The Martian Manhunter stared into the blackness of space and watched over the blue planet below. Earth was so beautiful from space, like Mars before its destruction. J'onn worried about this new planet. It was so fragile and so easy to damage irreparably. Humans were equally fragile. He wished that there was a way to protect them all from harm, but with so many dangerous elements in the world, that was simply impossible. Many times, there was nothing he could do but watch them suffer, because of the actions of their fellow man.
Something out there, however, was not human. And it sent feelings of despair across the planet's surface like a nuclear wash. J'onn felt these rhythmic pulses like a malevolent heartbeat that ensnared the planet. Each pulse appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye, spreading a sourceless psychic message that could only be described as Evil. Even in his mind, shielded from all but the strongest telepaths in the universe, J'onn Jones felt a supernatural foreboding that frightened him to his very core.
"You feel it too," said a familiar female voice. Wonder Woman, amazoness heroine, walked to the window to join the martian in observing the landscape of Earth. "This blanket of darkness covering the planet."
"I have tried to feel its source," J'onn said somberly. "But when my mind touches the surface of this field, I hear screams of pain and suffering that drive me away. The planet is infused with evil, and I know not why or how. But whatever it is, it is beyond our comprehension."
"... This feeling of pure evil and despair comes from a supernatural being," Diana noted. "Perhaps even a god. Though it does not feel like any god I am familiar with."
"A god..." J'onn saw the planet shimmer with a red light. Blackness slowly spread over the planet's surface, blocking out the sun and eradicating any source of light save for those found on the surface itself. The stars, the sun, and the moon were blocked out from the Earth's perspective. From the Watchtower it could be seen that the Earth was now as black as space itself.
Flash zipped into the room. "We've just lost contact with planet Earth. I can't get Supes, Bats, or even the government yahoos that keep bugging us."
"Then it has begun," J'onn said, slowly bowing his head. "The beginning of the end."
"...Hera protect us."
Flash scratched the side of his head. "Uh... aren't you guys being just a little dramatic here? It's just a blackout."
"If you could feel what we feel," Diana said, turning to face him, "you would not think we are exaggerating."
The Flash was silent. "If it's really that bad, we should fly down there and do something. That's our job, right?"
"I fear that nothing will be entering or leaving planet Earth until these events have run their course," J'onn said. "Not even light can penetrate the atmosphere now. And I believe that our ships and our friends are equally unable to breach this shell of darkness now."
"Then what do we do?"
Diana hugged herself out of worry for her people on Thymiscra. "...Pray."
Trigon roared as his physical body struggled to free itself from the confining portal. The birthing process had continued steadily, with the devil's head appearing first and receiving the full brunt of the Titans' attacks. But as fast as they damaged it, it regenerated and expelled any foreign elements that could harm it. No amount of freezing, burning, vibrating, impaling, or pounding could permanently damage Trigon. And now, his upper body was out and was destroying the factory walls due to lack of space. The portal itself seemed to be shifting directions, until Trigon was vertical and moving upwards as He came into being. He looked like a genie without a lower half. But the parts of him that were created already were giving the Titans enough trouble as it was.
"HAA!!" Starfire gave everything she had and threw a storm of starbolts at Trigon's chest, hoping to weaken his heart or some other major organ. She didn't even know for sure if he had organs like that though. All she knew is that she had to destroy this monster, before he destroyed the universe – including her beloved planet Tamaran and her people.
Cyborg followed Starfire's lead and blew hole after hole through Trigon's upper body, before finally disabling one of his arms, if only for a moment. Cyborg remembered his father and mother – both of them scientists at the same S.T.A.R. Lab that oversaw the Teen Titans. His mother had died because of an experiment that freed a creature like this one, only much smaller but no less vicious. Cyborg had almost died with his mother, but his father saw fit to encase him in this metal body to save his life. Cyborg never forgave his father for what happened that day, but he now was thankful that it had happened. If it hadn't happened, Cyborg wouldn't be a Titan right now. And he wouldn't be able to help his friends.
Robin remember his life in Gotham City – a city where dreams were shattered every day thanks to punks with guns and super villains setting themselves up as warlords or kingpins. Robin spent his entire childhood learning how to fight the evil in his city, so that no child would ever have to suffer what he had to suffer. Robin knew in his heart that he would spend his entire life fighting the evil in the world, be it the mundane evil of an abusive husband or the supernatural evil he was fighting now. He couldn't let this be the end. The Titans would win – they had to.
Terra remembered Slade, the man who took her in after she fled from the Titans during their first encounter. Terra remembered the countless hours of torturous training she underwent to unlock the hidden power inside her. She remembered thinking of how strong and how relentless Slade was, and how she would so want to be like him. She knew he was a criminal – a super villain who disregarded the law. But when he told her privately about his past that day... about why he did what he did and why he tested the Titans with mundane villainy... she realized that he wasn't as evil as the others thought. And he wanted her to share in his mission, to help the Titans realize their true potential.
