Oh my God, I cannot believe how long it's been since I updated. I'm so sorry, guys! I never meant to do this! It's just that bball season is starting, and has cut my free time to about zilch. Thanks for understanding:
Starfire slowly descended from the dark sanctuary of the stormy gray skies and landed inside a clump of brush just northwest of Jump City. After peering outside of her cover of foliage, the young Tamaranian leapt up and dashed through the trees to the far wall of a desolate stone building, which showed obvious signs of abandonment and neglect.
Fog began to roll in at her feet as Starfire knelt and felt for a weak spot in the wall. After a moment, having found a hollow area in the mortar, she lit a starbolt and began to drill through the wall of Jump City Penitentiary.
Robin moaned as he began to come to in a whirl of nauseating yellows and greens and a throbbing pain in his temple. He opened his eyes slowly, unsure; he found himself inside a cold, darkened room, lit only by dirty lamps adorning its walls.
The Boy Wonder turned his neck painstakingly to the left—he could tell something had popped out, as it hurt to do so—and whispered to Cyborg: "Cy! Cy, wake up! C'mon!"
The metallic man gave no signs of hearing Robin, and continued his artificial slumber. Robin cursed under his breath and began trying to escape, wiggling and jerking at his restraints, but to no avail; from what he could tell, they were solid titanium, and unbreakable unless one possessed superhuman strength. He cursed again.
Then, the heavy silence in the room was broken by the patter of light, dainty footsteps in the stone halls beyond. Robin craned his neck and head forward, searching for a better view…someone had come into the room, but he could not tell whom. There was too little light, and too much shadow.
Robin was saved the further trouble of 'investigating' the visitor when the specter threw his head back and erupted into insane laughter.
Raven grabbed Beast Boy around the waist and dived hard under the surface of the contaminated, murky waters of the sewers, with Shayera close behind. Once under, though free from the laser-fire of Slade and his troops, escape seemed even more limited.
Above water had been nothing short of spine chilling, below, however, appeared to be much worse. Shadows from the walls and grates above the surface cast eerie shadows over the grime, lowering visibility to its utter minimum, and the waters ran foul and dark with trash and waste.
Raven floated with the semi-conscious Beast Boy, both of them suspended in the water, and seemingly frozen in time as lasers struck the garbage around them and explosions ricocheted off of the thick oppressive walls. Then, Raven's eyes glowed dark, and tiny, ebony bubbles of air appeared around all of their mouths, saving the threesome from suffocation.
Shayera swam next to them, and, quite opposite of their state, was extremely animated. Most of this was due to panic. She was swimming frantically side to side, dodging bullets and searching desperately, hopelessly for a way out…and then she saw it.
It was a small grate at the end of the underwater tunnel, over 100 feet away. The gaps between the steel beams that criss-crossed in its front were small—maybe three feet, at best. Just big enough for Raven, Beast Boy, and Shayera to get through…not so for Slade. He and his robots were too large.
Shayera grabbed Raven's arm and dragged her and Beast Boy's dead weight through the water towards the grate, while from above the surface, bullets followed their path, some missing only by inches. Shayera saw Raven wince and pull Beast Boy closer to her.
Shayera motioned towards Raven at the grate; Raven nodded and began to float Beast Boy through the opening.
A bullet slammed into the concrete above his head, blowing pilings and steel loose in its wake.
Raven froze, her eyes wide with fear for the first time. Shayera took charge, wrenching Beast Boy away from the falling concrete just in time. He was pulled away scathed, though—the falling debris had scraped him on the side of his head, and blood was beginning to drift away; crimson clouds in the dirty water.
The concrete fell into itself as her starbolt's pressure increased, falling to the floor inside with a resounding crash. Starfire stepped inside, taking care to avoid the shards of twisted metal now protruding from the wall.
At the sound, yells and various pounding noises erupted from where Starfire presumed the prisoners were, in the adjacent room. The hallway was dark, and light limited; Starfire lit a starbolt in her fist and held it aloft, shivering despite the new light and heat her energies provided. The only sounds were the prisoners' screams and her own breathing.
Starfire pulled open a bulky metal door, which groaned and screeched at the unfamiliar movement. She stepped in and her foot came down on a piece of glass, but only she heard the tiny cracking noise. Then, she stepped in something moist. She bent over to examine the mysterious puddle on the floor…
It was blood.
Starfire shrieked and leapt backwards, enlargening the starbolt in her hand, filling the entire room with her unnatural emerald glow. She was horrified at the creatures that looked back at her.
"So good to see you again, Boy Blunder," Joker said through his laughter, thrusting his hands into his pockets. "How's life been treatin' ya?"
Robin growled something low and indecipherable, and Joker cocked an eyebrow. "What was that, Robbie-dear?" Robin simply glared back at him, challenging him to make him speak. "Very well," Joker said, mock sighing and rolling his eyes…and withdrawing a knife from his coat pocket. "Talk or…" he put his free hand to his chin, posing thoughtfully. Then, his eyes lit up. "Talk or I'll slit his throat," he grinned, pointing to Cyborg.
