"Teen Titans: Future Storm"
Epilogue: "One Year Later"
Disclaimer: Teen Titans, as well as other DC Comics properties and characters, belong to DC Comics and Warner Brothers, not me.
Author's note: After a year and three months, it's finally over. I'm finished. For those of you who've stuck with me through this series, I'm glad you did. Now I'm up to 48 chapters, counting arcs and standalones as well as this epilogue. Thanks for everything, my readers, even those of you who don't bother reviewing.
Mar'i Grayson sat down, looking at the handheld video recorder pointed at her. It was already primed to begin recording. All she had to do was speak and tell her story. It wasn't meant for anyone else's eyes or ears except hers, given that it was her video journal.
Starshine Video Log, Entry 1: It's been a long, long year. Things have changed . . . for all of us. We don't know yet if it's for the better or the worse. I suppose I should start at the beginning. After Phoebus gave his life to stop that missile from killing us all, hero and villain alike, we decided to settle things with the government once and for all.
"Mr. President, you were the one who approved the dispatch of neutron missiles into Metropolis, weren't you?" Nightstar greeted with barely repressed fury in her tone and eyes.
"Yes, yes, I was," the President of the United States answered.
"Why?" Nightstar asked. "Why?"
"Because you proved to be too dangerous," the president replied. "For God's sake, you people were outright brawling all over Metropolis. All of you! Doesn't matter whether you think of yourselves crime-fighters or criminals, you're all on a permanent power trip! You think normal humans are just there to be at your mercy, whether you're 'protecting' them or trying to conquer or kill them!"
"That's not true!" Nightstar insisted.
"Isn't it?" the president asked. "You fly above us, you run ahead of us, or you hide from us. That's not exactly going to inspire confidence in you."
"We've spent years, decades even, protecting humanity," Wonder Woman replied. "We deserve better than to be treated like we're just as dangerous as what we protect you from."
"And maybe you should let us protect ourselves," the president retorted. "We've been watching you. We've learned how to fight metahuman threats ourselves."
"Sure, but who's to say you won't use the metahumans you create to further your own agenda aside from protecting this country?" Scarlet Archer asked. "The reason most of us don't officially affiliate ourselves with any government is so we can protect the world, not some politician's agenda."
"And maybe considering yourselves separate from humanity's concerns isn't a good idea for any of us," the president answered. "The fact is that people are afraid of you. Normal people. They've been afraid of you for a long time; they just haven't been willing to voice it."
"Until someone began setting us up," Superman Kon-El spat.
"Setting you up?" the president asked. "You did it to yourselves. Your Batman, your Dark Knight, he really did set up a shadow League to overthrow governments whose policies he found fault in. That you can't spin away so easily."
"Never mind that you were maintaining 'cozy' relations with some of those governments," Batman sneered. "I know how your kind works. As long as you can find a use or a profit, it doesn't matter how many innocent lives are ruined or sacrificed. That is something I'll never abide."
"Be as self-righteous as you like," the president retorted. "You 'superheroes' don't have a monopoly on integrity and rectitude."
"I'm surprised you haven't forgotten what those words mean after all those years in public office," Bladefire commented contemptuously. "Whatever you think our crimes are, yours are worse. Your Bureau of Metahuman Affairs, a.k.a. the Department of Extranormal Operations, infected almost 8 million people with a nanotech virus to make them into metahuman slayers. Mercury wouldn't have killed that man if he hadn't been one of those infected and he didn't even know that man was human. Neither of them deserved what happened to them."
"What do you want?" the president asked.
"We're here to negotiate, believe it or not," Superman Kal-El replied. "The Watchmen Act in and of itself is not a bad idea. It may have come with ulterior motivations, but it could be something to ease human/meta relations, with some modifications."
"What sort of modifications would you be speaking of?" the president asked, raising an eyebrow in interest.
"An independent tribunal," Superman Kal-El suggested. "One to investigate any reports of misconduct by metahuman crime-fighters and punish those crime-fighters if those reports are found to be true. How does that sound to you?"
"It sounds very good," the president answered. "I have to admit, that would be an excellent idea."
"What about registration?" Nightstar asked.
"We'll handle that," Alan Scott replied.