This is just another step in that mission, Terra decided. She was afraid before that she was out of her league. But Slade taught her that no matter who you were, and no matter which side of the law you were on, there was always a way to achieve victory. Robin had learned this in his encounters with Slade. And Terra would live by that law too. She wouldn't be defeated! The other Titans had so much more to do with their lives, and Terra had so much more to do with Beast Boy.
roared mightily and summoned forth a massive, meteor-sized globe of
hellfire. He called on his demonic powers and focused his energies,
bringing incredible destructive potential to his fingertips. He then
looked down at the pitiful children standing against him. His four
eyes locked with Terra's eyes, and he decided that she would die
first. Trigon threw his meteor of destruction at the tiny girl, and
Terra gasped in fear. She couldn't block that!
"Watch out!" Starfire called. She flew into the path of the flying meteor and literally pushed on it with all her might. The meteor spewed energy from its hind end like a rocket, while Starfire's star energy went into overdrive as she put every ounce of strength into stopping this attack. Terra animated a rock beneath her and two tablet-shaped slabs, then flew into position beside Starfire. Using the tablets as grips, Terra pushed on the meteor with Starfire and put her entire being into this moment.
"I cannot hold it much longer," Starfire said, ever polite and gentle even when fighting for her life. "You must move away!"
"I'm not going anywhere without you!" Terra yelled, her eyes burning like two suns. "You still have more to do!"
"What!?" Starfire said, confused. The meteor pushed forward, causing her and Terra to grunt under the strain of the impending release of the attack.
"We go together, or we DON'T GO AT ALL!" Terra clarified. With one final push, she and Starfire diverted the full force of the meteor, sending it flying through the ceiling and off towards the atmosphere, only to explode in orbit and send a shimmer of red across the darkened sky.
"We did it!" Starfire cheered. But her cheer was short lived. Trigon's eyes spewed four bolts of searing light and flew towards both girls like lasers. Starfire took the full force of two lasers, while Terra managed to block hers with her tablets and reduce the resulting damage considerably. Both girls fell through the air and landed on the ground with loud thuds. Terra's animated rocks crashed around her, coming within inches of crushing her instantly.
Robin used his power pole to vault onto Trigon's massive arm as it swung by. The Boy Wonder held on for dear life, then ran along the massive limb as it reached the end of its arc. Robin drew a gadget from his utility belt and armed himself with a flash bomb.
The moment Trigon looked at the bug crawling up his arm, he fired his eye lasers and incinerated the portion of his arm where Robin was. Luckily, the hero leapt over the attack and avoided it completely. He threw his flash bomb first, blinding Trigon momentarily and giving Robin the opening he needed to attack with his other, more insidious gadget. Robin stabbed the gadget into Trigon's neck, then leapt into the air to swing to safety.
But the moment he fired his lifeline, Trigon snatched him in mid-air and trapped him in his grip. Robin struggled against the demon's grip, but His incredible size and strength made Robin feel like a giant crane was shutting its jaws around him.
Before Trigon could crush His prey, Robin pushed a button on his utility belt and activated the device on the devil's neck. A powerful shock injected itself into Trigon's spine (or whatever replaced it) and sent jolts of pain through His nerves. Trigon's body spasmed and twitched from the precision strike that stunned Him and damaged His senses. Robin dropped out of Trigon's grip as the devil opened its hands and lost control of its motor functions.
"Everybody, fire at his head!" Robin yelled as he landed. Only then did he noticed that Starfire and Terra were down. Quickly he ran over to Star and shook her awake. "Star, wake up!"
"Vorklor... unnh..." she whined, only half conscious.
"Star!" Trigon's hand came close to splatting them, but the aim was off thanks to Robin's device. Robin quickly threw Star over his shoulder, then called out to Cyborg, who was firing his sonic cannons at Trigon's face and dealing some major damage. "Grab Terra and get to safety!"
"I'm on it!" Cyborg said. He strafed the battlefield and fired his sonic cannon at the same time, each shot perfectly aimed thanks to Cy's targeting computer. Cyborg scooped up little Terra with one hand and threw her over his shoulder as he continued his assault. To his surprise, the giant devil seemed unable to regenerate his wounds now and was losing steam fast.
"What'd you do to him!?" Cyborg yelled out of curiosity as he joined Robin and the unconscious Starfire behind a wall of boxed tiles.
"It's a duplication of Slade's nano-virus that I've been working on. It disables the target and its special abilities with replicating nano-bots. But it won't work for long against him."
"So you got a follow up? We need to take out his whole body before he recovers."
"Not really. I was hoping you'd take your limiter off and finish him off all at once," Robin said.
"I can't do that! My power cell would be fried and my arm might go nuclear!"
"We don't have many options!" Robin yelled. "Please Cyborg, I'm begging you. Remove your limiter! It's the only chance we have of vaporizing this guy in one shot!"
