… And kept ringing. The black rectangle rang several times before ceasing abruptly. Robin stared at it, inspecting the device. So, it was definitely some type of communicator. He glanced at his team gathered around him, and they looked as equally curious and confused as he was. Without any idea of what the device was for, or who it had called, Robin decided the next course of action and held it out to the tech expert on the team.
"Cyborg, see if you ca–"
The device in his hand started ringing again, this time with a different, louder tone, causing him to stop. Again, he stared at the device, and then his team, seeing their expectation in their expressions. After mulling it over for a moment, Robin thumbed the button, answering the communicator.
"Hello?" He ventured cautiously, peering at the screen.
The line remained silent, and the screen remained black.
"Hello, is someone there? This is Robin, of the Teen Titans."
Silence answered him once more.
"How did you come to possess the communicator you're holding?" A gruff male voice interrupted.
Caught off guard, Robin took a second to answer. "It was… left in my care. May I ask who this is?"
"And where is the owner of the device?" The voice snapped.
Robin swallowed, trying to maintain composure. "The owner, Beast Boy, was … He was killed in action less than forty-eight hours ago."
"I see." The reply came without hesitation, or any noticeable change in tone. The Titans exchanged glances. "Cause of death?"
The Boy Wonder was once again thrown for a loop, by the question, and by the impatient voice. "He was shot defending a friend, and member of his team." Robin paused, waiting for some sort of condolence, or acknowledgment of his friend's sacrifice. When neither were forthcoming, he awkwardly pressed on. "I'm searching for his next of kin to inform them of his passing, and to see if they have a preference as to how he's laid to rest. May I ask who this is?"
"Then you still have his body?" The voice asked, ignoring Robin's question.
"Yes sir, but–"
The line clicked dead, and the Titans were left staring at the black rectangle in Robin's gloved hand. Bewildered, and uncertain, none of them could properly formulate words. Who was the owner of that voice? How did he know Beast Boy? Why did Beast Boy have this communicator in the first place? These questions and more spun in their heads as they processed the conversation.
"What the hell was that all about?" Cyborg grumbled.
The gunman tapped his thumb against the console he was standing in front of, anxiously waiting for his call to connect. He shouldn't have taken the job. His gut had immediately sent up warning flags, but the money… The money had been too good. Now, he might as well just dig a grave and wait in it. Greed had always been his downfall, perhaps literally this time. Finally, the call connected, and a masked man with one eye appeared on his screen.
"Dante." The ex-mercenary greeted him. "One down, but still four more to go. I expect you already have a plan in place?"
Dante barked a bitter laugh. "Not bloody likely! If I wanted to die, it'd be in bed with a woman. What the hell were you thinking, Slade!?"
The single eye narrowed menacingly. "I was thinking that I had hired professionals to do a job, not call me to gripe about… What exactly?"
"Oh, like you don't know." His face screwing up in disgust, Dante leaned on the console. "Job's off. I'm gonna find a nice third world country to hole up in, and hope that maybe, maybe, they won't find me. That's the best my sorry ass can hope for."
"Don't be a fool. If you don't complete the job, you won't get paid. It would also put you on poor terms with the person put out the contract."
"Money is the least of my concerns right now, and I don't give a damn about some guy can't kill a person with his own hands. I'm trying to get the hell out of dodge before they can exact their revenge."
Slade looked at him curiously. "You're making it sound like they're out for blood. Get a hold of yourself, Dante. They're barely more than children."
"Oh, it's not the Titans that worry me. You really screwed me, you bastard." Dante glared at the shadowy man on the screen.
"The Justice League? I've battled the Titans multiple times, and not once have they deigned to intervene." Slade said. "I doubt they'll be a problem."
For a moment, Dante didn't respond. Then he burst out laughing. It was a hard, dry laugh devoid of any joy. "You didn't know!" He exclaimed, like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. "That's just rich!"
His single eye narrowed again, but Slade didn't say anything. It was clear he was trying to figure out what he was missing, which made the situation even more hilarious to Dante. He had called to see if Slade had set him and his crew up, but now he could see that was clearly not the case.
"As a courtesy from one professional to another, here's some advice." The gunman said when the laughter had left him. "Drop this. Cut your ties, and get out."
"And why would I do that?" The masked man asked, his tone sardonic, condescending.
"Because that green munchkin I double tapped was a member of the Doom Patrol." Dante told him flatly.
Even with the mask on, Dante could see that the news had shocked the ex-mercenary.
