Author's Note: Thanks for all the great reviews. I know its been a long time, and a lot has been revealed about Tamaran and Starfire in the new episodes so far, particularly in Go!, making my story even more AU than originally planned. Please see Notes and References at the bottom for important information regarding the planets(even though Azarath may not technicallybe a planet or whatever)in my story.
Chapter Five: Ships of War
"Are we there yet?" Beast Boy whined impatiently.
"No, we're not," Robin ground out through clenched teeth.
"Just like the last seventeen times you've asked," Raven said tightly. She was sure she was beginning to develop an eye-twitch. Being trapped in a spacecraft for seven hours with Beast Boy could do that to a person. She was tempted to ask Cyborg just how much longer it would be, despite the fact that he had already told Beast Boy numerous times that it would take at least a few more hours.
"Did it take this long to get to Tamaran last time?" Raven wondered aloud instead.
"No," Cyborg said while typing away at the main computer onboard. "But I'm trying to get a feel for what we're going into…and scrambling the tracking systems of the ships we're passing by."
"We've already encountered enemy ships?" Robin demanded sharply.
Cyborg shrugged, still distracted. "Well, yeah, if you can call it that. None of them have actually seen us. Cloaking system's working like a charm." It was easy for all of them to catch the hint of pride woven into his voice. He was obviously very impressed with the ship's performance.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Robin persisted.
"Wasn't necessary," Cyborg said. "I've got it all under control. Besides, there haven't been that many yet. Just a few here and there. You can see them through the windows if you'd like."
Robin strode towards a window brusquely, followed closely by an enthusiastic Beast Boy. Robin's face was stony as he observed the enemy ships while Beast Boy was awestruck.
"Whoa, there's one! And another! Hey, look at that one waaaay over there! Is that a laser shooter?"
"Are all of your species this annoying?" Talan questioned rudely. Thankfully, he had remained relatively quiet during the ride, perfectly content to monitor Cyborg at the computer and occasionally throw out a comment, sometimes helpful, sometimes derogatory.
"I'm human," Beast Boy said indignantly.
Talan eyed him doubtfully. "Right."
"Leave him alone, Talan," Raven broke in. Robin nodded in agreement. Now was not the time to delve into anybody's pasts. No use in haunting themselves with skeletons.
Speaking of skeletons…
Raven moved to look out one of the windows, as far as she could get from anybody else. Her gaze was guarded as she sought out the Azarathean ships, and her eyes were hard and cold. One of the spacecrafts came particularly close, and Raven squinted in an attempt to see more. She didn't know what she was looking for, but the thought of the Azaratheans lounging about inside preparing for the destruction of Tamaran made the back of her neck tingle. She frowned. She wasn't supposed to care.
"Nobody would blame you if you didn't fight in this war," a calm voice said, coming up behind her.
"It's my duty," Raven said evenly.
"Well, as your leader, I'm relieving you of that duty. You don't need to feel obligated to do anything."
"So I'm just supposed to sit around and read?" Raven said. "I would never back out like that. You know me better."
"I just want to be fair," Robin said. "I don't want to support one teammate at the expense of alienating another."
"I told you none of this meant anything to me," Raven said tightly.
"That's hard to believe," Robin said, gesturing out to the ships. "These people are the ones you grew up with. You were their princess."
"I was nobody's princess," Raven laughed bitterly. "And we've had this conversation already. I told you I could do this. I am going to do this."
She threw him a dirty glance and abruptly swept out of the main room. Robin couldn't help but feel that he had been cheated out of the conversation twice. He noticed Talan making his exit soon afterwards with a distinct stab of displeasure. He was considering going after the two when Starfire glided into the room, her long red hair adorably tousled after what appeared to be a very restful nap. A smile touched his lips, despite everything that was going on.
"Starfire," he said, beckoning to her.
Starfire's head rose, her eyes bleary. She smiled when she saw him. Robin noted that though her gaze was worried, there was nothing else drastically different about it. He was glad. "Friend Robin," she said affectionately, "have I slept long?"
Robin shook his head. "No longer than you needed to," he assured her.
"Has much occurred during my slumber?" Starfire continued to inquire. Her smile sagged. "I saw Friend Raven and her boy in the hall. They appeared to be troubled."
"Was he bothering her?" Robin demanded, concerned. The thought of bursting out there and forcing Talan away from Raven flitted across his mind again.
