'Sup? This fanfic is in response to Dlsky's challenge writing challenge. And what a challenge it is indeed—Slade being…well, you'll see. I am bound to update on this fanfic every two weeks (my choosing of the options) on…Saturdays (The rules are that if I fail to comply, the readers have the power to disqualify me from the challenge—aren't you lucky, lol?) If you want to read the other fics of the challenges' participants, stop by Dlsky's bio and check out her list, not to mention her own fic! Shutting up now…

Chapter One:

Night fell, dark and velvet blue, while the stars remained hidden behind the satin curtain of dusk. Jump City was full of motion, as metropolises always are, streets clogged with lines of traffic; citizens strolled up and down the concrete sidewalks, as they started off for their destinations—whether they be late night clubs to dance and drink, or friends' homes to discuss what had recently happened in their lives. The usual beginning, to a typical Saturday evening.

It was also the perfect time for something to go horrendously wrong, Robin thought darkly from his perch atop Titans Tower, while he looked down over his home.

"Why the face?" Cyborg's voice floated to him, and his friend stood beside him a few seconds later, viewing the streets with a small smile. His leader eyed him skeptically.

"What are you so happy about?" He grumbled.

"What are you so concerned about?" Cyborg retorted, but continued to grin in an annoying manner. "It's a Saturday, and there has been no criminal activity for the entire day—"

"That's what worries me."

"—And Beast Boy wants to celebrate the new record with pizza."

"I'm not hungry."

"You're never hungry," The humanoid said in a cheerful tone. "But after that, we were thinking we could go hang out: Play a few video games, maybe go to a party or two. Have fun…you do remember what fun means, don't you?"

Robin shot his friend a nasty expression but remained mute.

"Either way, you've really got no choice. The other three have agreed—well, okay, Raven sort of doesn't care—to tie you up and force you to have a good time, if you like it or not."

There was silence, as Robin failed to respond to the newest comment, and Cyborg adapted a serious frown now.

"C'mon Rob…what could possibly be more important than just hanging out and having a good time? It wouldn't kill you—all work and no play? BB's terrified of the idea, to tell you the truth…what's the matter?"

"Friends?"

Robin's eyelids fluttered closed in brief irritation, then both young men turned towards the new arrival.

"Yeah, Starfire?"

"Are we…still to 'go out upon the town'?"

Cyborg glanced sideways at the Boy Wonder, who was obviously struggling against his own agenda and the hope in Starfire's eyes.

"Rob's thinking about it," the African-American supplied helpfully, and strode off to accompany the alien girl down the stairs. "Maybe we'll see him in half an hour, when he's made up his mind…"

The half-machine, half-boy gave his leader a meaningful look when Starfire wasn't watching, and then started after her. Robin sighed angrily, and leaned over the edge of the roof.

"Dammit, Cy…why can't you just leave me alone?"

No action from any of the villains, nothing stirred up by petty thieves who were taking advantage of the busy town to ransack banks or jewelry stores—and no sign of Slade. That bothered him the most, of course. His nemesis was almost always plotting some horrible strike against Jump; Robin had learned long ago to be wary when things calmed down. Batman had strove to keep him remaining ever vigilant in a situation like this—and the Boy Wonder stuck to his training as often as he was allowed.

Aw, what's the matter with taking time off? part of him wheedled slyly.

"No," the teen said, words sounding firmer than he actually believed.

You'd get to hang out with your friends, instead of stuffing yourself inside of your room to pursue that obsession of yours…

Well…the prospect of laughing, eating, and dancing—even though he always felt stupid and awkward when he tried it (and that whole thing with Kitten hadn't helped)—wasn't completely awful…he guessed.

What's the matter? Scared? Just go out with them so they'll leave you alone. Who knows? You might actually enjoy yourself.

Hell…he was still a teenager. He should probably live it up while he still could…besides, if he wasn't having a good time, he could just head back to the Tower and continue his research until the others came home.

Robin gave one last feeble attempt to make himself stay home, but failed; as he jogged to the stairs, a small grin formed on his lips, despite his efforts to stifle it.

Anyway: When was the last time he'd ever heard that hanging out with your best friends would kill you?

What an interesting way of putting it…

-partners-

The Underground:

"Where is he?"

"Let go of me!" The pimply-faced youth spat, writing beneath the shadowy villain's grip. "I don't know anything!"