Cyborg grumbled, but reluctantly agreed with Robin's logic. It really was the only way to deal enough damage to incinerate the devil with one attack. He lifted his arm and input a series of codes with a hidden keypad. The moment the code sequence was completed, Cyborg's body glowed as every LED panel maxed out. Cyborg's power cell bypassed his preset ampere limit by a factor of ten – more than enough to decimate anything that the Titans had come up against before. But it also had a much greater chance of annihilating Cyborg and everyone in a one-mile radius as well.
Cyborg's arm unfolded into its positronic cannon and hummed to life as he aimed. His targeting computer found the target instantly, then the computer calculated the exact timing and amplitude needed to obliterate the devil's visible body – more than 70% of its total self if its size remained constant. Cyborg's feet released clamps that held him securely to the ground, so that the backlash of the attack wouldn't knock him into the wall like a bullet. The cannon started to smoke from its output, but Cyborg still didn't fire.
"Come on!" Robin cried as he pulled Starfire and Terra to a large indentation in the ground from a prior blast. "Hurry!"
"Cover your ears! It's sonic boom time," Cyborg said. Internally, he pulled the trigger.
In bullet time, one could see the full force of Cyborg's attack in perfect clarity. An initial wave of sonic force erupted from Cyborg's cannon in all directions in a spherical path. The sound was so intense that every obstacle within shouting distance shattered instantly. Robin gritted his teeth as the sonic wave passed over the ditch he and the unconscious girls were in. After this spherical wave was the actual positronic explosion, which flew from Cyborg's cannon as a continuous wave of pure, focused energy. The wave's initial crest was more than twenty feet high. The force was so chaotic and powerful that the front half of Cyborg's cannon arm shattered from its intensity. Only the positronic generator remained, milliseconds into the attack.
The positronic wave grew wider as it traveled through the air, obliterating anything in its path and anything caught in the pulsing sound waves that followed it. When the attack finally connected, the wave was taller and wider than Trigon himself. The devil's howl was overwhelmed by the boom of the attack. Trigon's body burned away slowly and steadily as the raw force of Cyborg's cannon incinerated the demonic monster in one devastating assault.
Finally, when the devil had completely vanished, Cyborg's power cell exploded in his back and knocked him to the ground, ending the attack instantly. Cyborg's body smoked from the intense heat generated by his unlimited power usage.
"Cyborg!" Robin rushed out of the hole to where his friend lay. He couldn't live with himself if Cyborg malfunctioned completely because of this. Robin's desperate order might have killed the best friend he ever had.
Cyborg's backup systems slowly came online, giving him about half an hour of minimal power usage. Cyborg lifted his head with effort, then smiled weakly. "Boo yah."
Robin breathed a deep sigh of relief. "Way to go, Tinman."
"You bet, Soul Brotha." They bopped fists slowly, showing their brotherly affection for each other in their usual masculine manner.
Robin lent Cyborg a shoulder as the teenager stood up with effort. They both surveyed the scene. What once was a mostly-intact roof and wall were now piles of ash, extending for almost a hundred meters straight ahead. Not only was Trigon gone, but the pentagrams and the portal growing with him were nowhere to be found. Not to mention the dilapidated buildings outside of the factory. Cyborg had quite literally annihilated his target and everything behind it.
"Now I see why you keep that limiter on," Robin smirked. "There's no way I can compete with that."
"Now you know," he smiled weakly. He tried to walk, but his leg gave out thanks to a hiccup in his power distribution. Robin trembled underneath the weight of his metallic companion, but managed to hold him up. Slowly, Robin and Cyborg shambled towards the ditch where the girls were resting. Everyone was pretty much spent. Thankfully, the battle seemed to be over.
"Where do you think you're going?" said a sultry feminine voice.
Robin and Cyborg looked over their shoulders. A four-eyed demon with red skin and dirty white hair stood only a few meters away. Her body was noticeably feminine. She was clothed in a black leotard peppered with claw-like gashes, and her body was draped by a set of black, leather, and flesh-laced wings that flowed over her body like a cloak. She smiled with a toothy, canine maw at the heroes.
"Raven!" Robin gasped. "No... it can't be!"
"Sorry to disappoint you, kid," said the inhuman girl. "But I'm not done with this planet yet. Thanks to Raven's foolishness, I have a body that will work just as well as my original... at least for a little while. That'll give me enough time to wipe you insects out and repeat my ressurection."
"You let her go!" Cyborg yelled, turning around and standing like he wanted to fight. With his LED's flickering off and on, it was obvious that Cyborg was in no condition to fight. His arm wasn't even completely intact.
"How cute," the demon said. "Let's see how tough you are." Raven straightened her arm and opened her palm, sending out a powerful telekinetic blast that knocked Cyborg through the factory wall more than thirty meters away. Robin yelled his friend's name, but it was obvious from Cyborg's motionlessness that he was out for the count.
"RRAGH!" Robin charged and threw a punch at Raven, who swiftly dodged to the side. Robin continued with another rapid series of punches and kicks, each one hitting nothing but air. Finally, Raven slipped behind the boy and trapped his arms behind his back.