"You mean to say that metahuman crime-fighters will have to register with you?" the president asked. "Forgive me if I sound skeptical."
"There's also the matter of training," Jay Garrick added. "We've been training the younger generations of heroes for years. We can do it with this generation, too. Just give us the authority to do so."
"You raise very good points," the president mused. "Fine. You have yourselves a deal. Just let me get it through Congress."
That was the beginning of what we hoped would be a better future for both the normal and the super-powered. The government was ultimately willing to cooperate, but there were some that objected to metahumans being given so much power to regulate their own. They managed to find a voice in the media, particularly those anti-meta news networks, both televised and online. And there were those that were unhappy with us cooperating with the government.
"They tried to kill you," Intrigue spat. "And you're working with them?"
"It's better this way," Nightstar said. "It means we can rebuild the public's trust in us, if we show ourselves as willing to work with them instead of constantly hiding from them."
"And what happens when the government co-opts you?" Intrigue asked morbidly. "What happens when it decides to use you to fulfill its own agenda?"
"It won't be like that," Nightstar answered. "Besides, you're assuming we'd just go along with it."
"You'd have no choice," Intrigue replied grimly. "Not if you're so serious about maintaining the public trust. Believe it or not, most people are sheep. Blind, dumb, ignorant, weak little sheep. Tell them a pretty little story, one that conforms to their beliefs and illusions, and they'll eat out of your hand. The government knows that and it can play that game better than you can."
"You're paranoid, you know that?" Nightstar remarked.
"You haven't seen what they do outside this country!" Intrigue yelled. "You haven't seen how they ravage developing countries, how they leave them bereft of natural resources and drowning in their own filth! Don't talk to me about paranoia!"
Intrigue noticed Nightstar taking a step back. "I didn't mean to frighten you," she whispered to the younger girl. "Please . . . just leave me be."
"Sure, Lucia," Nightstar replied quietly.
Intrigue and I still haven't spoken since then. I think neither of us really knows how to talk to each other anymore. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. Intrigue was never capable of trusting authority in all the time I've known her. To her, authority is meant to ultimately be abused and exploited for the gain of those who have it. Then again, I should have realized what was really going on with her . . . she was scared for me.
There was something good that came out of what happened: Raziel came back. Him and Ibn. Until the moment I saw him again, I had no idea how much I missed him, how much I missed them both.
Rose was staying with us, too. She really had nowhere else to go since walking away from her father. Of course, there was also the revelation that she had been screwing my brother since the first time she got access to our Tower. That didn't go over well with a lot of us, Dad, Uncle Tim, and Grandpa Bruce in particular.
"How . . . long . . . has this . . . been going on?" Dick asked Bladefire in a dangerously calm voice that was an almost-perfect facsimile of Bruce's.
"Since the first time Rose joined forces with us," Bladefire answered nonchalantly.
"What the hell would possess you to sleep with her?" Dick inquired angrily. "She's an assassin!"
Bladefire fixed his father with a frosty stare. "Because I was sick of it. Sick of feeling hollow, sick of feeling like a walking corpse. Do you have any idea what it's like for someone who's part of a race that thrives on emotions to be hardly capable of feeling? It wasn't only a disgrace; it also made using my powers so difficult. I had to dredge up every happy memory I had – and all of those were from when Mom was still alive – to fly, every time I could really believe in myself – again when Mom was still alive . . . but the rage . . . the rage was easy. I sharpened it into a sword, a blade of wrath and fury." He chuckled bitterly. "You never did ask why I called myself 'Bladefire.'"
"You never answered my question," Dick stated.
"I wasn't finished yet," Bladefire answered. "I was able to feel something when I was with Rose. Something other than anger, something other than hollowness. She helped me to live again, to truly live, and for that I'll always love her, no matter what you say. She's not the monster her father is and I'm not going to stand here and let you equate them."
"I don't approve of this," Dick said.
"You don't have to," Bladefire retorted. "You may have lived and died by Grandpa Bruce's approval, but I don't live and die by yours." He walked away from his father that day, not feeling a damned thing except grim satisfaction. Rose belonged with him, as he belonged with her, and he didn't care what anyone said.