"Bastard," Robin growled, straining at his shackles once more.
Joker didn't even pretend to be hurt. "Sticks and stones, Robin. Sticks and stones. Can't really hurt me now, can you?" The question, though obviously rhetorical, caused Robin to growl yet again. "After all, I control the city, I control you, I control…well, pretty much everything, actually," he said, very light-heartedly. "You've lost, Bird Boy. And this time, even dear Batsy couldn't pull you out of the hole. Not like last time, Robin. The one time you have a chance to prove you can do it yourself, well…everyone ends up screwed." Joker shrugged his shoulders. "That's the biz!"
"You're deluded. You're insane," Robin said, all the venom he possessed coming out in his voice. "You don't control anything. As soon as your back's turned, Slade—"
Joker clamped a hand down over his mouth. "Slade? Oh, posh, Robin, I thought even you would be able to figure it out. Slade is nothing in this plan, dear boy. All of this is mine. I just needed his manpower," Joker's hands returned to his pockets. "I pawned him into thinking I needed help, and then I force-fed him the plan, lead him into it."
"He still thinks it was all his idea, though. But I had it cooking up for months in the ol' noggin," Joker pointed at his head, though strangely, he was as grim as Robin had ever seen him. "He's just my plaything. I needed his robots, and his knowledge of the city. It's when his back is turned that the fun will really begin."
Robin blinked for a moment, completely stunned. In his mind, Slade had always been the pinnacle of villainous genius—the greatest threat to the world he had ever seen, possibly even as brilliant as Bruce. And now, to hear that he was merely a pawn, that Joker was simply using him to get his way with the city…
"Of course, he wasn't the only person completely fooled by all of this," Joker said, smirking maliciously at Robin. "There was you, too."
Raven quickly began clearing the debris, frantically attempting to make the way for their escape. Meanwhile, another laser shot through the water, singing the skin on her arm, causing yet more blood to course into the sewer. Shayera grimaced—Slade would have to be an idiot not to be able to tell their position just based on the blood beginning to filter to the surface.
Shayera glanced upwards, and gasped…she could see the propellers of boats beginning to head their way, as more lasers cut through the murky depths. Shayera turned to Raven, who was still slowly moving the concrete…she was taking too long.
Shayera shoved the empath out of the way and took out her mace, being cautious not to light its electrical components. She gritted her teeth and began smashing into the wall near the grate, creating her own tunnel into it. Nearby, Raven grabbed Beast Boy, readying him for the transport.
Raven cried out as she was struck once again by laser fire, this time in the back, and by more than one of the encroaching robots. Shayera took one final swing, and, deciding that the hole was large enough, helped the now excessively bleeding Raven pass Beast Boy into it; Raven then climbed awkwardly in after him.
Shayera then shoved herself into the shaft, wiggling her wings and uncomfortably rearranging herself so that the span of her body would fit into the grate. Laser fire once again soared overhead, as the robots took aim at the retreating Thanagarian. She wrenched herself free of the tiny opening of the grate and slid herself further in after Raven, as the laser blasts ricocheted off of the top of the grate, and it crumbled, sealing their entrance. Now, they could only go forward.
Not that Shayera had ever been one to look back.
Starfire could not help but gasp as she stared into the emaciated faces of the former criminals of Jump City.
They were starved and sickly; many had died in their cells, and their bodies had been piled on top of one another by their cell mates. They had been forced to live with nine or ten others in their cells—preventing them from surviving longer than they had to.
As she walked past, dying men moaned for water, cried out for death, for an end to their misery. Starfire forced back tears as she looked through the cells, searching for the one man that she knew would help her.
Starfire stepped over a limp hand that had fallen splayed into the hallway and continued forward, her starbolt illuminating the faces, giving them a garish glow, making their hollow cheekbones and sunken eyes seem to pop out at her, making them look haunted.
"Who ya lookin' for, cutie?" A raspy, weak voice suddenly cut through the cries of the prisoners; they fell silent at the sound. Starfire looked around, confused as to the voice's origin, until a surprisingly healthy hand grasped her arm from between the cell bars.
Starfire looked into the sunken face of the unmasked Red X, who stared back grimly. "Red…X?" she asked, slightly shaken. He nodded in return, weakly smirking back at her.
Starfire looked him over, mentally noting his health, which was much higher than the rest of the prisoners. "How are you so well?" He leaned back against the wall of his cell, his eyes scanning her over as well…though for a slightly different reason.
"Most of the men in my cell died," he explained, looking extremely nonplussed. "Pretty early on, too, so I got more food than the average Joe in the other cells." He made a wide, sweeping gesture at the others, and then at the alarmingly large stack of bodies in his cell. In fact, he was the only one alive. "That, and I had an in with the warden when they handed out rations for the last time. Got some extra." He reached behind him and held up a dented can of tuna. "Want some? It gets better with age."
Starfire shook her head. "I am not here to eat, X…truthfully, I am here for help." His eyes widened slightly, and he tilted his head, looking at her questioningly.
