SUPER-HERO RESCUE TRAIN WRECK
Disaster was averted at the Wolfman Street train station yesterday, although barely.
"I don't know what happened," explained train engineer Jeff Jones, 32. "I just know that somehow another train got switched onto my track, and my brakes wouldn't work. I was starting to panic, when he stuck his head through my window."
"He" being a mysterious individual dressed in silver and gold with a red cape.
"He told be to stop the train and I told him I couldn't," Jones continued. "Then he...he jumped! Right in front of the train! He should've been smashed to paste, but he caught it! We didn't stop, track was flying everywhere, but he actually friggin' caught it!"
Meanwhile, the other train found itself in a similar situation.
"Like, at the last second the track was switched," recounted passenger Simone Gail, 18. "Problem was, that derailed us. We were flipped onto our side, crashed through some stuff, and ended up hanging on the edge of the bridge. That's when he showed up."
"He" being another costumed figure. This one apparently dressed in black and white and wearing a leather jacket.
"He just burst in and started shouting stuff about weight distribution as he helped us get to the next car. That was you know, still upright and on level ground. When I was knocked down, he slung me over his shoulder. He smelled funny."
"I saw the other train had stopped," Jones confirmed. "But all I could think of was how we still weren't gonna stop in time and still hit it. I guess the guy in gold knew this too, 'cause he lifted the damn train off its tracks!"
This may have stopped the trains from colliding, however:
"We were all thrown around like rag-dolls," Jones sighed, rubbing his left leg, which is now in a plaster cast. "After that, he tore the train open so people could get out and paramedics could get in, but then he just took off. That's all I remember before waking up in the hospital."
These two figures were not the only non-Titan "super hero" sightings that day. Several witnesses claim to have seen an armored figure with silver wings carry someone away from the track, presumably from where the two trains would have collided. Others claim to have been one place only to find themselves suddenly on the other side of the station just as the second train crashed where they were just moments before.
"I don't know who these guys were," Gail said, "but I do know one thing. They weren't the Titans. I think the guy in black has a lot to learn. And needs a shower."
"It sounds like the guy who stopped the second train did the best he could," Jones said of Gail's story. "After all, he stuck around to help. But my guy...Let's just say I didn't really start to panic till I heard his voice. Like ice."
Robin scowled as he finished reading the newspaper article. He heard about the train wreck after the fact. He and the other Titans would have rushed to the scene had they not been battling Doctor Light yet again at the same time. He was glad no one had been too seriously injured, but he couldn't help but curse himself. If they had been there, no one would have been hurt.
"Who are these guys?" he muttered under his breath.
"I too am curious to learn about our new friends," Starfire said from the other end of the couch.
"They aren't our friends," Robin corrected, folding the paper and setting it down.
"But they are fellow crusaders of justice. Should we not do the hanging out?"
"With the other three maybe," Raven replied as floated above the her two teammates. "I don't know about that Prodigy guy. He kind of creeps me out."
"Creeps you out?" Beast Boy said as he came from the kitchen with a bag of chips. "Man, I'm glad I missed him."
"Three?" Robin asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I felt another presence there when that...colored black thing happened. Not much, but definitely something. Prodigy said 'Dusk' each time it happened. It might be a name."
"Makes sense," Robin said as he stood up. "Okay, so let's go over what we do know. Hornet. Guy in a robotic suit that lets him fly and shoot laser beams. He also seems to be the brains of the outfit."
"He seemed most embarrassed and shy," Starfire added.
"Ricochet," Robin continued, starting to pace. "Very fast and agile. Good aim with those discs of his too."
"His hair was that of a snowy angels!" Starfire said dreamily.
"Yeah, it was...nice," Raven said softly.
Robin exchanged a confused glance with Beast Boy but then continued. "Prodigy. Strong. Very strong. Apparently resistant to injury."
"And Raven says he's creepy," Beast Boy added.
"Yes, he gave me both the heebies and the jeebies."
Robin trailed off and looked to Raven, who simply shrugged.
"I wasn't able to get much," she said. "On any of them really. Though am I the only one who noticed we got another team consisting of a smart guy with robotics, a fighter with throwing weapons, someone really strong and nigh invulnerable and teleporter that really likes black?"
There was a silence as the others considered this.
"Wow, deja vu," Beast Boy said, scratching his head.
