Okay, here we go! Posted by popular demand, this is the first chapter of the story that 'Dancing in the Rain' was taken from. I don't have the slightest clue where I'm going with this, so all suggestions and reviews are welcome. Right now, the story is about four chapters long, but it's only half-finished. And I'm not posting chapter 2 unless I get 8 reviews! (Sorry to do this to you, but I want everyone who reads this to review so I know how I'm doing.) Without further ado – on with the story!
"The skies shall burn."
Red fire streaked the sky from horizon to horizon, crimson clouds casting ghastly shadows on the desolate ground below. Bizarre birds flapped through the empty void, tearing the air with their harsh screeching, cackling with high-pitched demonic laughter. A few of them landed amid the steel-and-bone ruins of what once had been a city, cawing as black lightning flickered in and out of existence far above. She shuddered, trying desperately not to laugh.
"Flesh shall become stone."
Hunched figures of stone lined the cracked city streets, their expression frozen into masks of horror and agony, their hands outstretched, pleading for salvation. The satanic ravens landed on their heads and shoulders, screaming their delight, pecking at the statues' eyes with their cruel beaks. An empty wind whipped through the labyrinth of stone, howling, swirling into founts of dust and ash. A golem of a young child, weakened by the wind, broke at the knees and crashed to the ground.
"The sun shall set on your world –"
Four stone skeletons stood together, near the coast, not far from where a lopsided tower shimmered in the heat haze thrown up by the sea of molten stone around it. A strong young man, taller than the others, with a laser cannon mounted on his arm, an energy pulse frozen only inches from his pointed gun; a grotesque creature that seemed to be comprised of equal parts of tiger and human; a pretty girl with long, flowing hair and strange clothes, her hands outstretched and clenched into fists; and a short, spiky-haired boy, his hands reached up in a plea for mercy, his stone mask lying shattered at his feet. She found herself standing before him, reaching out to touch his frozen skin, look into his bared eyes -
" – never to rise again!"
The rasping, echoing voice rang out, roaring the last words like rolling thunder. Suddenly, the scene changed; the ruined city evaporated, the stone skeletons vanishing with a wail, the red-eyed birds disappearing in a shower of feathers and harsh cries. The sky darkened swiftly, like falling night, from a fiery red into a deep violet that was nearly black. The veins of red that snaked from horizon to horizon faded to white, pulsing lines of pure energy that crackled and hummed silently, exuding power. The parched and cracking earth turned into a barrier of milky crystal, hidden by a rippling layer of mist.
Ghosts drifted through this sepulchral landscape, specters without color, without breath, without life. They swirled about her, blown like autumn leaves in a forgotten wind, whispering terrible things just below the edge of hearing. She walked forward, reaching out a hand to touch the nearest one, a ghost about her own height with a hauntingly familiar face – but her questing fingers passed right through his chest, and the ghost seemed to melt away, moaning, into the mists.
Suddenly there was a soundless explosion and she looked up, just in time to see the veins of white energy that pulsed through the sky shudder and expand. They widened suddenly, like flooded rivers, running into each other, forcing the violet skies further and further apart, the way a plant growing inside a stone pushes the rock away as it grows. Soon the whole sky was nothing but thundering white power, and lightning began to flicker all around her, each bolt stronger and closer than the last. She tried to back away, but to no avail – soon a spear of white light pierced her heart and stayed there, trembling, her dark body impaled upon its length. She saw a wisp of darkness escape from her pierced heart, evaporating in the white lightning – then searing pain shot through her, and she knew nothing more.
Raven woke with a gasp, sitting bolt upright, both hands clutching her chest, where a fork of lightning had shot through her a moment before. She looked around frantically, gasping for breath – but the twisted landscape of white light was gone, the ghost voices vanished into silence. Entangled in her sable cloak, she sat panting, fighting down the vestiges of the terrible fear that had clouded her mind a moment before. Clenching her trembling hands into fists, she closed her eyes, falling into the calming embrace of meditation with the ease of long practice.
She did not meditate for long; only a few moments, giving her mind a chance to right itself, calming her emotions. As soon as she stopped trembling she opened her eyes again, comforted somewhat by the sight of her dark and forbidding room. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she straightened out her cloak and walked over to the desk that stood against the far wall, underneath the window whose violet curtains were always tightly drawn. She reached out one hand towards the bookshelves that took up the larger half of the room, twitching her fingers in a beckoning gesture. A book glided out from between the shelves, surrounded by a halo of dark magic, and settled obediently onto the desk.