Later that night, Bladefire came to his bed in the catacombs being used by the team following the destruction of the Tower. He simply pulled back the covers and was ready to lie down when he spotted Rose Wilson, nude except for a white patch covering her Hell Spiral eye. Her normal blue eye gazed into Bladefire's eyes with mischief and desire.
"What are you doing, Rose?" Bladefire asked.
"I heard how you stood up for me," Rose replied gently. "I just wanted to show you my gratitude." She kissed him soundly on the lips, moaning gently into the lip-lock. Bladefire melted against her, kissing her back passionately.
Of course, I had a lot of questions to ask Raziel about where he'd been and what he'd been doing. I suppose part of it was due to jealousy; I wanted to know that he hadn't found someone else while he was away.
"How did you two meet up again?" Nightstar asked.
"We were searching for the same thing," Cipher replied. "We decided it would be better if we searched together."
"And what did you find?" Nightstar asked.
"I found that the gulf between who I was and who I wanted to be was not so wide," Cipher answered. "I just needed the courage to step across it." He sighed. "Once I overcame that, I learned from other martial artists, older and greater than I was. I even learned from a few fighters that used chi and intertwined their lessons with my existing abilities."
"I saw," Nightstar remarked. "When you were fighting Slade, you used telekinesis on him."
"That was the real source of my abilities," Cipher explained. "It was a telekinetic power that I could manipulate differently than most possessing that ability, hence the powers you saw me use."
"And you, Ibn?" Nightstar asked. "Or do you prefer Terry?"
"I wouldn't mind either," Ibn replied. "I learned from many of the same people Raziel learned from. We studied together, ate together, fought together, even slept together." Catching Nightstar's raised eyebrow, he smirked. "Get your mind out of the gutter . . . unless you'd like Raziel and I to put on a show for you. Would that please you?" He and Cipher had a good chuckle at Nightstar's flushed cheeks.
Cipher quickly grew somber, which Nightstar noticed. "What's wrong?" she asked him.
"I met someone," Cipher replied. "Her name was Karin, and she was studying with me and Ibn for a while. She reminded us so much of you – fiery, bold, courageous, spirited, compassionate. Nothing happened between us, though. We never even had the chance; she turned out to have the OMAC nanovirus in her. It activated one day and she went after me. I . . . had to stop her from killing me, and I . . . her will was stronger than I expected. She broke through the programming long enough to beg me to kill her before she killed me."
"Did you?" Nightstar asked.
"Yes," Cipher confirmed heavily. All Nightstar could do was hug him, and hope that would be enough to comfort him. "You've gotten taller," the combat psychic uttered stupidly.
Eventually, Rose and Ibn left. They each had their own agendas and they came to realize that those agendas weren't necessarily reconcilable with the Titans'.
"I can't do this anymore," Ravager said to Bladefire as she suited up.
"Can't do what?" Bladefire wondered.
"Just reacting to what comes," Ravager replied. "All we're really doing is patching up gaping wounds, just for those wounds to be reopened almost immediately after we're done patching them. It's time someone did the radical surgery necessary to save this world from falling apart."
"What do you mean?" Bladefire questioned.
"Reinventing the world," Ravager answered. "We'll never save it if we're focused on street-level crime or outright villainy. Not all criminals operate in the open. Many of them hide behind positions of power and authority, using the smokescreen of legitimacy those positions offer to conceal the evil they do. We'll never save the world, truly save it, if we don't get to those people, if we don't stop them."
"And how do you expect to stop them?" Bladefire asked.
"By toppling them, by throwing them off their pedestals and showing them to the world for the slime they really are," Ravager replied. "I love you, Joh'n, I always will, but we have enough firefighters out there. We need hunters." With one final kiss for her lover, she donned her mask and exited Bladefire's room. Along the way out of the catacombs, she found Ibn al Xu'ffasch garbed in his liquid metal Batsuit. "Where are you going?"
"I agree with you," Ibn answered. "Real justice isn't going to come by throwing some super-powered thugs behind bars. Real justice is going to come when we can expose the corrupt and the venal and depose them from their seats of power."
"Do you want to join me?" Ravager asked.
"Yes," Ibn replied.
Mercury and Beast Girl were pardoned by the president. It was one of the first things he did after our conversation in the White House following the Battle of Metropolis. Once the public was made to understand that both of them were set up by people who wanted to destroy the good name of superheroes, it was willing to embrace them again. Of course, Mercury still felt guilty about killing Richard Snow, even though he hadn't known that OMAC was a human being.
