DISCLAIMER: I don't own Teen Titans. If I did, this would be on TV and not here.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This doesn't take place in the same storyline as my "Forced Base" and "Fractured Heart" stories, so forget those when you're reading this. Also, this takes place after the fourth season, so anything that happens in the show after that isn't applicable to this.
A simple assignment. Break into Lysentia Research and Development Corporation Storage Facility, penetrate deep into the heart of their defenses, and retrieve the treasure inside.
Simple for a thief who knew what he was doing. Simple for someone with resolve and wanton disdain for the rules of society.
Simple for someone like Red X.
The storage facility's defenses were quite tenacious, but Red X had rendered them useless within ten minutes. Fairly impressive for someone without the use of his gadgets... oh sure, it had been a piece of cake for Red X to recapture his belt from Titans Tower. Wait until the Titans were out on a mission, sneak in... the fools had left it in the same place where the suit had been kept so long ago.
But without Xynothium, the gadgets were useless. Xynothium, a synthetic substance that powered the suit, a miracle polymer that could be used to form hundreds of composites, tools, even weapons, was extremely hard to come by, so hard, in fact, that the military, who had originally commissioned its creation and manufacture, had all but abandoned its funding of any further Xynothium-based projects.
That was until a Lysentia scientist found the secret that would potentially put Xynothium in the hands of every soldier in the army... and maybe, eventually, every household in the nation. A self-sustaining Xynothium reactor... an almost limitless supply... in a capsule the size of a softball.
A scientist wasn't nearly as secure as the reactor would be. All Red X had to do was sneak inside the man's house, look through a few files, and with just a few hours of work, he'd made it all the way to the reactor room, without the use of gadgets, or even force... just the ingenuity and swiftness of a thief.
The reactor itself was kept on a tall, cylindrical pedestal in the middle of a long, dark room, lit only by several spotlights that shined down from the ceiling, about twelve feet above the floor. Several pillars interspersed throughout the room concealed security cameras, and a complex laser grid on the floor detected anyone foolish enough to try and steal the reactor.
Red X was no fool. The security guard monitoring the room was asleep on the job... Red X had made sure of that. And tripping the laser grid wouldn't be a problem once he'd stolen the reactor. Once he took the reactor, his gadgets would be up and running, and he'd have no problem taking out anyone that happened to show up.
The thief had one problem. As soon as he began traversing the room and the eighty-foot distance to the reactor... they appeared.
"Yo, didn't your mom ever tell you it's not right to take stuff that doesn't belong to you?"
Cyborg... X knew him well. He turned around... and all five Titans were facing him, standing in front of the entrance, simultaneously the room's only exit. He turned back toward the reactor... and Robin, the Titans' leader, suddenly leapt in front of him.
"You may have the suit, and the belt, but without Xynothium, both of those are useless," said Robin, extending his bo staff. "You might as well give up now!"
"Five-on-one on a defenseless man?" said Red X sarcastically. "I thought you Titans liked to fight fair."
"This doesn't have to be a fight if you just come quietly," Robin replied. "I'm warning you..."
Red X had come to get the reactor, and no Teen Titan, not even five of them, were going to stop him. He lunged forward with a sweeping kick aimed directly at the Boy Wonder's head... but Robin was clearly ready, ducking under the kick and grabbing Red X's outstretched leg. With strength unbecoming of such a seemingly scrawny young superhero, Robin swung Red X hard to the ground, his face impacting hard on the metallic floor of the reactor room. Red X hopped to his feet and continued running, Robin's move having brought him a few feet closer to the prize on the pedestal. Suddenly, a black energy portal materialized in front of Red X's face, swirling and coalescing into the form of Raven, who didn't seem too happy about having to face the thief a second time.
"Hey now, I helped you guys," said Red X, his hands outstretched in a friendly, pleading gesture. "The least you could do is make this a bit easier for-"
"Azarath, metreon, zinthos!"
Raven's familiar chant was soon accompanied by a blast of energy that slammed into Red X's chest and knocked him flat to the ground, skidding several feet along the floor before finally coming to a stop a short distance away from where Robin had knocked him to the ground earlier. He stood up and looked around... the five Titans had completely surrounded him.
"Well, this fell apart pretty quickly..."
Red X hadn't expected the Titans to interfere with his raid, despite everything he knew about them that should have indicated otherwise. He knew that without the use of his gadgets, he'd be hard-pressed to take even one of the Titans down, let alone all of them.
"I've prepared for this,"thought Red X, his hand reaching down to one of his pockets. "I'm going to get that reactor... and no one's going to stop me."
