By The Steel Angel
The lights were dim on the third floor. Small lamps hung from the ceiling, shining a pale, weak light on the steel corridors, wooden doors, and tile floors underneath. The hallway seemed to go on forever, and the further they walked, the further apart the lights were spaced.
Robin stopped in front of a large steel door, and held up a hand, signaling for silence. He pointed down at the floor. There was light shining through the crack between the steel door, and the tiled floor beneath them. His gaze shifted to Cyborg, who looked down at the sensors running on his robotic arm.
"Life traces coming from inside," He whispered. That was all Robin needed to hear. Slade wasn't going to get away this time. He had him trapped on the third story of a building. The only way Slade could get out, would be to jump out of the window. He was only human, and a third story fall would at least break a few of his bones.
Robin looked back at his team, then blinked. "Where's Raven?" He asked. Starfire scanned the area quickly. "It doesn't matter. We may not ever get another chance like this again. Everyone, go in with all you've got." Robin said, and took a deep breath. "Hrraah!" He grunted, and slammed an elbow into the door, sending it flying wide open.
Starfire and Beast Boy leapt into the room quickly. Starfire's hands and eyes were glowing, ready to throw a starbolt at anything that moved. Beast Boy quickly transformed himself into a male lion, bearing his fangs as a warning to any hostile. Cyborg and Robin followed them in.
Cyborg's sonic canon was charged and ready, and Robin's birdarangs were unsheathed. They crept into the room after Starfire and Beast Boy, only to find the room completely empty. There were no robots. No Slade. Robin jerked his head toward Cyborg, who was already looking down at the sensors on his arm.
"Still sensing a human life signal." He said, and moved through the room carefully, following the signal like a wolf hounds a sick animal. He stopped at a small janitors closet, then looked at the door. Robin stepped forward, and flung the door open. Inside, was a man strapped to a chair, with a bomb emblazened with Slade's insignia tied to his chest. Cyborg's sensors started to flash. "Oh man... I'm picking up dozens of different frequency patterns that match the pattern of this bomb. He's got the whole floor wired." He said.
"Then we've gotta move fast. Cyborg, you and Starfire stay up here and disarm as many bombs as you can. Beast Boy? We're going after Slade." Robin said, turning his head to Cyborg. "Disarm as many as you can, and then get him out of here." Robin said, gesturing to the janitor. "Scan the building again."
"Two life forms back on the first floor." Cyborg said, looking down at his arm. "One of them has Raven's communicator signal. The other..." He said, letting it hang in the air. That was all Robin needed to hear. He turned, and took off toward the stairs, with Beast Boy following closely behind him.
The stairs became a blur as Robin raced down them, sometimes crossing as many as four or five stairs in a single bound. Beast Boy did the best he could to catch up, but Robin was too fast for him. The only reason why he eventually did catch up, was because Robin's foot caught one of the stairs, sending him careening into the steel wall.
"Robin!" Beast Boy yelped, and knealt down beside him, lifting him up. Robin was panting and sweating, his cheast heaving roughly with every breath that he took. His cheek had been lacerated from the fall, and was dripping a small stream of dark crimson blood.
"I have to stop him... before he hurts Raven." Robin said adamently, and shrugged off Beast Boy. He pushed himself to his feet shakily, but fell backwards, as if he knees were made of jello. Beast Boy was there to catch him, and make sure he didn't injure himself any further.
"Dude, you're doing it again." Beast Boy said. Robin turned to glare at him, but Beast Boy didn't back down from his statement. "You're going all Slade-crazy again. Chill out before you give yourself a heart attack." He said. Robin stuggled against Beast Boy's grasp, writhing himself free, and took a few deep breaths, composing himself.
"Raven couldn't transport us upstairs. She couldn't conjur up any of her powers. If she couldn't do it twenty minutes ago, what makes you think she can do it now? She's helpless..." Robin said. Beast Boy put a hand on Robin's shoulder, and peered down the hallway thoughtfully.
