Author's Note: Okay, let me rant for a minute. Sorry it took so long to get the grand finally to this story finished (though it turned out to be even longer than Part II). You'd think that if I have a five day weekend, I'd be able to get some time to myself to write. Oh no, not at all. My freaking mother has me slave away all weekend doing menial tasks for her. I cannot believe I actually get more writing done on school days then the weekends. It just isn't right! Ahem, rant finished. I'm a horrible ranter.
Anyway, to Lily. I really didn't think it was that odd of Raven to be so supportive of Beast Boy. It really reminded me of the way she was protective of him when Terra started coming around and messing with everything. By the way, I love that name, I really do. I want to name my future daughter Lily. Just decided to declare that to the world.
And everyone, remember to look for the sequel to this story. I think I'm going to call it something like, well, I don't know what I'm going to call it. Just look for it alright? That is, if you still want to keep reading my stuff after you read the ending to this story. Somehow I get the feeling a whole lot of people are going to be very angry at me.
Forever Changed: Part III
Early the next morning, the Titans gathered a short distance inside the edge of the forest. The sun was just barely starting to lighten the night sky, but hadn't yet burst over the horizon. The air was thick with a heavy fog that chilled everyone in the cool morning air.
Robin was still sulking, in a horrible mood caused by having his authority undermined. They hadn't even begun the mission yet, and already his attitude was beginning to have a negative down heartening effect on the rest of the Titans.
Cyborg felt that the group needed to have a pep talk in order to raise their spirits, "Alright everyone, this is perhaps the most important battle we are ever going to be in. Today, we have the advantage. Every fight with Slade until now has been on his terms. We always fought when and where he wanted us to. This time, we are taking the fight to him. We are attacking Slade in his home, hopefully catching him off guard. This may be the best chance we will ever have to take Slade out. I know we can do this. But before we go, I need to ask one question." He paused and looked down at Beast Boy, "Are you certain that you want to go with us?"
Beast Boy had been panting in typically canine style, but he quickly took a serious look at being addressed and nodded sternly. This was his chance to continue his life as it was before; Beast Boy wasn't going to screw it up.
Raven knelt down beside him, "Are you sure about this, there won't be another chance to back out later."
"Just let him go," Robin snapped, "You all decided that you are smarter than me, and that you don't need to listen to me as your leader. Since you are in charge now, you need to remember that a leader has to stand strong behind what they say. You decided to let Beast Boy come along, then let him. It was your choice to bring with us a cripple to get caught up in the crossfire. That invalid will be worthless in the fight, and we will have to make the choice between either protecting him and losing the fight, or stopping Slade and letting Beast Boy die. Slade will kill him, I have little doubt. I just hope you are all strong enough to face the horrible reality that your choices will bring about."
A heavy smothering silence set in. The forest was deathly quiet as the blow dealt by Robin's harsh words sunk in. Cyborg coughed and changed the subject, "Alright then. Everyone follow me. A little distance into the forest, the trees become a deathtrap with electrical wires strung between them everywhere. It is a regular maze. I am the only one who can see the electromagnetic fields given off by these nearly invisible wires. So I will lead you through a safe path. Somewhere in the center of this maze, there is a clear spot where the electromagnetic field substantially weakens. I believe that is where Slade's base is. You must follow close behind me, and not stray from the path I set, or you risk getting a nasty, possibly lethal jolt."
He looked around at the Titans, "Is everyone ready?" He received several nods, "Alright. Titans go!" Cyborg shouted.
He began into the woods at a brisk pace, and the other set to following him. When Cyborg was certain that everyone was keeping up, he increased his pace, running a little bit faster. Slowly but surely, the Titan's were running at break neck speed.
Beast Boy leaped through the forest with the greatest of ease. This is what his body was built for, running through the woods. He kept his eyes on the pale blue light radiating from Cyborg's mechanical exterior, but what Beast Boy really focused on was keeping his nose to Cyborg's scent, which was something far easier for him to do.
It wasn't long before they started dashing around wildly from side to side as electric threads suddenly crossed the path they were taking. They zigzagged blindly through the foggy forest in the darkness of the predawn. They could hardly separate the dark shadows of the trees from the rest of the night. It seemed they were never more than inches away from death. It was insanity at it's finest moment. Then suddenly, it all stopped.
Cyborg slowed down to a brisk walk and stopped in front of everyone. He turned and faced the slightly tired crowd behind him, "Okay, we are in the eye of the storm so to speak. For a little ways in all directions, we don't have to worry about any electrical wires. But, I don't see any base."
