Terra Markov stood within the vast trainingarena at Titans Tower, her friends stood to the side, watching in silence. Beast Boy would have called out words of encouragement, but with the Batman there, he felt he should keep his mouth shut lest he be reprimanded by the Dark Knight.
"Tell me Terra, what I have taught you," Batman began in a low, ominous voice. Beast Boy felt unnerved, how had Terra lived six months with him?
"You taught me that as a man I'm flesh and blood…I can be ignored, I can be destroyed," she paused for a minute, "but as a symbol, I'm incorruptible, I can be everlasting."
"Yes, and when you make yourself more than just a human being, when you dedicate yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely. Are you ready to begin one last test before you face Slade?"
"I am ready," Terra said as her eyes glowed yellow, she raised her hands, ready for anything.
"You are almost ready Terra, but before you can turn fear upon others, you must first conquer your own."
"What do you mean? I don't understand," Terra felt confused.
"I will return in a moment," Batman called, he quickly left the room.
"Where's he headed off to?" Beast Boy asked.
"I don't know Beast Boy, it's strange I survived the Gauntlet, what does he mean by one last test?"
Robin looked at her, "If this is the test I'm thinking of, he will make you face what you fear the most."
"What exactly does that mean?" she asked.
"I'll let you discover that for yourself," Robin said as
The door opened, and Batman walked in, dressed in Slade's body armor, complete with Slade's mask!
"Aaah! Batman, wha—what's going on? Why are you dressed as Slade?"
"Before you can turn fear upon others, you must master your fear of Slade, and I know you fear him greatly."
"But how did you know that?" Terra asked.
"You aren't ignorant Terra, just uninformed about my vast knowledge of fear. Fear is my greatest weapon, and I know it well. When you learn to control your fear, you will wield a powerful weapon if you are willing to use it. Keep in mind Terra, when I fight, I see neither friend nor foe, I will fight you using all my skills and I will not hold back."
Terra looked at her friends and mouthed, "I'm going to die!" as Batman, dressed as Slade, began launching a viscous assault on her. She began to block his blows quickly. Terra felt the wind knocked out of her as his fist met her midsection. His elbow smashed into her gut as she staggered back. An elbow contacted with her stomach, a blow to her face, she felt her knees fly out from under her and she hit the floor.
"Bruce! Bruce! Stop please, I'm exhausted!" Why was she always caught off guard by his attacks?
"He's not Bruce anymore, Terra. When he is Batman, Bruce dies." Robin said. "Bruce taught me something a long time ago. Death does not wait for you, it is not far and it is not considerate of you; it will take you at a moment's notice. I'd think you'd be used to this by now. You've trained with him for six months."
"I never am used to it," Terra gasped as she staggered to her feet.
"You fear Slade Terra, you are afraid of him. Now face that fear," Robin gave her a hard look. "That may be Bruce in that armor but to you he is not Bruce Wayne, he is Slade. Do not see him as Bruce or Batman, see him as Slade."
"Robin is right," Batman said beneath the mask. To Terra's astonishment, he sounded like Slade! "You have traveled a long journey, training and fighting; now you must travel inward. The thing you fear…is inside you. Are you ready to begin…again?"
"Yes," Terra's reply was stronger. Her fists clinched as "Slade" charged her. Terra blocked a viscous blow and ducked to avoid another. She leapt high, kicking hard at her mentor as he smashed a knee into her face.
Terra felt blood trickling down her lip. Gritting her teeth she stuck back, aiming at his face, he ducked and flipped backward. He kicked out at her but she jumped back. They were outdoors and Terra summoned her powers as she lifted some large rocks into the air. She sent them flying at "Slade", he suddenly pulled out a metal Bo Staff and twirling it, he expertly blocked it.
Terra knew that the real Slade was a clever and ruthless warrior. Though she knew in the back of her mind that Bruce Wayne was beneath the mask, she began to believe that he was the real thing. She began to feel anger rise up within her. All the hurt and rage at Slade's manipulation of her flared its ugly head and she began to attack with more strength and more power. She threw another rock, as he moved to block it she punched him as hard as she could, he dodged the rock in time and grabbed her fist, blocking it.
