 'Specially after we saved their stores from gettin' trashed dozens of times, and never even got so much as a 'thanks' outta them. Nah- screw Burger Fool. Static leaned back in his seat, putting his hands behind his head and propping his feet up on the table. Ah, this was the life. Sure was nice to get some real appreciation...

"So, Gear. The Teen Titans- Batman said we'd meet 'em soon enough, right? How much d'you know 'bout Rob's new team? Who's on it?"

Gear stared at him incredulously. "Seriously? Dude, how could you NOT know that? They've got the most followers online of any superheroes, anywhere, ever! Even more than the Justice League, for crying out loud...!"

Static shrugged, levitating his plastic cup up into the air so that he could take a sip of his Dr Chilli soft drink through the straw without having to unfold his arms. "So? I got my own city to worry about, and I don't spend time doin' the whole fanboy thing. Anyhow, come on- spill it already."

"Well, Robin's the leader of the group, obviously. Then you've got Cyborg, Victor-y Stone, the half-man, half-machine cutting edge cybernetic superhero. And built like a sculpted man-mountain. Super strong. Powerful. And hard- so effing hard..." Gear sighed, a faint blush spreading across his cheeks.

Static raised a furtive eyebrow, rolling his eyes. Yeah, I get it, Gear; you LOOOVE tech. But swooning over it? That was just plain weird. "Ah-hem..."

"Oh, yeah. So, where was I? Ah, yeah. Anyhow, you've also got Beast Boy- green dude who can shapeshift into the form of pretty much any animals, used to be the junior member of the Doom Patrol back in the day. Then you've got the girls- the alien Crown Princess of Tamaran, Koriand'r, better known as 'Starfire', empowered with the abilities of flight and the ability to toss around those plasma starbolts by the Gordanians. Total hottie, everyone loves her- you should see the amount of people who cosplay as her at Super-Con. And the mysterious mistress of magic, sorceress of the shadows, Raven. The darkest of them all, in more ways than one, no-one knows her real name, or even has a clue as to where she comes from. But actually, come to think of it, that incantation she uses- I think she's from... Azarath? Least, that's the name of the place- no, planet, it's a planet- that keeps coming to mind. You know how it is, right? Since what happened up on The Watchtower, that time I got merged with that Brainiac fragment?"

"Yeah, I know how it is, Gear. Those info-dumps you keep on tossing out, about these alien races, civilisations, cultures and technologies they supposed to have on all these other worlds, out there in space, spread across the cosmos. Gotta say though, with ninety-nine percent of this stuff, it sounds like you're totally makin' it all up..."

"Yeah, tell me about it. But it's all true though. And even I don't- no, even Brainiac didn't- really know anything about Azarath. Just that it was a planet in a anomalous sector of space with abnormally fluctuating quantum field values, that the people who inhabited it were all mystics and magic users, and that their whole world got destroyed around five years ago, with no survivors..." Gear's eyes lit up, his jaw dropping to the floor at the realization. Leaning across the table, closing his visor properly again, Gear lowered his voice to a whisper. "Whoa, hold on, wait a sec- there WAS a survivor!" he hissed. "Her! Dude, it's totally like Superman's origin story! Raven, the last daughter of Azarath...!"

"Man, that's gotta be rough. Losin' everyone you ever cared about, everyone else on your entire world just gone, just like that... Just how young was she, back when all that shit went down and her planet went kaput? Ten?"

"Damn- no wonder she's so glum all the time, and she hardly ever laughs or smiles. Girl deserves a bit more appreciation, a bit more popularity. Tell you what- when we get finish patrol, I'm gonna go online, log in and try to boost her support in the chat forums...!"

"Man, you really are a fan-boy," Static chuckled. "So- if these Teen Titans have the most followers online, and the Justice League have the second most, then just how many fans do I have? How high am I in those rankings?"

"You mean, how many fans do WE have, and how high are WE in the rankings? And, well- on all social media platforms, across the internet, around the world?"

"Er, yeah?"

"OK, if you're sure. And this is how the numbers were this morning, 'kay? So they'll have probably changed a little bit since then, especially given what went down here earlier when we took down Slipstream..."

"Aw, come on, Gear, spill it. I wanna know how just many fan-girls want a piece of me..."

"Alright, alright. We've got about five million, one hundred and thirty thousand social media followers, give or take ten thousand or so- it changes all the time, you know..."

"Whew!" Static whistled, a broad grin spreading across his face. "I'm that popular? Sweet! So, what, we gotta be third, right? Or maybe even second, with numbers like that!"

"Aaactually- superhero identities only, right? Counting individuals, cause there aren't that many teams, and we're not officially listed as a team anyhow? We're, no sorry, you're... twenty-eighth."

"Say WHAT now? Twenty-frickin'-EIGHTH...?"

