It was another beautiful day in Jump City. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the sky was clear. Downtown, however, was erupting in clouds of dust and rubble as starbolts, explosives and streetlights were thrown. Once again, the Teen Titans had come to the rescue of their fair city.
Their opponent, puzzling, cylindrical robots, ground to a halt, and the onslaught ceased. The air was quiet, the Titans were hesitant to announce their victory since the robots seemed undamaged. Without warning, a panel in the fronts of the machines opened with a snap, and two small, flat discs flew out and headed straight for Raven and Starfire, then the two robots self-destructed.
Raven threw up a shield of black energy but the disc just went around it, burrowed under her hood, and attached itself to the back of her neck. Raven's hand went immediately to pry it off, but it was stuck tight. Meanwhile Starfire had flown away from her disc and the two of them raced around the surrounding buildings. She tried blasting it but it was too small, and she kept missing. Suddenly, it just stopped. It floated patiently in the air a few feet behind her. Starfire hesitantly drifted over to it, curious. Once her fingers were inches from the device, it jolted back to life and shot like a bullet behind her, where it also locked on to the back of her neck.
Starfire, worried at having a foreign object lodged to her nape, flew down to the other Titans, who were all looking very puzzled. Raven was standing with her back to Cyborg, with her head bowed so he could inspect the mechanism, and a worried looking Beastboy was in front of her, watching them closely and giving Cyborg the third degree.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I dunno, man, I'll have to have another look at it back at the Tower." Cyborg replied.
"It's not gonna like, explode, is it?" said Beastboy, head filling with sketchy images of a headless Raven.
"I don't think so, but I can't rule it out." answered Cyborg distractedly, producing a screwdriver from his right index finger.
"Oh, but I mean, it won't hurt her right?" continued Beastboy as he went to look over Cyborg's shoulder, with difficulty.
"I don't know, it has to do something, and it probably isn't something we're going to like."
"Oh, so…….. What is it?"
"Beastboy, I DON'T KNOW!"
Starfire touched down lightly next to Robin, who was watching the developing scene before him with a stern expression that meant he was thinking, or trying not to think.
"Robin, is friend Raven in danger from the small mechanical circle?" she asked tentatively.
"We don't know, but I'm sure Cyborg will be able to get it off." he answered, keeping his eyes on Cyborg, Raven and Beastboy grappling with each other.
"Oh good!" said Starfire, trying to sound cheerful. "Because I also have a device attached to me." she finished.
"WHAAT!" Robin exploded, looking incredulously at a cowering Starfire. He grabbed her arm and spun her round, swept back her scarlet hair and stared furiously at the electronic trespasser. "Cyborg!" he called, "We're going back to the Tower, NOW!"
Cyborg straightened up and put down his various tools. Starfire swung her hair back in place and looked up at him, nervously awaiting his verdict.
"So what is it?" asked Robin impatiently.
"I don't know." replied Cyborg. Robin and Beastboy's jaws hit the floor. "It could be anything, I've never seen anything like it. All I can tell you is that Raven's is the same, so they probably do the same thing, and it's got a built in defence mechanism. If I try to remove it, it'll explode."
"So what do we do?" asked Beastboy.
"Well, I guess we just have to wait and see what it does. But don't worry," he added hastily as both Robin and Beastboy looked ready to faint, "I doubt it'll kill them, or it would have done so by now. One thing that worries me though, is it looks like it's lodged onto their spinal cords, in which case I don't think I could remove it even if I knew how."
Beastboy and Robin exchanged worried looks, they both knew how the other felt about the two girls, and understood what it was to love someone without them even knowing. Starfire fingered the device uncertainly, while Raven just announced briefly,
"I'm going to meditate." before leaving the room.
An hour later, Beastboy knocked lightly on Raven's door.
"Raven?" he called quietly before slowly pushing open the door. Inside everything thing was dark. It wasn't just that the curtains were closed and the lights were off, but black and purple patterns covered the walls, and creepy figurines threw disfigured shadows on the wall, cast by the light from the corridor. In the middle of the room, surrounded by candles that emitted no light, Raven floated cross-legged and with her back to the door. Beastboy could clearly see the silently threatening gadget on the back of her neck revealed by her short hair. He felt a small twist in his stomach. He hated knowing there was something wrong with her that he couldn't do anything about. Somewhere deep inside him, he had developed a protective instinct towards her, and coupled with the happiness he felt just by looking at her, he knew she was more than just his friend.
"Beastboy, please stop staring at it."
He started as Raven's disgruntled voice cut through the silence of the room.
"Sorry" he said sheepishly, he hadn't wanted to remind her. Raven lowered one leg to the floor followed by the other as if she had been sitting on something solid, then turned to face him, pulling up her hood. "I thought you were meditating." he said.
"I was trying to, something's blocking it, it's like……….. static." she said. She moved towards him and he instinctively moved back until he was standing outside in the corridor. He sighed mentally at Raven's unwillingness to let anyone get too close.
She closed the door until she was looking at him through a small gap.
"Did you want something?" she asked.
"Er, I just wanted to see if you were okay?" he said, having forgotten the real reason.
"I'm fine." said Raven, and she closed the door. This time Beastboy sighed out loud, before walking slowly down to the common room.
"What wondrous thing shall we do, friend Robin? There is the video games…" said Starfire cheerfully to a distracted Robin slumped on the sofa.
"I wonder where those robots came from?..." wondered Robin aloud, apparently oblivious to Starfire's coercions. Starfire's smile faltered and she tossed "Death Canyon Road Racing" aside, before picking up a big pan and wooden spoon and saying with a fresh smile,
"Or I could prepare the Glornag, it is really quite delicious, for some."
"Why would they only attack you and Raven?..." murmured Robin. Starfire abandoned her cooking supplies and smile and muttered ironically,
"Perhaps you would prefer it if I removed my clothes and did the Tamaranian dance of Alertness."
Robin's head snapped up and he said, "I'm sorry Starfire, did you say something?" Starfire sighed and sat down next to him.
"You should not worry about me so much, Robin"
"I can't help it" he said, before blushing and quickly adding " It's my job to take care of my team members."
"Yes, but you must also take care of yourself. Cyborg says there is nothing we can do, so we might as well continue with the hanging out, yes?"
Robin smiled, something about her was so innocent, yet so understanding. She made him feel as if he had nothing to worry about, like he could do anything.
right, Star, as usual."
"Good, then I shall begin the making of dinner, and you shall not think about it anymore." She got lightly to her feet and flounced off to the kitchen area, but as she did so her hair lifted and Robin saw the metal disc on her neck glint menacingly.
The next morning, Raven and Starfire didn't show up for breakfast. Robin immediately sensed something was wrong, that they weren't just sleeping in.
"Beastboy you check Raven's room, I'll check Starfire's and Cyborg, you pull up last night's surveillance videos." he said.
Robin knocked loudly on her door, but Starfire didn't answer. He opened the door, and found nothing but an empty bed and an open window. A cry sounded from along the hall, and a few seconds later Beastboy rushed in.
"Raven's room is empty." he stated. Just then their communicators crackled and Cyborg's voice said,
"Guys, get down here, you're gonna want to see this."