"I've won," the she-devil declared. "My power inside that 'Beast Boy' of yours was nothing compared to my power in this body. Raven and I are the same... she just needed a little nudge to finally grow up and make her Daddy proud."
Robin struggled to break free, but his strength was nothing compared to the demon's power. The demonic Raven grew bored with him and decided to end it. She grabbed Robin's head with a strangle hold, then pulled her arms in opposite directions and forced Robin's neck to turn in an unnatural manner. With several loud CRACK's, Robin's neck broke and killed him almost instantly. Robin fell forward and landed face-first with a thud.
"...See you in Hell, kid." Raven walked towards the open area where Trigon's pentagrams were before, then reactivated them with a wave of her hand. Raven lifted her hands into the sky and fed the pentagrams with her own incredible power. The portal opened again almost instantly, and Trigon's body reformed from the pits of Hell. Slowly, the head poked out of the portal as it had done before. But this time, there were no Titans around to stop it.
"Soon, this world will die," the demon declared to the skies above. "And I will destroy every universe created in YOUR image! You hear me!!" The demon laughed loudly as Trigon's new body appeared steadily. Soon, it would be ready for integration.
A gentle hand touched Robin's neck, waking the boy after a few moments of healing. Robin opened his eyes with a start, but the healer covered his mouth to keep him from making a noise. Robin looked up, and saw Beast Boy smiling at him as if he'd played one of his practical jokes.
Beast Boy brought a finger to his lips. Robin nodded in agreement. He sat up slowly, surprised that his neck was regenerated and functional again. He'd been dead... at least his body had. It would've taken a few more minutes for his mind to fully die. Raven could have healed him, but how did Beast Boy do it? Since when did he possess magic?
The demonic Raven continued reviving Trigon's body without a care. She seemed to enraptured by her imminent victory and wasn't paying attention to the remaining Titans. Robin and Beast Boy slid into the ditch as silently as possible, where Terra and Starfire were just starting to wake up.
"Rob-!" Starfire half-shouted, before Robin covered her mouth. Starfire looked like she had been crying. Perhaps she had seen or heard what had happened only moments before. She slowly reached out and touched his face, as if to confirm that he was actually there. Robin smiled gently, then indicated with his finger and lips that Starfire should be silent. She nodded slowly. She was still stunned by this miracle, but she kept her emotions under control with some effort.
"There is only one chance left," Beast Boy whispered, enunciating each word carefully. "We must enter Raven's mind and free her from Trigon's possession. If we can do this before the ritual is complete, then we may still have a chance."
"What happened to Raven?" Terra asked. "And what happened to you! How did you break free of Trigon's control."
"Beast Boy did not break free," he said, with an almost feminine tone. The others gasped at the third-person reference. Beast Boy shh'ed them again, then put a hand over his heart. "Trigon took control of Raven through his magical attacks. When that happened, he left Beast Boy's body. When Raven realized what was happening, she did the only thing she could do. She put me inside Beast Boy to spare us from Trigon's invasion." Beast Boy looked sad and bowed his head, almost like he was about to cry. "But all my sisters.... they're gone...."
"Then you're one of the other Raven's?" Terra whispered.
Beast Boy wiped his eyes, sniffed, and nodded. "Your friend is spiritually drained, on the verge of death. He wouldn't be able to move if not for my possession. But... he is glad that you are all safe."
"You said we have to enter Raven's mind," Robin said. "How do we do that?"
"I can use a meditation chant to bring one of you into Raven's mind through our connection," Beast Boy said. "Though we cannot follow you, lest you lose your only path back to your body. One of you will have to psychically interact with Raven's mind world, and somehow free her from Trigon's control. Or more preferably, seal Trigon's soul once again."
"But we are unfamiliar with Raven's mind," Starfire said. "It is Cyborg and Beast Boy who have seen the mind world. And they are not here."
"We don't have time to debate this," Robin said, peeking over the edge of the ditch to see Raven's progress. Trigon's body was almost half-way out of the portal again. "At this rate, Trigon will be unified with himself in five or six minutes."
"I'll go," Terra said. Robin and Starfire looked at her in surprise.
"It's better if I go," Robin said. "I'm better trained for single-man operations."
"In someone else's head?" Terra snapped. Beast Boy and Starfire shh'ed her, making her cringe lightly.
"It is best if someone who knows Raven well goes in to help her," Beast Boy said. "I would recommend that Ms. Starfire go, but I fear she will have the most difficulty navigating Raven's mind. It is easy to be distracted there."
"I am not easily distracted," Starfire said in her defense. Robin shook his head in disagreement, making the redhead pout silently.
"Please, let me do it!" Terra said forcefully. "If this doesn't work... I want to be with her when it all ends. So that I can apologize... for some of the things I've said."