"Which is pretty good, all things considered." Gear said hastily. "I mean, that puts you ahead of a whole heap of other superheroes- hell, that's more than Martian Manhunter! Not to mention more than Mr Terrific, Red Tornado, Plastic Man, Doctor Fate... Doctor Mid-Nite, him too. Oh, and Firestorm! The Question, Booster Gold, Metamorpho, Blue Devil, Wildcat, Crimson Avenger. Speedy too- you know, Green Arrow's former sidekick? Yeah, him. All pretty big, household names, all left in the dust- ooh, and you were literally only a few thousand behind BB this morning, behind Beast Boy! So with any luck, you'd have overtaken him today! Fingers crossed, eh? And you already overtook Detective Chimp last week, so that's something. Oh, and Raven- you've got over a million more followers than Raven. Feel sad for her. She totally deserves so many more..."

"Okay, when we get back to base, I wanna see that list." Static scowled, angrily drumming his fingers on the table. "Still, twenty-eighth place? For real? With that many fans? Even after saving Shaq's life TWICE, gettin' a shout-out theme song from Lil' Romeo, and all those team-ups with Superman, the Dynamic Duo AND the Justice League, we're still only in twenty-eighth place? Just how many followers do these guys have? Like, these Titans, the Teen Titans. How many followers do they have?"

"Ooh, just a couple hundred million." Now it was Static's turn to gape, struck speechless. "I know, tell me about it. They're really big in the Far East. Especially Japan, they're CRAZY about the Titans in Japan. And with all the sponsorship and advertisement income they get, and that Jump City gets through them, they're, like, totally loaded. Even got their own massive HQ, the Titans Tower, on their own private island out in Jump City Bay. Got that real early on too, all expenses paid by the grateful people of Jump City. It's shaped like a giant T and everything, same as their logo- you oughta see it, looks totally shway."

"Great, now I'm jealous. You tellin' me they got some awesome, massive, swanky custom-built apartment block, all to themselves, on their own private island out in the bay? And they got that as a gift, free of charge, in spite of the fact that they rollin' in cash? Deals like this 'Titans Package', everywhere they go; all those fans, all that moola, all that adulation... And we've saved our city, this city right here, how many times, from how many different Bang Babies and supervillains? And we still stuck slummin' it out, squattin' in some abandoned shack at a disused run-down gas station...?"

"Aww, come on Static, don't get on a downer! I mean, they're totally crazy about you over in Africa too, especially in West Africa. You're, like, one of the most followed superheroes on the continent right now; even more than Anansi, Hot Spot and Kid Wildebeest, and almost as much as Vixen! Only thing is, there aren't that many people over there who even have the internet, let alone who use social media. So all you've gotta do is wait 'til Africa gets more connected to the web, wait for all those Static fans over there to start using social media, and you'll shoot right on up there into the top ten, easy! Well, maybe, maybe not- but top fifteen, guaranteed!" Gear grinned, giving him two thumbs up.

"Oh, wow, that's just swell," Static muttered sarcastically, cleaning his hands off with a paper towel and floating it on over into one of the bins on the far side of the fast food joint, sending it on a long spiraling loop all the way around the restaurant first- a little hint of a smile returning to his face again when he caught sight of the chubby little kindergartner girl Gear'd saved earlier, staring at the floating paper towel with sparkly eyes, before squealing in delight and clapping her fat little hands together when it dived into the bin. Static rose to his feet, pulled the Static Saucer out of his pocket and expanded it out to its full size."Know what, let's just forget I ever asked. Come on, Gear. We got a whole city to patrol, and our job here's done- you ready to go?"

"You know I am. And just remember- it's not about the glory, amirite?"

"Yeah yeah, Gear, I know. It's about stopping the bad guys here, keeping crime from spiraling outta control and keepin' our city safe. But honestly, sounds like it'd be pretty sweet to be a Titan..."


A/N- Following on from the last chapter, after watching that double-header cross-over episode, A League of Their Own, I realized something. Static Shock was officially part of the DCAU; and taking into account what happened in that cross-over episode, Gear is one of only two people on earth who merged with Brainiac, and would have gained a twelfth-level intellect in the process. As such, going by official canon, while Mr Terrific's the 3rd smartest human in the DCAU, both Lex Luthor and Richie Foley would have been tied for the position of the smartest human who ever lived, courtesy of the knowledge acquired via their respective mergers with Brainiac; and at this stage, since Lex Luthor isn't set to merge with Brainiac for at least another two years in DCAU canon (and thanks to the divergences from the original timeline, may never do so), one can categorically state that, in actual fact, it's Gear who's the smartest person on Earth at this point in time in the DCAU, not Lex Luthor. Also, want to apologize for how long it's taken to get this chapter posted- just haven't had the time to work on it recently, what with work obligations and family life, and with being sidetracked by getting into new fandoms. But you can expect the chapters to be churned out far more quickly from here on in.