"I hadn't realized you were in the habit of entertaining ghost stories." Slade said after a moment. "The Doom Patrol is an urban legend. Nothing more."
"A team of highly trained, superpowered soldiers with no allegiance, no accountability, and no restrictions, hell-bent on exterminating corruption and evil by any means necessary? Yeah, you're probably right. It's ridiculous, like a crimefighter dressing up as a bat, or an alien that's invulnerable to everything except green rocks. Look, I don't care if you believe me or not, but let me ask you this," Dante leaned forward on the console again. "Are you willing to bet your life on 'probably'?"
He cut the call then, not caring to see if Slade took him seriously. Whether the ex-mercenary heeded his advice or not didn't really matter to him. He had bigger concerns. There was a brief knock at the door, before it opened, and a huge head poked in.
"Chopper is gearing up for takeoff." The large man said, holding an ice pack to one of his eyes. "Leaving soon."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Dante said, snatching up the duffel bag at his feet. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
Raven found herself in Nevermore once again. Her powers had all but vanished, and she was desperate to find some tranquility. To rid herself of the gaping hole in the center of her very being. And so, she came to stand before the grim representation of her decaying psyche, in much the same spot where they had first met.
"Have you come to face the truth, finally?" Asked her black cloaked reflection.
"I know he's dead." The empath said in a dry, lifeless voice. "I know he's not coming back."
Depression stared at her blankly. "… Still deaf and blind, then." She pronounced with a resigned sigh. "Perhaps it's just as well."
"You sure love to kick people when they're down." Raven said harshly.
"Well, I'm you, so… Yes."
"You don't think this is hard enough already? Beast Boy is dead, all because of us. Us, and our negligence… And to top it all off, we didn't know the first thing about him…"
Her clone cocked her head to the side. "So, the witch girl does have feelings after all. Only in the end, when it's too late." Depression remarked. "Does it hurt then? Knowing he will never return?"
Raven glowered at the dark emotion. "Of course it does. He was one of the most important people in my life!"
"I see." Depression replied, unperturbed. "I wonder where all this was when he was still alive?"
"What the hell kind of question is that?!" Raven yelled.
"An important one." The replica shook her head. "Though it's probably pointless."
"What? Why?! Why are you doing this?!"
Sighing again, Depression lifted her legs to float in the lotus position. "Because I'm the only one around who can. Because I'm bored. Because I represent your self-loathing and self-pity. But mostly, because I am sick and tired of waiting."
"Waiting for what!?" Raven sobbed. "Why can't you ever speak clearly?!"
"I'm trying, Raven." The emotion said. "You're the one that's not listening."
Robin walked towards his office, his eyes scanning the newspaper in his hand. It had nearly been three days since they lost Beast Boy, and they had been lucky. For the most part, crime had been relatively lax, requiring maybe two Titans at the most for each incident. This was good, because the group as a whole was suffering. They were all feeling the loss, and regret, but now also confusion. The communicator they found yesterday, and the man they had spoken with, left too many questions up in the air. Most prominently, who had Beast Boy been? Even after Robin had investigated his late teammate's room, he still didn't have an answer. Suddenly, the Boy Wonder became aware of another presence in the room. He dodged, rolling to one side as he drew his staff and an exploding disk.
A man stood at his desk, seemingly engrossed with something on the computer monitor. He didn't seem to notice that Robin had entered the room, not bothering to look up at the commotion. His head was adorned with an odd helmet that obscured the upper portion of his face.
"Who are you?" Robin growled.
The man briefly glanced at him. "Gather your team, Robin. I have a few questions." He said tersely.
Robin snapped. After everything that had happened in the past two days, all the emotional turmoil inside him needed somewhere to go. "Who are you!?" He yelled angrily, charging.
For moment, he wasn't sure what had happened. He had been running at the intruder, and the man had made this sharp gesture, and now he wasn't sure what his eyes were telling him. Then he realized he was staring at the ground. From the ceiling. The Titan leader was plastered against the ceiling, arms and legs splayed in a spread eagle. Some sort of invisible force was holding him there, and he couldn't move his limbs. His eyes went back to the uninvited guest in the room. The man walked around from behind the desk, watching Robin dispassionately.
"Impulsive. Quick to anger. Qualities unbecoming a leader." He observed dryly, before looking off to the side. "No. No…"
"When I get down from here…" Robin began before being dropped to the floor. He managed to catch himself, and rolled to where his weapons had been discarded. Snatching them up, he spun his staff in one hand and primed the explosive disk with the other.
