Chapter Two: Personae Dramatis
The gigantic humanoid robot leapt into the charred ruins of the city block it had leveled, its weapons at the ready.
The silence was oppressive. It did nothing to calm the pilot's nerves, already tensed to snapping point.
It hoisted its massive blaster rifle, the pilot slowly scanning the horizon for the enemy he knew was lying in wait, but where?
The pilot let off several blasts of superheated plasma before he realized that what he heard was simply the shell of a warehouse finally falling down. He let out a sigh of relief-
-a moment before his rival's guided missile smashed into his Mech's head from behind, destroying the cockpit and all within.
"Hey, no fair!" the pilot said.
"Sorry BB, but all's fair in love and war, you know. 'Specially war." Cyborg said, as he watched his Mech cavort around the screen in a strange victory dance.
"They look amused, Raven. Perhaps we should partake of their electronic gaming activities after this?" Starfire said to her friend across the dining table in between bites of her breakfast.
"Thanks, but I prefer to spend my time doing something other than Street Mecha Fighters 1000K." Raven said, sipping her tea. "Besides, I thought we were going to the mall today."
She did not really like those little shopping excursions, but she knew that she could not forever remain in her shell, not if she wanted to be part of the Titans. And there was few other things that she wanted so badly.
She looked around at her fellow Titans, Beast Boy and Cyborg at their PlayBoX-Station and Starfire eating her whatever-it-was-with-mustard. She felt a little jealous of them, to be honest. All of them had their own families-even if the Titans were disbanded for some reason, they would have someone to go back to. Even Terra had Slade. Now that was someone she didn't want to think about.
But for her, 'family', at least in the biological sense meant a demon for a father and a mother driven mad by the sheer act of Raven's 'conception'.
The stark reality that she was a bastard child born of rape.
This meant, that for all intents and purposes the Titans were her family, and if that meant putting up with the mall once in a while, well, families compromise with each other sometimes, right?
Despite all this, she understood that it did not change her situation-she had no family. At least, none that she could truly call her own.
The door to the rec room opened to reveal a still-sleepy Robin stretching as he entered. "Hey guys, what's up?"
"BB's sore 'cos I totally whooped his butt."
"I'm not sore!"
"Yes you are."
"Okay, I'm sore, so what? I still wanna rematch!"
"After breakfast. I'm starved."
"Hey, you're the guy who can turn into a chicken."
Robin laughed and left them to their argument to join Raven and Starfire at the dining table. "So, nothing happening?"
"No, Robin, it's been perfectly peaceful, like a sunrise on Gandar Prime!" Starfire squealed.
"It has been surprisingly quiet." Raven confirmed.
Robin got a Pepsi out of the fridge. "So you guys doing anything today?" It wasn't often that days like this came around, and he wanted to take full advantage of it.
"Is this worth it?" Gizmo said to Mammoth as their boat cut across the waves of the Pacific Ocean, the setting sun on the horizon.
"Dunno, but if the boss said, it's important, it's important."
"I don't know if you two've noticed, but we're taking orders from a wooden puppet." Jinx said, from behind them.
"Yeah, but it beats Juvie." Mammoth said.
The three of them were here after the Puppet King hired their services from the HAEYP, but considering what his ultimate plans were, they would have worked for free. Not that they set him back very much. Thanks to the Titans, their reputation as the HAEYP's rising stars was utterly destroyed, and their prices dropped accordingly.
A beeping noise from the boat's console attracted their attention. "Looks like Trident's found it."
"Let's tell the boss then."
Within his secret base beneath the warehouse district, the Puppet King gloated. "Excellent work," the Puppet King said. "Bring her in."
"Can we trust her?"
"We's criminows, Ovie. Can we trust each other?" Mad Mod said from behind him, where he was playing cards with Killer Moth.
"Hah! That'll be the day!" Killer Moth said.
The Puppet King turned to Overload. "I understand your apprehensions. But when I had the Titans under my control, I saw into their minds. I saw that this Blackfire was someone so reviled, her own people have disowned her. Exactly the sort of person we're looking for, don't you think?"
He clenched his fist as his voice filled with hate. "Exactly the sort of person to help us destroy the Titans."
Blackfire opened her eyes. The crash had been worse than she had expected.
She was in some large, dark chamber. But despite having no lights she could see, the floor was fully illuminated, bare save for the platform upon which she lay, and one damn big fishman with a tri-
At a speed where she almost blurred, Blackfire jumped up and seized Trident's throat before throwing him aside. He raised his weapon, but before he could do anything, Blackfire kicked it out of his hands before her foot smashed into the side of his head in another roundhouse kick.