In response, the tall man lifted the ugly teenager by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the sewer's grimy wall; farther down the tunnel, a couple of eerie Goths were gathered around a blazing purple fire that one of them had conjured—they peered about, only slight intrigued by the noise, and then turned back to their mutterings. Other edgy groups were meeting deeper in the twisting paths of intertwining drains: Young lawbreakers (some developing their powers already) called the sewer connections "the Underground," a hidden place where they could meet without the concern of the police. The sight of someone being beat up, or a group fighting viciously, was no surprise to them.

The young man, whose ruined complexion had gone pale when his feet were not touching the ground any longer, writhed in discomfort and fear; the evil man leered at him dangerously, the creepy orange and black mask as distinguishable as a phantom's visage in the dingy light.

"Look, I—I already told you: He d—doesn't tell me anything. I just—just hung around that—that group of his a f—few times…nothing serious…"

He was pleading now, but there was hardly any trace of mercy in the gray slit that represented an eye.

"I s—swear to God, I know nothing…except…"

"Except what?"

The youth gave a whimpering sob, and the other man gave a roar of frustration and slammed him again.

"WHAT!"

"He's…" The teenager was speaking softer than a whisper. "He's going up tonight…they're going to take out the—the—"

"The Titans?" The strange man asked quietly; it looked like he was thinking hard, and the teen nodded helpfully.

"Yeah: That was all I heard, then they caught me and threw me out. They're heading up later in the evening—taking them by surprise…gonna load 'em on something and take them somewhere…some weirdo wants them—they'll probably be experimented on, since they're freaks and all…The dude's already promised his groupies they can have the city once he's out of there. I mean, after the—"

The boy was thrown down abruptly, and he lay curled in the scum on the floor, waiting apprehensively as the masked man walked determinedly off into the distance…fading now…gone.

-partners-

"Friend Raven, join us! It is most fun!"

"Yeah, Rae, get a move on; we're gonna be late!"

Beast Boy and Starfire bounced along, running ahead of the other three Titans as they moved through the crammed streets of people and off to the grouped stands of food on the side; the inhabitants of Jump were meandering through the roads that had been closed off from automobiles—some were waving companions over to where they stood. Others merely strolled along until they were fortunate enough to bump into their associates.

"Of all the nights that Beast Boy had to drag us out, it had to be on the same date as the opening of some building," Raven growled, and gestured miserably at the enormous structure that loomed around the corner.

Cyborg wrapped a massive arm around her shoulders and beamed; he did the same to Robin, who looked like he was having second thoughts about agreeing to come along.

"Jeez, you two! Can't you guys ever take a break? It's one of the only times we'll get away from fighting bad guys. Take it while it lasts."

Neither of them seemed especially moved by his words.

Beast Boy popped up in front of them, mouth jammed full of sweets.

"Want some?" He asked, offering them the huge amount of junk he was carrying in his hands.

"Candy rots your teeth," Raven responded sourly.

"Where's Starfire?" Robin asked, in spite of himself. Beast Boy made a sweeping motion over his shoulder; the Boy Wonder started in that direction, while the two remaining guys kept tempting the stony demoness to eat something.

Star wasn't too far off, laughing and twirling beneath an enormous amount of fluttering confetti. She whirled on her heel when she heard his approaching footsteps, and promptly swept him up in the circle of her arms, embracing him tightly.

"Friend Robin, is this not a wonderful evening?" She questioned him eagerly.

The young hero gazed over her shoulder at Jump City's population: Men and women chortled at jokes, or danced to the throbbing music that the gigantic speakers in front of the new building generated. Children skipped between gaps in the crowds, avoiding the adults legs while they chased after dogs, or each other. Those who had attended private parties, or entered a club earlier on, stuck their heads out the doors or windows in interest, and a few even joined the masses. Close by, Beast Boy and Cyborg were taking turns swinging Raven around in a mock waltz, and the Goth girl, despite her protests, seemed to be repressing a chuckle at the boys' ridiculous behavior. He and Starfire were caught in the waves of humanity, listening to their singing and cheering; the two were soaking in the palpable excitement that was in the air; the alien girl's hair ruffled in the wind and strands of it stroked against his cheek.

That's Star for you…always making you feel better than you deserve.

"Yes," He murmured, giving an almost imperceptible sigh, and then hugged her back. "It's perfect…"

It reminds me of the circus.

The thought startled him slightly. But before he could contemplate more on the fact—as he did with so many other things in his life—the pair of them were swept up by the spastic whirlwind that was Cyborg and Beast Boy. Raven trailed behind as usual, seemingly satisfied to just observe on the outskirts.

