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.
The water stopped flowing into the large room as quickly as it had begun, leaving Red X and the Titans floating in what was essentially an oversized swimming pool.
"Okay... why did the water stop rising?" asked Beast Boy, looking around at his fellow Titans, who appeared just as baffled as he was. "Wasn't Sedaris trying to drown us?"
"This room may not be built to hold that much water... and if the structural integrity of this room fails, the entire platform may collapse." Robin glanced around at the walls of the room, which appeared to be holding up just fine... and he knew that at any moment, the water could continue to flow back in. "Beast Boy, transform and dive under to see what's going on."
Beast Boy nodded, transforming into a shark and descending beneath the surface, floating down to the bottom of the room and checking the panels just above the lights. The panels were now completely closed off, preventing any more water from entering. As Beast Boy investigated the matter further, the rest of the Titans began thinking of a way to escape the room that Sedaris had trapped them all in. Even if they didn't drown, they knew that the city was still running out of time, and if they didn't escape soon, there would be no way to stop him from destroying the city.
"We must find a way out," said Starfire. "As soon as Beast Boy comes back up, I will tell him to look for one... or perhaps I will take a look myself."
Taking a large breath of air, Starfire dove under the surface and began swimming rapidly toward the metallic doors at both ends of the room, one of them leading back the way that the group came, and the other most likely leading to a way further down into the platform. A few seconds after Starfire went under, Beast Boy surfaced, detransformed and shaking his head.
"The doors are still locked tight, but it looks like there's no way for water to get into the room unless Sedaris opens the grates again."
"Which he could do at any time," added Raven, wringing water out of the hood of her cloak.
"Which means that we have to find a way out of-" Red X's words were cut off by the sound of a loud rumbling, originating from just beneath the floor. Large ripples could be seen moving across the surface of the water, and both Terra and Beast Boy let out a gasp, surprised by the quick intensification of the rumbling. Starfire surfaced, her eyes wide with fear.
"Another panel is opening! Beneath the floor, it is very large, and-"
A shadow could now be seen rising from the center of the room, directly beneath several of the Titans, who quickly floated back and away in preparation for whatever was about to surface. The large panel in the room slid quickly shut, while the shadow grew larger and larger, as an enormous mechanical creature ascended upward at a rapid pace.
"Dude, no way..." gasped Beast Boy, watching as a large, gray fin broke the surface of the water, accompanied by a pair of glowing red eyes about twenty feet in front of the fin. "Don't tell me that's a..."
And then, the creature surfaced. Fifty-five feet long, its sleek metallic body crafted into the form of one of the most fearsome creatures in the sea... an enormous, robotic shark, its head rising from the water and staring with its piercing eyes directly at Starfire, who was closest to the shark's massive teeth, floating just a few feet away.
She quickly rose up out of the water just as the shark opened its mouth and lunged at her, bombarding its teeth and nose with nearly a dozen Starbolts. The shark gave a loud roar and dove back under the surface of the water, its fin disappearing as its massive body became a shadow once more. Starfire's eyes widened as she watched the shark rapidly close in on Robin, who was floating with Beast Boy and Cyborg near one of the walls of the room.
"Robin, it is heading straight for you!"
Robin quickly reacted, diving beneath the water and looking straight down at the shark, who had opened its mouth again and was preparing to bite the Boy Wonder in half. He pulled out several small explosive devices, tossing them down into the shark's open mouth and quickly swimming away. The devices detonated prematurely, throwing up a large column of water and creating a lot of bubbles, but nothing else.
Watching from the other side of the room, Raven floated above the surface of the water and began concentrating, using her telekinesis to tug at the mechanical shark's tailfin while Red X and Terra began swimming toward the center of the room.
"Surrounded completely by water and metal," said Red X, looking over at Terra. "I guess you don't have any rocks to throw..."
"Actually, there might be enough salt in this water for me to..." Terra's eyes began to glow, and her arms lifted out of the water, just as the shark turned around and came rushing straight at her.
"Terra, get out of the way!" shouted Raven, readying an enormous energy blast. Terra smiled and shook her head, having formed two white rocks and now levitating them in front of her head, preparing to throw them at the shark's fin.
"I've got this one!" Terra launched the rocks, comprised entirely of sea salt, straight at the robotic shark's fin, watching as they both impacted and crumbled to pieces, doing nothing to stop the shark's furious charge. "Or maybe... I don't..."
The shark rose out of the water, towering over the geomancer and opening its mouth, displaying a set of razor-sharp titanium teeth. As Terra's eyes widened, Red X swam in front of her and blasted a metallic X into the shark's mouth, temporarily clamping open its jaw and allowing Terra to make her escape.
"Better get that blast ready, Rae..."
"I still need you to move," said Raven, gesturing for Red X to get away from the front of the shark so that she could fire all the energy she'd gathered. As soon as the thief moved, Raven released the blast. "Azarath, metreon, zinthos!"
The blast flew from Raven's hands at the same moment that the shark bit through X's metallic clamp and began making its way forward again. Seeing the huge energy ball coming directly for it, the shark dove under the surface of the water just as Raven's blast hit, throwing up a huge explosion that sprayed water all over the room and briefly dunked X and Terra under the surface, their bodies pulled down by the massive tidal force caused by Raven's blast.
"I think that did it!" said Cyborg, pumping his fists and wiping some of the water droplets from his face. "I'll just check my scanners to make sure..."
The shark had disappeared, and in the bubbles and foam now covering the surface of the water, its shadow could not be seen either. Cyborg looked down at the scanner on his arm, still functioning perfectly despite its lengthy exposure to the water.
"Scanner says... the shark is still-"
It burst from the water directly in front of Cyborg, towering over him with its jaws opened wide.
"I don't think so!" shouted Cyborg, pointing his sonic cannon and blasting the shark right in its belly, knocking it briefly backward but doing nothing to stem its appetite for the Titans. It rose out of the water again, and Beast Boy quickly transformed into a hippopotamus to come to Cyborg's rescue.
Hippo Beast Boy rammed his head into the shark's side, drawing its attention and prompting it to bite into Beast Boy's fleshy left side. With a roar of pain, Beast Boy dove under the waves, the shark going with him.
"Hold on, Beast Boy, I'm coming!" shouted Cyborg, diving under and attempting to locate the shark through the haze of bubbles that its tussle with Beast Boy had created. "It's probably ripping him apart... I've gotta find him!"
Terra had also seen Beast Boy go under, and was now rapidly swimming toward him along with Starfire and Robin, leaving Red X and Raven as the only ones occupying the back side of the room.
"Beast Boy's in serious trouble," said Raven, flying by Red X and grabbing him out of the water. "We both need to go help him."
Underneath the water, Beast Boy, still transformed into a hippo, was struggling to reach the surface again, groaning in pain every time that the shark rammed into his side. Small amounts of blood could be seen coming from his body, and every time the shark saw the blood, it became more and more aggressive, ramming into Beast Boy harder and faster each time.
"C'mon... this isn't even a real shark, it's just a cheap robot imitation... you can't let this crappy bucket of bolts beat you!"
As Beast Boy tried to will himself to fight, the shark continued ramming into him, its eyes glowing a bright red. Beast Boy could now hear his friends swimming toward him, and could see one of Cyborg's sonic cannon blasts piercing through the water. It missed the shark entirely, but all of the shark's attention was still focused on Beast Boy.
"C'mon, Beast Boy... you can beat him... what would Terra think if she saw you like this?"
That question was answered for Beast Boy almost immediately when the small blonde girl, her teeth gritted with determination, emerged from the mist and latched onto the shark's dorsal fin as tightly as she could. Though she clearly lacked the strength to rip the metallic shark's fin off, that wasn't about to stop her... she wasn't intending to destroy the shark, merely to divert its attention away from Beast Boy before he became badly hurt.
But the shark was unfazed by Terra's attack, continuing to ram Beast Boy with such force that Terra struggled to keep her grip on the shark's fin, and her legs flopped wildly behind her, her eyes closing as bubbles began passing from her nose.
"She can't hold her breath that long, I have to do something!" Channeling all of his strength, Beast Boy transformed into a tiny guppy, completely disappearing from the shark's view and causing it to rise up to the surface of the water once more. Now small enough to be nearly invisible, Beast Boy swam upward, detransforming as he came to the surface and watched the shark leap into the air with Terra still tightly grabbing onto its fin. "Terra, let go!"
Seeing that Beast Boy was safe, Terra took a breath and released the shark's fin, immediately falling back toward the water with a large splash. The shark splashed down at the same instant, and the force of that splash threw Beast Boy and Terra both up into the air.