"But if she's helpless, then why would Slade want her?" He asked.
"I don't know. But I'm not going to wait to find out!" Robin cried, and began to move down the stairs quickly again. Beast Boy sighed, but followed as fast as he could, not wanting Robin to go at it alone, especially against Slade, of all people. He knew how out of whack Robin's emotions could get when Slade was involved in the mix.
Robin stopped when he reached the first floor, staring around at the darkness of the office lobby. He knew that both Slade and Raven were somewhere around him, and he knew that his eyes were betraying him. He closed his eyes, relying on his other senses to lead the way.
His ears picked up a gentle shuffle. Footsteps? He took a step forward, silently following the source of the disturbance. Something wasn't right. He could feel some sort of eerie premonition. If Raven and Slade were still down here, shouldn't there be the sounds of a struggle, rather than a gentle shuffling?
Unless Raven was already...
No. He wouldn't let himself think that way. Raven wasn't the type of girl to just fold. Not after all she'd been through recently. The sound of footsteps had stopped. Robin couldn't even tell where he was, let alone Raven, Slade, or Beast Boy. The lobby was pitch black, barring the relfection from the dimly lit street lights that shone in through the glass doors.
"You're getting sloppy, Robin. I thought that I had taught you better than that, in your brief tenure as my apprentice." The cold, eerily familiar voice rang out. Robin spun around, putting up his fists in a defensive posture, but it was no use. He couldn't tell where the voice was coming from.
"Show yourself, you coward! Show yourself and fight!" Robin growled. He was aswered by a faint chuckle. A mocking, sinister laugh that could only belong to Slade. "Where's Raven!" Robin demanded, turning in a tight circle, trying to pick up the direction of Slade's voice.
"She's doing well. Much better than you're doing right now, Robin." Slade said, then became silent. Robin waited for him to add something else to the sentence, but was greeted with a sharp blow to his ribcage. Impossible! He hadn't heard an approach. Hadn't sensed it.
He fell to his knees, as blow after blow was landed on part after part of his body. The attacker was like an owl. No sound was made during the attack. Just the sound of a fist colliding with flesh, mixed in with Robin's own painful groans. Who was this? As skillful as Slade was, he couldn't attack without making a sound. He at least had to breath, pant, or take a step.
"Dissapointing, Robin. It seems I've overestimated you." Slade said. His voice sounded further away. Robin felt a hand as cold as steel wrap around his throat. It wasn't Slade's hand. It couldn't have been. It was much too small to be Slade's. Then, suddenly, the lights were turned on. Pale flourescent light illuminated the room, causing Robin to squint.
He saw Slade at the other end of the lobby, near the light switches. The steel hand tightened around his neck. He looked down at the person standing before him, and gasped, still struggling to get a breath of air.
"Raven...?" He struggled to say. She was covered in small silver scales, which had transformed her hands into cold, metal claws. The scales stopped at her neck, but her eyes glowed crimson red. Her cape was still intact, but her leotard was gone. She was encased in a solid sheath of silver metallic scales.
Raven growled primally, squeezing her hand harder around Robin's neck. He could feel the individual vertebrae begin to pop. His vision blurred, becoming dark around the edges. His arms and legs became as useful as rubber bands, hanging limply at his side.
"Rrrroooooowwwwwwrrr!" A war cry rang out through the lobby. Both Slade and Raven's heads snapped to the right, where they were greeted by the open mouth of a very green, very angry velociraptor. Beast Boy leapt forward, and clamped his jaws around Raven's metallic arm, biting down visciously.
Raven let out a high pitched, metallic sounding scream, as teeth and silver scales went flying into the air. Raven stepped back, clutching at her severed arm. Beast Boy spit the metal limb out of his mouth, before changing back to his human form, rubbing his jaw.