"Please, just give up and come with us," said Starfire, extending her hand out to Red X. "You do not have your gadgets, and if you try to fight us, we will be forced to-"
Sweet, loving Starfire. Always the first to try and reason with the enemy... not wanting to fight, but vicious when she needed to be. Red X's eyes scanned the room... the reactor was directly behind Robin. If he could just...
"Dude, it's over!" shouted Beast Boy.
"It's never over," shouted Red X, withdrawing his hand from his pocket and throwing a handful of pepper into Robin's face. The pepper cloud sifted through Robin's mask, stinging his eyes and immediately bringing him to one knee. Red X rushed forward, kicking Robin in the face and knocking him back into a pillar. Then, he dashed for the pillar immediately behind it, crouching down and smiling as several Starbolts exploded against the back of the metallic structure, creating a cloud of smoke that allowed Red X to get even closer to the reactor. He ran as fast as he could, leaping over one of Cyborg's blasts and stretching out his hand to gain his prize. "All in a day's work..."
But to Red X's horror, the reactor suddenly became engulfed in darkness, floating away from his hands and into the hands of Raven, standing in the center of the room, more than ten yards away. Red X turned around and was suddenly tackled by Beast Boy, who had transformed into a horned ram, building up a head of steam and plowing Red X into the pedestal.
The blow was effective, and the thief's chest suddenly flared up with pain, causing him to release a pained groan. He rose to his feet and could still see Raven standing halfway across the room, protectively clutching his rightfully earned prize in her small, pale hands.
Beast Boy had leapt back, still in ram form and stroking his hoof across the floor, readying himself for another charge.
"This is almost too easy,"thought Red X, leaping over Beast Boy and hearing the glorious sound of his outwitted green foe slamming headfirst into the hard metallic pedestal. "Of course, it's not all that hard to outwit that idiot..."
Now, nothing stood began Red X and the reactor. He ran toward Raven, who stood unflinching in his path. Soon, he realized why. Robin, Starfire, and Cyborg immediately leapt to her aid, standing in front of Raven, all ready to block Red X from obtaining the reactor. Robin was still rubbing his eyes from the effect of the stinging pepper.
"Give it up!" shouted Robin, pointing his bo staff at Red X, an angry scowl on his face. "This is a pointless fight!"
"Then why are you trying to hard to win?" asked Red X, his tone of voice mocking the Boy Wonder. Robin let out an angry cry, swinging the bo staff at Red X, who leapt up to avoid it. "Now for a different strategy..."
Red X leapt upon the bo staff itself, skipping off the edge and striking Robin in the face with a hard kick. As Robin fell back, Red X took another leap, jumping past Starfire and Cyborg and tackling Raven hard to the ground. As soon as he did, a powerful blast of dark energy struck him in the chest, sending him flying back into a pillar. Raven stood up and stumbled backward, her hands still glowing from the blast. Immediately, she realized something was wrong, and Starfire confirmed her suspicions.
"Raven... the reactor... it is gone!"
"Quick hands and even quicker decisions... the true secret to effective thievery,"thought Red X, who had grabbed the reactor from Raven in the split-second before she'd been able to blast him. He'd held onto his prize even as he slammed into the pillar, and now, as he quickly placed the reactor on the back of his suit in the place usually reserved for Xynothium refills, quickly hooking it into the suit and making it impossible for anyone to remove it, he finally allowed himself to smile. "Of course, a good grip always helps."
Red X quickly stood up, shaking off the pain from his latest impact and surveying his surroundings. The five Titans had regrouped, and were now facing him down, determined not to allow the thief to leave. The reactor had been absorbed into the suit and was now completely invisible... reclaiming it would be an impossibility. But the Titans were still intent on capturing the thief... something Red X would simply not allow.
"Titans... go!" shouted Robin, ordering the team into battle. Red X crouched into a fighting position, once again feeling the potent Xynothium as it coursed through his suit. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Cyborg all came rushing forward at once, and Red X was ready, reaching down to his belt and withdrawing four small X-bombs. He hurled them at each of the attacking Titans, the bombs exploding simultaneously, creating a huge blast that threw all four of them back. Through the smoke, he could see Robin leaping toward him, bo staff fully extended. Red X pulled out another X and tossed it in Robin's path. As Robin's staff impacted the X, it sent out a sonic impact blast that coursed through the metal staff, shaking Robin to his knees.
