DISCLAIMER: I don't own Teen Titans. If I did, this would be on TV and not here.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This doesn't take place in the same storyline as my "Forced Base" and "Fractured Heart" stories, so forget those when you're reading this. Also, about Sanza/Red X: When he's wearing the mask, he's Red X. When he's not, he's Sanza. Simple as that.
SECOND AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a sequel to "The Life and Times of Red X", which is in my profile. Read that before you read this. Also, this fic COMPLETELY IGNORES the events of the fifth season (with the exception of "Go"). For the purposes of this fic, "Things Change" NEVER HAPPENED.
It had been exactly one year since Sanza Salazar had stolen the Red X suit from Titans Tower. One year since the most eventful, interesting, and dangerous chapter in Sanza's life had begun. And now, the young, Hispanic 17-year-old, dressed in blue jeans, a pair of white socks and nothing else, sat on the foot of his bed and stared down at his lap, where he was twiddling his thumbs and thinking to himself, 'why the hell did I ever take that suit?'.
The suit in question was lying in a large white box underneath Sanza's bed. It had been there for the past five months, out of sight save for a few hours one cold February morning when Sanza had removed one of the gloves from the box in order to repair a large hole in the material, caused when Sanza had detonated an X bomb right in the middle of his palm.
He hadn't put on the suit since that day several months ago, hadn't even wanted to see it. He'd failed his duty to his family, he'd failed his mother, his sister, and his deceased father, to whom he'd promised from the bottom of his heart that he would protect those he held dear.
But every few days, something would stir inside of Sanza. Not the urge to protect his family... that urge was with him every second of every day, whenever he looked over his shoulder for any sign of the terrible criminal Slade, who Sanza had had the chance to kill but had selfishly passed it up in order to save his own life. Sanza hadn't seen Slade in the past few months either, but that didn't excuse Sanza from being vigilant... as long as Slade was alive and still wanted Red X as an apprentice, his family would always be in danger.
But that wasn't the urge stirring within Sanza... it was the urge do to something that had become almost synonymous with the Red X suit, and the legacy of the criminal who wore it. Sanza wanted to steal, needed to steal... to feel the adrenaline rush of sneaking into a well-guarded building and taking some valuable item that didn't belong to him. He wanted the danger, the notoriety... and despite the trouble that always seemed to follow whenever Sanza got one of those criminal urges, he still craved that surge of adrenaline... which he hadn't been able to receive in the five months since he'd last donned the suit.
The suit was right there, right under the bed on which Sanza was sitting. It would be so easy to put it on, run down the fire escape and dash downtown to one of the many office buildings that formed the Jump City skyline. A computer, a new piece of technology... hell, even a pencil and some staples from a file cabinet, it wouldn't matter. Sanza needed that rush... he needed to steal.
He could almost hear the suit calling to him... put me on, Sanza. Put me on and go steal... doesn't matter if the cops show up, or the Teen Titans. You WANT the Titans to show up... remember Starfire? Remember how wonderful she made you feel? Remember that feeling she gave you in your pants?
"God dammit," whispered Sanza to himself, slowly shaking his head. "I can't keep thinking about this... I have a girlfriend now..."
Remembering Cleo, which temporarily crowded all the lewd thoughts of Starfire from his mind, Sanza walked over to his dresser and pulled out the first thing he could find, a plain black t-shirt. He put on the shirt and left the room, walking down a narrow hallway toward a set of wooden stairs, which he descended rather quickly on route to the living room.
Inside the living room, peacefully watching 'Wheel of Fortune', was a 12-year-old girl with long, wavy black hair, perfectly accenting her tanned skin. She wore a simple white tanktop over a denim skirt that went down to just below her knees, which were poking outward because her legs were crossed beneath her as she sat on the floor.
"Maddy...?" asked Sanza, glancing briefly over the rest of the living room and noticing that the recliner facing the television was empty. "Where's-"
"Mommy's working late," Maddy replied, shooting a quick glance and a smile at Sanza. For a girl who had been through so much, Maddy was a remarkably happy child... she'd bounced back almost immediately from an event that would certainly traumatize most children her age, the abduction of her and her mother by the terrible villain Slade. Sanza still felt guilty about that event, knowing that it was his duplicity as Red X that had placed his mother and sister in such a perilous situation. Neither of them knew about Sanza's secret, and he currently preferred to keep it that way. "Wanna watch the Wheel with me?"