"Had enough yet?" Blackfire asked. Evidently not, for Trident rose again and charged.
"That's stupid," Blackfire said, lowering her body and clenching both fists together. At the very last moment, she brought them both up to crash into Trident's chin, knocking him down again.
"How do you like that? Big bad brought down by bigger and badder." Blackfire exulted, before planting her boot on Trident's chest. "Now, where's my shuttle?"
"Behind you." a voice behind her growled.
Combat reflexes taking over, Blackfire managed to dodge the energy blast a split second after the other Trident fired.
"Oh, so you've got a friend?"
"More like a brother." Trident said, getting up. "Now we'll find out how inferior you truly are!"
The second Trident fired his weapon at the same time the first charged Blackfire, but this time, Blackfire was ready for them. She ducked the blast and brought the second Trident down with twin bolts from her eyes, followed up by two more bolts from her fists that downed the other.
"Nothing can withstand Overload!" Again, the voice came from behind her. Facing her opponent, Blackfire saw that this being was no fish, but a humanoid energy form, probably electricity, save for a small microchip-like device where the head would have been.
The flutter of a thousand wings from behind her made her turn again. The opponent behind her this time was the size of the thing in front of her, but that was where the similarity ended. This guy appeared to be a gigantic human/moth hybrid, with thousands of smaller moths orbiting him.
Time for evasive action, at least for now. Blackfire flew upwards followed by the moths, and then she suddenly flew down towards Overload as if to divebomb him. As she had expected, he raised his 'hands' to fry her with electricity, when she suddenly turned at the last minute, giving his electricity a free path to the following carnivorous moths, the majority of which were not as agile as Blackfire, who having built up some impressive speed, skimmed across the floor at just an inch or two above it before flying upwards to uppercut Killer Moth.
"You may have defeated that worthless biological, but I am Overlo-"
"Oh shut up!" Blackfire said. This time she just aimed a bolt at Overload, with unexpected results: the bolt simply made him grow.
"HA! See the use of foolish biological tactics against the majesty that is Overload? Why do you keep on firing at me? Do you not know that every strike upon Overload only makes him stronger?"
"Just want to see how big you can grow." Blackfire replied, continuing her barrage.
Too late, Overload realized what she was doing, and took aim. What he had not counted on was the fact that for him, unleashing so much energy, in the kind of emotional state that did not allow for much self-control, was like a dam breaking.
And he didn't even hit me, Blackfire thought as she watched Overload's 'head' fall to the ground.
"See? Even with the element of surprise as well as strength of numbers against her, Miss Blackfire has still won."
"Who said that? You want a piece of me as well?" Blackfire snarled. She was tired of these surprises and was eager to return the favor. However, nothing could have prepared her for what came out of the shadows.
"You're…you're a toy!" Blackfire said, a mixture of surprise (and not a little revulsion) in her voice.
"No, ma'am, just a puppet who's learned to pull his own strings. Mr. Mod, you can stop now." the Puppet King said, and in an instant, the entire dark room, along with the combatants vanished, to be replaced by an equally empty, equally large, but far more brightly-lit chamber, with the Puppet King standing in the middle of it.
"Let me guess, you have a proposal for me." Blackfire said, arms crossed and trying to ignore the suddenly blinding light. She'll be damned if she was going to allow a toy to control the conversation.
"Why yes, I do," the Puppet King said calmly. "It involves the group known as the Teen Titans. I trust you've heard of them?"
Now this was interesting. "Tell me more," Blackfire said.
"This is the Justice League Watchtower to approaching ship: Identify yourself." Superman spoke into the intercom.
"Great, the world's greatest superhero, and you're doing immigration work. You know, we really need some grunts around here, you know. They can do all the cleaning work, the immigration stuff, that sort of thing-whaaat?" the Flash asked when he saw the Green Lantern give him a raised eyebrow.
"You're just looking for an excuse to escape cleaning duty, aren't you?"
"Hey, I'm the world's fastest man, not the world's best super-janitor."
"That's painfully obvious," Green Lantern a.k.a. John Stewart said, throwing a used candy wrapper into a wastebasket.
"Hey, that wasn't there last time I cleaned."
"And when was that?"
"My point exactly."
Superman got up from the comm console. "I don't like this. They haven't replied to any of our hails, not in any language or frequency."
"Maybe they just like their privacy." Flash said.