"I think you need a time-out," said Red X, hurling another X to the ground, right under Robin's foot. As Robin tried to move, the X turned into a powerful glue that held the Boy Wonder in place, struggling to get away. Red X turned and dashed for the door, only to see the business end of a plasma cannon pointed directly in his face.
"You ain't goin' anywhere, dawg!" shouted Cyborg, firing a stream of blue plasma energy from his arm cannon that Red X was barely able to dodge by bending his body under the beam as it rushed past. He stood up and found himself in the path of another beam, this one coming in too fast for Red X to evade. It slammed into his face, knocking him to the ground and right into the path of a flurry of Starbolts.
"They sure don't take very long to recover from an explosion,"thought Red X, rolling out of the path of the Starbolts and firing several Xs at Starfire's arms. The Xs turned into a thick, sticky goo on impact, covering Starfire's hands and making it impossible for her to fire any more bolts Red X's way. "That oughta cool you-"
It was Raven again, right behind Red X and ready to remove one of the room's support pillars to strike him with. Red X immediately thrust his hand forward and fired a sticky X from his palm that affixed itself to Raven's mouth, instantly stopping her attack sequence. Satisfied that he'd stopped Raven so easily, he turned his attention to Beast Boy, now transformed into a raging gorilla.
He'd ripped the pedestal loose from the floor, and tossed it at Red X with all of his might. Red X extended his other hand, firing several sharp metallic Xs that slashed the pedestal to pieces and embedded themselves into the wall. Then, he fired another large X that enclosed itself around Beast Boy's arms and chest, squeezing him tighter the more Red X closed his hand.
"Played Donkey Kong once... hated it," said Red X, constricting the metal X even further and causing gorilla Beast Boy to roar out a loud cry of pain. "Wonder what woulda happened if Mario had had one of these babies?"
"Azarath, metreon, zinthos!"
Before Red X could react, a large, metallic pillar slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground and trapping him underneath the enormous pillar's prodigious weight. As he weakly looked up, he could see Raven hovering over him, the X no longer on her face.
"You didn't think I'd be a very good Titan if the same trick worked on me twice, did you?" asked Raven, dropping the X onto the ground. "But nice try, though."
"I think you're gonna love this..." said Red X, reaching up and sticking a small X onto the pillar. Then, with a wave of his hand, the broken pillar rose up from the ground, hovering in the air as Red X stood up. "As you like to say... azarath, metreon, xynothium!"
The pillar suddenly rushed forward, smashing into Raven's chest and continuing back toward the wall. It hit Beast Boy just as he'd escaped from the X across his arms and chest, and smashed both him and Raven hard into the back wall before crumbling into pieces on top of them, leaving both superheroes buried in rubble. Red X turned back toward the entrance of the room, only to see Robin, Cyborg, and Starfire standing in his way.
"Surely you don't want what happened to your little friends happening to you as well," said Red X, menacingly beckoning the three Titans to attack. "I've got all the time, and all the Xynothium in the world."
"You're still not gonna like this!" Robin shouted, rushing forward and tossing a small, red and yellow device at Red X's chest. Red X tried to dodge it, but Robin's aim was sure, and the object quickly affixed itself to the thief, jolting him with a powerful electric current. As Red X stood in place, stunned by the gadget, Robin took out his bo staff and gave Red X several shots to the head and chest, sending him off-balance and knocking him to the ground yet again. Red X went to his belt, tossing an X at Robin's head, but Robin smacked it away with his staff and kicked Red X in the chest as he tried to stand. The kick caused Red X to stumble back, but this time he remained standing.
Robin continued rushing forward, swinging his bo staff at Red X nearly once a second. With every swing, Red X would pull out another X from his belt, the X flying forward and expanding into a shield that blocked Robin's attack. Finally, Red X had been backed up all the way to the pile of rubble at the rear of the room. As Robin swung his staff forward, Red X caught it in his hand.
"You... won't get away... with stealing the reactor..." said Robin, trying to free his staff from Red X's grip. "You still have to make it past all of us!"
Without a word, Red X reached into his staff with his other hand and hurled forward an X that pasted itself over Robin's eyes, blinding the Boy Wonder. As he stumbled back, Red X kicked him hard in the chest, knocking him away.
Before he could celebrate, however, the pile of rubble suddenly sprung to life, and Raven floated out of it, her eyes flashing with black light.
"Azarath, metreon, ZINTHOS!"
Raven fired an enormous dark energy blast at Red X, hitting him before his hand could even begin to reach for his belt. The blast detonated with incredible force, sending the thief flying all the way back across the room to the entrance. He hit the floor and skidded several feet before coming to a stop against the large metal door that he'd been trying to reach ever since taking the reactor. His entire body was racked with pain, but he stood up, smiling as the five Titans advanced toward him.