Starfire shook her head. "I was anxious as well, but they were only speaking with each other. Friend Raven did not look angered."
"Okay," Robin said, accepting the answer. He still wanted to see what was going on for himself, but he was well aware that Raven wasn't on good terms with him right now. Besides Talan, he might have been her least favorite person on the T-Ship.
"What is that?" Starfire suddenly said, pointing off into the far distance outside the window. Robin squinted his eyes and could just make out the speck of what must have been another Azarathean ship. He hesitated when he turned back to Starfire who was still straining to decipher the object.
He rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. He doubted Starfire would be pleased with the news. "Well, it's…"
Suddenly, a much closer one loomed in the window's view. Starfire's mildly pleasant expression dropped when she saw the stingray-shape of it. "Ships of war," she said flatly.
Robin nodded. It was no use lying to her. Starfire could be very perceptive.
She sighed. "They are from Azarath, are they not?"
"They are," Robin confirmed.
"Tamaran does not have ships such as these. The ships of Tamaran are less sharp. They have a platform in which to go out and extend peace to the side of the opposition. Tamaran does not like to be at war with others."
"Tamaran sounds like a nice place," Robin said gently.
"It is," Starfire agreed. She glanced back out the window, and the gentle expression that had graced her face while she was speaking of her home planet was suddenly engulfed by a harder, more determined one. "But we will fight, if forced. Tamaran is a planet of skilled fighters. We will not let the evil destroy us."
"Not everybody from Azarath is evil," Robin said.
Starfire looked steadily into Robin's eyes. He was surprised by the fierceness of her gaze. "I am not implying that Raven is evil if that is what you are thinking," she said, "She is my friend and my comrade. But most of her planet is corrupt. Azarath is not a nice place. I admire friend Raven for having the strength to escape the evil of her home."
"Funny," a dry voice said behind them, "ask anybody else, and they'll tell you I was the evil of my home."
Robin and Starfire turned around to find, "Raven!"
She and Talan must have come back sometime during his and Starfire's discussion, Robin realized. He wondered just how much she had heard. He backtracked through the conversation, hoping they had said nothing that could possibly anger her. A few of the words exchanged might have been termed as questionable, but it took a lot to truly upset Raven.
"…You are not evil, friend Raven!" Starfire was insisting when Robin tuned back into the conversation.
Raven shrugged. "I'm just saying I wasn't your typical, beloved Princess back on Azarath. If it wasn't for fear of my father, they wouldn't have even tried to stop me from leaving."
"Very true," Talan agreed. "I distinctly remember a day of rejoicing when the Meeres replaced Raven as the representative authority. Streya was much more the model princess."
Raven's eyes darkened, and Robin noticed that she was carefully avoiding even glancing in Talan's direction. "Meaning that she actually supported Azarath's conquering of other planets, yes, she was," she said coolly.
"Azarath did like its conquests," Talan said cheerfully. "You were always a bit of a downer when you spoke publicly about them: We proved that we can defeat a planet of the innocent and defenseless. I see that Azarath truly has gained something of worth from this expedition. Tell you the truth, Rae princess, you just weren't very popular."
"I never cared about popularity," Raven said, unperturbed.
Talan grinned. "All the more reason for Azarath to hate you."
"Why are you so pleased with all of this?" Robin cut in. Surely, Talan's nonchalant treatment towards how despised Raven was on her planet had to be upsetting her at least a little.
However, it was Raven who answered, quite dryly actually. "Talan likes to pretend he's a big bad Azarathean, but he's not much of a follower. Notice how he abandoned them for us without any regrets."
"I have no sense of loyalty," Talan agreed woefully.
Raven rolled her eyes.
Robin winced. The remark was made in jest, but he was sure it had a double meaning to his reclusive teammate. It was hard to forget the disloyalty Talan had spoken of when he first arrived, how he had gone behind Raven's back with her best friend. If Raven was hurt by the remark, however, she wasn't giving any indication. But she was like that, Robin noted. It was always hard to tell what really got underneath her skin.
"Oh, look," Talan changed the subject as he brushed by Starfire to get a clear view of the window. "There's another ship. God, there's a ton of them, isn't there?" He turned to Beast Boy who had been eagerly taking in the view for a while but was now beginning to look bored. "How many have you counted so far?"
"Too many," Beast Boy said mournfully.