Sighing, Raven opened the unmarked leather-bound tome, her fingers skimming the pages until she found the right one. She set the point of her pen to the blank parchment and paused, ordering her thoughts before penning out, as best she could, the nightmarish events of her dreams.
That's the thing I hate about dreams, she thought to herself as her pen danced across the page. I can never tell whether they're a stupid nightmare, or a prophecy predicting the downfall of mankind. Thus her dream diary; she kept a careful record of all the dreams she could remember, in case they turned out to be important, or hold some vital clue to some unsolved riddle.
Jotting down the date at the top of the page, Raven snapped the plain book shut, banishing it back to its place on the shelves with a wave of her hand. She turned and glanced behind her, at the clock whose smooth white face gleamed at her out of the darkness, and groaned. Only two-thirty in the morning. If I don't get any sleep tonight I'll get killed fighting some battle tomorrow – and even if I survive the battle, Robin will know I stayed up and kill me himself.
Setting the pen aside, Raven rose and walked back over to the bed, glancing once more at the moonlight that peeked out from behind the curtains. Maybe……. if I opened them……
She shook her head, pushing away the thought. Her room was her sanctuary, the one place where there were no distractions, no messy emotions throwing themselves at her, begging to be released. Nothing of the outside world must penetrate it, even something so innocuous as moonlight.
Sighing one last time, Raven pulled her cloak over herself like a blanket, laying down and falling almost immediately into a mercifully dreamless sleep.
"Azarath……… Metrion……. Zinthos. Azarath…… Metrion……."
The silence was suddenly shattered by a knock at the door. Scowling, Raven woke from her meditation, levitating herself across the room and only touching down to earth as she reached the door. Jerking it open, she frowned at Robin, who was standing with his hand upraised to knock again. "What do you want?" she snapped.
Robin blinked, surprised at her vehemence. "Ah, we were going to go into town a little later," he said quickly, "To maybe go see a movie or something. I was wondering if you wanted to come with us. That is, if you're not busy or anything –"
"No," she snarled, angry partly at being disturbed, and partly from her lack of sleep the previous night. The light bulb above Robin's head shattered in a violent burst of black energy.
Surprisingly, Robin didn't even flinch at the explosion. Instead he stepped back a pace, out of the doorway, looking at Raven with something that looked suspiciously like concern. "All right, then. Sorry for bothering you. We'll be leaving in about an hour if you change your mind."
"I won't," she muttered under her breath, watching Robin's retreating back as he turned and walked away.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
"Azarath…….. Metrion……… Zinthos. Azarath………. Metrion……… Zinthos."
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Raven opened her eyes, unable to concentrate on her meditating with the clock's infernal ticking echoing in the silence. She glanced down at the sedately moving hands, wondering whether to just throw the thing out the window. Her emotions seemed harder to control today; probably because of her dream the previous night. But either way, she needed to meditate, and if she needed to sacrifice the stupid clock, so be it.
She looked around her room, noting the deep, gently moving shadows in the corners, the spiked mirror laying on her desk, the dark, fluttering curtains and the looming forms of the bookshelves standing in the gloom. She looked back at the clock again.
Twelve-thirty. I wonder if the others are gone yet? She placed a hand over the clock to muffle its incessant ticking, and listened hard to the silence around her. The usual faint sounds of Beast Boy and Cyborg playing video games were absent, which most likely meant they had left.
Raven got off her bed and crossed to the door, peering out into the hall. She saw and heard nothing; another good sign. Gathering her cloak around her, she started off down the corridor to the main room, thinking she might meditate better without shadows writhing all around her.
Raven opened the metallic doors to the main room – and stopped, cursing silently to herself. Starfire was sitting on the sofa, eagerly watching flickering pictures flash across the TV screen. Raven considered simply turning around and going back to her room – but it was too late. Starfire had heard the doors opening, and in a moment was standing before Raven, bouncing up and down with excitement.
"Friend Raven, you are here!" she said joyfully. "Are you coming into the city with us? We will visit the mall of shopping and it will be most glorious and –"
"No, Star," Raven interrupted, "I am not going into town with you. Actually, I thought you'd already left." She paused, glancing around the otherwise-empty room. "Where are the others?" Stepping around Starfire, she walked over the sofa, picking up the remote and pressing a button. "And why do you have the TV on mute?"
"Our friends have gone already," Starfire replied. "Friend Robin did not wish to leave without saying goodbye to you. He was worried about you. He was afraid that you were angry with him, so I told him I would stay and make sure you were not. Are you?"
Raven dropped the remote onto the couch, trying to hide her surprise. Robin, worried? About me? Why? "No, I'm not mad at him," she told Starfire absently. "I'm just – having a bad day."