"I hate the Wheel..." thought Sanza to himself, but he found himself moseying over to the small recliner and sitting down anyway, staring at the screen. The three contestants were having trouble with the phrase " KE TK NY R Y", and as one of them spun the large, colorful wheel, Maddy blurted out the answer.
"It's 'like taking candy from a baby', and they're all retarded for not knowing it," Maddy said, half to herself and half to her brother. Sanza, who honestly had no idea what the answer was, was in shock that Maddy had gotten it so quickly. She certainly was an intelligent girl, but filling in all those words so quickly... she must've had practice.
"...that was fast," replied Sanza. "How did you-"
"I dunno. Like I said, they should get it faster, but then there wouldn't be much of a show, now would there?" Maddy said, her head turning slightly to face Sanza. "And also, the more letters they get, the more money they-"
"I know how the game works," Sanza muttered, standing up and exiting the room. He could only put up with his sister for so long before something else, in this case his urge to steal one again returning, distracted him and forced him away from her. "See you in a bit."
"Sure thing," said Maddy, her attention returning to the screen. "Bye bye, Sanza."
Sanza quickly made his way back up to his bedroom and knelt down beside his bed, multiple competing thoughts racing through his mind.
"If I do this... if I put on the suit and go stealing again, Slade will..." the risk to his family's life was obviously there, not to mention the risk to his own should he do battle with the Titans again. Every day on the news it seemed like the Titans were battling more and more villains... they were everywhere. And they'd probably already forgotten that they and Sanza had, at least for a few brief days, been comrades in arms. "The more I keep thinking about this, the more I want to..."
Slowly, Sanza pulled out the box from its place underneath his bed. Inside, Sanza knew, was the very costume that had given him so much trouble... had put his family in so much danger... and yet, at the same time, had given Sanza more thrills than any other thing he'd ever done in his life. Robbing someone was like riding a thousand roller coasters at the same time... and even fighting the Titans could, at times, be entertaining.
Sanza opened the box, sliding the cover back under his bed and taking a long look at the folded up black and red mass of latex and fabric. Somewhere inside all that material was the Xynothium reactor... still working, still pumping out a limitless supply of the miracle polymer to fuel the suit's many weapons.
He no longer stole because he had to... he stole because he wanted to.
And now, as he slowly pulled out the suit, he could feel all that adrenaline, the excitement, the danger, all of it flooding back... he removed his blue jeans and slowly began sliding on the costume, felt its cool touch on the skin of his legs, then, as he pulled up the top of the costume and slowly stretched it across his chest and arms, covering up the black t-shirt he was wearing, he could again feel all the power... and the chance to use this power to do whatever he wanted.
He pulled on the gloves, including his recently repaired right glove, and flexed his fingers... the gloves fit perfectly. Once designed for the hands of Robin, and Robin alone, they attached to Sanza's hands like a second skin, and again he was thankful for having been blessed with the Boy Wonder's almost-exact dimensions.
"If only I had his skills..." thought Sanza, reaching into the box and pulling out the last component of the Red X costume... the mask, its skull-like face seemingly staring straight into his own. "He probably knows fifty different kinds of martial arts... I'm just a lousy fourth-degree blackbelt in regular old karate."
It was this deficiency in formal martial-arts training that made Sanza wary of another encounter with Slade... and made him wonder, time and time again, if he was even worthy of this suit. If he could bear the burden of protecting his family... the last time he'd worn the suit, this question brought him to tears.
But now it wasn't about protecting his family... for Sanza, he was becoming Red X again for his needs. Selfish, yes... but as Sanza slowly put on the mask, and the mentality of the master thief once again began to set in... it became all too clear.
"Of course I'm selfish. I'm Red X."
And about a half-hour later, after zipping down the fire escape and dashing his way down several long streets, Red X found himself face-to-face with the many high-rise towers of downtown Jump City... offices galore, holding valuable secrets and relics of corporate affluence for the infamous thief to pilfer. Crouching down in an alleyway, X recalled to himself a recent news story of an especially interesting item...