"It's basic interstellar courtesy," Green Lantern replied. "You enter some guy's space, you give some ID. Especially if it's that guy's home world you're talking about."
"John's right. I suggest we-"
The intercom crackled. "This is the Centauri Law Council ship Kiep'r, Officer Kai speaking. I apologize for our lack of response, but our communications equipment were damaged traveling through your asteroid field, and we have only just fixed it."
"Officer Kai?" Green Lantern asked. "That name sounds familiar."
"Indeed it should. We were here a year ago in pursuit of a thief."
"We?" Flash asked.
"Yes, my partner, Officer Cron, and I. We have come to your planet to track a fugitive and humbly request permission to enter your space."
"Who is this fugitive, if I may ask?" Superman spoke.
"Though it pains us to admit it, the fugitive is the same thief whom we pursued two Earth years ago, a certain Komand'r. Apparently, we underestimated her capabilities, and she managed to escape from one of our prison facilities."
"Well, what do you think?" Superman asked his two comrades.
"Well, they could be telling the truth. That is certainly a Centauri Law Council insignia on that ship. I can't place the make, but last I heard, they were considering plans for making new models. This could be one of them. But just to be sure…"
He pressed the intercom button. "This is Green Lantern John Stewart. You will be allowed passage into Earth space, provided you allow me to accompany you."
"Agreed. The assistance of a Green Lantern would be most welcome. Please prepare your docking facilities. We have a passenger on board who wishes to speak with you."
Half an hour later, the Kiep'r was in the Watchtower dock, and the Lord Caretaker, flanked by Officers Kai and Cron sat in the Watchtower's meeting room. The Flash was acting as Earth's cultural ambassador, much to the exasperation of the Green Lantern and Superman.
"So you guys are really sentient colonies of bacteria? In robotic biosuits? That's freaky!"
"Flash?" John said, pulling the Flash aside.
"Shut up and let me do the talking, alright?"
"Hey, no problem…bossy," the Flash said, the last word under his breath.
"I apologize for my friend's behavior, Lord Caretaker," Superman said.
"No, not at all," the Lord Caretaker replied. "I have heard much about the forthrightness as well as humor of humans, and I have so far found it rather amusing."
"See? He likes it," the Flash said to Green Lantern.
" 'So far', remember?" The Green Lantern turned to face their guest, "Lord Caretaker, forgive me for my…forthrightness, but what brings you to Earth?"
"As my two officers have told you, we are in pursuit of a certain fugitive, the incarceration of whom is imperative to the Centauri Empire."
"Huh?" the Flash asked.
"It's important that they get her."
"Princess Komand'r of Tamaran," the Lord Caretaker said. "Blackfire in Common Human. She was apprehended by the Empire two years ago, with the assistance of the group known Teen Titans. They are your apprentices, I understand?"
"Not really. The Titans are there to handle mostly Earth based matters, what with the League having a far bigger interstellar role nowadays," Superman replied.
"This means that we're aware of many cultural rules and customs," Green lantern said, "including that under Centauri law, no sentences may be carried out unless the Lord Caretaker is available as a last appeal. So…?"
"It is not so much the crimes, but the situation she has placed us in. If Komand'r is not apprehended immediately, it might upset certain delicate political and diplomatic balances between many races, the Centauri one of them. And since she escaped from one of our facilities, it was necessary to show that we are taking this seriously. Hence, my presence here." The Lord Caretaker also quickly sketched what they knew about Komand'r, including her time with the Teen Titans.
"So, we start at the Titans, then." Superman said.
"You think we need the rest of the League for this?" Flash asked.
"Your offer is generous, but unnecessary," the Lord Caretaker said. "The assistance of the Green Lantern would be more than enough. Komand'r is a mere thief, her reputation notwithstanding; the danger she brings is more political than anything else."
He added, "If it is possible, we would like the use of whatever craft you may possess. We cannot afford warning her with the presence of a Centauri vessel, you understand."
"No problem, I'll take you. You sure you two'll be comfy over here by your lonesomes?" Green Lantern asked, turning to his two friends.
" 'Lonesome'," Superman replied. "I have a meeting with the UN in an hour."
"So I have the base all to myself?" the Flash asked, mischief in his eye.
"Yes you do, and last I remember, you've got cleaning duty," Green Lantern said, pointing at the mop and bucket in the corner, "and if this place isn't as clean as my drill sergeant would've wanted it, I'm showing every pretty girl I meet pictures of you at the last Christmas party."
"…I hate you."