"Dude, we seriously need a new dental plan." He said, and then turned to look at Raven. "What's the deal?" He asked, eyeing Raven. "Since when is Raven upgradable?" He asked. There was a sense of confidence in his voice, since he'd just bitten off of Raven's arm.
"Slade did something." Robin said.
"I merely gave her the powers back which she so greatly desired... plus some." Slade said, taking a step toward the ailing Raven. "It was an offer, nothing more. Her hand wasn't forced." He said, and put one of his hands on Raven's shoulders. She stood up shakily, then looked down at her arm. The scales at the stump had begun to blur, and multiply, extending out and out, before solidifying into the shape of a brand new arm. "I'd say the benefits outweigh the loss of free will, wouldn't you?" Slade asked.
"Change her back!" Robin yelled, his hands clenching together as fists. Blackmailing him was one thing, but to go after someone as helpless as Raven was. This was unforgivable.
"This isn't a video game, Robin. What's done is done. There are no do-overs." Slade said, then shifted his gaze down to where Raven was standing. "I like to avoid killing people whenever I can. It's not my forte. But for you, Robin, I'll make that exception. Raven, attack!" Slade crowed.
Raven narrowed her crimson glow at Robin, and lurched forward, drawing her hands back. Bolts of black lightning shot out of her hands as fast as Starfire's starbolts. Robin quickly jumped up over the lightning, grabbing into a ceiling fixture dangling from the ceiling. "Beast Boy! Take care of Slade! I'll take care of Raven!" Robin yelled.
Raven looked up at Robin, and raised her hand. The ceiling fixture became coated in Dark Energy, then dislodged itself from the ceiling, plummeting straight down toward Raven herself. She jumped up, spun around in a tight circle, and planted a sharp kick to Robin's chest, sending him flying into Beast Boy, shoving both of them against the wall, effectively knocking Beast Boy out.
"You see, Robin? No one can win all the time. The laws of probability say that it's impossible to be perfect." Slade said, walking over to Robin's body, glaring down at him stoicly. "Everyone loses, sometimes." He said. Robin groaned lightly in pain, then pulled himself to his feet, clutching at the spot where Raven had kicked him.
"Winning isn't important..." He said, pain wracking his voice. "It's just the only thing that matters!" Robin shrieked, and threw a punch aimed straight for Slade's chest. Raven's hand was up in an instant, holding Robin's wrist in a vicegrip. "Hurgh..." Robin moaned, as Raven squeezed harder, threatening to break the bone.
"Sneak attacks don't amount to much, to the super human." Slade whispered.
"Raven..." Robin said softly, looking into Raven's dark red eyes. Her face was pulled back into a twisted scowl. A look of pure hatred was on her face. It was nothing he'd ever seen before. He'd seen Raven angry, but never with a look of hatred in her eyes. He had never seen a side of Raven who wanted to kill just for the sake of killing. "I know you're still in there... somewhere... you have to fight it," Robin whispered. "Because I won't fight you."
"Shut up." Raven's cold, metallic voice said. She twisted Robin's arm behind his back, still holding her vicegrip on his wrist. She kept twisting upwards, until a snapping sound was heard. She released his arm, and let it flop against his side uselessly.
Robin clutched at his broken arm, a look of pain and shock making its way across his face. But still, he wouldn't even try and take up arms against her. She lunged forward, delivering simultaneous blows to both of Robin's kidneys, knocking him back against the opposite wall. She latched a hand arouns his neck, holding him upright while she began to deliver punishing blows to his chest.
Every blow was like being hit with a sledgehammer. He cried out again and again, but it never stopped. He began to cough up blood, and felt the sicking crack when his ribcage gave way to Raven's blows. "Huuuah!" Raven screamed, and used her dark magic to life up the broken ceiling fixture, and slam it with all her force into Robin's legs below the knees, shattering them both.
He saw Slade standing at the other end of the room, just watching the scene unfold before his eyes. He didn't move, chide, or taunt Robin anymore. Perhaps Slade himself was looking a bit horrified by the killing machine that he'd created. Perhaps he was even more afraid, that he wouldn't be able to control it.