A quantum computer, manufactured by Pinnacle Industries, the company that owned the top seventeen floors of the 58-story Mycoso Building, a rectangular tower just a block or two away from X's current location. The highly powerful computer was reported to be just a prototype, but X knew that such a device could be worth billions to its company... or to any thief daring enough to attempt stealing it. He peered out of the alley and saw the building, most of its lights dimmed, unlike the other surrounding offices, which were still filled with workers still cranking away at the late hour of eight o'clock at night.
"The situation is perfect," thought Red X, his eyes traveling from the building to the nearby parking garage, which provided a direct subwalk to the building on its lower level. "Won't even have to go in the front door. This is going to be too easy."
And with that self-assurance in mind, Red X quickly dashed to the parking garage, darting from shadow to shadow in order to avoid the glares of pedestrians making their way to downtown Jump City's various nightclubs and shopping centers. The job would certainly be easier if X could still use his teleporter, but the Xynothium reactor now fueling his suit didn't provide a pure enough product to power the device, the most energy-intensive of the suit's many, many weapons and gadgets. Still, in some way, the lack of a teleportation device made X's thievery much more challenging... and certainly more exciting.
X made it to the parking garage without incident, and from there it was a short jog to the subwalk and to the Mycoso Building's first elevator. Once inside the elevator shaft, the entire building was accessible to Red X... it was simply a matter of climbing the cable and creating an opening to the right room.
"If I remember how to do this..." thought Red X to himself, forming an X in his right hand and affixing it to the metallic roof of the elevator. The X quickly expanded and dissolved, creating a hole that was just large enough for Red X to slip through. Once he'd emerged on top of the elevator, the hole sealed itself back up and created a platform from which Red X could begin his ascent of the cable. "Well, whatd'ya know... I do remember."
The computer itself, or at least the prototype, sat in a room on the 57th floor of the building, the penultimate story. Inside the room, which was protected by a legion of lasers, guards, gates, and pre-programmed codes that only a few scientists and executives knew, sat a small, wooden table, on which a sealed test tube had been placed. Inside the tube was a clear, viscous liquid... the product of years of genetic tinkering and testing to produce a product known as the quantum computer, which used the same process employed by the human brain itself to make hundreds of trillions, if not quadrillions of complex calculations in a single second. Electrodes sticking into the tube connected it to wires leading up to a twenty-inch flat screen, which served as the monitor of the computer. A keyboard, complete with touchpad, was mounted on a podium sitting several feet away from the screen.
It was not this room that Red X found himself in once he finally decided to exit the elevator shaft. He'd chosen the right floor, but had entered a room some distance away... a sealed storage room that housed only a few file cabinets and a large stack of computer paper. However, after a few minutes of leafing through the file cabinets, Red X did find out what room he needed to be in, and, using another X to create a portal to the hallway, rejoiced in the fact that after a short trip down the hall and a couple of left turns, he'd be just a few hacked keypads and disabled guards away from the quantum computer.
The hallways were lit only by a dim blue light emanated from the halogen lights mounted in the ceiling. During the day, when employees were milling about, these lights, like the lights in the rest of the building, would be glowing a bright, illuminating white. The blue glow was there simply to allow any security guards to have a better view of any thieves who might come to steal from the building, or perhaps a terrorist coming to plant a bomb.
Tonight, it was a thief... but the guards were still patrolling the rest of the floor, giving Red X an easy walk down the long hallways and corridors leading to the treasure which lay elsewhere on the floor. As he made his second right turn, the adrenaline once again began to flow within his body... his gloved hands began to tingle, and a smile slowly crept in underneath his mask.
"One more hallway to go..." X said to himself, already able to see the large, lobby-like room ahead that contained a single, glass door at the end. This was the first keycode-protected door leading to the Advanced Research and Development wing of the building, and somewhere inside that wing was the most valuable prototype in the history of information technology. "I'll never get an F on another project again..."
But as soon as he set foot inside the lobby, an alarm began to sound... and the dim, blue light illuminating the room quickly faded into a bright red. With a loud sigh, Red X extended his wrist blades and prepared for a fight.
"Some things never change," X muttered to himself, taking a few steps into the large room and slowly turning to face the hallway from which he came. But as the seconds went by, and no guards appeared, the thief began to wonder if maybe someone else inside the building had caused the alarm... maybe he was in the clear.