Beast Boy began sniffing around as the others discussed how the base was probably hidden somewhere or how this might just be some over elaborate booby trap. He ignored them. The faint scent of something had gotten caught in his nose. It was the smell of a human, and not one of his friends. The smell was weak, and the heavy fog all around him didn't help at all in tracing it. He put his nose to the grass and wandered around.
The human wasn't around right now, that much he was certain of, but the scent did have many trails that crisscrossed all around the immediate area. He focused on the strongest branch of the trail, the one that had to be the most recent, and followed it to a large boulder where the scent stopped. Beast Boy paused at the boulder, pawed at it nervously, and barked back at his friends.
They ignored him, so he barked again. Cyborg stopped the others and led them over to where Beast Boy was. He scratched his head, "What is it boy?" Beast Boy looked up at him indignantly at the use of a pet's nickname, but Cyborg didn't seem to notice. He ran his hand along the boulder, "Yes, this would be a good spot to somehow hide a secret entrance to an underground base. Good job. Now, if this is where the entrance is located, then we need to figure out how to open it up."
Raven gently moved Cyborg out of the way, "Let me handle this." She placed both hands to the rock and called the shadows to her, "Azerath Metrion Zinthos!" The boulder was consumed by the darkness that she wielded and it lifted off of the ground. A strange system of metal pistons and mechanical arms underneath the rock that would have normally been used to raise it into the air when some sort of secret switch was triggered were ripped and twisted violently apart. None too gently, Raven tossed the boulder to one side where it splintered through a tree trunk.
Cyborg looked nervously at Raven, "Well... that's one way to do it." He waited until Raven used her power to move all of the sharp sheered metal out of the way, then began to walk down first. There was a short passageway with a few steps leading down to a door. He decided to use his discretion quickly before Raven ripped this apart too. He pushed a button to the side of the door and the door opened, revealing a small elevator shaft.
He looked down and saw that the lift remained unmoving at the bottom. It was obviously operated from the inside, as only Slade would need to go up and down, there would be no need to have remote operation like in a normal elevator. So the lift wouldn't come up and greet them. Not a problem. It only meant that Slade was at home right now. "Come on everyone. Going down?" He took Beast Boy under one arm and grabbed the lift cable with his other hand. He let himself slide down effortlessly. One of the nice things about his robotic hands was that he didn't get rope burn.
Raven and Starfire floated down after them and Robin climbed down the shaft with a little more difficulty than the others. Near the bottom, Robin dropped to the ground. They were awed by the great expanse before them. The room they had fallen into was a massive underground cavernous dome hollowed out from the earth. The only thing that interrupted the space was the elevator shaft coming straight down through the center of the room. Spread out in the room were many odds and ends. There were many potential mechanical weapons of destruction, but predominately there were large supercomputer mainframes. Slade obviously was far more sophisticated than they had ever before imagined.
Cyborg got a strange grin on his face, "So, what do we do? Should we find Slade first, or create a little mayhem and draw him to us?"
Robin sighed, "Since I want to come out of this alive, I suggest you switch over to your infrared sensors and scan the far walls on all sides. It's too dim in here to even see the far walls with our vision, but I still would like to have an idea where Slade will come from if we did start a little mayhem. Look for doors or Slade himself. We want to surprise him, that is our advantage, and I don't want to lose it."
Cyborg's eyes glowed red as he switched visual sensors. He looked around with his enhanced night vision. He pointed in one direction, "Over there are a group of doors. There are no other doors on any other portion of the wall. I don't see Slade anywhere, so I can only assume he is in one of those other rooms. But if we were to try and attack him directly, we would need to pick one of those doors. We are far enough away now that he couldn't hear us, but those doors are so close together that he could probably hear us open one from another of the rooms. I'm not sure we should risk it."
"Then it's settled. We bring him here to us. Even if we have to flee, we'll have destroyed lots of his precious equipment in the process, and that will still be a victory for us." Robin nodded to Cyborg.
"One disaster coming up!" The mechanics in Cyborg's arm whirled as his arm transformed into his trusty laser cannon. Starfire hands glowed green and Raven's body was surrounded by the shadows. Robin pulled out several explosive disks and held them in his hand at ready. Beast Boy, uncertain what he could do, bared his teeth. Everyone stood in a circle, facing in opposite directions, ready to start their rampage.