"Okay, they're safe," said Red X, being held above the water by Raven as the two of them watched Beast Boy and Terra rise to the surface. "Can you put me down now?"
Without a word, Raven dropped the thief back into the water, her eyes carefully scanning the surface for the shark's shadow. Floating just underneath her were Robin, Starfire, and Cyborg, who swam over to Beast Boy and Terra as they landed back in the water.
"Beast Boy, are you okay?" asked Terra, a concerned look on her face. Beast Boy nodded, only to let out a cry of pain and clutch his side. "Beast Boy!"
"That shark, his teeth... kinda got me... it's just a scratch, though," Beast Boy replied, the salt water intensifying the pain of his minor wounds.
"We'll have a lot more than scratches if we don't figure out a way to stop that shark," said Robin, watching as the shark resurfaced on the other side of the room and came floating back toward he and the other Titans.
"We stop that shark the same way we've stopped all those other robots that Sedaris has sent after us... we hit it hard, and we hit it fast!" shouted Cyborg, charging up his sonic energy cannon.
"Cyborg's right, everybody get ready to hit it all at once!" shouted Robin, extending his bo staff and raising it high over his head. "Titans, go!"
Starfire and Raven flew up out of the water, their eyes and hands glowing brightly with energy. Beast Boy transformed into a killer whale, his eyes narrowing as he prepared to ram the shark directly, while Red X readied himself to launch a barrage of exploding Xs. Terra floated up out of the water on top of a salt boulder, her eyes aglow as she began to focus on lifting every single grain of salt from the sea water below.
"Azarath, metreon..." Raven started her chant, focusing an enormous amount of energy as the shark raised up out of the water and came straight down at Cyborg, Robin, Red X, and Beast Boy. All at once, Beast Boy charged forward and Robin repeatedly slammed his bo staff over the shark's nose, while Cyborg and X let loose with cannon blasts and cluster bombs. "ZINTHOS!"
Starfire and Raven's blasts hit the shark at the same time as Terra's salt boulder, the combined explosion of the three impacts mixing with and building upon the energy created by the male Titans' attacks. A large ball of fire rose up, doused instantly by a column of water created by the attacks. Robin and Cyborg found themselves blasted against the front wall of the room, while Beast Boy and Red X were launched backwards, both of them colliding with Terra. Starfire and Raven covered their eyes, feeling the force of the shockwave and the heat of the blasts and hoping that the combined attack had destroyed their robotic nemesis.
They both turned at once toward where the shark had been, now completely gone beneath a pall of bubbles, foam, and smoke. No shadow could be seen yet, and both girls held their breath.
"Robin..." asked Starfire, looking around to see if her friend had surfaced. When she saw his head poking up out of the water, she let out a squeal of delight and floated over to him, wrapping him up in a tight hug. "I believe we are victorious!"
"I'll check the scanner again," said Cyborg, floating nearby and looking down at the readout on his arm. As he did, Beast Boy and Red X surfaced with Terra, the three of them gasping for breath and floating back over toward the center of the room.
"I think... I think we got him..." said Red X, his arms around the shoulders of Beast Boy and Terra as he floated between them. "Thanks to me, of course."
"Dude, what are you talking about?"
"Well, you know you guys wouldn't have stood a chance of beating that thing without me. Remember, I did take out two of those robots by myself..."
As Beast Boy opened his mouth to protest, he and the others received the words that they had been waiting to hear.
"Robot's been destroyed," said Cyborg, a wide smile on his face. "We did it, y'all!"
"I could've seen that," replied Raven, floating above the water and looking down at the metallic remains of the robot shark as they began to float to the surface. "Now we just have to worry about getting out of here."
The celebration was over before it had even begun... though the immediate threat of the robotic shark had been dealt with, Red X and the Titans still had the small matter of being trapped in an enormous room, half-filled with water, from which there was seemingly no escape.
"I could go back down and try to ram the door again," said Beast Boy. "I'm still a little tired, but-"
"I don't think that door's gonna budge," replied Red X, floating over to the other Titans with Beast Boy and Terra, the group now gathered in the area near the door at the front of the room. "We need to find another way."
"Well, Mr. Thief, how about it?" asked Beast Boy, repeatedly jabbing X's shoulder with his index finger. "You did say we couldn't have beaten that shark without you, so-"
"This fighting is pointless and won't solve anything," said Raven. "I can try to use my powers to move the door again... maybe the water's weakened it a little."
"Wait..." said Starfire, thinking back to when she had first swam under the water and had seen the robotic shark emerging from the floor. "There is... another large room, underneath this one. The shark that attacked us came from there... perhaps if I can find a way inside there, there may be an exit in that room that we can use."
"But Starfire... how are you going to get into that room?" asked Robin. "We couldn't even see the opening before, when this room wasn't filled with water. They've probably got it shut a lot tighter than the doors."
"There wouldn't be any need to seal an opening like that," said Red X, "since they'd never expect a person to go through it. It was built for that robot shark... and I can probably trigger it to open like I could any regular door. It'll take time, though..."
"If you try to swim down, you'll just float to the surface," said Terra. "How long does it usually take you to get in a door like that?"
"About ten seconds," said the thief, "but I'll float up in less than that. I need someone strong enough to hold me down there so I can complete the process... someone like-"
Acting almost immediately, Starfire wrapped her arms tightly around Red X's waist from behind, floating high into the air with him and preparing to make a rapid descent.
"Breathe now, please!" shouted Starfire, plummeting toward the water with Red X held tightly in her grasp. The thief barely had time to take a full breath before being plunged into the water, the two of them rapidly diving down nearly thirty feet before finally reaching the enormous, metallic panel in the floor from which Sedaris' robotic shark had emerged.
"Now I just need to find a spot near the opening..." thought Red X, his eyes scanning the floor, while Starfire attempted to remember exactly how she'd seen the door open. "I could really use your help, cutie..."
The remaining Titans watched intently, seeing little more than small shadows under the surface of the water as Starfire and Red X worked on opening the panel under the floor.
"How long can they hold their breath?" asked Terra, slightly worried.
"I know Starfire can hold her breath for a long time... but Red X I'm not too sure about," Robin replied. "Starfire won't let him drown, though."
The two stayed under for more than half a minute, and Red X fought the urge to take a breath, still looking along with Starfire for the opening of the floor panel.
"Can't you remember where that thing opened up? Come on, Starfire... don't let me down here..."
Starfire's eyes widened, and she carried Red X over to an area where a tiny gap could be seen in the metal of the floor. This gap continued along the floor, and Red X put his hand down on the gap and began concentrating, his fingers sending tiny electrical pulses through the panel's circuitry.
"I have to be careful here, or I'll shock us both..." thought the thief, his lungs aching from having received no air in more than a minute. "Ugh... can't let this break my focus..."
Starfire continued holding Red X down, her fingers gently sliding above his waist to his chest. Small amounts of energy began radiating from her fingers, penetrating his skin and massaging his lungs.
"What... what's she doing?" thought Red X, still attempting to maintain his focus on opening the floor panel. "It doesn't feel like I have to breathe anymore... my lungs are... filling? No, they're not, but they feel like they are..."
Two minutes went by, with no sign of either Starfire or Red X.
"If he passed out, she would bring him up," said Robin. "They must still be working... or looking... hopefully working."
"She's doing something, I can sense her energy," said Raven, looking down into the water to see a faint, green glow. "Is she the one opening the panel?"
"If she was doing that, we'd see Red X surface," said Cyborg. "My scanner says that X got into the circuitry... he's trying to open the panel right now."
"That's great!" said Terra, showing a hint of excitement.
"Yeah, if he gets it open," said Cyborg, looking down into the water again. "I don't wanna be stuck in this room another minute long-"
A small shadow began rising from the water, right in the center of the group of Titans floating at the surface. A large splash doused them all as a single head emerged, gasping for breath. It was Red X, who immediately took off his mask and continued to gasp, choking up a slight bit of water.
"Are you okay?" asked Terra, floating over to Sanza and placing a hand on his back. Sanza nodded, coughing several more times before beginning to speak.
"I got the panel open, Starfire is down there... she's opening up a valve, she's gonna drain all the water from both rooms."
"Starfire's down there?" shouted Robin. "I know she can hold her breath for a while, but-"
"Wait, I didn't even think Starfire needed oxygen... she's from space, right? And she floated through space to get here, so-"
"Starfire's body needs time to acclimate from an oxygenated environment to an airless one," said Raven. "The process takes about half an hour, so while she can float up and out to space without suffocating, she'll still drown if she spends too much time underwater, since the change in environments is too sudden. She can still hold her breath for a while, but-"
"She'll be fine," replied Red X, having put his mask back on, now poking his head back under the water. Starfire was nearly fifty feet below the surface, and the thief was unable to catch sight of her. "I'm sure she'll come back up once she manages to drain all the water..."