That thought quickly faded when a loud, mechanical sliding sound emanated from the ceiling above Red X's head. He turned once more and looked straight up... and could see the ceiling slowly going away, its left half retracting into the left wall of the lobby, its right half retracting to the right.
"...never seen that before," said Red X, slowly stepping back, his wrist blades still extended and in prime position. Suddenly, something large dropped from the ceiling, right in front of the glass door at the end of the room. The mechanical beast that had suddenly emerged in front of X took the shape of a scorpion, measuring ten feet wide and filling nearly the entire back half of the lobby. Its long, barbed tail extended above its head, probably eleven feet in the air. The tip of the tail gave off a menacing silver glow in the red light bathing the room, with the rest of the robot covered in a mixture of orange and red. Its eight legs skittered about as it began its slow, pounding walk toward Red X, shaking the room with every step it made. Its armored skeleton opened up to reveal two small, metallic guns... pointed right at the intruder. "Okay, somebody REALLY doesn't want me here."
Instead of running, Red X ran right at the robot, ducking and allowing the two blue beams of light that it fired from its cannons to pass just by him and create a small explosion from the ground where he had just been standing. X leapt into the air, slicing both blades directly at the scorpion's well-exposed head. The blades impacted the metal, creating two small dents in its surface. Before X could strike again, the tail of the scorpion robot came straight toward him, its tip propelled by the tail's flexible metal, which allowed the tail to stretch like a spring and accelerate its titanium tip to lethal velocities. The tip just barely missed X's arm, and acting on instinct, X grabbed the base of the tail's tip, in an extent to rip off the barbed end and substantially decrease the threat that the tail posed. Almost instantly, the robot flung its tail back, and the momentum sent Red X flying backward, his body slamming hard into the glass door that he'd intended to break into in the first place. The strong glass did not break in the force of the impact, and as X slumped against the door, the robot leapt forward and spun around in one great motion, landing hard on the floor at the front of the lobby and once more shaking the large room. Now, X was trapped between the entrance to the Research wing and the four-ton mechanical monster now blocking his only escape route.
"You know," Red X said confidently, as the palms of his hands began to glow with stored Xynothium energy, "one usually tries to keep thieves OUT instead of in... leave it to a big dumb bug to completely screw up."
After firing a barrage of exploding Xs at the robot, X turned to the keypad and placed a sticky X right over the keys. The X reacted with the electronic components of the keypad, quickly determining the correct sequence and inputting it into the computer. Within seconds, the glass doors slowly opened, and X was on the way to his objective.
If only it was that easy. Before he could even take his first step through the doors, a sharp barb slammed into the back of his left leg, piercing the skin and causing the thief to let out a painful scream. X quickly turned around, only to see the tip of the scorpion's tail heading straight for his chest. Thinking quickly, he fired an X at the tail's tip, which, as soon as it was pierced, caused a huge amount of red goo to explode outward, covering the scorpion's tail completely and showering the rest of the mechanical beast with a healthy coating of sticky Xynothium.
"That really hurt..." thought X, limping slightly on his wounded left leg as he ran toward the temporarily disabled robot and leapt right onto its head. Taking another X, he affixed it to the top of the robot's head and then leapt off again, just as the robot emitted a white mist that completely dissolved all the goo that X had covered it with. As it raised its tail to strike again, its head began to spark... then, the rest of the robot, whose tail lifted up and, instead of trying to impale Red X, began stabbing its main body repeatedly, first piercing the head, and then the long, mechanical torso. X simply watched the display, chuckling slightly and backing up through the glass door he'd just hacked into. "As I once said to my sister on the playground... stop hitting yourself!"
After a few seconds, the robot did stop hitting itself... after giving off several large bursts of sparks, it collapsed in a smoking heap, its tail having inflicted many, many wounds in the scorpion robot's once shining frame. As soon as the robot was out of commission, Red X made his way past several desks and to another door, this time metal instead of glass. This door had both a keypad and a keycard slot, requiring both a password and positive identification for entry. Again, however, breaking into this door would be no major challenge for Red X, who simply covered both the keypad and the card slot with another X and let technology do the rest. The door slid open, and the thief casually strode past the threshold and into another long hallway... knowing that only a few more layers of security stood between him and the quantum computer.