The entire scene was, like Robin had lied, "perfect." Here they were, five ordinary kids instead of super heroes burdened with the world's many issues, screaming themselves hoarse with the rest of the mob as the mayor neared the podium, a pair of scissors clenched importantly in his hands…it could have been a fantastic night.

If only he'd paid more attention to how strange the mayor appeared that night: How his skin was rather stretched and strained like a bad, plastic mask, and how he frequently stared at the sky as if in anticipation.

-partners-

The helicopter's blades were practically muffled by the shouts from below, something that he thanked God for. Within the enormous aircraft, his crew was bustling about, preparing their descent into Jump City; metal chains and blades clinked together, while the machine guns were handled gingerly.

A hand tapped him on the shoulder, and one of his hired henchmen cleared his throat politely.

"Sir, are you ready for the attack?"

The male nodded curtly.

"Indeed. Be ready to drop once the signal is given."

"Of course…Will you be joining us in the drop Mr. DeFarge?"

"You know I'd love to…but I must be careful." The man called DeFarge stared down on Jump with loathing in his eyes. "You never know who's down there…maybe when the first stage is complete."

"Yes, sir."

Wait for the signal…then all hell will break loose.

-partners-

Damn that Wade, he just couldn't leave well enough alone…

The muscled tormentor of the pimpled boy from before raced through the sewer; he was headed for the faint bars of light that signaled the nearest sewer grate. From there, it would lead him up into the city: If he was lucky, there was still time for him to put a dent in DeFarge's plan…

It all depended on timing, he supposed.

He still didn't understand how Wade had found out about that little incident that gave away where his once hidden base was located.

How could he not have tracked you down? a ridiculing voice jeered at him in the back of his mind. You flaunted your control over the boy—he was bound to notice something on the news. Wade's just like you: He can put two and two together.

Slade resisted the immature urge to slap himself.

With a graceful leap, the mastermind launched his body into the air, and wrapped his fingers around the narrow bars of the sewer grate; jack-knifing his body, Slade rammed both his feet against the metal and flipped narrowly out of the hole. He landed neatly on the concrete, but barely paused a moment to catch his breath—he had taken off again already, racing down the back streets to his destination.

-partners-

"I am proud to present the opening of a new building, one that I hope will contribute greatly to the development of our city. Out of the combined efforts of our honored constructors, we have created a main meeting area for everyone in this city: A place of study, for scholars, of work, and of debates. It will be a hospital, a community center, a courtroom, and a shelter for the homeless and the weakened—"

The mayor's speech was cut off, with or without the microphone, as the gathering of people went wild with ecstasy at the possibilities of the new building.

Robin gave a tiny grin as he listened, also impressed with the promises of the foundation. This might have the power they didn't, in the views of reducing crime rate, and extinguishing broken children's aspirations to commit crimes.

"And now, my final words: I cannot even begin to tell you of my pleasure at the ideas that this organization may inspire. Now, as I start to cut this ribbon, I can only say this…"

Half of the group shushed, though the rest were still applauding.

"Give 'em hell, Wade."

If there were still those who were yelling their delight, it soon died away into the puzzled murmuring and alarmed shouts. The Titans had stiffened at these words, and with a nod from Robin, they began pushing their way near the platform where the mayor was.

Starfire shrieked.

The false mayor pulled his jacket away to reveal rows of C-4 (A/N: Just in case you didn't know, C-4 is a bomb) wired to his body; the trigger was cradled in his hand, and his finger flicked for the button…

"Raven, Beast Boy, Star! Stop hi—ergh!"

The tremendous explosion knocked innocents off their feet; he heard his friends yelp in agony as they were blown back from the sheer force of the bomb, and those who had been standing near the mayor's impostor were blown away in the heat. Far above, in the sky, there was a loud sliding, as several men and women, clothed in black stealth suits, dropped into the city…machine guns were firing rapidly, and chaos ensued…

In the clouds of smoke that had kicked up, a black arm had slung itself around his neck, and a hand covered his mouth, pulling him to safety.

Where are my friends!

To be Continued…

This…sucks. Oy. Well, I've been out of the writing zone for who knows how long, so I guessing that has something to do with this. But then, you are your own worst critic…yeah, never mind. Please review if you can, and I'll update in two weeks with the second chapter.

PS: For all you comic buffs—Yes, this is a total AU, by the way—I think you know who Wade DeFarge is, correct? (The rest of you: All shall be revealed later on.)

Later:

Rebel