"I thought the almighty Titans didn't need any help."
Starfire, incensed, strode up to the bars of his cage powerfully, and jabbed her hand in the gaps. X gasped in surprise as her eyes glowed green and she shoved him backward, spilling his tuna. "You will not say such things about my friends! We have fought long and hard to attempt to save this city, and you simply sit here on your gavok'na and offer me tuna!" Starfire stepped back from his cell. "But perhaps you do not wish to leave, yes? After all, your accommodations are so very luxurious."
X smirked at her. "Fine. I'll come. But what do I get in return?"
Starfire held her starbolt in front of the bars, forcing her face to remain expressionless. "You will live," she said stonily.
Red X nodded. "You do have a point there. Alright—" he pointed at the bars. "Let me go." Starfire nodded and in an instant, her starbolt had sliced through the steel of the bars, and as they clanged to the ground, X stepped out next to her in the hall. Starfire, satisfied, turned to leave.
Suddenly, she felt a rough, demanding grip on her shoulder. Then, in the next moment, before Starfire had time to recover, X had grabbed her shoulder, and looped his other hand around the waist. "I had some other rewards in mind," he whispered.
Starfire whipped around and threw him to the ground in a judo move that Robin had taught her, and then pinned him to the wall, using her superior strength to effectively cut off his air supply. No one touched her…
"As hard as it may be to believe," she hissed at him, "I have seen and lived through worse conditions than those here. I shall have no problems having you remain here and rot." X nodded, stunned, and Starfire threw him one more time, and as he grunted in dismay and pain, she did not feel the expected rush of relief; instead, she felt like she was about to cry.
(Robin/Cy…but he's still asleep.)
"Yes, yes, you, Robby-boy. In all of this, I think you were the stupidest, the blindest…" Robin glared up at him, and Joker laughed in amusement. "After all of this time…you couldn't even realize what I was doing to 'wittle Starfire," he spoke in baby-talk, condescending and grating. "Through everything that happened, you weren't clairvoyant enough to realize I was beating on your girlfriend!" Joker threw his head back and laughed maniacally.
Robin began thrashing at his restraints, grinding his teeth as Joker continued. "I'm sure that was her biggest disappointment of all…yes, you couldn't stop me from taking over the city, Robin, but I'm sure in her fragile, weak mind, she could have overlooked that. It didn't affect her, after all. But this…" he gestured at himself. "This hit home for her. This was something that her dear, all-powerful Robin could have stopped, but sadly…didn't."
"THAT ISN'T TRUE!" Robin screamed, his anger finally overcoming him. "She knows that I would have stopped him if I could have!" Robin gave one final thrust towards Joker,grunting athis immense effort.
"Then…" Joker said, his expression saying that, finally, he had won. "Why didn't you?"
"You are very weak," Starfire stated plainly. X looked up at her as they flew through the air, back into the safety of the low-hanging thunderclouds.
He noticed, trying not to smirk, that the electricity was making her hair frizzy. "Afraid I can't do the job?"
Starfire shook her head. "No. I fully believe you can complete this mission, but you do not have the equipment," she said, leading him into her next statement. His eyes widened as he realized her implications.
"We're getting the suit?" Starfire nodded, pleased that he had comprehended this so quickly. She smiled in spite of herself, and for a moment, her eyes glowed again with her old green sheen.
"We are going to Titans Tower."
OK, really fast, reviewer replies:
Sasscreech: Thanks! I got a lot of feedback about Raven and Shayera…apparently, they rock together.
Blue Ten: Ah, my most faithful reviewer. As I said, very sorry for the delay. But, unfortunately, you were reading just a little too much into the 'presence'…that was just the robots. Thanks for the review!
Jedi Knight 366: First off, no, I haven't forgotten about Endgame. It's just it's been put to the side for a while. I will finish it…I just don't know when. Again, I have, like, no time. But thanks for reviewing both of my stories, and I hope you liked this chapter.
Kikofreako: I don't know if I did that much BB/Rae fluff…I promise, though, if nothing else, there will definitely be some in the epilogue. And a lot of people liked the Shayera/Raven scene…go figure. Thanks for the review!
KorrianderX'Hal: Well, Star kinda does something in this chapter…I'll see what butt-kicking she and Robin shall do. Please review again!
Love Angel Monkey: Robin would do that sort of thing…thanks for reviewing!
Tigerchic121: I hope the angels sang again at this chapter…I feel so bad for not updating. Please forgive me? Please review?
Valda: Thanks for the review man! Catch ya later!
Cap'nShort: Don't worry, I can't review to save my life. (Trust me, it's way pathetic.) Anyway, thanks for reviewing, and yes, Shayera rox my sox.
Atemu's Lover: That wasn't really soon, was it? Oh well—review soon!
CYCLOPTIC NIGHTBAT: A lot of reviewers really liked the Raven/Shayera section. I'm glad I can write something…thanks for reviewing!
Robstar4ever: Sorry to wait so long on the update…but I'm glad you like the story. I'm pretty proud of this chapter, actually. Please keep reviewing!