The fight with the robotic scorpion just a few minutes earlier had invigorated Red X... he'd built up a healthy layer of sweat under the mask covering his face, and the flesh wound to his left leg would give him another battle scar, just like the one that he bore from the fight with Robin, so long ago.
As he walked down the hallway and passed the empty offices of several brilliant scientists, X began to recall the events of those frantic days, the days when the Titans finally discovered his identity, the days when Slade became such a terrible part of his life. Those days had nearly put an end to his thievery career... but now, facing a doorway guarded by several bright red laser beams, restricting access to all but a few select people who were privileged with the job of servicing and operating the quantum computer that lay within, X knew that he was about to return to his shady world of stealing with by far the biggest heist of his entire life.
Once again, Red X would be a household name.
"STOP RIGHT THERE!" a loud, booming, male voice called out, accompanied by the sound of numerous pistols being drawn from their holsters. Red X turned around... and saw nearly three dozen men, the finest rent-a-cops that the world of corporate security had to offer, charging straight down the hallway and pointing automatic pistols straight at the brash young thief. There were too many... Red X knew he couldn't take them all.
"Dammit... should've closed the doors behind me... must've gotten so excited that I forgot..." of course, it was too late for Red X to worry about that now. His only way out was in... in through the laser guarded door that stood right in front of them. He had a problem though... security like this took several minutes to crack, even for Red X... and as soon as he turned around, he could feel hot lead graze across his shoulder... one of the security guards had fired their weapon. Whether it was a warning shot or a deliberate attempt to bring X down, the thief didn't know... but what he did know was that it was by far the closest he'd ever come to actually having been shot. Guns had killed his father, and now, as a droplet of blood began trickling from the slight tear the bullet had made in the Red X suit, X's adrenaline rush became a surge of fear... and fight turned to flight. "I have to go. NOW."
Thinking quickly, the thief fired an X that created a hole in the ceiling, and quickly leapt up through the hole, hearing gunshots below as the hole sealed up. Red X was now on the 58th story, the top floor of the Mycoso Building... and again he heard alarms begin to blare. Now standing in the middle of someone's office, Red X could hear more security guards rushing down a nearby hallway, and knew that the office he was in would soon be flooded. He leapt onto a desk and ripped open a metal grate in the wall, crawling through and making his way into the building's ventilation system. From there, all he would have to do is find the elevator and escape the building, probably through the subwalk and parking garage from which he'd entered the building in the first place.
"I almost wish the Titans had shown up," thought Red X, as fighting them was certainly a lot more fun than dealing with a bunch of security guards... who had guns and, as they had displayed earlier, were not afraid to use them. He crawled through the ventilation shafts for several minutes, searching for the one that would lead him to an elevator. He would know that he was getting close when he heard the familiar mechanical sounds of an elevator starting and stopping, and would then know to tunnel down into the closest elevator he found. But instead of hearing those mechanical sounds, he began to hear voices... several voices, coming from just below where he was crawling. He noticed a faint white light from a tunnel just ahead, and crawled over to listen to exactly what the men below were saying. "I wonder if they're talking about me..."
In a 58th-floor conference room, a meeting was taking place... a meeting attended by six individuals, five of them seated at comfortable leather chairs around a long, wooden table, while one of the men in the room chose to stand, to the right side of the man seated at the head of the table. The man at the head of the table was Frederick Dullahan, the CEO of Pinnacle Industries and perhaps the most shrewd businessman in Jump City. Having established his company in nearby Silicon Valley in the late-70s, Dullahan moved to Jump City in order to start his corporate empire, with his line of powerful computer hardware forming the basis for his burgeoning information technology company. To his right was his bodyguard, Sedaris, a tall, imposing figure, his muscles concealed by the business suit that he wore to all of his employer's important meetings.
"Gentlemen, I have demonstrated for you the capabilities of the quantum computer... but let me be the first to say that it is not the most important thing that we are going to discuss tonight," said Dullahan, his graying, well-combed hair perfectly complimenting his steely, wide-eyed face and large, prominent chin. At 57, he looked slightly young for his age, though his wrinkled brow clearly demonstrated that his years were beginning to catch up to him. Seated on the left side of the table, however, was a man clearly showing his 55 years, with balding head and thick glasses mounted on a crooked, pale nose. He was seated next to his son, a brash, 27-year-old who'd just received his MBA and was frequently seen with his businessman father, learning everything he could from one of the most powerful men in Jump City. The balding 55-year-old began to speak, a nervous twitch in his voice.