The room below was much smaller in area, a hangar only big enough to accommodate the robotic shark, about sixty feet wide, twenty feet long, and twenty feet tall. At the bottom of the room was a metallic valve that could be turned several times, each successive turn draining a large portion of water into a chamber below that then drained directly into the ocean. Starfire floated down to the valve and gripped tightly onto two of its handles, making the first large turn and causing the water level in the room above to drop significantly.
The Titans noticed almost immediately, and Beast Boy even let out a cheer, raising both of his arms high into the air as he felt himself and the others float slowly downward.
"Way to go, Starfire!" shouted Beast Boy, though Robin didn't share the changeling's optimism... he knew that Starfire had been underwater now for nearly four minutes.
"Just hurry... come up if you need air... we've got plenty of time..."
The water level dropped again, to around two-thirds of its original level.
"It'll take four more turns to clear this room, and then another to clear the room below," said Raven, mentally calculating the time that it would take for Starfire to finish draining all the water. The water level dropped again.
"I'm going to take over," said Robin, starting to dive below the surface before Cyborg reached out and grabbed his arm. "Starfire's been under nearly five minutes, she'll drown if we don't-"
"You can't turn that valve, Robin... if you could, Starfire could've finished turning it already. It's obviously a heavy-duty industrial valve built to be turned by a machine."
"Then why don't you go under and help her?" asked Red X, though his voice contained much less worry than Robin's. "I mean, you are a machine, so-"
"Starfire is... she's stronger than I am," said Cyborg, bowing his head, obviously ashamed to admit that his physical strength didn't quite match up to his fellow Titan's. "And my systems need oxygen too, I can't go under for as long as she can."
"...Starfire..." said Robin quietly, just as the water level in the room went down a fourth time. Now, only ten feet of water remained in the room, and the Titans could catch their first glimpse of Starfire, toiling away at the valve in the room below.
"I must... I must do this so that we may escape and stop Sedaris..." thought Starfire, straining to rotate the metallic valve a fifth time. Her own lungs ached, and she expelled several bubbles from her nose as she continued turning the valve, having spent more than six minutes without taking a single breath. "My friends and the city are counting on me..."
The valve was turned a fifth time, and Cyborg felt his feet touch the floor, while the other Titans, each a few inches taller than five feet, continued to float, occasionally standing on tiptoe on the metallic floor of the room, standing next to the open panel and observing Starfire as she continued to work.
"I could never do something like that..." thought Terra, peeking below the surface of the water and watching Starfire execute the valve's sixth rotation. "Sacrificing myself only took an instant, but she's been at that valve for nearly seven minutes... she must be in agony right now..."
As the valve turned again, the last of the water drained out of the large chamber above, though a more accurate description would be that the water drained from Starfire's room into the ocean, and from the room above into Starfire's, who was still completely submerged, now turning the valve to clear out her own room.
She had been without air for nearly eight minutes, and she could feel her energy slipping away as she strained with the enormous valve, barely able to push it even an inch before feeling as if her body would give out on her. Every push was now a life-or-death struggle for Starfire, who began to see spots of light floating in front of her, and had to blink several times before resuming.
"I'm going in to help her now," said Robin, preparing to dive down through the open panel. Again Cyborg stopped him, crouching down to dive in himself.
"Now I think I can help her out," replied Cyborg. He began to dive when Starfire looked straight up at him, peering through the water and shaking her head. "Starfire, I'm going down there whether you want me to or not!"
"Cyborg, I can do this..." thought Starfire, pushing the valve through three-fourths of its rotation before momentarily blacking out. When she regained consciousness after less than a second, she heard two splashes and saw Robin and Cyborg diving down toward her, followed close after by Raven and Beast Boy. "My friends... they are... they are coming to assist me..."
"Beast Boy!" shouted Terra, looking down into the room and instantly deciding to dive in. "I don't know how much I can help him, but-"
"Wait," replied Red X, reaching out and grabbing Terra by the wrist. "If you go down and help her, I'm going to be the only one who stayed up here, and consequently, I'll look like a complete prick."
"...I thought you didn't like playing the hero anyway," replied Terra, with a slight smirk. "You don't have to go down there."
"Neither do you," said Red X, "but if you go, I'm gonna go."
"I thought you didn't care what people thought of you."
"I don't care what the Titans think of me, no," said Red X, leaping down into the water and swimming toward Starfire.
"Wait, what did you mean by... oh, come on!" Terra immediately followed him, and grabbed onto one of the seven bars jutting out from the valve, while Red X grabbed the other. Together, the seven youths all pushed in the same direction, completing the turn and draining out all the water in the room. As the water level passed below Starfire's head, she let out a loud gasp, collapsing to the floor as soon as the rest of the water drained out and breathing heavily, sweat and seawater trickling down her face.
"Starfire!" Robin was immediately at her side, his arms helping her into a kneeling position, his body supporting her as she leaned onto him. "Starfire, are you..."
She couldn't speak, still gasping and attempting to regain the rest of her air. Every time she tried to say something, she realized that she had to take another breath, and as a result, it took her nearly a full fifteen seconds to form a word.
"Robin..." She took another series of breaths, then began speaking again, each word followed by a long, labored gasp. "I... am... perfectly... fine... but... thank... you... for..."
"Hey," said Red X, diverting all six Titans' attention to a door at the front of the room, marked 'Service Elevator'. "This one opens."
The door slid open, revealing a space just large enough for Red X and the Titans to stand in comfortably. As Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven, and Terra began walking over to the open elevator, Robin gently helped Starfire to her feet and held her hands in his own, looking right into her eyes.
"I was... I was really worried," said Robin. "I'm glad you're okay."
"You know that I can hold my breath for a great deal longer than most people on your planet," replied Starfire, her lips curving into a smile. "You had no reason to..."
But Robin did have a reason to worry, and Starfire knew exactly what that reason was. He loved her deeply, and the thought of losing her always worried him, though he did his best to conceal it on the outside. With an understanding nod, Starfire kissed Robin quickly on the lips before joining the rest of her friends inside the service elevator. Robin followed her, and as he climbed in, the door shut behind them.
"Next stop... Sedaris," said Red X, as the elevator slowly began its descent to the bottom of the refinery. "I'm going to make sure that you're never allowed to carry out your terrible plan..."
Sedaris stood in a small room, overseeing a long control panel flanked by half a dozen large screens, each of them displaying statistics about the drill's progress into the earth. His arms behind his back, he observed the screens intently, knowing that the moment he'd been waiting for was very soon to arrive.
"Soon, the fault will activate... soon, the worst disaster in the history of humanity will strike, and I'll have a front row seat to view all the carnage."
The scenes were rigged to switch over to live news footage as soon as the quake was activated, so that Sedaris could watch all the mayhem that he'd caused from the safety of his well-anchored refinery. The quake would be triggered in less than an hour.
"Sir!" The door to the room opened, and in rushed the same short, bespectacled young man who had warned Sedaris about the Titans before. Sedaris turned to him and smiled, anticipating news of the Titans' deaths. "Sir, Pisces Epsilon has-"
"Completely eradicated the Titans," Sedaris said with a smile. The messenger shook his head, and Sedaris' eyes went wide with shock. "WHAT!"
"Activity was detected in Pisces Epsilon's loading chamber... a valve was released, only the Titans could have released that valve. Sir, the Titans survived... and they're on the service elevator. They'll be coming here-"
"NO!" shouted Sedaris, smacking the messenger across the face hard enough to knock him to the floor. "Do not let the Titans down here, do you understand?"
Sedaris' worry was completely foreign to the messenger, whom had before only seen his boss radiate a calm confidence, arrogance in his every word. Now, Sedaris was completely on tilt, almost as if he was... afraid of the Teen Titans.
"I... I'll tell the rest of the guards," said the messenger, picking himself up from the floor and backing toward the front of the room.
"You tell them all... I do not want the Titans anywhere near this room!"
With a nervous nod, the messenger fled from the room and went to round up the other guards, leaving Sedaris alone with his console... and with his worry. He had never anticipated actually having to engage all of the Titans... but now it seemed that he was about to be left with no choice.
"It matters not... I still have a back-up plan," thought Sedaris, leaving his screens behind as he exited the room and stepped out into another, much larger room... a staging area, where a massive shadow loomed over Sedaris as soon as he entered. "I refuse to fail."