Robin, despite his earlier irritation, dropped easily into the role of leader again, "Ready? Titans go!" Just as he shouted it, he heard the sound of something hitting the ground behind him. As he turned to face the sound, a hard metal pole bashed him in the face, sending him sprawling across the ground. Several explosions happened around him as he lost his grip on his disks.
The bone sickening crunch from the impact had the other Titans immediately change the direction of their attack. One by one, almost simultaneously, they all suffered a similar attack before they could even see their attacker.
Slade stood between the scattered Titans, metal bo-staff gripped tightly in one hand. If it was possible, he looked more angry he normally was.
Robin coughed and tasted blood on his lips from the horrible attack he had just taken. He managed out one word as he stood up, pulling loose his own bo-staff as he did, "How?"
Slade keeping his weapon at ready, didn't bother facing Robin, "How dare you invade the sanctity of my home? You have gotten sloppy my old apprentice. Did you honestly believe that the electrified forest was the only security measures I had? When you ripped open my front door and went down the elevator shaft, you triggered several silent alarms. I was ready and waiting for you long before you even touched ground inside."
All of the Titans were now standing in a circle around him, ready for the attack. They couldn't help but think to themselves that it wasn't like Slade to be this cocky. He'd never let them all take him on at once unless he had something up his sleeve. Fire raced down Slade's bo-staff, "Are you ready to die Titans?"
Starfire attacked first, rising high into the air as she flung star-bolts at Slade as fast as she could. He blocked every single green energy orb with his staff as he spun it to meet her attack effortlessly. Raven grabbed a nearby computer mainframe with her power and sent it rushing towards Slade while he was preoccupied. Cyborg shot his sonic cannon at the supercomputer just as it reached Slade, causing it to explode directly on top of him. Robin took the opportunity to throw a dozen or so freeze disks at where Slade was.
For a moment, there was no sound except for the crackling of the fire caused by the explosion. Starfire landed back on the ground, "Did we do it?"
Robin scolded her, "Don't get to confident now. We need to be certain the job was finished. Attack mercilessly."
Starfire and Cyborg continued to batter the flaming crater where Slade had been while Raven slammed one heavy object after another onto what she hoped would be Slade's broken body. After a few moments, they took a breather.
Cyborg looked pleased with himself, "I think that ought to have done it. No human could have lived through that."
With a crackling sound, a wall of flame rushed forth in all directions from the center of the crater. It hit the Titans directly, and slammed them into the closest object behind them.
Raven gasped in the fiery air, "No... how can he still be alive?"
Slade stepped forth towards Raven as he sent wave after wave of flames into the battered bodies of the other Titans. "I am more than human now. But, like I said last time we met. I want you to be my new apprentice now. So be glad I'm going to spare you, but your friends won't be so lucky." He held her back to one of the large computers with a wall of heat, not strong enough to burn her, but more than enough to keep her immobilized and unable to use her own power. Slade gripped her jaw in his hand, "I really am fascinated by what your power can do, my new apprentice."
Raven's eyes didn't meet Slade's, instead, they focused on a shadow coming up behind him. She could hear his nails clicking on the cold stone floor as he ran. She cried out, "No, don't do it!"
Slade turned to meet the new threat as Beast Boy bit down hard around his throat. He stumbled backwards and lost his control over the flame walls holding down the other Titans. Beast Boy gripped tight onto Slade, determined not to let go. Flames surrounded Slade, burning him badly, but he had Slade in a death hold. Slade tried to breath, but only succeeded in helping Beast Boy get a deeper bite on his neck.
Fresh warm blood gushed into his mouth, the blood of Slade, and Beast Boy nearly vomited. He loosened his hold just enough. Slade grabbed him around his rear leg, yanked him off, swung him through the air. He slammed Beast Boy's body into the ground, his fist burning tightly into Beast Boy's leg, "You irritating little pest."
Beast Boy was again pulled up into the air as he hung helplessly from Slade's grip like a rag doll. Intense heat enveloped him as Slade focused all of his fire energy into his hand. Instantly, all of the soft tissue, flesh and muscle, under Slade's grip burned away into ashes. He felt Slade's gauntleted hand around the bone. The pain was unbearable. Once again, Slade pitched Beast Boy wildly around, and suddenly, the pressure around Beast Boy's leg was gone as he sailed into through the air, free of Slade's grip. Something hard hit him in his back, stopping his flight as he fell to the ground.
The pain threatened to consume Beast Boy. His vision was turning red. Nausia rushed through him. Even still, he could make out the pool of blood spreading under his body. It was odd, that the nice blood was actually soothing the intense burns on the part of his body that was lying on the ground. He coughed up more blood to add to the mix. Slowly, despite fighting against it, his vision turned began to change from red to black. He felt someone's arms cradle his body against theirs as he succumbed to the darkness.