"Do... do you mean the intruder they found on the 57th floor?" asked Nicholas Jarvin, one of Dullahan's closest friends and long-time business associates, though Jarvin did not work with Pinnacle, but with LaredoSoft, a weapons technology firm that frequently provided software for the military's powerful new war machines. The young man next to Jarvin, his son Lonnie, just gave a snort and shook his head.
"Dad, you felt the shaking a few minutes ago, right? That scorpion thing you designed certainly took out whoever it was that tried to get in. Besides, he wasn't even on this floor."
Watching and listening to the meeting through the open grate in the ceiling, Red X silently listened as the men spoke, hoping that as they discussed him they wouldn't somehow detect his invisible presence. "Maybe I should just keep trying to find the elevator..."
"Intruder or not, I've asked Dr. Ruell to explain the specifics of this next item of business... if you'll just look at the screen behind me, the doctor will explain the images to you as they appear. Doctor?"
As soon as Dullahan finished, one of the men seated at the right side of the table began to speak. On the screen appeared a large, yellow gem, resembling a chunk of quartz... the gem appeared to be flawless, shining as it slowly rotated in the image.
"This, gentlemen, is the Crisis Crystal," stated Dr. Ruell. The oldest of the men in the room, he was short and stout, his head beset with messy clumps of tangled, white hair. His wrinkled, clean-shaven face was adorned with a small set of spectacles, perched on his nose, their gold rims shining in the light of the room. He also was the only man in the room not wearing a business suit... instead, he wore a white lab coat and a pair of brown pants which bore several small rips in the fabric. He continued. "On a recent dig by a group of researchers in South Africa, it was found buried among a group of fossils. It was immediately placed on a ship and sent back to the United States for study... that's when its unique and quite interesting properties were soon discovered."
The image switched to a large, supertanker ship. Approaching the ship was an enormous wave of water... a rogue wave, more than a hundred feet high.
"En route to the States, a rogue wave approached the ship... it would have almost certainly capsized the ship and killed its entire crew... but just before reaching the ship, the wave seemed to stop, right in its tracks... hovering in place, the water completely stopped. Something stopped that water... and as the crew members marveled at the sight, a scientist who was handling the crystal lifted it up in the air. The wave then rose up, nearly three hundred feet. When the man lowered the crystal, the wave dropped to its original height... and when the man placed the crystal on the ground, the wave completely vanished."
"Are you saying..." interrupted the elder Jarvin, looking straight into Dr. Ruell's eyes, "that the presence of that yellow rock... completely stopped the wave?"
"I'm saying," Ruell continued, changing the image on the screen, "that that yellow rock has a great power over the natural forces of the earth. Case in point... recall the massive tornado outbreak that occurred in Texas last December. LAST DECEMBER. Gentlemen, tornadoes rarely occur in December, at least in Tornado Alley. It seems, that while the crystal was on display at Texas Tech University, that students managed to sneak in and take the crystal, right before Winter Break. One of the students returned to his home in Dallas... which, as all of you will recall, was completely ripped apart in the next few days by the largest tornado ever witnessed on the planet Earth."
"And that's not a complete coincidence... why?" asked the younger Jarvin, his elbows now resting on the long, wooden table. "Weird stuff happens all the time, you don't think-"
"Later," continued Ruell, "when rescue workers discovered the crystal in the wreckage of a home, they returned it to the Smithsonian for analysis. In January, a massive 7.1 earthquake struck the Washington D.C. area... the White House was only slightly damaged, but the event still made national news for quite some time. Wherever this crystal goes, gentlemen, disaster happens... and now, it's on a ship headed for Jump City."
"That ship is owned by my company," said the sixth man at the table, occupying the seat next to Dr. Ruell. He was a man in his early-40s, with a head of short, dark brown hair and a casual smile on his face. "Barrington Shipping is bringing the rock into port two days from now."
"From there," said Dullahan, "I will have a group of my security detail retrieve the crystal and bring it to Dr. Ruell's laboratory."