"Decent reflexes. Perhaps you're right, they are still young." The man murmured, analyzing Robin with cold blue eyes. "Time will tell, I suppose."
"I'm going to ask you a third time." Robin said threateningly, his mind racing with plans of attack. "Who. The hell. Are you?"
"I'm here regarding 'Beast Boy'." The man stated calmly, despite Robin's battle stance. "You said he was killed in combat, yes?"
That took Robin by surprise, the wheels in his head beginning to turn. He lowered his weapons slightly, but didn't drop his guard. "You were the voice, from the communicator yesterday."
The man nodded once. "I am. Now, gather your team in the main room. I have a few questions regarding your mission at the bank."
The stranger left the room with a bold military stride, leaving Robin nonplussed, and more than a little angry.
The Titans burst into the ops room in full force, expecting a battle. They did not find one. Instead, they found three people standing in the center of the room, talking quietly to each other. One was the man Robin had seen before, with the strange helmet. Across from him stood a large robotic humanoid, whose thick arms were crossed over his barrel chest, and next to him stood a tall, thin man who was wrapped from head to toe in white bandages. Another thing that Robin noticed, which gave him pause, was the uniform they all wore. It was black and purple, exactly like Beast Boy's. This group of strange people ignored the Titans' dramatic entrance, and continued their quiet discussion, only stopping when Cyborg coughed awkwardly.
The man looked up at the group of young adults, unsurprised. "Have we calmed down enough to have a rational discussion?"
"Rational discussion?" Robin repeated, outrage in his voice. "I think that option pretty much went out the window when you broke into our home!"
"It is not my intention to fight with you, or give you reason to fight with us. However, I had to make certain this tower and its inhabitants hadn't been compromised." The man explained. "A sentiment I think your mentor would approve of."
The Boy Wonder ground his teeth, infuriated even more at the mention of his adoptive father.
Cyborg stepped up next to Robin, leveling his sonic cannon. "Would you mind telling us exactly what the hell you're doing here?"
The man cocked his head slightly. "Yesterday, we received a call from you, informing us of the incident involving Beast Boy. We are here now to ascertain the details surrounding the incident, and to see his body."
"And who exactly is 'we'?" Raven asked from the back of the group.
The man regarded her thoughtfully, then turned to his group. "… Call us… The Doom Patrol." He turned back to the Titans. "You may address me as Mento."
The door at the opposite side of the room opened, and the Titans tensed, preparing for an attack. A woman strode in, carrying a pitcher of water and a single empty glass. She had brown hair, green eyes, and she wore the same uniform as the three men in the center of the room. Pausing only a moment to take in the situation, the woman calmly walked to join the strangers, and placed the pitcher and glass on the table nearby.
Mento turned to the strange man wrapped in bandages. "What did you find?"
The bandage man produced a small stack of manila folders, each of them thick with papers, and handed them over to his leader. After momentarily perusing them, Mento went back to the first one. "Robin, a.k.a. Richard Grayson." He said, earning a stunned expression from the Titans. "Batman's first apprentice, expert martial artist, expert detective."
He dropped that folder on the table with a soft thump, and went to the next.
"Cyborg, a.k.a. Victor Stone. Medical expert, technology expert, inventor."
"Starfire, a.k.a. Koriand'r. Imperial Princess of Tamaran, warrior."
"Jinx, a.k.a. Jennifer Exley. Former villainess, sorceress, probability manipulator."
"Raven, a.k.a. Rachel Roth. Queen of Demons, Usurper of the Bastard Realms, sorceress."
"From just a cursory glance of his files, I can see that Beast Boy held an amount of respect and high regard for each of you." Mento gazed at each of them with narrowed eyes. "Can someone then explain to me how, despite your seeming over qualification for the task, the events of the incident seventy-two hours ago resulted in the fall of your comrade?"
There was a long, silent moment where no one spoke or moved. Then an explosive sigh broke the tension, and all eyes were drawn towards the pink haired girl standing with the young superheroes.
"I… wasn't actually there, but I read the report after." Jinx said tentatively.
Robin's head whipped around to glare at her. "Jinx!" He hissed warningly.
Jinx rolled her eyes irritably. "Oh come off it, bird boy. If they wanted to attack us, they would've done it when they had the element of surprise. Besides, look at their clothes." Stepping forward, she refocused on the leader of The Doom Patrol. "The bank robbery happened around midday, and they arrived at the scene within minutes. They were told five lightly armed suspects were inside, holding a number of hostages."