"Good, Terra, your anger makes you stronger, but anger alone will not help you conquer your fear. Your training helps you but your training is nothing, the will is everything!" 'Slade's' voice said to her. "You must have the will to conquer your fear. Without will, what you have learned is worthless." He unexpectedly yanked her off her feet and threw her across the training area. Starfire looked stunned. She turned to Robin.
"You were trained by this man?" she asked in shock. This was brutal; she hadn't known that this was the kind of training Robin had gone through.
"Yes," Robin replied. "And he's the best there is."
Terra struck "Slade" across the face. She kicked out hard at his midsection, causing him to stagger back. She grabbed him by his neck and head butted him. She almost regretted it due to the dizziness that filled her brain. She was satisfied to see him stumble backwards. Terra smashed her fists down on the hand that held the Bo Staff and grabbed it as it flew into the air.
She brought the Bo Staff down, colliding with his midsection. He flew backwards but landed on his feet and leapt up to a higher area in the training room. Terra leapt on top of a rock and flew up to meet him.
"Come now Terra, you'll have to do better than that; I haven't even broken a sweat," "Slade" taunted. This made her rage even stronger, she would defeat him and master her fear.
Flipping off, she launched herself at him feet first. Her feet collided with his stomach as he staggered back. Landing on the platform, she punched "Slade" face, he didn't block and the blow connected. Punching again and again, she kept him off balance; he fell to his knees and accepted a blow, he grabbed her arms and pinned them behind her back. He stood to his feet. "Mind your opponent."
She arched her back and flipped over him, striking his face with her feet. She landed behind him and dropped to her knees, kicking out, she knocked him off his feet; Terra placed the staff against his throat. "Yield," she said quietly.
"Mind your surroundings as well as your opponent, Terra, you have traded sure footing for a death blow," Batman said beneath his mask. Suddenly the boards fell out from under her.
She grabbed a rock and used it to keep herself level with Batman who had removed his "Slade" mask. "Well, Robin, is she ready? She has run the Gauntlet and conquered her fear of Slade; do you think she has what it takes?
"What it takes?" Terra asked.
"To face Slade and bring him to justice. When you make yourself more than just man…when you dedicate yourself to an ideal…you become something else entirely."
"What's that?" Terra asked.
"A legend, Terra," Batman said.
"I am ready. But after I do that would I rejoin the Titans?" Terra asked. She lowered herself to the ground and stepped off her rock.
"That's your decision Terra, if you wish to stay with your friends that's fine with me," Batman said. "If you'll excuse me, I need to change." He left the room. Beast Boy walked up to Terra.
"You have improved," Beast smiled. "Dude, Terra, you totally rocked!'
"Thank you Beast Boy," Terra smiled.
"I'm happy you're back," Beast Boy gave his trademark goofy grin. Terra laughed.
"Friend, you are victorious!" Starfire exclaimed as she pulled Terra into a crushing hug.
Raven walked over to where Terra stood, "You have control of your powers now, I'm glad to see it."
"So am I," Robin smiled. "It's nice to have you back on the team."
"You're letting me come back?" Terra asked.
"You sacrificed yourself to save the city Terra," Robin began. "You aren't irredeemable. I'm giving you a second chance, and I believe you have what it takes."
"Thank you Robin, I don't know what to say," Terra smiled broadly. Just then, Robin's communicator went off.
"It's Slade. He's been spotted at the diamond mine."
Terra waited beside the others as Cyborg blew open the doors to the diamond mine with his Sonic Cannon. "I was going for the element of surprise," Batman said in a low voice.
Cyborg said nothing. The Titans began to run into the mine. Terra turned to follow but Batman stopped her. "No. We're taking a different way in."
"Why?" Terra asked. Usually the Titans rushed in and fought the Slade Bots. That was how they had done it the first time. Why was he stopping her?
"If you are to turn fear on those who prey upon the fearful, you must make them fear you. People are afraid of what they cannot see, if they cannot see you before you attack, your task will be much easier when you make yourself a wraith in the mind of your enemy. And when they fall they will beg for the mercy you deny them."
"Then what do I do?" she asked.