** "Well... the whole point of this is to find the real you, and then be her. I was just wondering if the real you would... end up liking someone else. I can't really hate the real you, because you'll be a lot different from who you are now. We won't be at odds anymore." **
** "I'm trying to make peace with you..." **
** "We've had problems from day one because you're a heartless goth who enjoys teasing my boyfriend with your 'I-like-you-but-I-don't-have-a-heart-woe-is-me' bit. The truth is that you don't deserve his attention, and I'm sick of competing with someone whose not a real person. You're just a ghost that needs to be ignored – a shadow." **
** "I hope you fail to find your true self." **
Terra frowned sadly. "I don't want us to die being enemies." She knew in her heart that had a double meaning. She wanted her friends to know the truth about her loyalties. But she knew that now was not the time to say it. They wouldn't understand why she believed in Slade's mission. Not yet.
"...Alright," Robin said. Terra looked up at him. "If that's how you feel about it, then go. Help Raven and do your best."
"We will await your return," Starfire whispered, still optimistic even with the apocalypse only minutes away. "Please bring our Raven back to us."
"Pigeon is strong, but she needs her friends to truly shine," Beast Boy said. "I am sure you two will figure out some way to stave off the universe's destruction. I'm begging you... help my Pigeon."
For a moment, Terra felt like it was Beast Boy saying that instead of the spirit. She knew that was not the case, by the spirit's own explanation, but it still saddened her to hear Beast Boy calling Raven by a pet name. It made her feel like she'd been forgotten.
"I hope so," Terra said softly. "Let's do it."
Beast Boy put a gentle hand on Terra's forehead. For a moment, Terra forgot that it was Raven's other self behind those beautiful eyes looking at her. Terra smiled back, and closed her eyes in anticipation of what was to come.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos." The silent chant was the last thing Terra heard. She felt her "self" flowing out of her body. A moment later, Terra's body fell unconscious into Beast Boy's lap. She seemed to be comatose and breathing lightly.
"Now, all we can do is wait." Beast Boy said. He closed his eyes and passed out as well, the spirit relinquishing control of the boy's body to keep from overexerting it. Beast Boy and Terra slept beside each other, neither one of them able to feel the other's presence. They were so close, and yet so far apart.
Terra suddenly found herself standing in the middle of an old dirt road underneath a moonlit sky. Normally she would've felt right at home, since she'd seen many dirt roads and moonlit nights on her journeys. But this world was quite different than the normal one. The moon was red instead of pale white, and the road itself seemed to be covered in maggots, spiders, and centipedes. The average person might be terrified of such creepy crawlies, but for a girl that slept in dank caves and lived on her own for months on end, these were nothing special. Terra brushed the bugs off her feet casually and looked around.
A castle, she noted. At the end of the dirt road was a large, gloomy castle that seemed to be cut and pasted from a horror movie. Red bolts of lightning struck the towers of the castle and filled every horizon with bright red flashes, punctuated by thunderclaps that seemed to wash over the entire countryside like a typhoon wave. Terra quickly ran to the castle and made her way to the door, which was sealed shut and covered in still more insects. Each insect seemed unreal and carried a general aura of eeriness. It was like they had some sort of inherent evil in them, like Trigon did.
"If that's the best you've got Pops, you're not going to stop me." Terra brushed the insects aside and pushed the door open with some effort, then let it shut behind her. The inside of the castle looked predictable enough, with more creepy crawlies swarming on the walls and floors. It seemed like they were eating the masonry and infecting the environment with their evil. The rest of Raven's mind was probably infected already, but this castle seemed to be resisting the transformation. Perhaps it was Raven's final haven for her sanity.
"Ra~ven!" Terra called. Her voice echoed down the hall to the main chamber, which branched into several other chambers. Terra walked down the hall and found many other doorways and tower stairs that she could take. It would take too long for her to search them all.
"Ra~ven!!" Terra yelled louder. Her voice echoed back and forth. But still she received no response.
This'll take forever – and I've got like four minutes left. Terra decided to try one of the new tricks that she'd been working on with Slade. He explained that Terra's abilities give her a psychic link to the very earth itself. That meant that, conceivably, if she could move the earth in a telekinetic manner, she might be able to listen to the earth in a telepathic manner too. Terra had been practicing this ability in private for some time, and now was the time to use its full potential.
Terra closed her eyes and extended her right hand, listening to the earth below her. Her hand and her feet shed a golden light as she bonded her heart and her mind with the stone around her. She felt the pulsing of the earth around her, and felt the very structure of it down to her core. She paused, and prompted the earth with a basic question. Where was Raven?
Terra felt a gentle nudge in a specific direction, and she followed this nudging. With her eyes closed, Terra walked to one of the stairways, then climbed down them without missing a step or stumbling blindly in the darkness. Terra guided herself with the stone, and eventually reached a lower floor designed in the manner of an ancient dungeon. Terra slowly opened her eyes, and saw Raven meditating in one of the prison cells.
"Raven!" Terra rushed over and tried to open the cell, but it wouldn't budge. "Raven, what're you doing here! Let's go!"