The service elevator descended to the very bottom of the refinery, giving the Titans and Red X plenty of time to think about the struggle that lay ahead of them. Sedaris would be no pushover, and he likely had a legion of guards to back him up. To make matters worse, the Titans had a very limited amount of time to stop him... should they fail, millions of people would lose their lives.
"Not to put on the pressure or anything, but... you understand that it's not just the city in trouble here," said Red X calmly. "If we lose-"
"We're not going to lose," said Robin, as determined as he always was, with the same attitude going into this mission as he would have going into any of the Titans' battles... whether they were fighting Sedaris or Cinderblock, Slade or Mumbo. Every villain was the same, and the Titans would never stop until they brought that villain down. "So don't even think about what might happen... because it won't."
"Hey, I'm just saying," said the thief, leaning against the wall of the elevator. "Trying to make conversation, y'know."
"I don't know how useful I'm gonna be..." said Terra, in a whisper just loud enough for Beast Boy and Red X to hear. "I can't cause any earthquakes because I might bring the whole refinery down... and if I bring in any rocks, water will come in..."
"I'm sure you can find some way to get a rock or two in here," said Beast Boy, confidently patting Terra on the shoulder. "I'm confident you can do it!"
"And what's the worst that could happen? You try to bring in a rock, the place crumples up and we all drown. At least we go down fighting, huh?"
"You're not helping," said Terra, glaring at Red X, who could clearly see the nervousness in her eyes. "I'm being totally serious here..."
"Don't worry about it," replied the thief, reaching over and gripping Terra's hand in his. "You shouldn't listen to me anyway, listen to Beast Boy, he's probably right."
Terra slowly pulled her hand away from Red X's, bringing it to the level of her heart and feeling the quick pace at which it was beating. She let out a sigh and leaned her head against the wall, staring up at the ceiling and saying a silent prayer, hoping desperately to be able to help her friends.
"I believe in you, Terra," said Beast Boy, reaching over and giving her a light hug. She smiled, but only for a second... her mind attempting to focus on the task at hand.
"Everyone believes in me... that's what has me so worried. Unless I believe in myself, I don't know if I'll be able to do this..."
She glanced over at Red X, trying to remember all of the conversations that they had had over the past few days... every time she spoke to him, she felt such confidence afterwards... and even his remark aboard the elevator didn't shake her like it would if it had come from Beast Boy. Something about the thief and what he had said made Terra believe in herself, built up her confidence and gave her courage, something that even Beast Boy wasn't quite able to do.
Unlike Beast Boy, Red X had been to many of the places that Terra had been before... had spent time on both sides of the law, had struggled with his confidence and had dealt with Slade... the only other person that Terra knew who was anything like Red X was Robin, but... something about Red X made Terra a lot more comfortable around him than around Robin.
"He's one of the least judgmental people I know..." thought Terra, still looking over at Red X, whose attention was focused on the elevator door. "And if it had been him in that hall of mirrors instead of Beast Boy... he would've understood... he would've helped me take down Slade, right there... and together, I think we would've beaten him..."
The elevator door opened, interrupting Terra's thoughts and focusing her attention to the hallway outside... where dozens of Sedaris' men were waiting.
"Titans, go!" shouted Robin, extending his bo staff and charging straight into the crowd. The other Titans followed him, each attacking with an equal amount of vigor. Terra and Red X were the last two to emerge, and unlike Terra, the thief leapt right into the fray, sending a myriad of X-shaped weapons straight at Sedaris' men, repelling their attacks and sending them flying.
Terra watched the fight for several seconds, wondering what to do next. Then, she decided. She clenched her fists and ran into the ground, ducking under a punch and slamming her elbow into the gut of the first guard she encountered, felling him instantly. With a smile, she leapt into the air and kicked two men at once, then brought her heel down on the head of another guard, knocking him out.
Though exhausted from their encounters with the guards on the platform, and from their underwater battle with Pisces Epsilon, the Titans were more than a match for the men they encountered in the hallway, and quickly cleared a path into the next room, where only a few more guards, along with Sedaris' messenger, were waiting.
Upon seeing the speed at which Red X and the Titans took care of the remainder of Sedaris' guards, the messenger let out a horrified yell and began to flee from the room, only to be caught from behind by Robin's bo staff, which smacked hard against the back of his head and knocked him to the ground. As he let out a groan of pain, he could feel himself being lifted up from the ground by his hair and yanked to his feet by Robin, who turned him around, grabbed him by his shirt collar, and slammed him hard against the wall of the room, to the left of a red door marked 'Mess Hall'.
"Where's Sedaris?" shouted Robin, his teeth clenched tightly. "Don't make me ask you twice, WHERE IS HE?"
Remembering Sedaris' warnings not to let the Titans get to him, the messenger hesitated, causing Robin to slam him up against the wall again.
"There's seven of us, all with superpowers or weapons that make us a great deal more powerful than you. You have absolutely no chance of fighting us, the only way you're leaving this room unharmed is if you tell me where Sedaris is!"
The man trembled and pointed his finger at the mess hall door, struggling to speak.
"Go... through the mess hall... there's two rooms, one to the right leading to some offices, and the other one, straight through... that's a storage room, just keep going through rooms and you're bound to reach him... that's all I know! Please, let me go!"
Robin tossed the man to the floor and pressed a button on the panel next to the mess hall entrance, causing it to slide open.
"Let's go," said Robin, gesturing for the Titans to follow him into the mess hall.
"What about that guy?" asked Red X, pointing at the messenger, who was trembling on the floor. "We gonna take him to jail?"
"No," said Robin. "We've got too many people to save..."
"Besides, we're on an oil platform," said Cyborg, following Robin into the mess hall, "and Sedaris probably holds the keys for all the boats and planes back to the mainland. It's not like he's going anywhere."
"Fair enough," said the thief, shrugging his shoulders and going with the remaining Titans into the mess hall. They passed a door on the right wall and walked past several rows of tables to another door at the end of the room. After passing through that door, they emerged into another room... a room that bore a bright blue glow, a glow that permeated every inch of space and caused the room to give off a slightly creepy vibe. "This... this room's different."
The Titans now found themselves staring out over dozens of capsules filled with clear liquid... liquid that appeared identical to the liquid found in the quantum computer they'd recently taken.
"Those can't be what I think they are," said Raven, staring out at all of the capsules in absolute disbelief. "If those are... but... how is that possible?"
"You mean quantum computers?" asked Cyborg, raising his arm and preparing to run a scan of the room. "Let's just see here-"
As soon as Cyborg pressed the 'scan' button, a large burst of sparks shot out from his arm, and he was tossed backward into the wall, letting out a loud cry.
"Cyborg!" shouted Robin, rushing along with Beast Boy to his friend's aid. "What happened?"
"My scanners... they're completely overloaded," said Cyborg, shaking his head in astonishment. "There's so much processing power in here, it's... it's amazing..."
"Enough processing power to control the planet itself," said Raven, raising her hand to her lips. "And the second that Sedaris' drill touches the fault..."
"It'll be like he's just logged on to w w w dot let's play God dot com," said Red X, pointing his palms at the rows and rows of quantum computers. "And I'm not letting that happen."
The thief launched an exploding X at each one of the filled capsules, shrouding the room in smoke. The force of the blast knocked all of the Titans back, and it seemed that Sedaris' plans had gone completely up in smoke.
"Without these computers, Sedaris will not be able to control the fault," said Starfire, "and he cannot make any earthquakes! The city is-"
"Not safe," said Raven, peering through the smoke to see all of the computers completely intact. Bright beams of red light could be seen passing across them, forming a mesh of energy that completely protected the precious cargo lying underneath. "Sedaris set up a force-field... we can't touch them."
"Then we'll just have to touch him!" shouted Beast Boy, immediately receiving a glare from everyone else in the room. "...that really didn't come out right, did it?"
"No," said Red X, "but no time to worry about it now."
The thief pressed a button on the panel next to a door to the right of the computer observation area, opening a path to the next room. When he and the Titans saw who was standing there waiting for them, all of them rushed inside, causing the door behind them to quickly close and lock shut.
"I see that you've come for me," said Sedaris, facing down Red X and the Titans across a small square room, its perimeter barely more than a hundred feet. "I'm not letting you stop this."
"And we're not letting you start it!" shouted Robin, holding his bo staff out in front of his body. Starfire, Raven, and Cyborg stood behind him on his right, while Beast Boy, Terra, and Red X flanked him to his left. Sedaris was greatly outnumbered, and he knew it... his voice was not nearly as confident as it was when he'd been dealing with only one of the Titans.