Raven didn't tire, Robin felt. A machine never slows down. The body shots, if anything, were becoming more frequent. Raven put both of her hands against the wall on either side of his head, and slammed her knee into his pelvis, shattering the bone on the left, then repeated the process with her other leg, shattering the bone on the right.
He could feel his vision begin to dull. He couldn't feel his arms or legs anymore. He collapsed to the ground like a ragdoll the second that Raven released her grip on him. He saw her crouch over him, and draw her hand back. The fingers on her hand intertwined with one another, to form a giant metallic spike. A spike, that was aimed straight for his heart.
"Raven..." Robin said weakly, as the scowl never left her face. He reached up with the last amount of strength in his body, and brushed his hand across her cheek. She jerked her head back reflexively, as if she'd been poisoned. Her eyes began to flicker. "I know you're fighting it, Raven..." Robin said softly. "Don't be afraid... you're still the best friend I ever had..." Robin said, then let his arm drop. His breathing slowed to the point of nearly stopping.
"Robi...Urgh..." Raven said, her voice beginning to change slightly. She reached up, clutching her own head, then threw it back, howling in pain. Slade, who had been a spectator this whole time, looked down at a small handheld monitor, seemingly amazed at what he was seeing.
"This is impossible... her body is rejecting the Galmium... almost like it's being... pushed back." He whispered to himself. Raven stood up, her body trembling. Her eyes were shifting from their crimson red, to a glowing white. She turned toward Slade slowly.
"You were wrong, Slade..." She whispered, her voice still in its metallic form. "My powers weren't gone... they just moved... they aren't channeled through my father anymore... no... my powers come from my friends. I forgot that... and so I couldn't use them when I needed to," She said.
"What's been done cannot be undone. Not even you can bring someone back from the dead." Slade quipped.
"Maybe... but I can try my best to take you down..." She said, clenching her fists. She saw Slade take a few steps backwards. He was retreating. Raven crossed her arms over her chest, and closed her eyes. More and more of the white energy that was surrounding her was being directed to the crystal on her forehead. "Azarath... Metrion... ZINTHOS!" She screamed, and commanded every cell of her body that she could control to push out the invading Galmium. A ball of white light surrounded her, blinding her to the rest of the building, where Slade was surely making his escape.
And then, as fast as it had come, the light vanished, leaving her in the dark again. She collapsed to her knees, and looked down at her hands. They were normal again. She didn't have her leotard on, but wrapped the cape around her body to cover herself. She looked down at Robin, who was still clinging to life.
"Robin..." She whispered, and lifted his head up in her arms. She peeled off his mask. His eyes were shut. She held her hand to his lips to feel any kind of breath. She did feel it, though it was faint. "Hang on, Robin... We'll get you to a hospital..." She whispered.
"Hey..." He said harshly. "You're beat it... I knew that you could..."
Raven squeezed her eyes shut. Two small tears fell from her eyes onto Robin's cheek. "Raven I... I'm sorry I couldn't stop this from... happening..." He whispered, then fell silent. She put her hand to his heart, but didn't feel a beat. She leaned down, and kissed him on the cheek lightly.
"Robin..." She whispered again, more tears coming to her eyes. She buried her face into his limp shoulder, sobbing softly, never before having felt this kind of despair. Never before, had the tears flown so freely from her eyes, and never before, had she felt this much affection, care, and love, for another human being. Slade was right. What's done was done. It couldn't be undone. The prophecy of her birth had been fulfilled and overcome... but death and destruction still loomed over her, more meanacing than ever before.
As she laid there, clutching Robin's lifeless body in her arms, memories of the past filled her head. Happy times, sad times, any times. All the memories that she'd had with Robin over the past years, and it only made her cry harder. She felt as if the tears would never stop...
And maybe, they never would. -FIN