"My father has infected the rest of my mind," Raven said, slowly opened her eyes. "It won't be long before he destroys this place as well. By then, his body will be complete and he'll unite with it."
"We've still got time to stop him! Help me think of something!" Terra finally used her geokinetic abilities to shatter the portion of the stone walls holding the cell's cage. She stepped aside and let the cage fall forward, then joined Raven in the cell. "Come on! There's gotta be something we can do!"
"...There's nothing we can do," Raven said sadly. "It's too late to stop him."
Terra grabbed Raven's robe and dragged her to her feet. "Don't talk like this is the end, because it's NOT!! I'm not going to let you save Beast Boy's life and then let it all go to waste!"
Raven gasped lightly and looked into Terra's eyes. "Then he's safe? He's alive?"
"For now," Terra said firmly. "Your sister helped me get here. She said that the two of us might be able to do something. The others are putting all their faith into the two of us."
Raven frowned deeply. "But... I don't know what to do."
Terra heard a massive slithering noise in the stairway. A horde of the evil insects were eating their way into the stone masonry and infusing it with darkness. The castle's coloring was slowly changing from a stony gray into solid black. It wouldn't be long before the room they were in was fully converted, and them with it.
"You said that your father had a connection to this world. If we can sever that connection, all this will end, right?"
"Yeah, but breaking his astral cord is impossible now. He's too strong. He's taken all of my magic."
"Then I'll break it!!" Terra shouted in a panicked tone. "Just tell me what to do and I'll tear it to pieces!"
Raven thought of Beast Boy and his smiling face – that face that had given her strength on the darkest nights of her life as a superhero. She never would have imagined that one day, her heart and soul would belong to a man. Raven was certain that she was destined to be alone to lead a life of unhappiness. But because of Beast Boy, that all changed. Now, she knew the truth of her life, and she loved him for revealing it to her. Over the months and the years, he'd taught her the meaning of life without even knowing it. And now, because of Trigon, he would die with the rest of her world.
She couldn't let that happen. No matter what.
"...There might be a way," Raven said. "To sever his connection."
"What is it then!?" Terra asked. The walls were changing into darkness around them.
"You have to kill me."
Terra's heart skipped a beat. "Wh-wha...?"
"Kill me," Raven said. "I'm the link between Hell and Earth for him. If my spirit dies, then he has no way to interact with the physical world. That's the only way to cut his astral cord in time!"
Terra couldn't believe what she was hearing. Raven was going to commit suicide! Even in her angriest moments, Terra never really wanted to hurt Raven. They fought, and they were at odds more often than not, but Raven was still a teenager just like her. They had an understanding. It was almost friendship. Even though she worked for Slade, she couldn't forget that connection they shared.
"I can't," Terra said.
"You have to!" Raven yelled. She grabbed Terra's wrist and pointed her hand towards the ground. "Drive a spike through my heart! The psychic damage should be enough to-!"
"I CAN'T!" Terra shouted, pushing Raven away. The ground beneath her went black from Trigon's invading evil. "There's just got to be another way!"
"I can't kill myself without my magic!" Raven cried. "Please, do it!"
Raven tried not to cry, although she was on the verge of tears from thinking about what she had to do. She had to give up her life, to keep her reason for living alive. The only way to defeat the evil that she'd unleashed was the only thing she wasn't willing to do. But she had to do it, to keep Beast Boy and her friends alive.
"I don't want any of you to die," Raven managed to say. She looked into Terra's eyes with more emotion than she'd ever dared to show. Terra mirrored her feelings – she was crying because of her indecision. There wasn't much time left, and the only one who knew anything about what was going on was demanding her own execution. Terra felt so powerless.
"Raven," Terra whimpered. "I hate you.... I hate you...!"
Raven smiled softly. She understood Terra's feelings, even though only a few words passed between them. She and Terra were more alike than she ever realized. Stubborn... emotional... and opinionated on the things that mattered to them. No wonder they fought so much, yet fell in love with the same boy. In another life, they could've been sisters.
The room was entirely black now thanks to the blanket of insects covering everything. The insects started to snake their way up each girl's body, attacking their psychic manifestations as if they were the real things. Each minuscule bite took a portion of the girl's body away. Slowly but surely, their souls were being corrupted and enslaved by Trigon. There was no time left.
"I hate you," Terra said again, her eyes in tears. She lifted her hand and prepared to control the earth beneath them.
"No matter whose side you're on," Raven said. "I trust you'll take care of Beast Boy for me. Give him the love he needs."
Terra was surprised by Raven's comment – she knew her secret. Whether she knew before all this happened or only recently thanks to Trigon, Terra didn't know. But she was glad to know that Raven trusted her, even though she wasn't one of them. It comforted her more than she could say.
Terra nodded once, then jerked her arm in an arc. A stone spike shot from the wall behind Raven and pierced her heart with ease. Raven gasped painfully, her eyes widening from the sudden loss of breath. Raven's face slowly sagged, her lips curled into a smile. Then with one final gasp, she went limp.