She paused, crossing her arms and looking to the side. "The plan was simple enough; Robin and Starfire would cause a distraction in the front, while Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Raven infiltrated the back to evacuate the hostages. Then they would help engage the bank robbers after." Jinx cleared her throat, and blinked rapidly for a moment, tears starting to well up in her eyes. "And it worked. The plan went off without a hitch. It was only after, that things went wrong…"
As she trailed off, Jinx's voice tightened with emotion, and she turned slightly to hide her face. She leaned into Cyborg's embrace when he came to stand by her, weeping softly. The cybernetic man looked down at her, his own face reflecting her grief. Looking back up at The Doom Patrol, he tried to pull himself back together. They seemed largely unaffected by displays of emotion.
"Shortly after apprehending the five original suspects, we were attacked." He told them tersely, hardening his resolve. "A man in a powered exosuit tackled me outside, and I was forced to deal with him by myself."
"I was taken by surprise at the same time." A small voice chimed in, and everyone turned to look at the previously quiet alien Princess. "Another unforeseen adversary wielded some type of weaponized gauntlet, I am not sure. It stunned me for a moment, and while I was incapacitated, Robin went to fight him. He was thrown back, and injured."
Raven floated forward a bit, and spoke in a dead monotone. "While I used my powers to heal Robin, Starfire dealt with the second man, and then came to assist me. None of us had any idea there was a third man."
"When we… We watched the security tapes later, we found out that Beast Boy had intercepted a bullet that was meant for Raven from a third gunman." Cyborg went on, struggling to keep from being overwhelmed. "They spoke for a moment after that, but there was no sound, so there's no way to know what they actually said. Then the gunman…"
"How was he," The woman spoke up suddenly. "In the moment of his death?"
"He was…" Robin said unexpectedly, relaxing his stance slightly. "… Brave until the very end. He never wavered."
The woman nodded, as if she expected his answer.
"Continue." Mento ordered, earning a sour look from Robin. However, the Boy Wonder stopped, seeming to swallow a scathing retort.
"After dealing with my injury, we regrouped. We spoke for a moment before realizing Beast Boy had not returned. Upon finding…" The Titan leader hesitated. "… His body, we rushed back here to perform emergency surgery. Ultimately, we were unsuccessful."
For a long moment, no one said anything. The Titans stood silent, anxiously waiting for The Doom Patrol's response, while the strangers were still, standing at rigid attention with their hands clasped behind their backs. Mento regarded the young heroes slowly, his narrowed blue eyes assessing each of them coldly.
"And the three men? Where are they?" He inquired gruffly.
"We don't know." Robin answered, angry and ashamed. "In the aftermath, we were so preoccupied with Beast Boy…"
Mento grunted in his throat. "If I'm not mistaken, there was another mission not too long ago where Beast Boy was put in unnecessary peril."
"There was a mission in the last month, where Beast Boy had to act as bait in a joint operation with the FBI. We had to step away for a moment to deal with an escaped criminal, but we left him with the FBI–"
"– and he was snatched right out from under them. And it didn't occur to any of you that this escaped criminal was part of the serial killer's plan?" The older man interrupted.
"I see. His safe return was not you're doing either, correct?"
"We're usually a lot more careful." Cyborg said defensively. "We're usually much more–"
"What 'usually' is, is irrelevant." Mento cut him off harshly. "The teammate you allegedly cared so much forlies cold and motionless."
Robin scowled angrily. "Listen here, asshole, you weren't there! You don't know what it was like –"
"Robin." Raven stuck a hand out to stop him. "I apologize. This is the first time something like this has happened, and we're each taking it very hard." She explained.
"Yes, I'm beginning to see a pattern."
The empath raised an eyebrow at Mento's response. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Sentimentality and emotional attachment are the reasons for your failure." He stated dryly.
"Excuse me?" Raven asked, outraged leaking into her voice.
"If your personal relationships negatively affect the performance of the team, then they are distractions." Mento pronounced impassively. "Distractions must be done away with."
Jinx suddenly whirled around, fury and pain coloring her expression. "Who the hell are you to say anything!?" She yelled. "He was on our team, not yours, so he clearly wasn't happy with you!"
Turning to her, it was Mento's turn to raise an eyebrow. "And can you say he was happy here, knowing exactly how much of himself he kept from you?"