"If you think you're getting through me, you're fooling yourselves. I've beaten you before, and I will beat you again."
"Wrong, Sedaris... you have beaten some of us before, one at a time," said Starfire, her eyes glowing brightly. "You were able to defeat Red X and I because you isolated us from the others and ambushed us, giving you an advantage. You were able to capture Raven and Terra because your men outnumbered them two hundred to one, and every single time that you have been given the chance to fight all of us, you have fled."
"We're not afraid of you," said Raven, "and working together, we'll defeat you."
"We'll see about that!"
Sedaris charged forward at Robin, ducking under a bo staff swing and slamming his fist hard into Robin's face. As the Boy Wonder fell back, Raven and Starfire immediately set upon Sedaris, hitting him with simultaneous energy blasts that threw him backward, over the heads of Cyborg, Red X, Beast Boy, and Terra and into a wall at the back of the room.
"Don't let up!" shouted Robin, quickly climbing to his feet as Sedaris charged forward at the Titans again. "Not even for a second!"
Sedaris launched a swooping kick which Cyborg blocked by catching it in mid-swing, holding Sedaris' leg just as Beast Boy transformed into a tiger and leaped high into the air. As he came down to swipe his claws, Sedaris grabbed the huge green tiger and threw him backward, then kicked Cyborg away and charged at Terra.
"I'm more than capable of fighting all of you at once!" Sedaris rained blow after blow upon Terra, who managed to dodge several punches and kicks before Sedaris' leg caught her across the chest, and she was thrown backward into Beast Boy and the wall. Sedaris then turned to meet Red X, who was attacking Sedaris with his wrist blades, swinging them repeatedly and managing to make a small slash across the front of Sedaris' white tanktop and black leather jacket before being grabbed by the neck and flung halfway across the room.
"You forgot about us," said Raven, standing next to Starfire behind Sedaris, her voice making him turn around. "Azarath, metreon, ZINTHOS!"
The two girls fired another combined blast at Sedaris, who raised his hands to block it, allowing the large energy cluster to detonate in front of his body. The explosion briefly blinded both girls, allowing Sedaris to run past and clothesline both of them to the ground. He continued running, right into the path of one of Robin's bo staff swings. The staff hit him across the bridge of the nose, stunning him temporarily, but doing little in the way of physical damage.
"Look around you," said Sedaris, gesturing toward Robin's friends, who had all been knocked to the ground. "As you can see, I don't have anything to fear from the Teen Titans, or anyone else for that matter!"
Sedaris threw a punch at Robin's face, a punch that Robin blocked with his left forearm, his teeth gritting as Sedaris' fist made impact.
"All of them will get up," said Robin. "No matter how many times you knock them down, they're going to keep on fighting..."
Sure enough, when Sedaris looked around again, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Terra, and Red X had all climbed to their feet, and were ready to resume the battle. Sedaris simply smiled and threw another punch, which Robin again blocked, this time with his right forearm.
"You overestimate how many times a person can be knocked down before they don't get up again... ever. One by one, I'll decimate all of you."
"Then why don't we look anywhere near like we're about to be decimated?" taunted Red X, causing Sedaris to glance his way. "Think about it. Even when you were fighting me by myself, I kept getting up, no matter how hard you knocked me down. I kept fighting... now I'm with the Teen Titans. You can't beat all of us, Sedaris..."
"Shut up!" Sedaris' emotions were once again starting to come to the surface, and as he turned to charge Red X, he saw with dismay that he now had Beast Boy and Terra standing in front of him.
"You've gotta get through us first," said Beast Boy. "Red X might be a thief, but right now we're on the same team, and there's no way we're gonna let you mess with him..."
"Not without a fight," said Terra, narrowing her eyes and launching herself forward at Sedaris, aiming another kick at the side of his head. Sedaris grabbed Terra's leg and tossed her into the wall, causing her to let out a scream and close her eyes, her body going completely limp.
"Weak little girl... without your rocks, you're nothing."
"But you forgot about me... and I won't let you get away with hurting Terra!" shouted Beast Boy, transforming into a gorilla and slamming his two fists down upon Sedaris. Sedaris raised up his arms to block, but Beast Boy was far too angry to be stopped, and he slammed his fists down again, this time succeeding in knocking his opponent to the ground. He leapt into the air and attempted to belly-flop onto Sedaris, only to have him roll out of the way at the last moment, causing Beast Boy to land face first on the ground, detransforming in a painful daze.
Again Starfire and Raven came at Sedaris, with Starfire firing her Starbolts, and Raven using her telekinesis to rip chunks of metal out of the ceiling and send them flying at different parts of Sedaris' body.
"I've had it with both of you girls..." Narrowing his eyes, Sedaris rolled out of the way and slammed his elbow hard into the back of Starfire's head. She fell down, but stopped herself with her hands and looked back at Sedaris, sweeping her leg under his feet and knocking him to the ground. "Dammit... every time I dodge one attack, I have to deal with another... but I only have to fight them for a while... I have the advantage, they're on the clock..."
Sedaris rolled back toward the center of the room, looking around to see Raven, Cyborg, Robin, Starfire, and Red X slowly walking toward him.
"Unnnggh..." groaned Terra, rubbing the back of her head as Beast Boy walked over to help her up. "It's okay, Beast Boy... go deal with Sedaris, I... I'll be fine..."
"Terra..." Beast Boy gently picked her up from the ground, checking the back of her head to make sure she wasn't bleeding. "Are you okay?"
"Give it up, Sedaris..."
"You just don't get it, do you, Robin? None of you get it... I'm the same as all of you. I'm not giving up either, not until I get what I want..."
"What you want is the deaths of millions of people! What you want is the worst disaster in the history of the world!" Red X clenched his fists, showing an unusual amount of emotion. "You're nothing but a psychopath... a psychopath who enjoys seeing people suffer..."
"Maybe I am a psychopath... but I still have my needs and my desires, and none of you are going to stop me from fulfilling either of them."
Sedaris charged forward again, straight at Red X, who leapt into the air and fired a grappling cable downward at each of Sedaris' arms. Sedaris grabbed both cables and pulled Red X in toward him, about to headbutt him when he was tackled from behind by Starfire, sending all three of them to the ground.
"Beast Boy, it's not that I'm nervous, or scared... it's just... I can't use my powers in here, there aren't any rocks, and if I cause an earthquake-"
"If you don't want to fight him, you don't have to, Terra... it's your choice..."
"Choice has nothing to do with it, Beast Boy! I can't!"
The conversation was interrupted suddenly, when Robin and Cyborg flew past Beast Boy and Terra and slammed hard into the wall, both of them having been tossed away by Sedaris, who now had his foot on Starfire's stomach and was stomping her repeatedly.
"Leave her alone!" shouted Beast Boy, transforming into a rhinoceros and charging across the room at Sedaris. Sedaris turned and leapt into the air, grabbing Beast Boy by the horn and using it to vault himself completely over rhino Beast Boy's back. Beast Boy detransformed just before hitting the wall, smacking hard against it and falling to the ground. "Ungh... shoulda tried being a little quieter on the approach..."
"And again, all of you find yourselves on the floor, while I'm still standing tall," said Sedaris, not noticing that Red X was standing to his right, and Raven was standing to his left.
"You forgot about us," said Raven.
"And it's never a good idea to forget about Red X."
The thief launched an X at Sedaris' head, just as Raven began to focus another attack, chanting her familiar mantra.
Sedaris ducked to the ground, watching with glee as the X sailed past his head and continued on toward Raven, sticking tightly to her mouth and cutting her off in mid-chant. Her built-up energy could no longer be contained, and detonated right in front of her, engulfing her in an explosion and knocking her to the ground.
"Not good..." said Red X to himself, just as Sedaris lunged forward and slammed a fist right into his stomach. "AAAAAAGH!"
The thief doubled over, and Sedaris bent down and grabbed him by the neck, holding him high up in the air.
"If I break your neck, you won't get up," said Sedaris, a sick smile appearing on his face. "And then I can forget about you... forever."
Red X began struggling furiously, futilely kicking at Sedaris' chest. He could feel his assailant's powerful fingers crushing his throat in a powerful death grip, and began to realize that even if the Titans won the battle, it would be far too late to save him.
"Careless for one second... I can't believe it... mom, sis, I-"
A scalding hot stream of black liquid burst through the front door of the room, slamming into Sedaris and knocking him backward, causing him to lose his grip on Red X as he was thrown violently into the door at the back of the room. He let out a scream and ripped off his searing tanktop, throwing it to the ground and into a puddle of the liquid that burned him... a liquid that appeared to be... oil?