In that moment, Terra felt the world around her explode. Nuclear fire devastated the landscape, representing the sudden loss of consciousness in Raven's mind world. Terra felt her body catapulting across space and time to God-knew-where. For as long as she could manage, she watched the castle where Raven was. The last thing she saw was it collapsing into the "earth" into a massive fissure.
I'm sorry... for everything, Terra thought sadly. Her mind disappeared into the realm of unconsciousness as the world around her dissolved into nothingness.
The demonic Raven roared and screamed as if in great pain. The massive Trigon body did the same. Robin jumped from the Titans' hiding place to see what was going on. For a moment, terror overtook him as he saw that Trigon's body was completely free of the portal and hovering above the factory floor. But now, it seemed that the body itself was separating into its magical components!
"He's disappearing!" Robin cheered. "He's disappearing!! They did it!!"
"NOOOO~OOO!!" The demonic Raven howled into the sky. From the base of her body upward, she started to lose her demonic consistency and returned to her normal appearance. The moment the demon's head changed into Raven's normal self, she fell to the ground like a rag doll. Trigon's spirit flew from it as a red cloud of hatred and tried to reach its disintegrating body. But as quickly as His body faded away, so did His spirit. Like wisps of smoke in the wind, Trigon's body and spirit both disappeared without a trace. His howls echoed throughout the factory for a few moments more, until there was nothing left but dead silence.
The sky started to brighten. The darkness and the raging thunderstorms that arose during their battle faded away as quickly as they came. The sun pierced the morning sky and drove away the clouds, leaving nothing but a beautiful San Francisco morning. It was all over.
"They have done it!" Starfire cheered. She glomped Robin in the most crushing glomp ever made. Robin's neck almost broke again, until Starfire loosened up a bit and resorted to holding him and swinging him around like a teddy bear. "The world is saved!"
"Star... please..." Robin gasped. Finally, Starfire bashfully put him down and apologized.
"I shall attend to Cyborg," Starfire decided, already flying that way. "I hope that he is alright." When she found him across the factory in a pile of rubble, she noted the comical swirly eyes replacing his red LED and his normal eye. "Oh, he is merely 'O.K.'ed like the boxers on the ESPN."
Robin rushed over to where Raven lay. He rolled her onto her back and checked her for breathing. When he didn't find anything, he checked her pulse. He checked it for a several seconds, making sure he wasn't hallucinating. But no matter how long he waited, he didn't feel a heartbeat. She was lifeless.
"Raven..." he muttered sadly. He looked down at the girl who'd helped him train and prepare the other Titans for the life of crime-fighting. She was like a sister to him – someone he could always trust to be there when he needed help, or a second opinion. But now, she wasn't there.
Starfire placed Cyborg next to Terra and Beast Boy in the ditch, then flew over to where the boy knelt. When she saw his head bowed, Starfire became concerned. "Robin...?"
Robin's shoulders trembled. He kept his tears in check, just like his father and his 'guardian' had taught him to do by example. A man couldn't cry when these things happened. He had to be strong for the others. Robin did his best, but he couldn't hide his feelings from Starfire. She saw him trembling, and she knew that something bad had happened. And then she put two and two together.
"NO!" Starfire rushed over and grabbed Raven, lifting her so that Star's ear was over her chest. When she heard nothing, she 'gently' shook Raven. "NO! NO!! Raven, no!!" She shook the girl, as if doing so would change the situation and keep her dearest friend from lying still. But no amount of shaking helped. Finally, Starfire simply lay on the corpse and wept openly, her loud gasps stabbing Robin's heart like a knife.
"Star..." he said, trying to console her. But no words of consolation came out. All he could do was put a hand on her shoulder. Starfire sat up and grabbed him, crying into his chest. Robin held her and gently patted her head. "Star, don't cry..." His words fell on deaf ears.
They mourned by the body by themselves. Neither of them could think of what to say to the others. But by the time the paramedics arrived at the scene, the other Titans knew what had happened. And they all shared the same mournful tears.
** A video camera turns on, showing Raven sitting uncomfortably in a chair inside the living room of Titans Tower. The camera shifts back and forth as the man behind it tries to find the proper angle. Raven waits impatiently. **
MAN: "Okay, this is the updated video tape of the last will and testament for, uh... *paper rustling*... 'Raven', right?"
MAN: "Sorry, I know it's kinda depressing to be making these things every month, but S.T.A.R. Labs insists that every Titan have a video will in the event a member meets an untimely end. Not that that would ever happen. You guys are the toughest kids I've ever seen."
RAVEN: "Can we move this along?"
MAN: *clears throat* "Alright. I'm going to leave the room now. Say the stuff you need to say, then push the OFF button and come get me. Then you can be on your way."
