Author's Note – Well…this is the first extensive action scene that I've ever written and I'm a little wary about it for that fact. Well…I hope you enjoy. Sorry I posted it so late in the day, for some reason wouldn't let me upload the chapter until late.
Chapter 9 - Duel
By the time I became a vampire, the Titans had been active in Jump City for a little over three years. During that time we'd defeated Slade on two separate occasions and just about ruined the HIVE Academy. However, in the early days of our team things didn't go nearly as swimmingly. The Tower's security, for example, was a joke.
There's something to be said for the fact that a seventy year old walking British stereotype like Mad Mod single handedly managed to pump the Tower's ventilation system full of knock-out gas and capture all of us without even so much as setting off an alarm. In addition, although the thought had crossed my mind at the time, apparently the others didn't see a need for security measures as far as incoming mail was concerned; otherwise we probably wouldn't have had our little encounter with the Puppet King and Starfire and I most likely would never have gotten to know each other.
Of course things improved as time passed. The Tower's security systems progressed to a point that one couldn't set foot on the land bridge connecting the Tower to the mainland without us knowing about it. And as far as the mail was concerned we managed to intercept and dispose of several letter bombs sent to us due to the added precautions. Supervillains do seem to love their toys…
But something else changed as well, with the passage of time we all became more of a team and worked as such. In the beginning we were so disorganized that it only took three metahumans to defeat the great Teen Titans, if only for a time. Those three were then the top students of the HIVE Academy: Jinx, Mammoth, and Gizmo.
Each member of the group had some unique ability that set them apart from the others and, to an extent, balanced out the other's abilities. Gizmo was a mechanical genius who prided himself on having designed and made all his own equipment and weapons. However, he was a very short person (the highest he ever grew was a little over three feet) and without his technology posed little to not threat.
Mammoth was, according to rumor, the result of a genetics experiment. A muscle bound behemoth whose very appearance would have made Darwin weep. His physical prowess complemented Gizmo's abilities nicely.
Then there was Jinx, the team leader. She was the highest ranked out of all three of them during her time at the HIVE Academy. If anything, in my eyes that knowledge made her the worst of that whole pathetic rabble. I admit I could respect her abilities, after all as the leader of her team she did the same type of work that Robin did, however I couldn't respect the life she'd chosen to waste those talents on…At least that was what I thought of her at that time.
By the end of that first day fighting the HIVE trio the three were packed off to prison and the name Slade had forever entered into Robin's vocabulary. We would encounter them and their school again and again over the following years. One such encounter came immediately after my bout with Robin on that cold spring morning…
A fencing match typically requires the two opponents to salute each other before it can begin. The salute consists of holding the blade in a vertical position and bringing the bell guard to face level before returning to an en garde position with the blade pointed at the opponent. Robin apparently didn't see fit to salute me and instead started towards me almost immediately.
In preparation for his attack I quickly moved into my stance, bending my knees slightly to allow for easier mobility. The usual stance, which I had fallen into almost immediately, requires a person to place their right foot forward facing the opponent and their left foot behind the right facing to the left.
It was cold that morning, or at least as cold as I could tell. As Robin came advanced towards me across the helipad I could see his breath filtering through his face guard in large smoky puffs. As I steadied myself and prepared to guard against his attack I couldn't help but wonder if he'd noticed that there wasn't any breath coming through my face guard…that I wasn't breathing at all. Even when I spoke the breath I exhaled wasn't even warm enough to show up in the cold air. He didn't seem to pay it any mind, though, as he finally reached me and prepared to strike.
The style of fencing that makes use of the épée is slightly different from the one most people are familiar of which makes use of the typical foil. In a match using a foil the only valid target point on the opponents body is the torso. If one can thrust their foil past the opponent's defenses and strike them in the torso then the point is awarded to them. When using an épée the opponent's entire body is a valid target thus making the act of defense more difficult than when using the standard foil.
All these thoughts rushed through my mind at a remarkable speed as I braced myself for Robin's first attack. It was then, as Robin brought his blade towards me, that something peculiar happened. To my eyes his movements seemed to slow themselves. It brought to mind the initial practice rounds Robin had lead me through for fencing, how he would move at a slow pace with his attacks and give me the time and opportunity to learn the motions involved in defending and attacking.
But it wasn't just the speed of his movements in comparison to mine that impressed me, it was also something that my eyes showed me. As Robin moved I could look at the extension of his arm and discern the manner in which his muscles were flexing and contracting with each motion. Based on instinct I found myself using what I saw to predict his movements and parry them more effectively
That was what I was reminded of as Robin attacked and I found myself effortlessly parrying his attempts. However, as I was strictly playing defense at that moment all I could do was retreat and defend from his attacks, however effectively I was doing so. Very quickly I found myself backed against the edge of the helipad with an eight-foot drop behind me. Robin faced me with his épée pointed directly at me, ready to strike.
"So was that really what you believed all this time Raven? That we couldn't help having someone killed in this city? That it was inevitable?"
"Yes," I replied simply.
"But why Raven? Why be so fatalistic about it. Nothing is set in stone."