"And, to think," Talan continued. "We're going to have to blast all of these out of the sky. We're only outnumbered…what? One to three hundred? Maybe I should have stuck with Azarath."
"Why do you insist on dragging everybody down?" Raven questioned irritably, eyeing a crestfallen Starfire.
"I'm not trying to bring everybody down," Talan corrected. "Just you. It's not too late to change your mind, you know. Join Azarath. Screw loyalty. We could possibly be on the winning side instead of going down with the troqs. I figure showing you the odds is the only way to convince you. It's not my fault everybody else gets all hopeless and suicidal in the process. Maybe if you weren't such a cold, unfeeling bitch…"
Raven's eyes narrowed, and Robin growled angrily. His hands clenched into fists. Starfire, who was unfamiliar with the new term, still understood that now was not the time to beg for an explanation. Now was the time to be angry. Before anything could happen though, the T-Ship gave a sickening lurch.
"Shit!" Cyborg yelled. "We've been spotted!"
"What?" Robin demanded. Somehow, he had kept his balance through the quake, and he deftly leaped over to Cyborg's side. "What went wrong?"
Cyborg was typing into his computer furiously. "We were getting close to Tamaran, so I lowered the defense system to conserve energy. I never expected that they would attack so close to enemy lines…"
The ship tilted again. "Aw, man, they shot at us again! My baby is not going down on its first go!"
"I told you the technology was too outdated!" Talan said smugly. Raven could catch the urgency in his voice though. Talan valued little more than his own precious life.
"Shut your mouth," Cyborg yelled. He added something else, a rude epithet most likely, Raven thought, but it was drowned out by the sound of a blast.
"Got him! I got the dirty little…"
"Cyborg!" Robin snapped in warning.
There was another blast. Raven felt her stomach jolt. She had a feeling they hadn't been the ones to set that one off. "He came back for more," Cyborg moaned, confirming her suspicions. "I'm going to have to repair that."
While Cyborg tried to locate just which section of the ship had been damaged to ensure they would not fall out of the sky at any given moment, Robin took control, surreptitiously typing in a few commands. A series of missiles shot out from the ship, blasting strategic points on the other ship. The Azaratheans apparently had realized the T-Ship's superiority because they flew away rather quickly afterwards. Beast Boy let out a whoop of glee.
Cyborg, on the other hand, stood frozen for a few seconds. Slowly, he turned to face Robin. He took a gulp of air.
"Never mess with the T-Ship's control system again!"
"The job had to be done, and you let yourself get distracted," Robin said calmly. This might have escalated into a full-scale fight between the two competitive friends, but somebody else broke in.
"More ships are coming!" Beast Boy yelled, avidly staring out the window again. His mouth was dropped open in a look of abject horror.
Cyborg searched his monitor quickly. Raven joined Beast Boy beside the window. "These are different," she said. "Not Azarath."
"Tamaran!" Starfire shouted with joy. Sure enough, they could all just make out the deck she described with the presumed leader upon it, holding his hands out in the universal gesture of peace. A ringing sound came in over the ship's transmitter.
"They want to talk to us," Cyborg said. He accepted the request.
A Tamaranean dressed in warrior apparel appeared on a smaller screen to the right. "Dsian nos veik ariles sevrien consuit," it said.
They all turned to Starfire, except for Cyborg. "I can't believe I forgot to turn on the translator," he groaned as he set to work on the glitch.
"In your terms, I believe it means roughly, we do not wish to fight, strange beings," Starfire said.
"They don't wish to fight and yet they insult us?" Raven said, her voice touched with amusement. "Tamaran's diplomatic skills may rival Azarath's."
"I could have told you that," Talan grumbled. "It took us two days to get the point across to them that no, we did not want their creepy food as a peace offering, we wanted to destroy them."
"I take that back," Raven said. "At least they're trying to be friendly."
"Starfire, c'mere," Cyborg beckoned. "I want you to speak to them."
Starfire flew over to Cyborg and Robin. The warrior brightened upon seeing her. It fired off a few strings of sentences in rapid Tamaranean that made Starfire flush with pleasure. "He is very happy to see us," she explained to her team.
"Knorfka lei sund…we have been preparing for your arrival ever since the messengers returned. We expected you hours ago. Why did you not come sooner?" Cyborg apparently had fixed the translator.