Of course, something very strange happened. Specifically, something having to do with Black Flash. That something was that her insanity took on a new permutation and her focus on Mercury became . . . love. That's right; she was so bat-guano crazy, pardon the pun, that she fell head over heels for him.
Mercury was speeding through San Francisco, righting wrongs as he passed. He saved a boy from being run over by an unobservant driver. He stole the speed from bullets that would have perforated a young woman being mugged and left the mugger disabled before he knew what hit him. He waved to Detective John "J" Perez, who had survived the disaster in Jump City and transferred to San Francisco. Beside him was Sprint, a fourteen-year-old female speedster garbed in skintight red with a yellow lightning stripe extending diagonally from her neck and looping around to her back. Her hair was black with a white streak, evoking images of a certain "untouchable" character from a superhero drama series.
To the two speedsters' surprise, they saw someone racing beside them. Mercury tensed up, knowing just by the outfit who the person was. It was Ally Zolomon, alias Black Flash. He was prepared for a fight, but what he got was something else entirely.
Black Flash pinned him to a nearby car, peeling her mask away from the lower half of her face before she kissed him passionately. Mercury struggled in her grip before finally vibrating out of it. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked, wiping his lips frantically.
"Why hate you, Mercury-honey . . . when I can love you instead?" Black Flash asked amorously.
"Get away from him!" Sprint shouted, charging at Black Flash at super-speed. For her trouble, the less experienced speedster received a brutal snap-kick to her stomach, which knocked the breath out of her.
"Sprint!" Mercury shouted, running to her side. As he ran, Black Flash tripped him, but Mercury twisted as he fell, turning his unwilling descent into a kick to her chest. Black Flash stumbled back, Mercury pressing his advantage with a barrage of fast punches. Black Flash blocked his punches and struck back with a kick to his chest.
"I don't want to do this, Mercury-beloved," Black Flash groaned. "Why can't you stop fighting me and just love me?"
"Some things I can't forgive that easily," Mercury answered bitterly. "And I have a girlfriend, by the way."
Black Flash whimpered slightly before pulling her mask back down so that it concealed the entirety of her face. "Not fair. I love you so much more than she can." She sped away, moving faster than even Mercury could move.
"What's up with her?" Sprint asked. "I knew you had fangirls, but I didn't know she was one of them."
"It's a secret," Mercury joked in response. "So secret that even I didn't know it."
The Justice League and Justice Society had set up academies in every state in the nation, all for teenage metahumans interested in becoming heroes. The way the training worked was that it tested students both physically and mentally. Not only were they trained to control their powers and harness them to the fullest extent possible and for the good of humanity, they were also trained in how to fight without the use of their powers. That latter part was especially useful for those whose powers weren't specifically useful in combat. In-school lessons would typically involve the history of superheroes and super-villains and how to aid official authorities without interfering unduly with their operations.
Of course, there was only so much they could learn in the classroom, so we, the Titans, were brought on as peer tutors to bring the students out onto the field. The condition was that we weren't supposed to bring them along for actual super-villain fights. If we did run into a super-villain, anyway, we were instructed to focus more on protecting our charges than fighting the villain.
Cipher blocked a palm thrust from Amelia Coeur, now dubbed Copycat, and wrapped his hand around her wrist. Not one to be deterred, Copycat pushed off on one foot and swung herself into an aerial kick that was also blocked by Cipher. Copycat kicked him with her remaining foot, striking him in the groin. Cipher gritted his teeth in the unholy agony suffered by any male to be struck there and ended up dropping Copycat, who flipped back onto her feet. Despite the pain, he could see Nightstar in Copycat's flip.
"You've learned how to fight dirty," Cipher groaned. "Good. That'll keep you alive." He smiled. "I even see that you're starting to learn how to retain the knowledge you've absorbed. I know that because you moved like Nightstar does just now."
Copycat blushed at that, something that did not escape Cipher's keen observation. "I hope I didn't hurt you too bad," she said.
"I heal fast," Cipher answered. "Even from that. How do you like it here so far?"