"I just remembered what kind of rocks there are inside oil platforms," said Terra, stepping in front of Sedaris and smiling. "Dinosaur bones millions of years old, crushed by friction into coal, natural gas... and oil. It's part of the ground, I can control it... who's the weak little girl now?"
"Bitch..." said Sedaris quietly, looking up to see that Terra was now flanked by the other five Titans... and Red X, still coughing slightly and clutching his throat. "I've stalled enough... time for me to show them true pain..."
Sedaris weakly reached up behind him, rising to his feet and pressing a button on the panel that caused the door to the next room to slide open. He quickly backed inside and re-sealed the door, just before the Titans began pounding against it, attempting to stop Sedaris' escape.
"Dammit, I'm not letting him get away!" shouted Robin. Already, Red X had approached the panel by the door and had placed his hand over it, hacking into its internal circuitry. "X, how long will it take you-"
"It's going to open, so get ready," said Red X. As he worked on getting the door open, Starfire looked up at the sign above, which read 'Staging Area' in red letters over a black, metallic plate.
"Staging area... I was not aware that oil refineries had theaters..."
"It's a factory, Starfire," said Raven. "It's where they maintenance the drills, build spare parts..."
"All right, the door's opening now," said Red X, stepping away from the panel just as the door slid open, allowing the Titans access to the staging area. "Nowhere to run now, Sedaris..."
The room was massive, much larger than the previous room, an enormous area with cranes hanging from the ceiling and conveyor belts criss-crossing the room at several levels. At the end of the room, the Titans could make out a silhouette, not entirely human in form, and only slightly larger than a normal human. They immediately went over to investigate, and as they approached, the object they were facing soon became clear.
Red X and the Titans were facing down a ten-foot tall armored battle suit, its chrome and titanium body painted a light, purplish-pink hue, with two large metallic wings emerging from its back, giving it an almost angelic appearance. Through a clear window in the front of the robot, Sedaris' head and torso could be clearly seen, his arms and legs obviously encased within the arms and legs of the battle suit.
"I'd like to introduce you to the greatest combat weapon known to man, a combined venture of Infinity and LaredoSoft, with assistance from the late, great Dr. Ruell... the Trinity Omega!"
"The letters of the Greek alphabet that you skipped over must be crushed," said Red X, as sarcastically as he could. "Are you sure you don't want to call that thing the Trinity Zeta?"
"In a few minutes, the only thing we'll be calling it is scrap," said Robin, preparing his team for one final battle. "TITANS, GO!"
The Titans fearlessly charged forward, while small, white lights began appearing on the tips of Trinity Omega's wings. Before any of the Titans could launch an attack, several small lasers emerged from each of the wings, slamming into the ground in front of the group and throwing up a huge wall of white fire, knocking them all to the ground.
"So... directly attacking it is out then," groaned Red X, slowly climbing to his feet and looking up to see the lasers on the wings charging up again. "You gotta be kidding me..."
Another storm of lasers slammed into the Titans and Red X right as they began to stand, with Raven barely able to raise a shield in front of herself in time. The others were again bathed in white fire and thrown into the air, landing hard on their backs or their sides a fair distance away from Trinity Omega.
"I planned for this the whole time," said Sedaris, smiling proudly. "The fight in the other room was merely a stalling tactic, but this time I'm going all out... the earthquake will probably trigger just as I'm finishing all of you off."
Raven floated into the air, facing down Sedaris at eye level while pointing both of her palms at the chest of his battle mech.
"I don't know what's worse, a coward who harms a person's friends to attack them emotionally, or a coward who runs away and hides in a big robot whenever he starts losing. Unfortunately for you, you happen to be both of those cowards." Raven began gathering energy for an attack, only to have the mech's fist slam into her body, knocking her away toward her other fallen friends.
"You have cowardice confused with brilliance," said Sedaris, his mech charging forward toward the Titans and X as they attempted to stand. "I believe the real cowards are all of you... ganging up on me, a seven to one advantage... that's so pathetic."
Robin stood up first, shooting his Birdcable at Trinity Omega's legs. The mech deftly leaped over Robin's cable, coming down between him and Raven and firing small missiles out of its palms, directed at them both. Raven blocked the missiles with a shield, while Starfire blew the missiles up with Starbolts before they could reach Robin. The missiles were soon replaced with laser beams, which pierced through Raven's shield and Starfire's energy bolts to hit them both, as well as Robin. The beams exploded on impact, engulfing the three Titans in light and causing all three of them to let out painful cries.
"Time to grease this rusty robot up," thought Terra, raising her arms and causing oil to fly into the room, surrounding her body and forming a spherical barrier. She then sent it toward Trinity Omega, rearranging the molecules of the oil into a much harder material... a large, white bone, shaped like a razor-sharp sword. "You're about to be impaled!"
The mech turned toward Terra, catching the bone sword and snapping it in two over its knee.
"I wonder how hard it'll be to snap your bones for real," said Sedaris, triggering the mech to launch a punch at Terra's face. "Let's find out."
The punch was quickly blocked by a large metallic X that had formed in front of Terra's body. The X dented, but did not break, stopping the punch and saving Terra from a powerful impact. The thief himself was standing behind Trinity Omega, and launched a barrage of exploding Xs before the mech could turn around, creating a large explosion but doing little damage.
"I'm not even going to justify that pathetic attack by turning around," said Sedaris, keeping his attention focused on Terra, who was backed up against a conveyor belt. "I'll break Little Miss Black Gold in half, then I'll concentrate on you."
"I can defend myself!" shouted Terra, causing a large wave of scalding oil to crash over Trinity Omega. Sedaris chuckled.
"You ruined my paint job," said Sedaris, raising the mech's fists over Terra's head. "Good for you... no more games."
A green t-rex slammed its head into Trinity Omega's side, and for the first time, Sedaris' mech had been moved by an attack, flying dozens of feet and landing hard on its side, skidding across the room as quickly as Beast Boy was giving chase. With a loud roar, the t-rex snapped its teeth repeatedly at the fallen battle mech, who kept him back with lasers and missile fire as it tried to stand.
"Well, that was embarrassing..." said Red X to himself, looking over at Beast Boy and Sedaris' mech before returning his gaze to Terra.
"I don't think Beast Boy can keep him down much longer," said Terra, pointing toward the back of the room. "C'mon, we need to go help him!"
Terra ran over to assist Beast Boy, and Red X began to give chase... before noticing a metallic door on the right side of the room. A sign posted over it read 'Control Station', which automatically caused alarm bells to go off in the thief's head.
"That's gotta be the room where..."
T-Rex Beast Boy let out a roar of anguish as yet another missile slammed into his side, toppling him to the ground. Trinity Omega stood over him, having stood up and conquered the much more imposing dinosaur.
"The Cretaceous ended sixty-five million years ago," said Sedaris, as the lasers on Trinity Omega's wings began charging once again. "My time is now."
"Your time is up!" shouted Cyborg, diving on the battle mech with all of his strength and taking it to the ground, repeatedly slamming his fists into the window in front of Sedaris. "I'm gonna get you out of there if it-"
The lasers on the wings activated, all of them slamming into Cyborg at once and knocking him backward, engulfing him in an enormous pillar of fire. Beast Boy detransformed, watching in shock as his friend was completely consumed by the flames.
"If it kills you? I think it just did," said Sedaris, as the Trinity Omega once again picked itself up from the ground. "Too bad you didn't get me out, though."
Out of the corner of his eye, Sedaris could see Red X, standing by the door that led directly to the control station.
"Dammit... I can't let him get in there!"
Trinity Omega's right palm went up, just as the door to the control station slid open, having been hacked into by the master thief. Several missiles flew out of the mech's hand, and Red X could clearly see them coming his way. He dove into the control room just as the missiles impacted above him, throwing up a huge cloud of smoke and debris that completely shrouded the room's entrance.
"What just happened?" shouted Robin, looking over at the debris cloud at the same time as Starfire and Raven. "Was that the control room?"
The smoke cleared, revealing that the entrance was now completely sealed off, blocked by a huge pile of metallic rubble. Red X was sealed inside, and for the Titans, there was no way in to help him... at least no way in before they took care of Trinity Omega.
"It doesn't matter... you don't think I'd just let someone waltz in there and stop the process, do you?" shouted Sedaris, his massive mech now walking across the room toward Robin, Starfire, and Raven. "He'll never be able to stop it, even with all his hacking skills... the sequence is locked in, preprogrammed to trigger an earthquake the moment this platform's drill hits the San Andreas Fault! And as for the rest of you... you're trapped with me... you're all going to die!"