"Sorry to interrupt," Cyborg said as he entered the main room carrying a DVD. "But I found something from last night's evening news that you might be interested in."
With that, he put the disk in the player, and the news segment began to play. It featured a reporter standing outside of a building that was almost done being constructed. The building was the newly rebuilt Grande Royale Hotel, owned by one Roland Desmond. Apparently the original Grande Royale had been a Jump City landmark until it burned down before the Titans were even born. This was all well and good, but it wasn't long before Robin found himself asking "I don't get it Cyborg. What's the big deal?"
"You mean besides the fact this Roland Desmond guy is rumored to have links to the Mob?" Cyborg replied. "I noticed something in one of the windows."
Using the remote, he began to zoom in on the upper floors of the hotel and enhance the image.
"Something I knew you'd want to see."
Finally, the picture stopped changing and the Titans could make out a definite figure in one of the windows. It was still somewhat unclear despite the filtering system, but there was no mistaking the insignia.
"Red X," Robin said, clenching his fists.
Meanwhile, the Teen Titans weren't the only ones upset by what they read in the paper.
"No, you need a shower!" a teenaged boy shouted as he threw newspaper against the wall of what appeared to be a makeshift lair. He stood and glared at the paper, one hand resting atop his snow white hair. He then glanced side to side...
...and sniffed one of his armpits.
"Need a gas mask?"
Startled, the boy hit the ceiling. Literally. Upon landing smoothly back on the ground, he glared at the newcomer. "Stop doing that," he said coldly.
The girl who chuckled wasn't so much a girl as she was a living shadow. Dressed in black from head to toe, she sat above him on a giant storage unit in the middle of the room.
"What's the matter Johnny? All sad 'cause the girls aren't attracted to your manly musk?"
"No," Johnny growled, rubbing his sore head. "I'm upset because everyone keeps referring to yesterday as a train wreck."
"Well, that's because it was a wreck involving trains."
"Not denying that. Just got the feeling they aren't using it in just a literal sense."
"Oh quit your whining. At least Ritchie let's you do stuff. He's just using me as a glorified chauffeur."
"Well let's be honest Cassie," Johnny said with a slight smirk. "Can you do anything else?"
There was a silence as he waited for a reply.
"You can't tell," she said finally, "but I'm giving you a really nasty glare."
"I'm all a-quiver."
The verbal sparring match was cut short however, as the door opened and another teenaged boy entered the room. He was a large boy, his muscular build making him almost twice the size of Johnny. His short brown hair matched his eyes. Cold eyes which looked over his two comrades.
"Ricochet," he said, almost glaring at Johnny. "Dusk," he added, turning to look up at Cassie. "Where is Hornet?"
"Repairing his wings," Johnny said, returning the glare. "That psycho actually tried to shoot him down when Eddie was trying to save him."
"Maybe," Dusk said softly, "he didn't want to be saved."
Johnny gave Cassie a concerned look, but Ritchie spoke before he could.
"Summon him," the boy said, opening the storage unit Dusk was sitting upon and pulling out a golden costume. "We have work to do."
"Can we go in now?" Beast Boy whined. He and the other Titans were staked out on the roof of the building directly across the street from the Grande Royale Hotel.
"Not yet," Robin said, not taking his eyes from his binoculars.
"Why are we even here?" Raven asked. "Just because Red X was here last night doesn't mean he is now."
"That's true," Cyborg said. "But this whole thing just seems fishy to me. We got Roland Desmond, a rumored mob-boss that's been avoiding the public spot light suddenly grabbing hold of it with a big move like rebuilding the Grand Royale, plus a Red X sighting?"
"It is indeed most curious," nodded Starfire.
"So is visiting a construction sight so late at night," Robin said as a stretch limo pulled up with the various construction vehicles.
"Let's me see," Cyborg said, walking next to his friend, his mechanical eye zooming in as three people got out of the limo and met three people waiting in front of the building. Beast Boy morphed into an eagle and perched himself on Robin's shoulder.
"Say who's that guy in the suit?" the changeling asked as he switched back to his humanoid form. "He's huge!"
"I can't be 100 sure," Robin replied, "but based on how the others are acting around him, I'd have to say that's Roland Desmond."
"No way!" Cyborg exclaimed. "I looked up pictures of him before he fell off the radar! He made Beast Boy look like the Jolly Green Giant!"
"Hey! I'm standing right here y'know!"
