Chapter Eleven: But there were False Prophets Also among the People
Starfire had settled into her routine of going to church on Sunday mornings, she enjoyed the messages Pastor Bass taught, even though there was something about him she didn't like. He didn't live what he preached at all. She had seen him in a strip club while flying around on night patrol, and she knew he wasn't there to "witness" at all, what he was witnessing was something that went against his scriptures and the only reason she was going was to understand Christianity, and to see if the judgment that Pastor Norman McCay had warned her of would occur, since he said it was specifically concerning that church, she knew he meant Pastor Bass, but the weeks had passed and nothing had happened.
Starfire had told Robin about what Pastor McCay had said about the armies of Hell coming, they were trying to prepare, but they didn't know how. Cyborg was gathering up Holy Water and crucifixes and anointing oil, he was working on some big secret project involving them, but nobody asked.
All their leads on Brother Blood had gone cold again because the mysterious killer hadn't attacked another group of the cultists. Raven had become even more introverted than usual. She often went out on walks by herself and wouldn't come back for hours. That worried Starfire, not because she was afraid that something might happen to Raven, on the contrary, anyone who would try to hurt her would be in a world of hurt themselves before they could even touch her, but she was worried that her friend couldn't move on from Beast Boy's death.
Starfire turned her thoughts back to patrol and hoped that today she would have a lucky break and that they could finally put the Church of Blood in prison where they belonged.
Raven was sitting on a park bench, trying to regain her composure, trying desperately not to cry. She'd been flying over when she'd spotted a dog that reminded her of Beast Boy's green dog he used to turn into. She was angry, angry at herself for what happened and that she couldn't catch Brother Blood. But what made her angry most of all was that she'd never been able to tell him she was fond of him, that she loved him and his goofy pranks and that his jokes secretly amused her. They could have had something special, and now there was no chance of that happening.
She broke down and let the tears fall. It didn't really matter anymore. She sniffed and tried to stop, but they kept coming. She felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Hey, what's wrong?" a voice asked.
Raven looked up and saw a man, she could have passed by him on the street she wouldn't have noticed him. But there was something in his voice that comforted her, but she couldn't figure out what it was.
"I'm sorry, you shouldn't have to see me cry like this," she replied.
"It's okay," he said. "What's wrong?"
"My friend Beast Boy, he died, and I miss him," she replied. "There's so much I didn't get to tell him, so many things I wanted to say to him. Now I'll never get the chance…"
The tears came again and she began to sob.
The man pulled her into a hug, Raven was startled, but she sensed that he only wanted to comfort her.
His voice soothed her and he said, "it's okay, it's okay. I understand; I know your loss and how it feels to see the ones you love die. A long time ago, I had a very close friend, he became sick, my friends who were with me, they wanted to go visit him, but I told them to wait, and when we finally got there, he had been dead for four days, and I was very sad that he died."
"But you don't know how it feels to know that you could have done something to prevent it. I could have stopped Beast Boy from dying, and I failed."
"I could have stopped my friend from dying too, but I didn't," he said.
"But why? If you could have helped your friend, why didn't you?"
"Because it was for a better purpose, as hard as it is to understand, Beast Boy's death might have a purpose," he said. "Don't be sad Raven, everything's going to work for good, you'll see."
"How do you know my name? Oh yeah, you probably read about me in the papers."
"I've known about you for a long time. My name's Joshua," he said, holding out his hand to hers. She shook it firmly and tried to smile.
"Joshua, thanks, I really appreciate what you've done for me, but nothing you could say could bring Beast Boy back to life," she sighed.
"You never know, Raven, you never know," he replied, a wry smile slipped across his face. Raven wasn't quite sure if she'd heard him correctly and decided to ignore it. It probably wasn't anything important.
"If you ever feel lonely and want to talk to me, just come here, I'll be here. I promise," he told her, the sincerity in his voice.
"Okay, thanks," she told him. Her communicator began to go off, she answered it.
"Raven, are you okay?" Robin asked.
"I am now," she replied, feeling much better than she had felt earlier.
"There's a fire on First and Amistad, get down her right away, the firefighters haven't been able to get everyone out, there's still a boy in there, Dewayne Salinas."
Raven took to the air, flying as quickly as possible toward First and Amistad, there wasn't much time before the boy died of smoke inhalation or burned to death, she saw that Robin, Starfire were nowhere to be seen, she figured they were already inside searching for the boy. She flew straight in, not forgetting to put an oxygen mask on.
Robin's voice suddenly spoke from her communicator. "I found him, evacuate now!" he ordered, "The entire building's about to collapse!"