Red X had landed flat on his face, coughing on the dust and smoke that now filled the room. Behind him, an immense pile of rubble prevented his exit... in front of him, a massive, complex control station, and six monitors above. The thief stood up and surveyed the console, immediately realizing that he'd accomplished what he'd come to do.
"I'm here... now I can stop the earthquake!" But as soon as Red X pressed a button, an error message displayed on the screen: 'System Locked. Unable to access commands until sequence terminates.'
He placed his hand on the console, attempting to hack into the computer... an identical message appeared. Sedaris had placed a firewall on the system. Red X wasn't going to get in, no matter what he did.
"Dammit... this is going to be a lot more work and a lot less fun than I thought."
Beast Boy and Terra crouched down beside Cyborg, who lay unconscious at the back of the staging area, small wisps of smoke still rising from his body.
"He... he risked his life to help me..." said Beast Boy, trying to wake his fallen friend up. "I mean, that's what friends do, but... I just hope he's all right..."
"I should've gotten there sooner, Beast Boy... I was going to help, but then Cyborg... he just came out of nowhere, and all I could do was watch... I'm so sorry..."
"Terra, if you'd have been there you would've been blasted away just like Cyborg was... maybe even worse," said Beast Boy, turning toward Terra and placing a hand on her shoulder. "That blast was strong enough to take out anybody... right now we just need to make sure Cyborg doesn't get hurt. I'll stay here and watch him, you go help the others."
"...me? But Beast Boy-"
"Terra, that oil thing you did earlier... that was awesome, I told you you'd find some rocks in here to use! I just uh... I didn't think oil counted as a rock. But anyway, you help out the others... I'll join you guys as soon as Cyborg wakes up."
With a bit of reluctance, Terra nodded and rushed over to join the others. As she approached Trinity Omega, she could feel her nervousness beginning to slip away... and felt a great comfort, something that she only previously received from talking to Red X. It was the same feeling that Terra used to get while she was talking to Beast Boy... right after the first time the two of them had met. After running away the first time, she never got that feeling from talking to Beast Boy again... until just now.
"Beast Boy is right... I can't spend all my time worrying about the past... about not being able to do anything... as much as the past hurts, I have to forget about it and I have to fight! My friends are counting on me!"
Trinity Omega's wings began to light up, and Robin, Starfire, and Raven began to prepare for another laser barrage. Raven raised a shield over the three of them, while Robin and Starfire crouched down, holding each other's hand.
"Starfire," whispered Robin, "as soon as the lasers hit, we attack, got it?"
Starfire nodded in affirmation, and the lasers finished charging. A brilliant light appeared at the tips of the mech's wings, only to be snuffed out immediately, replaced by an enormous, fiery explosion. Sedaris' scream could be heard as fire engulfed the entire top half of Trinity Omega, which stumbled back, its lasers having malfunctioned severely.
"What... what just happened?" said Raven, lowering her shield and watching as Trinity Omega's wings, once proud and formidable, fell to the ground as fiery cinders, smoldering on the metallic floor and leaving Sedaris' battle mech without its most imposing feature.
"The wings... they... they exploded!"
At the last moment, just before the lasers had fired, Terra had coated the mech's wings with a thick layer of oil. The oil ignited on contact with the white-hot beams, triggering an explosion that even the well-built battle mech was unable to endure. Its wings now clipped, the robot staggered forward with its fists clenched and an enraged Sedaris staring through the window at Terra, Robin, Starfire, and Raven.
"You think you've won? I don't need the wings to destroy all of you... Trinity Omega is still the most powerful weapon in existence!"
Terra stepped back to rejoin her three Titan companions, her hands on her hips as she looked behind Sedaris' mech, at the smoldering remnants of its titanium wings.
"If you don't need them, then why do you look so nervous?" said Terra.
"Nervous? I'll show you nervous..."
A panel built into Trinity Omega's chest slid open, revealing several large holes, each of them equipped with a powerful rocket built to destroy everything within a fifty-foot radius. The Titans stepped back, readying themselves for what could be a very deadly barrage.
"Nervous is what you should be, because I'm about to end this, right now!"
From each of the eight holes emerged a rocket, each of them aimed straight at the four Titans. Raven raised a shield as the first of the rockets came in, gasping in horror as the explosion shattered her energy barrier and threw her back against the door of the room with enough force to knock her unconscious. The remainder of the rockets now flew toward Robin, Starfire, and Terra, who steeled themselves for what could be their last stand.
"We're not going down like this..." said Robin, clenching his fists. He glanced over at Starfire, who stood ready to shoot down the rockets, her eyes and palms aglow. Terra was a bit more shaky, her confidence beginning to ebb away as she realized that oil wasn't going to help her take down seven powerful rockets.
"Beast Boy, Cyborg... we need you guys..."
Beast Boy continued to kneel beside his friend, who showed no signs of waking up any time soon. He looked over and saw Raven, unconscious and slumped against the door... and Terra, along with Robin and Starfire, standing right in the path of seven very deadly rockets. His eyes grew wide, and he let out a scream.
"ROBIN! STARFIRE! TERRA!"
"C'mon, X... you've hacked into systems way tougher than this. This is a cakewalk... there's nothing special about this stupid console..."
Red X's mind raced as he tried to figure out a way to stop the computer sequence that was set to trigger an earthquake as soon as the drill touched the fault line... a moment which a timer displayed on one of the screens now indicated was a little more than five minutes away.
He had considered smashing the console, but knew that the sequence wasn't programmed into it, but into the quantum computers in the other room... and those were impossible to smash. He would have to find another way into the system, but every time he tried, he received the same error message.
"Unable to access commands. Unable to access commands. Dammit, computer, I'm about to access your ass with my foot..." The normally-cool thief's frustration was beginning to show, and he sat down against the console, his head slumping as he began to feel once again the familiar sting of defeat. "I couldn't beat Slade... couldn't save mom and sis... all I know how to do is steal, and I haven't even been doing that very well lately. I took the quantum computer prototype, but that was with the Teen Titans' help."
The thief let out a sigh, blinking as a voice from the computer announced that five minutes remained until the drill touched the fault.
"God... if You can hear me... of course You can hear me. You're God. And You obviously know that I need help, but... apparently You must need a hundred million new souls up there in heaven, because You're sure as hell not listening to me."
The thief rose to his feet and turned back toward the computer console, thinking of all the people that would die if he wasn't able to stop the earthquake... Rob, and Marcy, and Cleo... who, even though she hated him, was still someone who X cared very deeply about.
"And mom... and Maddy..."
The thief lifted his mask for a moment, briefly wiping a tear from his face... the thought of their last moments, terrified as the city sunk into the sea, or crushed beneath their ruined apartment building... it was horrific to think about, and it was a thought that spurned Red X into action.
"I'm not giving up..." said the thief, staring down at the console.
"Four minutes to go. Four minutes until earthquake sequence is triggered."
"No, it's not..." said Red X, placing his hands on the top of the console and staring up at the screens. "You can give me all the error messages you want, but there's no way in hell I'm letting this earthquake happen..."
The thief could feel electricity moving from his palms into the console, and all six screens lit up with error messages, attempting to tell Red X that his actions were futile, that the system was locked... but he didn't care. He continued attempting to hack into the system, not even wincing as he felt the first shocks, the passage of electricity between himself and the console growing stronger and stronger. He gritted his teeth, focusing even more of the suit's energy into the system.
"Don't... tell me... that it's not working... don't tell me... that I can't..."
"Three minutes to go."
The rockets were impossible to stop, so Robin, Starfire, and Terra had to try to get out of the way... while Robin and Terra leapt to the side, Starfire took to the air, gasping in horror as all seven rockets turned upward to follow her.
"Starfire, try to lead them into Sedaris!" shouted Robin.
"Fool, they'll never hit me, even if she flew right at me and dodged at the last moment," said Sedaris, turning his mech toward Beast Boy and Cyborg. "And I think I've let the two of you off the hook just a little too long."
Beast Boy stood up, transforming into a bear and rising up on two legs, lunging at Sedaris' mech only to be swatted casually away with one swing of Trinity Omega's powerful right arm.
As Trinity Omega loomed over Cyborg, Starfire flew frantically through the air, trying any way that she could to lose the rockets that were pursuing her.