"I saw those pictures too," Robin said, "but zoom in on his face. Aside from the enlarged forehead and red eyes, it looks just like Desmond."
"Well, he's been taking his vitamins then," Cyborg muttered, still in a state of disbielf. "Though I think this just confirmed my theory."
"Agreed," Robin said. "Something's up."
A few blocks away:
"Our Benefactor has had dealings with Desmond," Prodigy said as he addressed his three comrades in an abandoned warehouse. "He knows that the restoration of the Grande Royale Hotel is just a front. Our orders are to find out--"
"What it's a front for, right?" Ricochet said as he spun a disk on his finger. "Play the bats in his belfry."
If Prodigy was annoyed by his comrade's antics, he did not show it. "I will observe the meeting between Desmond and his underlings. Hornet and Ricochet are to sneak into the area underneath the construction site. Dusk will remain here on standby."
"Knew I should've brought my homework," she sighed.
"So what are we doing exactly?" Ricochet asked as he tossed, caught and attached the disk to the sleeve of his jacket, where it joined three more. "Break stuff? Hire strippers?"
"You are flies on the wall," Prodigy replied, shoving a walkie-talkie into Ricochet's hands, and Ricochet into a wall. "Don't touch anything. Don't do anything. Don't get seen."
"Okie-dokie," Ricochet muttered as Hornet helped him off the floor.
"Are we clear?" Prodigy asked.
"Y-yes sir," Hornet said quietly.
"Yeah, sure," Ricochet muttered as he finally righted himself. "Whatever you say Ritchie."
"Prodigy," the golden leader almost snarled.
And before another word was said, he turned and stormed out the door.
"Are you okay, Rico?" Hornet asked.
"Fine Eddie," Rico grumbled as he shrugged free of his friend's grip. "Let's just get this over with."
Eddie watched as his friend headed toward the door, then looked to Dusk. "Cassie, are you...?"
"Don't worry, Eddie," she said, seeming to smile softly. "I'll find someway to amuse myself. Just keep Snow Wit out of trouble, okay?"
She watched as he nodded and went after his partner in fighting crime, and once she was sure they were all gone, vanished in a flash of colorful darkness.
"Hold on," Cyborg said. "What do we have here?"
"What do you see?" Beast Boy asked. "Is it Red X?"
"No," Robin replied. "That Prodigy guy just landed on one of the dump trucks. Whatever's in it must have muffled the sound because our boys didn't seem to notice."
"That's nice and all," Raven said, "but what's he doing here?"
"That's a very good question," said a familiar voice. "I'll have to ask him after I finish taking care of you losers."
"Red X," Robin snarled as he and the others turned to face their foe. "Titans, GO!"
"Okay, call me crazy, but shouldn't there be guards here?" Ricochet muttered as he and Hornet found themselves in an underground loading dock. "And I don't think basements are supposed to have their own subways," he added, looking at the tracks leading down an unknown tunnel.
"There probably shipping whatever's in those drums, Rico," Hornet replied, pointing to the series of metal barrels that resting on the platform. "Hey–what are you doing!"
"Teacher's Pet said observe," Ricochet said as he hopped over to the barrels. "So I'm observing. You can't let what's happened make you afraid Eddie. You fall off a horse, you get right back on. Now let's see...what the hell is 'Blockbuster'?"
"I-I know Johnny. It's just that I've got a bad feeling."
"We're in the bad guy's house. I'd worry if you didn't. Now get up here and open one of these things up. You got some kind of chemical analyzer on that thing?"
"Hey if you don't--"
And that's when Ricochet felt it. That...flashing sensation inside his skull. Suddenly scared, he turned from the barrels to his partner.
"Great googily moogily!"
"What's the deal X?" Robin demanded as he deflected a pair of X-shaped shurikens with his bo staff. "Somehow you don't strike me as the hired muscle type."
"What can I say," X replied as he leapt and kicked Starfire into Raven. "Desmond made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
"Hope it included workman's comp!" Cyborg shouted as he tried to punch his opponent, only to have him vanish and reappear on the larger Titan's back. "That old trick won't work!"
"Maybe not," Red X said calmly as he placed one of his insignia on Cyborg's armor. "That's why I decided to mix it up a bit."
Red X then jumped away, landing on a mountain lion Beast Boy just as the device exploded. The Titans coughed as they were enveloped in smoke, but found themselves unharmed and confused when it cleared.