"Interrogate them for information, and then knock them out." Batman pulled something out of his utility belt similar to the one Terra wore. "These are shuruken; these are your weapons to manipulate the fear of your opponents. Use your environment to your advantage. Strike quickly."
"You aren't coming with me?" Terra asked.
"Not this time, I'm going with the Titans; use your communicator to contact me should anything go wrong. Good luck Terra."
"Thank you," she whispered, she made her way deeper into the mine as Batman vanished noiselessly into the shadows. She spotted all the mining crew running away from the mine.
As they ran passed her, one of them screamed, "Get out of here! They're taking over!"
"Must be the Slade Bots," Terra muttered. She ran passed them and saw the Titans doing battle with Slade's robots.
"Titans, go!" Robin ordered. Terra looked passed him and saw a man running into the mine. She had a feeling he wasn't one of the workers. She used her powers to grab a large rock and jumped on top of it. She knew she couldn't follow him directly, he would probably spot her. "Mind your surroundings," she muttered. Terra began to look around, there were scattered boxes stacked in various places. She saw a ladder hidden behind a stack of boxes.
She ran, leaping as stealthily as she could, she grabbed the handles of the ladder and hoisted herself up. Terra crept silently along the hidden walkway above the man. She didn't think it was Slade because she could recognize his body armor. Since when did Slade hire cronies? She thought to herself.
As the man continued running, she came to an abrupt halt. The walkway came to an end. She didn't want to get anywhere near the ground, she spotted a rusty pipe above her. Terra hoisted herself up and began scooting herself across the pipes as fast as she could. The man turned the corner. He vanished into the darkness of the mines. Terra waited, unsure of whether to pursue him. He soon returned, heading towards the mine exit.
"I can't let him get away," she thought as she spotted some a rusted out crane. Pulling out a shuruken, she hurled it at the rusty chain. It split in half causing the chain to snap and fall to the ground with a crash, blocking the man's means of escape. He didn't seem to eager to want to go back the way he came.
"Whoa, what was that? Hey—!" he shouted as Terra hauled him up from the floor.
Terra pulled him up by his collar, "Let's talk!" she demanded in a low growling voice.
"Titans, go!" Robin ordered, he charged forward, smashing his staff into the nearest Slade Bot. Somersaulting off the destroyed machine, he smashed his fist into another. Batman swooped down from the ceiling, gliding down with dark gracefulness. The robots spotted him and tried to fire their weapons, he used Bat-a-Rangs to disarm them as he kicked out at one and whirled around to destroy another.
He landed beside Robin. "Just like old times ain't it, Bruce?" Robin asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, just like old times," Batman replied as the two worked in complete tandem to destroy their opponents. Robin kicked out low, knocking a Slade Bot off its feet and smashed his fist into the robotic face. He picked it up and threw it into three charging robots, smashing them to bits.
Cyborg charged forward, blasting with his Sonic Cannon. He leapt high and smashed his feet down on a robot as he blasted one to pieces. After that he ran over to help Beast Boy, who had morphed into a bull and gored half a dozen Slade Bots to trash heaps. Cyborg jumped on top of him and he fired as they ran through the mine.
Starfire and Raven were working together; Starfire blasted a stream of Starbolts at the Slade Bots as she smashed her knee into one rendering it useless. Raven used her powers to cause loose parts from the mining shaft to fall on them. Soon the robots were destroyed, and there weren't any left.
"Good work, Team, let's find Slade," Robin said, wiping sweat off his forehead.
"Well done, Robin, you've proven yourself quite capable of working without me," Batman said. "We should go before Slade decides to leave."
"Hey wait," Beast Boy said. "Where's Terra?"
"Right here," Terra said as, to Beast Boy's complete astonishment, she dropped down from the ceiling, holding a man by his shirt collar.
"So, Where's Slade?" she asked in a harsh voice Beast Boy had never heard her use, except when she was Slade's Apprentice.
"Where is he?" she demanded.
"I'm not telling you nothing, you little brat!" the man hissed.
"Okay," she said, "Fine by me!" she removed a grappling hook and shot the line to the ceiling, hoisting herself up. She suddenly let go of him, nearly dropping him, she managed to grab his shirt before he fell too far.