The alien girl nodded understandingly. "Then why do you not come with us? It shall be most fun, and it will make you happy, so your day is not bad anymore!"
Raven sat cross-legged on the sofa, closing her eyes, hoping Star would go away soon. The Tamaranean's high, childish voice was beginning to give her a headache. "In case you haven't noticed, Star," she droned, "I don't do happy."
"But why?" Starfire asked, sounding crestfallen. "Happiness is the most joyful of emotions! It is a wonderful experience! Are you –"
"You know why, Star," Raven growled. The remote control exploded. "I've told you a million times! I can't feel! I can't show any emotion at all! Do you know what will happen if I do?" A book she had left lying on the table tore itself to pieces. "I'll kill someone, maybe all of you, completely by accident! I want to feel, Star, I really do, but I can't! So get out of here and leave me alone!"
Starfire fled the room, as several small objects rose in the air and hurled themselves after her. They clattered against the closing door and fell to the ground as Raven stared at them, numb.
Stupid, she thought angrily, even as she struggled to get herself under control. Why did you have to blow up at her like that? Now no one will talk to you for days, because they'll be too afraid you'll make something explode. Why are my emotions so hard to control today?
Fighting down her quickly-fading anger as well as the despair that rose up to replace it, Raven restored the objects that had been chasing Starfire to their places, and sank into thoughtless meditation once more.
"Dude, Robin, relax already! We're at the mall! No one's going to attack us!"
Robin glared at Beast Boy, the eyeholes in his mask narrowing, but didn't reply. The green elf wouldn't have guessed it, but fear of attack was not what had made Robin so uptight. Nothing so pleasant, he thought grimly.
"Yeah, chill. If there's any trouble, Raven's still at the tower. She'll call us. There's nothing to worry about."
Robin ignored Cyborg, turning to the nearest window and scanning the skies for the hundredth time in the past few minutes. Giving up on their leader, Beast Boy and Cyborg plunged into a nearby video-game store, attacking the shelves with a will in search of the newest racing game. Robin ignored the shouts and screams coming from their direction, watching as a small black dot appeared on the horizon and approached rapidly, coming closer and closer until it dissolved into Starfire's flying form. She touched down in the parking lot of the mall, and within a few moments was standing at Robin's shoulder, panting from her quick flight.
"Well?" he demanded, "what did she say? Is she all right? She was acting strange when I talked to her this morning."
Starfire shrugged. "Friend Raven seemed upset," she told him. "She shouted at me, and broke the remote of control. But she said that she was not angry at you." The pretty alien shook her head. "I do not understand friend Raven," she sighed. "She does not wish to be happy, and she cannot like being sad!"
"None of us understand Raven, Star," Robin sighed. "She has to deal with things none of us can even imagine. Maybe she's just having an off day."
Cyborg and Beast Boy emerged from the electronics store, each carrying an armload of brightly colored disks. Beast Boy saw Starfire standing by the window and waved, dropping a cascade of video games to the floor. "Hey, Star!" he shouted eagerly, holding up a plastic case, "Look what I got! Wicked Scary: The Game! It's supposed to be the best thing since Mega Monkeys 4!"
"I remember what happened the last time you got your paws on a new game," Cyborg growled, smacking Beast Boy in the back of the head. "This time had better not end in disaster!"
The alarm wailed shrilly, startling Raven out of her meditation. Losing her concentration, she fell to the sofa from where she had been levitating about six inches in the air. Standing up, she rushed over to the TV, which showed a map of the city, and watched as a blinking red light sprang to life on its screen.
Reaching deep into her cloak, she pulled out her Titans communicator and began frantically tapping keys. Almost immediately Robin's face appeared on the small screen, looking concerned. "Raven! Is something wrong?"
"There's an alarm," she said quickly. "Some criminal, down –" she looked up at the bewildering display of flashing lights. "Down by the bank downtown."
"Thanks. We'll meet you there." The com-screen blipped and went blank. Snapping the communicator shut, Raven rushed up to the roof and swiftly lifted herself into the sky.
By the time she reached the crime scene, Raven found her friends already embroiled in a vicious battle with Cinderblock, their old enemy. It looked as though the Titans were winning; staggering back under Starfire's vicious assault of starbolts, the stone monolith found himself being rammed repeatedly by a very angry, very large, green tyrannosaurus rex. Cyborg stood a ways back from the fray, firing blast after blast from his sonic cannon, while Robin stood on a nearby rooftop, launching well-timed explosive disks into Cinderblock's face.