Raven was about to protest when he said, "Just go! I'll be out right after you!" Raven flew out of the building where she found Cyborg with some of the occupants.
"Robin come out yet?" she asked.
"No, and I haven't been able to reach him on the communicator either," he replied.
Robin, inside the building had managed to find Dewayne Salinas as he was pinned by a collapsed wall. He managed to get him out of the rubble and was trying to get him out of the building, but he couldn't see through all the smoke. He was running low on oxygen and it wasn't looking good.
"Robin, follow me!" a voice said, he thought it was Starfire so he followed the voice, he saw the figure in front of him and realized it was a man, but he seemed completely unaffected by the smoke and the flames, all Robin did was watch him and follow, he found himself staggering outside into the daylight.
"I got him out!" he called to the firefighters. They gathered around the boy and got him into an ambulance.
"Hey, thanks for the help—" he started to thank the stranger he'd seen but he didn't see anyone.
"Starfire, did you see anyone come out of that building?" he asked.
"No, it was just you," she replied.
"Then who was that guy who helped me out?" He put it out of his mind. They had to get back to stopping the Church of Blood and figure out what their plans were.
A few days later, they visited Dewayne Salinas; the doctors told them that despite all their efforts, the boy would never walk again. They all felt terrible, everything they did seemed to turn out wrong, but soon everything went back to normal, and they didn't think about how messed up life was without their green friend.
The Titans were in the Jump City Park, nothing had happened for quite some time and they decided to take a break from crime fighting, Robin thought they deserved it. They were getting ready for a picnic when Raven spotted the man she'd met there, Joshua, sitting on a park bench, a large crowd gathered around him. Starfire noticed that some of them were from the Jump City Community Church, but many of them were normal people, many of whom she'd seen standing outside of nightclubs and places that many Christians wouldn't visit. But they were hanging on every word he said.
"There was a businessman, he'd be someone who was as rich as, say, Bruce Wayne, and he decided to settle his accounts with all his business partners one of them owed him, about, I'd say, $3,000,000,000.00."
"That's a lot of money," someone from the crowd spoke up. "There's no way he could possibly pay that off."
"That's true, the businessman told his partner he'd have to sell his wife, kids, and everything he owned to pay it off. His partner was mortified and got down on his knees and started begging, "Give me a little more time I'll pay it all back!" And the business man, actually felt sorry for his business partner and so he pardoned the guy, gave him a clean slate, told him he didn't have to worry about his debt anymore."
This got the crowd murmuring, "That businessman, what's he thinking, just forgiving all that debt, that's not normal."
"That's true, but this man is an exceedingly generous man, who thought that his partner would be able to learn from the experience. But a few days later, the business partner found another man, who owed him $1,000.00, and he grabbed him by the shirt and shouted, "Pay me my thousand bucks!"
"The other guy, started begging him, "I'm going to get paid next week, then I'll pay it back, I swear! Just give me a little more time!" The business partner ignored his pleas for mercy and had him thrown in jail."
"Needless to say, the word got back to the businessman and he called his partner back in and told him, "You scumbag, I pardoned all your debt, all $3,000,000,000.00 of it, because you begged me to! And you couldn't forgive a man who owed you something as small as $1,000. So here's what I'm going to do to you, I'm going to sue you for every penny you owe and you'll go to jail until I get everything back!"
"So that's what happened, the partner was thrown in jail and all his assets were seized, that's how the Kingdom of Heaven, God will treat you the same way, if you don't truly forgive people who have hurt you."
The crowd considered this and was busy talking about the story and what it meant when Raven saw a child make her way through the crowd and walked straight up to Joshua and climbed in his lap as if he were an in-store Santa.
"Hey, hey, little girl, leave him alone! Stop bothering him," someone shouted.
"This whole scenario sounds familiar," Robin said, "That story he told, and what's happening with this kid, it seems like something I've read before, or did someone tell me about it? I can't remember."
"That's true, let's just see what he's going to do next, I kinda like him, I met him down at the Burger Place, he was buying a bacon cheeseburger," Cyborg said, "He helped me with my flat tire."
"Don't stop her, let her stay here, if you don't have faith like this little girl, you're not going to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom belongs to people who are like her."
"Yes, I have seen him too, he helped me find the Jump City Community Church," Starfire said quietly.
"I wonder who he really is," Raven said. This man seemed to know everything, and she had a feeling he might know about the Church of Blood, but there was something about him, something that made her inner demon nervous, but soothed the human part of her.
"I want some answers too, after the crowd leaves, I'm going to ask him about some things," Robin said, "he seems to have a good grasp of all this spiritual stuff, and I wonder if he can help us find them."