Jinx opened her mouth to fire back an answer, but found she didn't have one. The room plunged into silence, each of The Titans going back and questioning every interaction they'd ever had with the green changeling. Had they known him at all? More questions than answers were piling up, only highlighting exactly how terrible they'd been to their teammate.
The woman shook her head slightly. "Enough. We didn't come here to lecture." She turned to her large metallic teammate. "Where is he being kept?"
"In the med bay." The bronze colored man said. "One floor down."
"Then let's go."
The Doom Patrol left the room with a brisk walk, The Titans on their heels, despite Robin's protests.
Both The Titans and The Doom Patrol stood absolutely silent, all eyes locked on the supine form hidden by a white sheet. The young heroes had watched the older heroes on the way down, and they were deeply disturbed at how little each of them seemed to care. Even now, each of their faces was blank, completely emotionless. Mento approached the operating table after a moment.
"It… It might be a little hard to look at him." Cyborg said warningly. "There was extensive damage."
"You said the incident took place a little under seventy-two hours ago?" Mento asked, looking briefly at the watch on his wrist.
With one quick movement, Mento pulled the white sheet clear, exposing Beast Boy's body. There was a collective intake of breath from the Titans, the majority of them having not seen the full extent of the damage. His suit had been ripped open, exposing his chest. Two holes, one in his brow, the other in his chest, stood out against his green skin. Cyborg had not had to do much more than minor surgery to remove the bullet fragments, which preserved the wholeness of the shape shifter's body.
At the sight of his cooling form, the Titans nearly lost their composure. Jinx and Starfire began openly crying, while Cyborg tried to comfort them, as Robin and Raven seemed to withdraw into themselves. In stark contrast, The Doom Patrol remained unchanged by the revelation of Beast Boy's body. Mento examined him with clinical detachment before turning back to his team.
"Should be fine." He announced to them, holding out a hand. The woman reached into her utility belt, withdrawing a small, pistol-like device, and handing it to Mento. Without any preamble, the helmeted man pressed the stubby barrel of the device against the changeling's neck, and pulled the trigger.
"What the hell are you doing!?" Cyborg yelled, grabbing the man by the shoulder and turning him around forcibly.
"What needs to be done." Mento said evenly, staring down the cybernetically enhanced hero.
"You got a lot of nerve–" Cyborg began, but stopped short when something unexpected happened.
Beast Boy moved.
Abruptly, the once still body lurched up from the table, arching its back almost to the point of breaking. Just as suddenly, it slammed back down with a crash, convulsing violently. The Titans were speechless, none of them able to fully comprehend what was happening. Robin moved in front of his group, eyes wide, one arm protectively shielding Starfire, whose own hands covered her mouth in shock. Still gripping Mento's uniform, Cyborg stood with mouth agape, half turned towards the spasming form. Jinx was almost by her boyfriend's side, frozen in mid-motion, her eyes transfixed on what was happening. Raven remained at the back of the group, too many things racing through her head. What did this mean? Who are these people? What did they give to him? Questions fired off in her mind, too fast for answers, and ricocheting off at different angles. They watched the cadaver of their friend seize uncontrollably, the sight of it not completely registering in their stunned minds.
"The reaction is much stronger than before." The woman observed, a hint of concern just barely coloring her tone.
"It has been some time." Mento replied. "Some readjustment is necessary."
Impossibly, they saw sweat begin to bead on Beast Boy's emerald skin as he thrashed about, steam rising from him as blood seemed to boil in his open gunshot wounds. He bucked again, almost leaping off the table. Finally, his body ceased moving, falling back down to the operating table with a clatter. The whole thing couldn't have lasted more than thirty seconds.
"What did you do." Raven found herself growling the words, suddenly deep in the Rage that had been missing from her. She turned to The Doom Patrol slowly, her two eyes splitting into four, narrowed and red. "What. Did. You. Do."
Hate-eater – hey man, sorry for taking so long, and thanks for the reviews! You're right, there aren't a lot of stories where BB is a serious character, or taken very seriously, which I find greatly irritating. It's become a sort of accidental mission of mine to write more stories portraying him as a full person, with many sides and layers to his character. Raven too.
Deans1000 – I guess either one works. Maybe 'felt my heart drop to my stomach' is the better one. I don't know. Thanks for your review!
RATTLEHEAD414 – hey! Thanks for waiting!
Castro – thanks for waiting! What did you think of this chapter?
Thanks for reading! Tell me what you thought, and don't forget to follow and favorite! Also, be sure to check out my other stories!