Seeing no real way she could be of immediate help, Raven dropped down to crouch beside Robin on the roof. He looked over and smiled at her –
Cinderblock staggered and fell, but the moment he hit the pavement, there was a burst of bright white light, as Overload suddenly crackled into existence not far away. In the opposite direction, a manhole covering burst upwards, propelled by a fount of green slime, as Plasmus heaved himself out of the sewers and advanced on the team.
"Looks like you got here just in time," Robin said grimly. He stood up and reached for his grappling hook.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Robin whirled, looking for the source of the smooth voice. Raven turned as well, only to find herself face-to-face with Slade.
"Raven, run!" Robin threw himself in Slade's path as the villain reached for Raven, only to find that she had vanished. The Boy Wonder pulled out his staff, twirling it between his fingers as he advanced on his adversary.
"So persistent," Slade chuckled. "I must say, Robin, I admire your commitment. If you wish to fight, then so be it." His hands lit up, encased in balls of flame, as waited for Robin's attack.
Raven quickly flew down from the roof, looking for the rest of her friends. Cyborg and Starfire were hammering away at Plasmus, barely managing to keep in check between the two of them. She heard a roar behind her and turned – only to see Beast Boy grappling with Cinderblock, who had recovered from the blows they had dealt him.
Suddenly a monstrous beast of electricity rose up behind Beast Boy – who, completely engrossed in his battle with Cinderblock, didn't notice. Overload reached with crackling hands for the changeling's throat –
Raven made a furious gesture in the air and Overload, caught by an orb of black magic, was thrown back against the wall of a nearby building. Roaring, the glowing monstrosity came after Raven instead, bolts of energy reaching from his hands. Raven leaped into the air, trying desperately to evade his grip, shooting off bolts of black magic whenever she could. The dark energy seemed to hurt him a little – he roared every time it struck.
The battle continued, Raven fleeing, Overload pursuing, until the sorceress lost sight of her friends over the roofs of the city. She could vaguely hear the angry dinosaur roars as Beast Boy continued to grapple with Cinderblock, but that was all. And Overload would soon have her in his grip -
Overload suddenly paused, slowing to a stop for no apparent reason, lowering his hands to his sides. With one last bellow of pain he imploded into a dazzling burst of white electricity – and disappeared, leaving only a small red computer chip lying on the street where he had stood only a moment before.
Warily, Raven dropped down out of the sky, landing on the street and reaching to pick up the chip. Before she could, however, it leaped into the air, moving of its own accord. It darted off down a side street, hovering impossibly in the air. Raven reached out a tendril of black magic, trying to retrieve it – but she could not grip it. Her powers simply slid off it, somehow.
Carefully alert, she moved off in pursuit, realizing that if she could find wherever it was going to, she could find out where Slade – or whoever was controlling Overload this time – was hiding. So as the chip speeded up, so did she, following it through a maze of streets until even she was thoroughly lost.
Finally, though, the glowing chip darted through the door of what looked like an abandoned warehouse. Her hands glowing with dark magic, every instinct screaming at her to flee, Raven stepped into the darkness of the building, scanning the shadows for any sign of movement.
The door slammed shut with a boom, effectively locking her in. Immediately Raven dropped into a fighting crouch, extending a black shield over herself. Her eyes were locked to the computer chip, which was only visible in the dark room because of its slight glow. She watched it as it floated across the room, falling into a hand which reached out of the shadows to retrieve it.
"The simplest traps are always the best ones," a voice said smoothly, philosophically. A voice she knew well. "I was certain that simple curiosity would bring you running to me. And here you are."
"You can't be here!" Raven snarled, strengthening her shield. "You were back there – fighting with Robin!" Had Robin been defeated? What if he was hurt? She had to get away from this! She had to –
"Relax, dear Raven. The figure you saw fighting Robin was a clever replica. A robot. I do hope he doesn't damage it too badly. It was rather expensive to make." Slade stepped out of the shadows, fire licking around his form, casting a wavering light over the bare room. "But now that you are here, it would be worth it." He stepped right up to the boundary of Raven's shield, one hand hovering just above the barrier of black energy. "Now drop this silly barrier, so that we may discuss some rather important matters. I have a proposition for you."
Slade shook his head. "You disappoint me, Raven. I thought you were a reasonable girl. But you have something I want – or rather, something your dear father wants." The flames around him brightened, and he stepped right through Raven's barrier, parting the magic before him as though it was water. "And if you shall not give it to me, I will take it."
Raven dropped what was left of her shield, fleeing across the room, away from Slade's outstretched hand. She wrenched at the door with her powers, trying to tear it off its hinges – but it would not budge. Slade laughed as he beheld her efforts.