"Is that what you think Robin? One day Slade tears up the streets of the downtown-shopping district with giant mechanical worms, another day Brother Blood attempts to drown the entire city with an artificial tidal wave. With criminals capable of bringing destruction on such a large scale how could we keep anyone from ever getting hurt? You should at the very least be pleased that it took three years before something like this happened."
"Pleased!" Robin incredulously spat the word out, "you think that I should be pleased!" he thrust the tip of his blade towards me. He was close enough to me that I didn't have time to parry his attack and without room to retreat I was trapped. Using my powers to fly out of the way would go against the rules Robin had laid down back when we'd first started fencing. At the last second I remembered my recent experience in the gymnasium with the punching bag.
If I could kick that punching bag with enough force to nearly send it into the ceiling then maybe…
I tensed the muscles in my legs like coiled springs and jumped with all the strength I could muster. I don't recall exactly how high or far I went when I launched myself into the air but I knew that I went clear over Robin and landed behind him. Seeing my chance I whirled about and pointed my own blade at Robin's back. His whole body tensed up in response to what he had just witnessed.
"Raven, what did we agree about using your powers in one of these matches," he spoke accusingly.
"I have remembered and followed all the rules you set down Robin, I assure you. I have also, as you requested, worked to improve myself physically. Why are you so surprised that I've finally shown some progress?"
"It was just unexpected, that's all…congratulations."
"Thank you Robin, now it's my turn to ask you a question. You asked me why I wasn't as upset about Mr. Frid's death as you or the others. I ask you, why are you so much more upset and vindictive about it than myself or even any of the others? Certainly all of the others feel some level of guild and remorse over this but none of them have been so outraged by my reactions to challenge me to a fencing duel conveniently disguised as a training session."
Robin growled under his breath and, ignoring my blade, turned towards me. "It doesn't matter what you or any of the others think. This was a disaster for us and there has to be someone who's responsible!" he cried launching himself at me. At this point it seemed any and all rules regarding a fencing match had been completely disregarded. Robin was striking at me with greater and greater amounts of force with each attack. The sound of his blade clashing against mine grew louder and louder, like the sound of a hammer striking a plate of steel. For a moment I even imagined I saw sparks flashing at the point where the two blades connected.
"I won't stand for this Raven!" he cried between attacks. "I won't!"
He was becoming unfocused because of his anger, I parried his attacks even easier than I had before and I barely retreated an inch. The skilled opponent I'd been fighting at the start had fallen prey to a reckless all-consuming fury.
After I parried one final attack from Robin we both retreated to opposite ends of the helipad and both moved into an en garde position with blades pointed at each other from across the distance. It was at that moment that I could appreciate how different we had become. I could see Robin moving with each deep breath he took, his blade rising and falling with each time he inhaled and exhaled. He was exhausted.
I, on the other hand, stood perfectly erect on the other side of the helipad. No detail of my appearance betrayed a single hint of exhaustion.
"Raven!" he called, "the blame for this has to rest on someone's shoulders."
"I agree whole-heartedly," I responded dryly.
Almost the moment I finished speaking he came charging at me, arm outstretched and blade pointed directly at me. I was stunned by his display of violence. Was he actually intent on hurting me? I resolved to end this immediately and with the state that Robin was in that wouldn't be very hard.
The moment Robin reached me a loud, almost ear splitting crash of metal against metal rang out over the rooftop. Robin's épée came clattering to the floor of the helipad several yards away from where I stood and the spiky haired boy himself dropped to his knees, gripping his shoulder in pain. With the match over I brought my blade to a vertical position before my face and saluted him. He looked at me one final time before averting his eyes.
"You have lost, Robin."
I cast aside my own épée and knelt down before him. A soft blue glow emanated from my hands as I gently placed them on the spot where he was wounded. It proved to be nothing more than a little bruising, and if he had been bleeding I'd have known long before I attempted to heal him. Once I was finished he rubbed the spot where he had been wounded, as though he were testing it.
"Batman," he sighed from behind his face guard without looking at me. "It was because of Batman. I've never heard of any single instance where someone lost their life while he was working. And here I am in my own city with an entire team of superheroes and someone gets killed. What does that say about me, Raven?"
"It means your human. It means that your fallible just like anyone else up to and including all the people who live in this tower."
He removed his face guard and brushed a sweat-drenched strand of hair out of his face and then looked off into the distance thoughtfully. He seemed about to speak when I heard the telltale sound of his communicator ringing. Quickly retrieving it he flipped it open and read the information displayed there.
"The HIVE is on the move again, in the southern warehouse district. The police have blocked off streets and made sure that they evacuated all the civilians they could but they think that there could be a few people inside the warehouse that Jinx, Mammoth, and Gizmo are in. They're waiting for us to move in," he looked up at me. "Raven, you do realize that you're coming this time, right?"
The sick feeling I'd felt earlier in my stomach when I'd first sent my fist clean through the countertop came back with a vengeance then. All I could do was nod, seeing how pointless it would be to argue especially after how I'd performed only moments ago. Maybe I could've acted a little more submissive towards him during that fencing match but it simply wasn't in my nature.
Thankful that Robin couldn't see the worried expression on my face because of the face guard I quietly reached down and helped him to his feet. We then proceeded down to the main room of Titans Tower to meet the others and to get ready.
Next Update – Friday February 10th
Chapter 10 – Pink and Red