"What is it that's bothering you, sweetheart?" Joshua asked the little girl.
"My mommy's really sick, they say she's got cancer," the little girl replied. He looked very saddened by this.
"Do you believe she can get better?" he asked.
"Yep, I know who You are," she told him, "You can fix mommy."
"You go see your mommy today at the hospital, when you walk through the door, all the cancer will be gone."
"No way! That's impossible!" the crowd shouted.
The little girl went away with a smile. The crowd dispersed and Robin headed over to him.
"Hey there," Robin said, "Did you really mean it, what you said to that little girl?"
"Yes, her mother's going to be fine," he replied.
"You seem to know a lot about all this spirituality, do you know about the Church of Blood?"
"Yes I know who they are and what they're doing, and it's my enemy's work," Joshua said, "he's coming here, it's going to get ugly."
"Who's coming?" Robin asked.
"The adversary; and the armies of Hell are coming," he replied. Robin, Raven, and Cyborg balked at this. They'd have to fight demons all over again, and they remembered how they could barely touch them before.
"Norman McCay said the same thing to me," Starfire said.
"How do you know they're doing?" Robin demanded. "And who are you?"
"I am who I am, and I always make a point to know what my adversary's doing," Joshua replied. "But he won't come yet, I have something I have to do first."
"What's that?" Robin asked.
"I have some business, with Jump City Community Church," he said. He turned and walked off, "I suggest you all come to the service tomorrow, Robin will get to see something he's wanted to see for quite some time."
"What would that be?" Robin asked.
"A hypocrite getting what he deserves," Joshua said. "Come and see, you might be surprised at what else you'll find."
"I'll come, just to humor you," Robin replied. "I guess we'll be there tomorrow."
Sunday came and it was a bright, beautiful morning. The Titans woke up early, and got ready for church. "Raven, are you sure you want to go? I didn't think you'd be comfortable in a place like that. I just hope they don't try to perform an exorcism on you."
"I don't think it really matters, not everyone knows I'm half demon, mainly just you and the other Titans. It's not public knowledge."
"I see, so you're really going?" Robin asked.
"Yes," she replied. "I want to see what makes this God of theirs so important that millions of people follow Him."
"Well, let's get going then, Cyborg said, they made their way to the church and made their way inside. People were shaking their hands but Robin knew how they had treated Starfire and decided to be civil, but knew that some people were smiling through their teeth at them, while others were actually being friendly to them.
"Hi Robin, welcome to Jump City Community Church," a voice greeted him. Robin stared in surprise, it was Spike Taylor, a druggie they had busted three months before.
Robin remembered that Spike was so high that he said he was seeing a man in a green robe with a giant sword blocking his escape route when Robin had tackled him to the ground and cuffed him. But here he was, in a church of all places.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Oh, I've gotten my life back together, Jesus came and He fixed my life and salved me from my sins, and I kicked my drug habit, now I lead the youth here, or at least, I help them there, I'm going to become a youth pastor."
"That's good to know," Robin replied, unsure of what he'd just experienced. They met Pastor Bass and Robin immediately disliked him. They sat with Norman McCay and listened to the worship music, and the announcements. Robin was bored out of his mind until the sermon stared.
"You know, I've realized something lately, this Bible, while it's got good stuff in it, is really not perfect, it must've been a mistake when all those authors wrote that Jesus was the only way to God. They were actually saying that all religions work for you if you believe in it sincerely. I mean, they all believe in God."
"That's not what got me converted," former druggie, Spike Taylor said. "That's not what I read in the Bible."
"I mean, if we all believe in God, He'll give us what we want. Wealth, fame, status, power, all we have to do is believe and be sincere."
"Sounds like a load of crap to me," Robin said, loud enough for everyone to hear him.
The Titans all noticed Norman McCay's face had gone still, and that he looked like he was about to explode.
"You're a liar, Pastor Bass; the Bible doesn't say that all world religions are the way to God. It also doesn't say that life's going to be a world full of health and wealth either," Pastor McCay stood to his feet, "Your doctrine's been getting way off base lately, and I've had enough."
Robin looked at the elderly minister. He sure had guts to interrupt a church service and call the pastor a hypocrite in front of his entire congregation.
Just then a voice came from the back, "I told you to take care of my sheep didn't I?" Joshua's voice rang out. "Instead you've taken my words and twisted them into something I never said, and you're starving my flock and feeding your own selfish desires!"
"I don't know who you are, but this is my church and these are my followers! Get out of here!"