"You'll have to do better than that!" Robin snarled.
"You're right," Red X admitted. "I don't know why I though that would work. After all, metallic chromium is pretty harmless."
"Starfire!" Robin cried as he and the other Titans' eyes went wide.
"We open in three days," the thundering voice of Roland Desmond stated. "Yet there are still trucks. Yet carpet has not been moved inside."
"W-w-w-we assure you Mr. Desmond," one of the underlings from the site stammered. "We are on schedule. It's just that the setting up of the loading dock and delivery system required us to rearrange things."
Prodigy sat motionless from his perch, listening intently. He could not see Desmond from his vantage point, but he did not need too.
"I do not need to remind you gentlemen of what's a stake here. I've invested much in this project. It would annoy me for there to be delays."
"Uh, sir," said one the men on Desmond's left, "I don't think this is a delay per say, but looks like X found some party crashers."
"Indeed. Take care of it. There are matters I must see to inside."
Prodigy watched as the men from the site turned their gaze across the street. He shifted to better see what they could see, but instantly regretted it as his movement caused a few pieces of the material he was resting on to fall out of the truck.
Weather or not this gave away his presence or not, he never found out. Something else did it instead.
"KSSH Dusk! We need EVAC! Dusk! You there! Ritchie! Come in fearless leader! KSSH"
"Johnny...? I hate rats Johnny..."
"Prodigy! Pick up the freakin' phone man!" Ricochet shouted into his walkie-talkie as he and Hornet were surrounded on all sides by giant, mutated, nightmarish rats. "Ritchie you–wait a minute...why aren't they getting closer? And what's that buzzing?"
He slowly turned to face his partner. "Eddie," he said, slightly annoyed.
"I must've activated my wings on instinct," Hornet said slowly, as if a revelation were beginning to form. "The hum. That's it. The frequency must bother them."
"Okay," Ricochet nodded, climbing onto hornet's back. "Now walk man!"
And Hornet did. Briskly.
"Okay," Dusk said to herself as she materialized at her destination. "Somehow I don't think hotels are supposed to have mad scientist-esque labs in their basements."
Without hesitation, she sat down in front of one of the computers.
"Dumbass forgot to log out," she smiled as a disk materialized in her hand. "Must be my lucky day."
She set to work, skimming through every file she could and copying anything that looked to be particularly incriminating. However, as she continued, she felt her gut grow tighter and tighter.
"Experimental super steroid...lab rats escaped...lab tech found with mysterious wounds...disposed of...omigod the guy from the trains..."
She was so absorbed in what she was reading she failed to hear the door quietly open and close and the footfalls that made their way to her position.
It's very well possible she may not have felt the hand wrap around her neck if it didn't lift her from her chair and drive her head into the wall.
"Starfire, I know it's not you're fault," Raven sighed as she lowered the bubble she had erected around herself, "but any chance you can aim a few of those sneezes at the enemy?"
"I am trying Raven," Starfire replied as she rubbed her nose, "but he is moving much too fastly."
"Then I'll see if I can hold him still!" Beast Boy declared as he shifted into an octopus and lashed out with all eight tentacles. Red X tried to evade, but each of his limbs was ensnared.
"Great work Beast Boy," Robin smirked as X struggled. "Starfire, let him have it."
"Honestly," Red X sighed before simply teleporting out of Beast Boy's many grips. The octopus panicked and tried to signal for Starfire to stop, but it was too late. There was an explosion, and when the smoke cleared, Beast Boy lay in an unconscious heap at one end of the roof, and Starfire was seen flying over the horizon from the recoil of her nasal assault.
"Damn!" Cyborg cried as Red X reappeared an began to duel with Raven. "I know he's not you anymore but he may as well be! How does he keep kicking our butts!"
"I don't know," Robin admitted softly as Raven was shot out of the sky by a series of X blasts. "Sonic boom!" he shouted, preparing a disk.
Before Cyborg could respond to that, the door leading into the interior of the building was kicked down and a swarm of henchmen began pouring out of it, opening fire as they did.
"Are these guys actually firing Tommy guns at us!" Cyborg cried as he raised his arms in front of his face, deflecting some of the bullets.
Robin gave no answer as he was forced to leap about the roof to both dodge the gunfire and Red X. As he did, he assessed the situation.