"Where is Slade?" she asked again.
"I—I don't know, kid, honest, I just work here!" the man said squirming.
"Oh really," Robin asked from the floor, "then why are you still here? Everyone else ran out."
"I saw him sneak around the corner, I didn't see what he was doing but he was up to no good," Terra said. "Are you gonna talk to me, or do you want to talk to my boss?" the man didn't answer. She slammed his head against the ceiling; then proceeded to drop him. He almost hit the ground before she grabbed his pant leg. He came face to face with Robin, who was glaring at him through masked eyes.
"Where's Slade? And what are you doing here?" he asked.
"Slade had me…do something for him," the man sputtered out.
"What would that be?" Robin asked, grabbing him by his shirt.
"I ain't sayin' nothing!" the man shouted, "Slade paid me way too much money to do this! I'm not gonna surrender to a bunch of kids—!" Robin suddenly hit the man in the stomach and kneed him in the gut. The man groaned but said nothing.
"Robin, what are you doing?" Beast Boy asked. They'd seen him do this before, but he hadn't actually hurt the man, they had stopped him before it went too far.
"Come on, talk! I want answers!" Robin elbowed the man in the face. The man said nothing.
"You may want to tell Robin what he wants, if you don't tell him, you'll make me very grumpy. And you won't like me when I'm grumpy," Batman's voice was low and threatening.
"You don't scare me, Bats, I ain't afraid of you!" the man shouted defiantly.
Robin raised his fist and hit the man as hard as he could. The man gasped as Terra lost her grip on his leg and let go, sending him sprawling into the walls of the mine. Robin ran over to him and grabbed him by his throat. "You ready to talk?" he demanded.
"Yeah," the man gulped. "S—Slade s—s—sent me here to r—r—rig explosives on the mine doors s—so that when you guys got there it would explode when they were opened," he stammered out fearfully.
"What's the pass code?" Robin's eyes narrowed.
"Pass code? I don't know any—" Robin struck him.
"Oh yes you do! Tell us!" Robin roared, raw anger filling his voice; the Titans were startled; they'd never seen him do this to anyone before.
"Robin, you may want to calm down a bit," Cyborg said. "He's talking."
"If you don't talk to him, I'm still available!" Batman hissed in the man's face.
"The Batman! Ahaaa! Don't eat my soul! Please don't eat my soul—!"
Terra, Robin and Batman all looked at each other. "That one's new," they said to each other in unison. Robin and Terra found it amusing, Batman's face revealed nothing.
"It—it—it's 1-2-2-7, I swear that's all I know," the man sputtered. "P—please don't hurt me—!" Robin struck him in the head and his fell to the ground unconscious.
"Come on guys, let's go!" Robin ordered. "Terra, do you know where he was going?"
"Yes, it's this way. Follow me," Terra lead them to where she had first pursued the man until the came to a sealed off doorway. "Here it is." The large door was rigged with huge explosives.
"Dude, where did you learn to do that?" Beast Boy asked Robin. "We've never seen you do that to anyone before."
"I learned from the best, Beast Boy. I know how to get information out of people."
"You learned this from the Batman?" Starfire asked. "I am…surprised you are not as dark as he is." Robin and Batman looked at each other but said nothing.
"Punch the code, Terra," Batman ordered. She walked up to the control panel and began punching in the numbers. If the code was wrong and the doors exploded, they would be buried inside the mine. Terra quickly punched the code 1-2-2-7 into the control panel and pushed the enter button. To her relief, the door slid open without a hitch. They made their way inside the dark room..
"She's improved quite a bit since we last saw her," Robin murmured in Batman's ear. "How did you revive her?"
"Another story for another time," Batman said. They began to walk further in.
"Star could you give us some light?" Robin asked.
Suddenly, the mine became bright as lights were suddenly switched on. Most of the room was lit except for a dark corner on the far side of the room. Robin gritted his teeth and Terra's eyes narrowed. There, in the room waiting for them was Slade. His eye gleamed in the darker corner of the room. Slade stepped forward into the light. "Welcome Teen Titans, Robin, Terra, and the Batman. I consider this an honor…"