"It's ok," Copycat replied. "Offspring makes me laugh. Wicked Angel scares me, though; I know she's just trying to be friendly, but she makes me kind of uncomfortable."
"Uncomfortable how?" Cipher asked.
"It's just that she's so assertive, I almost feel helpless to resist her," Copycat admitted. "It's just the way she is, but it's kind of scary to be around someone that sure of herself."
"She could be your teammate someday," Cipher remarked idly.
"Yeah," Copycat admitted. "Besides, Wraith's even scarier than she is. It's like he's not even human sometimes."
"Just to let you know, a lot of the superheroes you'll be working with in the years to come aren't necessarily human," Cipher observed. "They weren't born from the human genome or on Earth, but . . . that's not what you meant, is it? You're referring to how he acts."
"Yeah," Copycat confirmed. "He stays in shadow form all the time and he's so . . . so cold."
"He might be your teammate someday," Cipher remarked, echoing his earlier statement aside from the shift in gender.
Jump City is still being rebuilt and survivors are still being tended to. In the wake of Slade and Tartarus's attack, the government barricaded the city and wouldn't allow us to go back inside to handle the rebuilding. They claimed that the area of the city that was directly hit was still toxic and that going in would mean taking our lives into our hands. It's been a whole year since Jump was attacked and they still won't let us go in. I wouldn't mind so much if it was just the Titans, but there are people camped outside the wall like refugees.
At that point, Mar'i stopped the video recorder and put it away. Thinking of what had happened to the city she had sworn to protect made her sad. With that sadness came a feeling of righteous fury and whip-like purple strands of energy extended from her hands, circling her body. She walked out of her room like that and headed for the supercomputer in the open space of the catacombs. At that moment, the monitor turned on, bearing Intrigue's image.
"Don't try to change your channel. Don't try to move on to another site. Don't try to adjust your radio. This is a leaderless transmission and it is the only truly free voice left in this nation.
"You most likely remember the disaster of Jump City and the near-disaster that was the Battle of Metropolis. Both only happened last year. However, the disaster of Jump City wrought something just as horrific, if not more so. It seems that the chemicals used in the living bomb dropped on Jump can also stimulate superhuman abilities in certain genomes. This was actually discovered by accident and who found out? The government, specifically the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive, discovered this and when they did, they decided to replicate it. That's right; the so-called rebuilding effort is a cover for chemical-induced genetic modification of human beings. People can't go back to their homes and collect their remaining possessions and for what, so a corrupt power can engineer super-soldiers to enforce its agenda?
"This transmission is specifically directed at the Teen Titans. If you're truly serious about protecting your city, then go in there and protect it from those who would exploit its tragedy for their gain."
The transmission ended then and there, as the other Titans had gathered around Nightstar. They had entered at about the point where Intrigue began talking about S.H.A.D.E.'s misdeeds in Jump City. All seven teenagers wore expressions of dismay and horror after the transmission ended.
"It's not true . . . is it?" Beast Girl asked. "She's just nuts, right?"
"Intrigue is many things," Bladefire replied. "One of those things is very, very clearheaded."
"It bears investigating," Nightstar added. "But it has to be just one of us. One of us will go into Jump City and investigate. It'll be a recon mission. That person will report their findings to the rest of us and then we'll decide what to do."
"Who's going to go?" Cipher asked.
Nightstar looked at Mercury. "You are. Your speed will allow you to enter undetected, and you're good enough at being stealthy to go unnoticed until you choose to be noticed. Just one thing, Peter: Whatever you see, whatever you find, don't charge in. Report it to the rest of us and then we'll do something."
"Got it," Mercury replied, the blue electric aura of the Speed Force solidifying into his costume. He sped out of the catacombs, moving quickly and silently.
That silent speed allowed him to get past the wall barricading Jump City from the rest of California undetected. He continued moving, searching for anything that might look like a S.H.A.D.E. facility. As he ran, he noticed that the city had changed from what he remembered. There were soldiers in what looked like riot armor posted at most of the street corners, so it wasn't as though he could stop so easily. However, he did hear one of the soldiers speak into a radio built into her helmet, saying something about detecting something moving at extreme speeds via the infrared equipment in her helmet.