"Come now, Raven," he crooned. "This will not hurt for long. Now hold still." He reached out and grabbed her wrists, tearing her away from the door, holding her still as she struggled in his grasp. He stared down at her, and suddenly the one eyes showing through his mask blazed a bright white –
"Today is the day it begins. And no matter what you do, no matter where you go, no matter how you squirm, there is nothing you can do to stop it."
Raven fled through the maze of frozen gears and toppled columns, her footsteps ringing in the empty silence, everything around her shaded a deep blue by the magic that had stopped time in its tracks. Slade followed her, shoving machinery aside, a golden glow hovering around him. "It is your destiny," he hissed.
Leaping down from a twisted mess of machinery that had been halted in mid-fall, Raven dashed towards the immense gear that had fallen onto the walkway in the center of the room, bending it with its immense weight. She dashed past Cyborg, halted in mid-step, and Starfire, hovering in the air. Beast Boy was utterly still, halfway between a human and a tiger, his teeth bared, claws outstretched. And there, under the shadow of the huge gear, was Robin. Fear surged up in her, but she fought it down –
"Feel," Slade snarled, bringing his mask close to her face. "Feel, you wretched girl!"
The two girls lunged at each other, Terra hurling rocks, Raven bolts of black magic and anything she could reach. A hail of sharp stones rained down on her, but she tore a panel out of the wall and held it up before her like a shield – torrents of mud blasted around her makeshift protection, knocking her brutally to the ground.
"What stinks the most, Raven?" Terra asked smugly. "That I tricked you? That I almost destroyed your team? That everyone liked me better than you?"
"Or is it that, deep down, you really believed I was your friend?"
Raven screamed, barely managing to contain her rage. Slade growled.
"Why can't you have fun like normal people? Why do you have to lock yourself in your room, reading your nasty old books? Why do you have to be so creepy?"
"Feel, you little witch! Let your emotions overtake you!"
Raven struggled weakly against Slade's grip, feeling pain overwhelm her at each new memory. She could feel the dirty presence in her mind, dragging forth her most personal moments, the most emotional times, and forcing her to relive them. "Let – me – go –" she panted, thrashing weakly. " – Robin –"
Slade's mask covered his face, but she could tell by his voice that he was smiling. "Yes," he crooned, his grip on her wrists tightening. "Let's see if Robin can be of any use."
She felt his mind on hers, digging deep, tearing loose memories and mixing them together, altering her mind until she was forced to see something she had never witnessed, and had hoped never to have to watch –
She was in the Titans tower, walking along the hall to the main room. It was night – the starlight gleaming in through a nearby window told her that much, though what day it was or why she was here was still a mystery. She tried to turn around, to fight and break free of this vision, but she could not stop herself from taking step – after step –
Soon she found herself outside the main room, pressing the switch that opened the metallic doors. They slid apart with a hiss, and she looked in between them, steeling herself for whatever horror Slade was about to make her witness.
The lights were dimmed, just enough to offset the darkness pressing in on the windows from the outside. A ragged banner hung from the ceiling, looking though it had been torn apart and taped back together, blaring 'Happy Birthday!' to the world. Streamers and forgotten decorations littered the floor; she vaguely recognized the scene as the aftermath of the birthday party she had fought so hard against.
But on the sofa, sitting so close to each other it was almost obscene, were Robin and Starfire, kissing passionately, clutching each other to them –
The vision lasted only a moment, but it was enough. Raven was bombarded by waves of anger, jealousy, betrayal, hurt, all so strong that the fragile barriers she had erected snapped under their pressure. Tears were streaming down her face, she was sobbing, limp in Slade's grasp, black magic spiraling madly around her as her powers broke free from her control. Laughing, oblivious to the shadow storm raging about him, Slade released Raven's wrists, allowing her to slump to the floor. He held out his hand, making a strange gesture, and immediately the raging energy vanished.
Raven screamed. Pain wracked her body, as though someone was tearing open her chest and ripping her heart from between her ribs with their bare hands. Physical agony blotted out emotional hurt until she curled up in on herself, screaming, praying with thought she had left for the pain to end. Let me die, let me die, make it stop, oh please, please make it stop – the words ran around in her head, echoing and re-echoing until it faded into a soundless blaze of agony. Her screams echoed shrilly in her own ears, drowning out Slade's laughter as he vanished in a column of fire.
Horrible place to end it, I know, but I'm evil. lol. Okay, people, 8 reviews or the second chapter doesn't go up! It's already written, so if you review now I'll post it today. Sorry, but I'm trying to get everyone who reads to review! What do you think? Good? Bad? Help me out here!