Raven was climbing to her feet, but she was holding her head, possibly due to a concussion. Beast Boy was beginning to stir, but was obviously still out of it. Starfire was flying back to the roof, soaking wet, but there was no way to tell if she was still having allergic reactions. And while the gun-toting thugs wouldn't normally be too much of a problem, trying to deal with them in an already chaotic situation could lead to any of them getting seriously hurt or killed. Though he hated to admit it, there was only one option.
"Titans," he called, the words tasting bitter, "retreat."
The henchmen opened fire on Prodigy, but it did them little good as the bullets deflected harmlessly off his golden hide. He leapt down from his perch, causing one of the men to drop his gun and run in fright. Moving like lightning, he grabbed one thug by the collar and slammed him into the truck. He punched another, knocking him out instantly. To Prodigy, it wasn't so much a punch as it was a tap. He was more than capable of turning their bones to powder, and he wanted them to know that.
But even after seeing their weapons literally crumpled into balls, the fools kept coming, and he was getting angry. They wouldn't like--
"There he is! Get 'im!"
Prodigy looked up. He had been wrong. The thug hadn't been fleeing. He was getting reenforcements.
Lots of them.
He could handle them in any number of ways, but there would be no point. His mission was a failure.
He took to the air, ignoring the two henchmen that collided with each other in a failed attempt to double team him.
He made for the warehouse, where he intended to have words with the others.
"I'll tell you–epp! We get out of this? Yike! Me and Boss Man are gonna have words! YOUCH! Walk quicker Eddie! And don't drop me!"
"I'm trying Johnny," Eddie huffed as the rats gave chase, nipping at Ricochet's heels. "But you aren't exactly light and I think you may be muffling the sound."
"Wonderful," Ricochet sighed. "Okay, when I say haul it, haul it. Okay? Ready--"
With that Johnny spring-boarded from Eddie's back, and upon landing a few feet in front of his friend, shouted "NOW! Haul it Eddie!"
"I'm hauling! I'm hauling!" Hornet shouted as he broke into a run. However, the rats simply followed suit.
"Do Daddy proud!" Ricochet shouted to a disk he threw as he began to sprint as well. The disk began to bounce off the rocks walls of the makeshift tunnel, breaking it apart. It also collided with the rats, slowing them down in their pursuit. Finally, the disk gained enough momentum and hit one of the wooden cross beams, causing that part of the tunnel to collapse on top of their pursuers.
"Come to Big Poppa," Ricochet said proudly as he caught his incoming disk between his index and middle fingers.
"It's sealed?" Hornet asked, slowing to a stop.
"Singed and delivered," Ricochet replied as he returned the disk to his sleeve and leaned his back against the wall. "Heh..."
"What?" Hornet asked, resting his hands on his knees as he caught his breath.
"Nothing...I nailed that pretty good back there, didn't I?"
"Yeah...you did good Rico."
"Uh..." Ricochet said nervously.
"The whole tunnel's coming down!" Hornet shouted. "Move! MOVE!"
He and Ricochet ran. Ran as fast at their tired legs would allow. Desperate, Hornet jumped, trying to fly as much as the confined space would allow. He wasn't sure how far he got before he landed flat on his face. He just knew that when the thundering of the collapse stopped, he was still alive. Looking up, he almost laughed at the sight concrete sewer pipe he and Ricochet had used to gain access to the tunnel.
"Heh. Oh man. We made it. Are you okay Johnny?"
Roland Desmond was not happy when he exited the hotel and found several unconscious men, all his own and none of them the intruders. He narrowed his eyes at Red X as the costumed villain entered the scene empty-handed. And he frowned when he heard and felt the ground behind the hotel crumble.
"Take care of this," he snarled as he threw a limp body dressed in black at Red X's feet. "I suggest the rest of you get to work. We open in two days."
Prodigy stood on the roof of the abandoned warehouse quite upset. The others had not returned. His mission was a failure.
"KSSH Ritchie...? Oh god...Ritchie are you there! KSSH"
Because of them.
"KSSH Ritchie where are--"
"Not Ritchie," he said coldly, crushing the radio in his hands.
"RITCHIE YOU GOTTA HELP ME!" Eddie screamed into the radio as tears ran down his face. In front of him was a mountain of rubble and no sign of his partner.
"Ritchie," he sobbed. "Cassie...anyone...someone...please help me..."
How come no one told me writing for Starfire was so hard?