"We came as quick as could, man," Cyborg said. "Your messengers had the advantage of not traveling in a war ship."
The Tamaranean nodded in understanding. "You are very close to our planet. You do not have to fear being attacked anymore."
"Great," Cyborg said. "Where should we land?"
"We have set up a dock for you. I shall send you the coordinates."
"Thanks," Cyborg said. The Tamaranean nodded again and ended the transmission. The screen went black once more.
Beast Boy cheered. "We're finally here!"
"You'll wish you weren't a few days from now," Talan smirked.
"Here we go!" Cyborg exclaimed. The ship tilted downwards, causing everybody to stumble. Cyborg grinned. He pressed a button on the ship and cleared his throat, the noise echoing through the room. It was the intercom. "This is your captain speaking. Please return to your seats now, and make sure to fasten your seatbelts."
"Lousy captain. You couldn't have made that announcement before," Beast Boy said darkly, picking himself up off the floor.
Once everybody was safely secured in their seats, Cyborg tilted the ship at an even sharper angle. "Go faster, Cyborg," Beast Boy goaded, forgetting that he was supposed to be disgruntled in the excitement of the landing.
Cyborg laughed. "Any faster, and we'll be toast. Literally."
"That was a happy picture," Raven commented.
"I'm much too pretty to end up as a breakfast food," Talan said, preening himself in front of a pocket mirror in preparation of meeting the Tamaraneans.
Robin rolled his eyes. "I thought you didn't care about Tamaran," he said. "Why are you bothering with that comb?"
Talan's gaze remained riveted in the mirror. "It's a matter of intimidation," he said. "I might be fighting with the troqs, but I still have to show them that I'm still their superior."
"And you plan on conveying this with tangle-free hair?" Robin questioned.
"I'm a very superficial creature," Talan admitted. He all but cooed at the mirror as he admired himself. "But it does have its rewards. Those troqs won't be able to keep their freakishly strong hands off of me." He batted his eyelashes at Starfire. "Don't you agree?"
Starfire's eyes glowed. "Friend Robin, may I have the permission to lay, as you say, the down-smack on this unpleasant being?"
"The what?" Robin said with a raised brow.
Beast Boy chuckled from his seat nervously. "I, uh, tried to teach Starfire some new words last weekend. I think she means smackdown."
Robin sighed in an annoyed fashion, but it looked to Raven like he was struggling not to laugh. "Sorry, Star, I'm afraid now isn't the best time to, uh, lay the…well, to do that," he said.
Starfire looked disappointed. Talan looked relieved. Robin looked like he wanted to change his mind.
The ship tilted, so it was more level again. Raven loosened her grip on her armrests gratefully. She counted one, two, three seconds and felt the unmistakable bounce of the ship colliding with solid ground. She had the sudden urge to clench her armrests again.
Raven gave a shake of her head to clear her disturbed thoughts. She couldn't show apprehension, or anxiety, or anything. She couldn't crack in front of her team. She had to be strong. She had told Robin she could do this. She knew she could do this.
"Welcome to Tamaran," Cyborg said, using his captain voice again, "I hope you enjoy your stay."
He punched a button, and the automatic doors slid open with a hiss. Raven's stomach sank.
Other Notes and References…
1. Tamaran – On the show, it was revealed as some gung-ho, tough, "not-nice" place. Insert-huge-sigh-here. My Tamaran is quite the opposite, if you haven't noticed. This was written out before the episode, and I'm not planning on changing it. This Tamaran will be exactly as it has been described so far in the story: honest people, skilled fighters, and nice. I'm still finding it hard to believe that Starfire could be such a doll but still have grown up in a totally terrible place.
2. Azarath – I've already explained a little about this. Azarath is not destroyed in this story, obviously. It is also not the same Azarath that was described in the comic books or the show. Here, Azarath is ruled by Trigon, Raven's father. However, Trigon is also out taking charge other worlds and spreading evil, so he isn't actually on a throne dictating orders or anything. Basically, if he wants something done, he sends orders down to the stand-in royalty on Azarath, which was once Raven, but now is the Meere line. Otherwise, the stand-in royalty has pretty much free reign as Trigon controls many planets and isn't especially concerned with Azarath. The people of Azarath are all very ambitious and power-hungry and haughty, and this is why Raven was an outcast. They feared her father, were jealous of her powers, and didn't understand her indifferent nature.
3. Remember to review!