"It's over, X..." said Robin, peeling the sticky X from his eyes and leading the Titans toward the beleaguered thief. Red X took one look behind him and smiled, knowing the fight had been won.
"This time, you're right, kid... it is over."
Pulling one last X from his belt, he threw it just a few inches in front of his face. It immediately stretched out into a thin film that blocked off the area immediately in front of the door from the rest of the room, where the Titans were. The film quickly hardened into metallic Xynothium, something Red X knew the Titans wouldn't be able to break... at least not for a few minutes. More than enough time to make an escape. Then, Red X opened the gate and walked through... out into freedom.
"After him!" Starfire shouted, flying toward the gate but suddenly coming to a stop when her head slammed into the hardened Xynothium, hurling the poor Tamaranian girl back toward her friends. "What is this?"
Robin was the second Titan to reach the Xynothium barrier, striking it with his fists but being unable even to make a small dent.
"That's not good," said Cyborg, blasting the barrier with his plasma cannon but causing it little, if any damage. "He's trapped us in here!"
"Does that mean... that the Red X has escaped?" asked Starfire, sadly looking around at her friends.
"We HAD him!" shouted Robin, repeatedly pounding the barrier with his fists. "We had him!"
After making it past the Titans, the rest of the security was a cakewalk for Red X. Though his fight with the Titans in the reactor room had tripped the security lasers, triggering an alarm that sent hundreds of guards and police into the building, Red X was easily able to elude them, using explosive Xs and barrier Xs to stop the guards he couldn't slip away from.
Within a few minutes, Red X had left the building, running out into the city, his suit fully replenished by the Xynothium reactor. He finally had what he needed to truly be Red X again, the thief whose name was known throughout the city. In a few short months, he'd become a bit of a legend... and that suited him just fine.
The authorities continued to chase Red X as he emerged from the Lysentia building. He continued running for the good part of an hour until he was sure he didn't have anyone on his trail.
That way, no one would see Red X enter a small, urban neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Jump City. A neighborhood of apartment buildings and a few tenement houses lining the streets. Several young men and women roamed these streets at night, heading out to clubs or just wandering in the neighborhood to make trouble. By far, the person who'd caused the most trouble that night was Red X, but in this old neighborhood, barely anyone noticed his presence as he lurked in the shadows. Certainly no one saw him climbing up a fire escape on the side of a small, three-story brick apartment building, taking several flights of stairs up to a window located on the top floor.
"The Titans are probably out by now..."thought Red X as he climbed the last flight of stairs and walked onto the platform in front of the window. "And I know they're looking for me."
Red X climbed through the window, into a small, empty room. He turned on the light by the door... the room was a bedroom, with a large bed by the window, a desk, two dressers, and posters lining the walls.
The Titans would never think to look for Red X in this room... a fortunate thing, since this was the room where the master thief spent the most time of his life. A mask... Red X's mask, fluttered onto the bed, followed by the suit... the suit with the Xynothium reactor, such a precious item, probably worth billions of dollars... the mask and suit shoved into a box under the bed. The next thing to touch the bed was a boy, sixteen years of age, flopping on top of his blanket and staring up at the ceiling of the room. His black hair, short and straight, undamaged by the tight fit of the mask that had been over his face. He wore a white tanktop with brown shorts, an outfit that wouldn't get in the way when he put on the suit.
"A job well done... I did it,"thought the boy, still staring at the ceiling while trying to gather all the thoughts that were swirling through his head. "I got the Xynothium reactor, and escaped the Titans..."
He knew Red X and the Titans would meet again. But with the limitless supply of Xynothium from the reactor, he was ready for anything.
"I won't be powerless again."
A woman's voice snapped the boy out of his thoughts, out of his victorious mood, and back into the real world... the world outside of the Red X costume.
"Sanza... Sanza Ruiz Salazar... where have you been all evening? I was worried sick about you!"
Sanza heard his mother's voice outside the door, but didn't get up from his bed. The door was unlocked... if she really wanted in, she could open the door herself.
Sanza Salazar... Red X... different people... different lives... same problems with authority.
Bet you guy's didn't see that one coming, hmm? Red X's identity is revealed right off the bat... so who is this Sanza Salazar, anyway? And why does he, a sixteen-year-old kid from a poor neighborhood, have the Red X suit? Your questions, at least some of them, will be answered next chapter, I can assure you!