Jarvin and his son, the only two men who had no previous knowledge of any aspect of this plan, were both a bit nervous... and rightfully so.
"And exactly what do you plan to do with the crystal once you have it?" queried the elder Jarvin. "You heard Dr. Ruell... anywhere the crystal goes, disaster follows. That's why they call it the Crisis Crystal. If you try to keep it here-"
"Dr. Ruell has determined that the crystal has the power to both control and reverse the natural processes of the Earth. Unfocused, its power is certainly quite dangerous... but if the power had some interface, some way to perhaps limit and control this power," said Dullahan, now reaching the main point of his plan. Before he could, however, the younger Jarvin's quick wit cut him off at the pass.
"Some way like a quantum computer!"
"Exactly," Ruell replied. "I can device a way to interface the crystal's power with the newly-developed quantum computer prototype. However, once focused, the crystal's power will be weakened... it cannot be used to cause disasters, rather, it can exhibit the properties first demonstrated with the containment of the rogue wave. It can reverse natural processes... and then control them. And gentlemen, therein does lie a way to cause natural disasters."
The image on the screen again switched... and this time, instead of displaying images of natural disasters, it displayed a person... or rather, a statue. A face and a body forever frozen in stone, eternally staring out into the sky.
"Terra, a girl with the power to cause earthquakes and volcanoes, forever fused into the very earth she once controlled. Now, say that this fusion process can be reversed... and the crystal can be interfaced with her rather than with the quantum computer."
A sly smile crossed Ruell's face... and the nervousness once expressed in the voice of the father and son Jarvin began slowly ebbing away.
"With the crystal, we'll be able to control this girl, and you gentlemen should already know of the damage she's capable of causing," said Dullahan, referring back to those days ten months previous when Terra had caused a volcanic eruption that nearly leveled the city... an eruption she gave her very life to stop. "And this time, we'll do what she almost did... we'll destroy Jump City. Obviously, the damage will be pinned on the girl... and once the rebuilding effort begins, I'll contribute my computers to the coordination of the city's recovery... netting a gigantic profit in the process. Gentlemen, once this plan has come to fruition, we'll be trillionaires... and with the girl still under our control, we'll be able to level any city in the country and repeat the process, over and over again."
"Not just the country," replied Jarvin, rubbing his wrinkled hands together, "but any city in the world!"
By now, Red X had heard enough. He'd come to steal a computer... and had overheard perhaps the most diabolical evil scheme he'd ever had the displeasure of listening to. It was a plan worthy of Slade... but whether or not it would work wasn't Red X's concern. He'd definitely meet a tragic end if discovered now, and without a moment to lose, made his way through the vents and to the elevator shaft, heading back down to the ground floor, the subwalk, the parking garage, and then back to the streets... after a completely unsuccessful heist, he was heading back home.
"Crisis Crystal... natural disasters..." The plan did give Red X cause to worry as he ran down the streets leading back to his home... but he knew that the Teen Titans would take care of it if it got too terrible. "I'm Red X, I don't play the hero. I play the thief... and I'm not even sure I'm even good at that anymore."
He was going home empty-handed... the Titans hadn't even been there to stop him, and he was STILL leaving the tower with nothing to show for it. Nothing but the experience... his leg still tingled slightly from the wound that the scorpion robot's tail had dealt him... he'd probably have to gauze it up when he got home.
It was something else, not the failure at thievery, that bothered him as he made his way back to his neighborhood. Leaving the corporate offices of downtown Jump City for the friendly confines of dark streets and old apartment buildings, one element of the meeting he'd listening into kept leaping out at him.
"Reviving Terra... they want to revive Terra..." The girl X had heard about when he'd teamed up with the Titans... especially from Beast Boy, who'd even taken him out to see the stone girl, forever frozen in a haunting scream of anguish. Terra... a Teen Titan, a true friend. He still remembered the plaque, lovingly posted below the girl's stone body.
A pang of guilt shot through Red X. The Titans had done so much for him... they'd saved his mother and sister's lives, and had tried to help him get rid of Slade... even after all he'd done to them in the past, they were still able to put their differences with X aside and work toward a common goal.