Aw, frag me, Mercury thought. He kept running, only to be halted by a woman garbed in the same spatial-shift suit as Spin Doctor. He attempted to run around her, but she followed his movements with unholy ease. Seeing no way around her, he decided to go through her, shifting himself into immateriality. Unfortunately, she punched him hard in the chest, knocking him back into solidity. "How did you do that?"
Spin Doctor simply whirled into a kick that would have knocked Mercury for a loop had the platinum speedster not caught it. Undeterred, Spin Doctor simply pushed off with her other foot and into a kick that struck Mercury in his solar plexus. Mercury was knocked back by the force of the kick and Spin Doctor back-flipped onto her foot, pirouetting on it to strike him again. Mercury twisted in midair and landed on his feet, lunging at Spin Doctor at super-speed, only for her to block his attack. He twisted into the air and into a kick that struck her down. He landed on his feet and continued running, heading for the disaster site. If what Intrigue had asserted in her last transmission was true, then S.H.A.D.E.'s base would most likely be near there.
I ran into some trouble, Mercury thought to the other Titans, who would receive his message via a networking implant at the base of his brain stem. The implant translated his thoughts into electronic information that could be wirelessly transmitted to the implants embedded in the other Titans' brain stems. The implants were also connected to the Titans supercomputer, allowing the Titans to access its data and allowing the computer's user to communicate with them. The implant had been devised as a communications device that would not be so easily lost or stolen or hijacked.
What happened? Nightstar asked.
They had soldiers posted as guards inside the city, Mercury replied. Those guards had infrared equipment; they detected my body heat. I also ran into a new Spin Doctor.
That proves Intrigue was right about what was happening in Jump, Cipher spoke. I suppose our faith in the government to do right by metahumans was misplaced.
What do we do? Beast Girl asked.
What Intrigue said for us to do, Bladefire answered grimly. Protect our city. We're on our way, Mercury.
Thanks, Mercury answered as he continued running, heading closer to the disaster area. As he ran, he suddenly found himself dodging a blast of atomic energy. "What the hell?"
"You're fast, kid, I'll give you that," a rough, harsh voice spoke from above him. "But you're not that fast."
Mercury looked up and saw a man covered from head to toe in metallic purple and orange, with the purple covering his head, shoulders, and chest and the orange covering the rest. It didn't take the speedster long to figure out who this man was. It was not really a man in the conventional sense, but the dark twin of Captain Atom: Major Force. The man was subjected to the same experiments with alien metal that had given Captain Atom his powers, but he was not cut from the same heroic cloth as Captain Atom. In fact, Major Force was a psychopathic, remorseless murderer, which suited his government employers just fine.
"Major Force," Mercury spat. He took off running, pushing himself as fast as he could without damaging the environment around him. Major Force pursued Mercury, strafing him with blasts of atomic energy along the way. The speedster simply dodged the blasts as he ran, edging closer and closer to the disaster area. Just as he was about to reach it, Major Force fired a blast ahead of him, sending him flying back . . . and into Nightstar's arms.
"Hey," Nightstar greeted.
Major Force smirked lecherously at Nightstar. "I miss the old outfit, but that new one you've got does it just fine," he leered.
Nightstar's answer was to fire an optic blast at Major Force. "You're the last man I'd want anything to do with."
"Now why do you have to be like that?" Major Force asked before retaliating with a power blast. Nightstar dodged the blast while still holding Mercury, spinning the speedster around and throwing him at Major Force. Mercury generated a crackling ball of Speed Force energy and plunged it into Major Force's chest, causing him to bleed atomic energy. "You little piece of crap! You hurt me!" He grabbed Mercury by his throat and began to squeeze, only to be interrupted by a pair of talons piercing the back of his shoulders.
"Get off him," Beast Girl, in harpy shape, hissed.
"Gladly," Major Force sneered and dropped Mercury. Beast Girl flew off Major Force and dived to catch Mercury by her talons.
"You ok?" Beast Girl asked.
"Never been better," Mercury replied.
Major Force landed on the ground and charged at the Titans, only to be blasted with a fireball from Inferno. Shadow energy knives from Samara sliced Major Force's metallic "shell," adding to the wound Mercury had dealt him. Telekinetic force blasts from Cipher knocked Major Force for a loop and Bladefire sliced him with his energy sword.