"I'm leaving, but this flock, isn't yours anymore!" Joshua said, he turned and left. Just as the door shut, Pastor Bass' eyes widened as a figure appeared, hovering in the air above him.
"W—wh—who are you?" he managed to stammer out.
"What sorrow awaits you, Pastor Christopher Bass. Hypocrite! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of Hell you are!" the Spectre's voice boomed out. "Your judgment has been postponed long enough, and now you will be punished."
"What do you mean?" he stammered. "I've done nothing wrong; I do not need to be punished."
"Let's just say your sins found you out, the IRS discovered you embezzled funds from this church, your wife found out you've been cheating on her, and a member of your outreach team saw you inside a strip club they were witnessing at. Your charade is finished."
Just then, the doors opened and a group of police officers and FBI agents came in.
"Pastor Bass, we're here to arrest you for tax evasion and fraud; put your hands behind your back." They cuffed him and led him away and the Spectre watched them leave.
"Who will lead us now?" someone asked.
"God has given you a new shepherd, Norman McCay," Spectre said.
Norman McCay stood to his feet, "Unfortunately today, I have no sermon for you today. But there has been something weighing on me for quite some time. The only thing I'll ask you to do is pray, pray for this city. I fear that terrible things are going to happen."
Lucifer flew about Jump City. It was almost time, almost time to take this pathetic place all for himself. Lucifer had heard some disturbing rumors; He had taken a personal interest in the city too. He had heard that the Lamb had assumed his human form and had made contact with all the Titans. He was trying to lead them back to the Enemy above, it made his blood boil.
It entered his mind, a diabolical and despicable plan. He knew what he was going to do. He summoned Legion.
"Yes, Master, what are your orders?" Legion hissed. "I'm tired of waiting around."
"Strike in five months as planned, but when you do, I want you to do something that will no doubt give you great pleasure."
"What would that be?" Legion asked; glee in his voice.
"Kill Raven," he said. "It will be a great blow to the Titans and to Him."
"I'll ready the legions, the Hosts of Heaven are busy, and we'll strike before they can launch an offensive."
"Inform Brother Blood that he and his men need to start preparing, we'll strike in five months.
Legion flew off, a trail of sulfur following him. Lucifer smiled. Everything was going according to plan.
Brother Blood was in meditation, he was itching to attack the Titans, he'd been fearful when he discovered that someone had killed a group of his followers, but calmed once he discovered that the attacker had not struck again. He was still ordering his men to commit crimes; just to spit in the Titans faces some more.
He looked up and saw Legion hovering over him.
"Ready your men, in five months, we'll strike, and as proof of your victory, we will guarantee your success through a sign," Legion said.
"What sort of sign?" Brother Blood asked.
"You will kill Raven, and when you do, it will ensure our success," Legion answered.
"But how will I be able to do that? She's very powerful."
"I will possess you and give you all my powers, just like when we killed Beast Boy."
"I see, then this city will be mine!" Brother Blood clenched his fist. Victory would be his.
Gar Logan, in his Spectre garb, floated next to Jesus as he walked through Jump City Park, He liked to go there to see the people in their daily lives. Sometimes, his followers would come and pray there, He always liked to listen to them. Children would come up and play on the playground and some would ask him questions that baffled the adults. It was no surprise that sometimes they recognized Him, after all, to get into the Kingdom of Heaven; you needed the faith of a child.
"You worried?" Spectre asked.
"Yes, but we both know that they're coming, we are prepared for them," Jesus said.
"But You know how it's going to turn out in the end, right?" Spectre asked.
"Of course," He replied.
"Then we'll win."
"We will, but it will not be without loss."
"Loss?" Spectre asked.
"Your friend, Raven," Jesus said. "Legion is going to kill her."
"You can't let that happen!" Gar said in his normal voice. "You have to stop him. I don't want Raven to go to Hell!"
"But she's always believed that because she's half demon that she could never go to Heaven," Jesus told him. Gar looked stricken.
"That's not true, right? It's not fair. You can't let Legion kill Raven."
"It is my Father's will, you cannot change that."
"What kind of a God did I believe in?! That he would let my best friend be murdered and go to Hell?! And what about the Graysons, they believed in You too and they died for no reason, and Vic's mother, she died in that car wreck that made him into Cyborg."
"There is a reason for everything, Garfield. When this is all over you'll understand."
"Well I don't understand," Gar said bitterly, "I won't let Raven die, and I'll fight your Father myself if she does."
"You won't do that Gar, when she does die, you have to go after her, I'm going to come with you, but you have to go first."
"Why me?" Gar demanded.
"You have to tell Lucifer I'm coming."