MAN: "Right, I'll just... go now." *walks off towards the camera's left. Raven watches him leave, then there's the sound of a door sliding shut. Raven turns to face the camera again.*
RAVEN: "...Hey guys. I, uh... guess I'm dead. I don't know why the lab insists we do these stupid things, but I have to do it if I want my allowance for the month. Can't buy books with wit, sadly."
** A "real" scene showing a preacher of a local San Francisco church. There is a massive gathering of people from every corner of the city. They are attending the funeral of a Teen Titan lost in the most recent battle against evil. The Titans themselves stand in black funeral clothes in the church. An open casket with Raven's body lays between them an the altar, where a preacher says a prayer for the dead. "With the Lord as my shepherd, I shall know no fear. With Him as my guide, I shall not die. I join Him in Heaven with eternal life... and I bask in His glory." **
"I don't know what I want to say... so I'll just say what I think about you guys. If I'm gone, then... I guess it's okay if I'm frank with you. No reason to hide my feelings anymore." *Raven adjusts in her seat as she thinks.*
"Cyborg... why don't you have a girlfriend yet? You're obviously a nice guy. Stop hanging around with Robin and Beast Boy, and take some girl at the burger shack for a spin in your 'baby'. I know you think of yourself as 'too different' to date a normal girl. But trust me – for the right guy, a girl will overlook any strangeness."
** Cyborg listens as the preacher continues. Gentle tears fall from his one good eye. He silently mourns the loss of one of his dear friends. **
"Starfire... for the first time in my life, I wore a skirt because of you. I know I didn't wear it outside of the mall's changing room, but I still think that's an accomplishment. I never thought I'd do anything so... 'girly'. But you've shown me that it's okay to be feminine and strong. I don't think any of the boys take you lightly. I wish I'd known that it was okay to act that way... when I was a child. Maybe then I wouldn't be the way I am now."
** Starfire can't help herself anymore, and bursts into tears. The other Titans bow their heads... except for Beast Boy. He stares sadly at the coffin, tears forming in his eyes. **
"Robin... I think we've done a good job. When I first started going to the coffee shop for poetry night, people would always ask me what it's like working with 'Batman's Sidekick'. They asked me that every, single, week. Until recently. Now, whenever they see us in the news, they ask me what it's like to work with 'Robin'. It may sound silly, but hearing that meant something to me. I was proud."
** Robin steps up to the coffin to ritualistically pay his last respects to the dead. Robin stares silently at the coffin, his mask obscuring his eyes and any tears that might be in them. Silently, he puts the Teen Titans communicator in Raven's casket, then pats her folded hands in a friendly manner. He whispers a goodbye, then slowly turns away. **
"Terra." *Raven sighs slowly, muttering the name to herself.* "You... I don't know what to think of you. Not yet. So far, you've come off as a scrawny, loud-mouthed brat who seems to think that I'm a rival or something. I don't know what we're competing over, but whatever it is, you can have it. If I'm dead now... I guess that means 'you win'. But whatever it is that separates us, I still think you're a decent person. I'm sure you'll serve the Teen Titans well, no matter what happens in the future."
** Terra stands at the casket, her face covered by a black shawl to obscure her features. Slowly, she extends a hand towards Raven's and holds them. They were cold in her grip, but Terra still felt better doing it.
"Don't worry," she whispered softly. "I always keep my promises." She squeezed Raven's hand one last time, then turned away before she started crying again. **
"Beast Boy." *Raven frowns at the camera, as if she's bored.* "You finally stopped pulling your silly pranks. I'm glad to have a little peace and quiet. But, then again... they say that you get used to things that irritate you, and you end up being unable to live without them." Raven chuckled to herself. "Maybe someday I'll be begging for your pranks. But I doubt it."
** Beast Boy stands at the casket for a long time, his eyes looking round and sad like a puppy that's just been scolded. Beast Boy wiped his eyes to get rid of impending tears, then reached into his pocket. He pulls out a bundled-up handkerchief, and slowly unwraps it. **
"I'm sure that when I'm gone, you'll be dying to find someone new to pull your pranks on. I wouldn't want you to lose your edge." *Raven smirks in amusement.* "I'd suggest pranking Starfire, but she could beat the crap out of you if you get her angry. Besides, you need to initiate that little blond girl. Give her a pie to the face for me."
** Beast Boy places a pendant on Raven's pillow beside her beautiful, peaceful face. It's a medallion with a bird flying on one side, and a wolf running on the other. Engraved underneath these two animals is a single word: FOREVER.
Beast Boy leans into the casket, and gently kisses Raven's cheek. "...I'll never forget you." Beast Boy lingers there for a few moments before finally pulling away. He slowly closes the casket, and the other Titans come over to stand with him during the final reading in the church. As the preacher continues, Terra seeks consolation in Beast Boy's arms. They hold each silently, each mourning the loss of the one that saved them from death.
"Ashes, to ashes. Dust, to dust." **
"...Goodbye, everyone." ** Raven smiles calmly at the camera, then waves a finger in a gentle motion. The camera switches off, and shows static as the story fades to a close. **