Once again, Beast Boy awakened to a pounding head in the infirmary of Titan Tower. He didn't want to open his eyes. As long as he kept them closed, he could pretend the whole thing was a dream. That he had never lost his power. He felt a tear roll down his cheek as he touched at his power to see if such a thing could be true. It was a false hope. There was nothing there.
He sighed and looked at the world around him. This time, the only one beside his bed was Cyborg. The room was trashed. There were large gashes in the walls of the room, and much of the medical equipment had been ruined by similar cuts. Beast Boy looked at Cyborg curiously.
He didn't catch what Beast Boy was wanting to know, "Well, you are awake finally. When you fall unconscious, you really go all out!" He laughed weakly at his humorless joke, "Another few days of barely being alive."
Beast Boy couldn't help but notice that Cyborg was carefully averting his gaze, never looking directly at him. He wondered why. "Just let me know if you need anything. And," Cyborg paused, before sadly continued, "I'm sorry about what happened."
Beast Boy puzzled over this. As he lay on his side, he awkwardly tried to look down the rest of his body, and then he saw it. Around his hind leg, many bandages were wrapped. That wasn't the part that terrified him. The leg just ended abruptly a little bit above where the knee should have been.
"We couldn't do anything to fix it. If it had been broken, or even ripped off, we could have fixed it. Slade melted clean through the bone. There was nothing anyone could do to be able to fix it. The bone just ends several inches above where it should.
"You should thank Raven. She saved you. We were all being trashed as we tried to flee, but Raven went back to get you. She took you in her arms and carried you through the wall and back to the tower using that shadow phasing power of hers. When we managed to get away, we had thought that both of you had been killed. We were certainly surprised when we got to the tower to find her doing her best to tend to your body. She's now locked herself in an empty room three doors down the hall if you want to find her."
Cyborg stood up and said as he was leaving, "Like I said before, just let me know if you need anything.?
Beast Boy needed to go see Raven. He needed to talk to her in that strange way they had of communicating. Slowly and carefully, he twisted around and lifted his body off of the bed. Standing on three legs, he leapt down to the ground, slipping on the floor, but he righted himself and hobbled out of the room and down the hall. He stopped outside of the room Cyborg had specified and scratched at the base of the door. Not getting a response, he barked once.
He waited, and was just about to leave, when Raven opened the door. Her face was tearstained, something that Beast Boy had never seen before. She knelt down in front of him and spoke in a calm voice, "I'm sorry Beast Boy, it's all my fault. I was the one that convinced Robin to let you go with us. It's because of me you were hurt."
She rose and walked back into the room, beckoning Beast Boy to follow. He paused nervously upon entering, seeing the same wide gouges in the walls as in the infirmary. She noticed his hesitation, "You are wondering what is with the walls right?" She sighed and sat down in the center of the room and gestured for Beast Boy to come close to her. He limped towards her and lay down at her crossed feet and placed his head on her lap. She pet his head gently.
"As you know, my power is controlled by my emotion. In the infirmary, I lost control of my emotion. I wept for what I had done to you. I ripped apart the room before I was able to get it under control again. Luckily you weren't hurt any worse than you already were hurt." She sighed, "It's been my belief that if I ever gained absolute control over my emotions, I would be able to absolutely control my powers. I would never have to meditate again. I would be free. Now I realize I will always be a slave to my powers.
"If I had been able to control myself, not feel sadness for what I had done, then I think I would have been in absolute control over my emotions. But, I realized that if I did not weep for you, then I would no longer be human. Not in the same way you are no longer human. You still have your humanity, a soul. I would have been a soulless shell, far worse off then you. I would have been transformed into something that I don't want to be. And thus I locked myself in this room and cried. I let my power thrash about unchecked.
"You don't have to worry, you are safe. I have control of my emotions again. It's a miserable thing to be what I am. Do you know that I can never love anyone? If I was to fall in love, that emotion would kill the very object of that affection. It's a curse that I will always have to live with.
"I suppose I should thank you, because you have taught me something. You have taught me that it was foolish to try and completely control my emotions, to erase all feelings from my mind. I think it was good to learn early in my life that I can never hope to control my powers that way. Now maybe I can look to some other manner of restraint. I can dream of another future.
"Be glad Beast Boy. For despite all that curses both of us, we still can claim victory. We will always have our humanity, and we will make sure that the other never loses it."