Major Force glared at the teenagers. "I've had enough of this bull-crap," he snarled and his wounds began to seal themselves. Another blast of fire struck Major Force, but it didn't come from Inferno. The alien alloy-coated psychopath looked around for the source of the attack and locked onto a blond young man in a leather jacket over a red shirt emblazoned with a white star and white pants with black boots. He withdrew a rod from his jacket and extended it into a staff, lunging at Major Force with it. Major Force caught the staff, broke it in half, and smacked the young man with the pieces of it. "And who the hell do you think you are, punk?"
"Firebrand," the young man replied, setting off a firebomb that threw Major Force away from him.
Major Force rose to his feet with cracks in his shell. "You're tougher than you look. Of course, with that outfit, that's not so hard to do. But you're not that tough, punk."
Firebrand simply shaped his flames into a quarterstaff. Meanwhile, the Titans looked between the two combatants, all of them wondering who Firebrand was. Major Force made the first move, shooting a power blast at Firebrand, who flipped out of the way of the blast only for it to hit a building behind him. Firebrand swung his fire construct staff at Major Force, who grabbed it and tried to break it, only to find that he couldn't. Firebrand jumped and decked Major Force, only to find himself nursing an injured hand. Major Force smirked at Firebrand and smacked him into the ground.
"You're not so bad, punk," Major Force commented. "You're actually kinda entertaining. So I'm gonna finish you quick."
Halting Major Force's murder attempt was a series of lashes from Nightstar's energy whip. Finally, Major Force caught the whip and used it to pull Nightstar to him, kneeing her in the stomach. He slammed his elbow onto the center of her exposed back, knocking her down beside Firebrand. Nightstar rolled onto her feet, pulling Firebrand up with her.
"You ok?" she asked him.
"Yeah," Firebrand replied.
"How do we get past this guy?" Inferno asked.
"We do," Bladefire answered. "Mercury, Cipher, Inferno – we're counting on you to find out where S.H.A.D.E. is creating its new metahumans and shut it down. The rest of us will handle Major Force."
"Got it," Mercury said, speeding away from the fight with Cipher and Inferno right behind him. The trio raced around the disaster area, looking for anything that might resemble a government installation. They found a complex with riot-armored soldiers stationed around it. Quickly taking those soldiers out, they sped inside.
Once inside, they looked around, peeking past various doors to see if they led to some kind of laboratory. While they didn't immediately find what they were looking for, they did run into a squadron of riot-armored soldiers pointing weapons at them. The three young men glared at the soldiers, Inferno materializing fireballs in his hands and Cipher summoning his telekinetic saber.
"Bring it," Mercury challenged.
The soldiers opened fire on the three teenagers, but the energy bursts from their rifles never touched them. The reason for that was that Cipher had extended the telekinetic field around his body to "catch" the bursts. He silently commanded the field to violently repel the bursts, sending them back at the soldiers, who were fortunately somewhat protected by their armor. Inferno threw the fireballs in his hands at the soldiers' rifles, melting them down. Mercury took them all down before they knew what had happened, moving blindingly fast.
"Let's go," Cipher said.
The three continued their quest, knocking out various soldiers stationed along the way. Finally, they found what they were looking for, only to wish they hadn't. Inside the final room they searched were people strapped to lab tables and stripped of their clothing. The people on the lab tables had IVs that pumped chemicals into their bodies in the hopes of producing a metahuman transformation. The three male Titans looked at this scene in horror. They looked up and saw lab-coated scientists supervised by a military general, separated from the actual laboratory by a glass partition, looking at readouts displayed on computer monitors.
Mercury ran out of the room and up to where the scientists and generals were. Inferno and Cipher ran up after him, hoping to prevent him from getting himself killed. As they followed his path, they saw an ever-increasing trail of battered soldiers. When they managed to catch up with him, the two found him confronting the scientists and general . . . and with soldiers pointing rifles at him.
"What the hell is this?" Mercury inquired furiously. "What are you doing to those people? Where did you get them from?"
"You shouldn't be asking questions when you have guns pointed at you," the general answered.
"And why are you pointing guns at him?" Cipher asked.
"Because you punks are trespassing on militarily protected property," the general replied.