X remembered that Beast Boy's voice trembled as he spoke of Terra... and his eyes, at times, began to show signs of tearing up... Beast Boy had loved Terra, and would probably want to know if anyone had plans to bring her back... especially for something as diabolical as a plot to destroy Jump City.
Red X had stopped running, he'd stopped on the sidewalk, right under a streetlight. He was still a few blocks away from his house, but now, as he stopped to think about the Titans, about Beast Boy and about Terra, another urge crept into him... not the urge to protect his family, or the urge to steal, but...
"...my conscience," thought Red X, silently cursing his own heart. "Why does it feel like God is telling me to... to..."
The conflict played out in X's mind repeatedly. Should he go home and forget the whole thing, or should he... should he tell the Titans that someone was trying to bring back Terra?
Certainly they would find out eventually... but by then, it would be too late. Two days, that's what one of the men said... two days until the crystal would find its way into the hands of those evil powerbrokers.
Red X had a very important decision to make.
It was a peaceful night inside Titans Tower. While Robin and Cyborg trained together in the battle simulator, Beast Boy was busily preparing a batch of cookies in the tower's kitchen... with chips make from soy extract rather than chocolate. Raven was up in her room, most likely meditating, while Starfire had parked herself on the couch and was enjoying a quiet night of television.
The Titans hadn't gotten the memo about Red X's recent thievery, because the Mycoso Building hadn't sent one. They'd chosen to handle the matter on their own, and considering that their security team had successfully gotten X out of the building, they'd made the correct decision. Because no other villains were currently attacking the city, the Teen Titans could just enjoy their night in the comforts of their home.
"Ahhh... smell these cookies, I bet they're gonna be so great!" commented Beast Boy as he emerged from the kitchen area, a tray of twenty cookies in his oven-mitted hands. Starfire sniffed the air and gave a quiet "mmmmm...", but did not turn her head away from the television as Beast Boy scooped the cookies into a pile on a glass plate and carried them into the main room. He set the plate down on the table in front of Starfire, but before he sat down, he remembered something. "Oh yeah, you know what goes great with soy cookies? Soy milk! I'll be right back."
As Beast Boy left, Starfire reached out and took one of the cookies, slowly lifting it to her mouth and taking a small bite. The cookie was good, the chips not quite as sweet and as tasty as real chocolate, but to Starfire, it was all the same... nothing from Earth could be quite as good as kakmak cookies from her home planet of Tamaran, anyway.
Beast Boy returned to the room, a tall glass of soy milk in his right hand. He sat the glass on the table and again started to sit down... but was interrupted again, not by a thought but by a knock on the door.
"I will get it," said Starfire, who began to stand but was interrupted by Beast Boy, who, despite his laziness, was already up and decided he might as well answer the door.
"That's okay, Star," replied Beast Boy, quickly running to the door and opening it up.
It had been five months since the Teen Titans had last opened their door, and, not expecting anyone in particular, were shocked to discover Red X standing on the other end.
This time, Red X's presence was equally surprising... but having not seen Red X in nearly five months, Beast Boy didn't know what to think when he saw the thief and the one-time enemy of the Titans staring him right in the face.
"Whoa... never thought I'd see you again..." said Beast Boy quietly.
"Who is it?" called Starfire from the couch. She floated up and over to the door... having been the first to see Red X the first time that he paid a fateful, surprising visit, she was also equally surprised to see him... but instead of reacting with fear, she reacted with joy, recalling perfectly what X had said the last time he'd seen the Titans. He'd left on a horrible, sad note, rejecting the Titans' offer of friendship, and ultimately rejecting any hopes he'd had of helping them to defeat Slade. "It is YOU!"
As Starfire moved forward, her arms extended to give him a tight hug, X waved her off, a somber tone in his voice.
"I have a message to deliver, then I'm gone," said X. Before he could speak again, Beast Boy interjected.
"Dude, is it about Slade?" asked Beast Boy, a quizzical look on his face. "Is he attacking your family again? Or-"
"It's not about Slade," replied Red X, looking Beast Boy right in the face. "It's about Terra."
And with that, the second part of my Red X trilogy begins! Reviews are MUCH appreciated... only got 76 for my last story and that's really not acceptable. Though I'll continue no matter how many reviews I get (or how few), I'd really, really like to have some feedback about how this story is going. So please review!