"Protected," Inferno commented. "Is that what you're calling it? Looks more like 'exploited' to me."
"Unless the lot of you would like to end up perforated, I suggest you leave," the general spoke.
"No," Mercury answered.
"Fine," the general replied. "Fire!"
The soldiers opened fire on the three Titans, only for the laser bursts to be deflected by Cipher's telekinetic field. "That's enough," Cipher snarled. "Where did you get those people from?"
"We collected them from the Wall," the general answered.
"Why?" Cipher asked. "What is the purpose of pumping them with toxic chemicals?"
"Those chemicals stimulated the meta-gene in certain individuals," the general explained. "We're hoping to stimulate it in these people as well, although the process has about a four out of ten survival rate."
"Why risk six out of ten of your lab rats dying?" Cipher questioned.
"There are more threats out there than you kids are ready for," the general answered. "You think it's all aliens and super-villains? Ever since what happened last year, other countries have been mobilizing their own metahuman forces. Some of those countries are a threat to us and everything we stand for. Even terrorist groups are getting their hands on metahumans. We have to be ready to face those threats with our own metahuman forces."
"Why don't you set them free?" Mercury asked.
"We put them in chemical stasis," the general replied. "It's the only way they can remain alive during the meta-gene activation process. If we take them off it now, they'll die."
"You bastard!" Mercury screamed and charged the general, striking him in the face before any of the soldiers could stop him.
"Mercury!" Inferno exclaimed.
The general just chuckled. "Now do you see why we need to create our own metahumans? You sanctimonious little brats can't be trusted."
Inferno pulled Mercury off the general before the speedster could beat the general to a pulp. "We'll stop this, Mercury. We will. I swear it."
The three Titans reluctantly departed from the meta-gene activation facility and rejoined the battle outside. When they got there, they found Major Force slamming Bladefire into the ground. Nightstar jumped on Major Force's back and pulled him off Bladefire, carrying him into the air as she flew. Nightstar spiraled into a rapid descent while carrying Major Force, slamming him into the ground.
"That should take care of you," she spat.
"Not quite, girly," Major Force snickered, rising to his feet. He charged at Nightstar, only for Cipher to slice his head off with a telekinetic sword. Cipher picked up Major Force's head, which simply laughed at him, and kicked it all the way into the meta-gene activation facility.
"What was that?" Firebrand asked.
"Major Force is effectively immortal," Cipher replied. "A simple decapitation will not be enough to put a permanent end to him. However, kicking his head over to his handlers will send a strong message that this will not be tolerated." He looked more closely at Firebrand. "Were you a product of S.H.A.D.E.'s experimentation?"
"No," Firebrand replied. "I got my powers from being exposed to that blast last year. Aren't we going to go in there and stop them?"
"We can't do it like that," Inferno answered. "We'll simply be sacrificing the lives of S.H.A.D.E.'s test subjects."
"Then what do we do?" Firebrand asked. "Do we simply let it go on? Do we simply let innocent people become living weapons for a war machine?"
"No . . . we don't," Nightstar replied. "Firebrand . . . how would you like to become a Titan?"
"I would be honored," Firebrand said.
"Then let's begin," Nightstar said. "It's time we put a stop to this atrocity."
A final message: We tried. For the sake of the people we swore to protect, we tried to work with you. And you spat in our faces. You went behind our backs and tried to create metahumans you could control and use to eliminate your enemies and silence your opponents. You ruined innocent lives for the sake of fulfilling your own agenda. Because of this, we have lost faith that we can work with you to make a better future for everyone involved. If that better future is to happen, we must take it into our own hands and remove ourselves from this system that you have transformed into a den of thieves and killers. Have a good day, Mr. President, for you and your cohorts will have many more bad days to come.
End Notes: That's the end of Teen Titans: Future Storm, but not quite the end for the characters I have either created or altered for usage in this series. I'm glad for those of you that have stuck with me throughout my writing of this series and I will assure you that I have more ideas for this universe. In the meantime, check out Plushie Nietzsche's Future Storm: Teen Titans Central. When he has the time to write again, I'm sure he'll be able to write an extraordinary second chapter and you'll thank me for recommending it to you. In the meantime, feel free to tell me what you thought of this chapter and what you thought of the series as a whole. Peace.