"I am glad that I got them away from Robin and Terra, but... I certainly do not wish to be blown to bits!" thought Starfire, blasting her eye lasers at the rockets, only to have them swoop upward or to the side to get out of the lasers' path, then resume their usual course, with Starfire barely able to keep ahead of them. "I will soon tire of this, and then the rockets will catch up to me..."
Realizing that Starfire's only hope lay in the rockets being destroyed, Robin ran directly under them, throwing a bomb into the air that expanded into a large chunk of ice. The rockets swerved around the ice, and one of them diverted from its chase of Starfire to give its attention to Robin instead. It flew directly at him, and the Boy Wonder was completely unprepared to stop it.
"ROBIN, LOOK OUT!" Starfire flew at Robin to push him out of the rocket's path, knocking him away only to be hit herself, right in the side. As the first of the rockets exploded, the other six locked in on her as well, adding to the explosion and throwing up a huge fireball that knocked Robin back into the wall and even managed to singe Trinity Omega's armor. The mighty mech stumbled backward, its occupant smiling as Starfire disappeared into the flames.
"Starfire... STARFIRE, NO!"
Ignoring his pain, Robin stood up and charged Trinity Omega, his bo staff furiously impacting its surface. Sedaris chuckled as the staff slammed harmlessly into the mech's metal frame, but after several hits to the window managed to make a large, ugly crack, Sedaris finally decided to take evasive action. The mech clenched its fists and punched twice at Robin, only to have the Boy Wonder leap into the air and strike with a kick aimed right at the crack in the mech's window. The sound of shattering tempered glass accompanied the sight of Trinity Omega being flung backwards several yards, hitting the ground hard on its back and skidding a yard or two more before coming to a stop against the back wall of the room, smoke beginning to rise from its damaged frame.
Robin landed on one knee, staring down the fallen mech and breathing heavily, his eyes narrowed into slits.
"I'm not through with you yet," said the furious Boy Wonder, charging at the robot just as it was beginning to stand. He leapt down between the robot's legs and rained blow after blow on its chest, until more sparks and smoke emerged from its heavily dented chest plating. Inside, Sedaris, bloodied and bruised and covered with broken glass, managed to raise one of Trinity Omega's arms to swat Robin away, knocking him to the ground and giving the mech a chance to rise.
"Unnnh... am I...?"
Starfire had been hit by the rockets... but yet she felt nothing but a few slight burns... and could see someone standing in front of her... someone she never expected to see.
The sound of Starfire's voice diverted Robin's attention away from Trinity Omega and toward the center of the room. There, he saw someone that he never thought he'd see standing again... behind someone who wasn't supposed to be standing for at least a few more minutes.
Robin's utterance of his fellow Titan's name was even twice as surprised as Starfire's had been, and his surprise only intensified when he saw his friend standing completely unharmed, though he'd apparently just shielded Starfire from a blast almost surely powerful enough to destroy her.
"You were right... this anti-rocket laser cannon upgrade was a good investment after all..." said Cyborg, a wide grin on his face. "Took a whole day to install the thing, but I guess it ended up payin' for itself, huh?"
"Damned... deus ex machina... cheating bastards..."
Robin's happiness at seeing Starfire alive and Cyborg okay was suddenly converted back into anger, and he turned to see Sedaris' sparking mech standing behind him, its bleeding occupant furiously staring into the Boy Wonder's eyes.
"It's over, Sedaris," said Robin, as the five other Titans, bruised and battle-weary as they were, assembled behind their leader and prepared for a final assault. "Get out of the robot and surrender, now.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Sedaris coughed as he spoke, and blood could be seen trickling from the side of his mouth... his tanktop and jacket had been torn to shreds in the battle, and there were small shards of glass embedded in his body. His mech wasn't faring much better... Robin's bo staff had delivered critical damage to its power core, and the flames caused when its wings had exploded burned many of the wires inside the mech's computerized engine. "I told you once... I'll tell you again... I... never... surrender..."
Every one of the tiny screens built into the console of Trinity Omega was flashing red, displaying critical error messages and warning its occupant to immediately eject. As Sedaris attempted to make the mech move, its arms and legs began to spark, and instead of walking, the mech staggered as if it were a drunken man.
"I'll say it one more time... it's over. You lost," said Robin.
"You have been soundly defeated, and it would be in your best interests to surrender immediately," Starfire added, reaching over and taking Robin's hand.
"I bet you didn't even build that robot you're in," said Raven.
"Raven's right, you didn't make any of this! The platform, the quantum computers, the enhancements to the bunker, the robots you attacked us with... all that stuff was invented by the corporation leaders you aligned yourself with!" Cyborg's accurate assessment of Sedaris' methods didn't sit well with the bleeding madman at all, and he began attempting to trigger the mech's weapons, with little success.
"You're just some crazy musclehead who wanted to see what it would be like to make a big earthquake, and you stole a bunch of other people's technology to do it!" Beast Boy shouted.
"You're not just a psychopath... you're a thief," said Terra, her fists clenching in front of her. "And you're not even the best thief I know! The best thief I know is in that room, over there..."
Terra pointed to the control station, still sealed off by the large pile of rubble in front of the entrance.
"Trying to undo all the crazy stuff that you did! You're pathetic, Sedaris... absolutely pathetic.
Sedaris said nothing, continuing to try and activate the mech's controls, which were now completely unresponsive. More and more smoke began pouring from Trinity Omega, enough to surround the entire robot in a thick haze that drove all the Titans back.
"Sedaris, if you don't come out of there, you're going to die!" shouted Robin.
"No, you're going to die! You're ALL going to die! As soon as I activate my secret weapon, I'm going to blast you all into oblivion!"
Sedaris, his anger and fear completely overwhelming his mind, stayed inside Trinity Omega. Ejecting himself from the mech was the last thing in his mind, and he still believed that he could take down the Teen Titans, as long as he activated his 'secret weapon'... its identity even Sedaris himself was unable to determine, his psychosis most likely having placed the weapon in his mind.
"He... he is not going to attempt to escape, is he?" Starfire gave Robin a worried look, knowing exactly what was about to happen next.
Trinity Omega exploded in a huge column of white flames, blasting all six Titans back and instantly incinerating Sedaris, who let out a split-second scream as his life was extinguished.
But the Teen Titans did not come to stop Sedaris... they came to stop the disaster that he intended to create. They immediately rushed over to the rubble pile in front of the control station, hoping desperately that Red X had stopped the disaster in time.
"Thirty seconds to go. Thirty seconds until earthquake sequence is triggered."
The thief's entire body was engulfed in red electricity, electricity that coursed along the top of the console in front of him as he tried desperately to break into Sedaris' system. The error messages had stopped, replaced now by footage of the skylines of San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, San Diego, Los Angeles... and Jump City, hometown of the Titans, of Red X, and of Red X's mother and sister, Maria and Maddalena Salazar.
"Twenty seconds to go."
The thief collapsed to his knees, his eyes closing as tears began forming in them, not just from the knowledge that he was about to lose his mother and sister, but from the intense pain now searing his body, his suit having interfaced completely with the system. All he could see was bright red, feeling not the shock of electricity, but pain as if he was running against a brick wall, over and over again.
"Fifteen seconds to go."
The power core and reactor of the Red X suit began pulsating with energy, as the thief devoted every bit of the suit's power into breaking through to Sedaris' system. He didn't care if the suit was rendered completely useless... if his body was completely torn apart... all he knew was that millions of lives depended on him stopping the earthquake.
"Ten seconds to go."
Electricity now filled the room, and Red X let out a loud scream, his eyes clenching tightly shut and his hands pressing against the console as firmly as they could.
"Five seconds. Four. Three. Two."
Like a glass window being shattered to pieces, the red fell away from the thief's eyes, and he could see the screens, the skylines of all six cities displayed in brilliant clarity.
For a moment, Red X could feel his heart stop.
"Critical System Malfunction. The system is unable to carry out the request as programmed."
The same message displayed on all six screens, small white letters against a blue background. Red X lifted his hands from the console and stood up, his entire body tingling.
Before he realized what he had just done, a flash of green light blasted away the rubble in front of the entrance, and Starfire, followed by Robin and the others, stepped into the room. They looked up at the screens and realized immediately what had happened.
Red X had just saved the entire Pacific Rim.
"You... you did it..." Starfire's voice was a mixture of happiness, surprise, and exhaustion, and Red X, equally exhausted, took several seconds before he began to speak, wanting his voice to maintain the calm, collected tone that he was known for.
"I told you... I don't like playing the hero."
"That wasn't playing," said Robin, looking directly into Red X's eyes. "You just saved the lives of a hundred million people."
It was far too much for Red X, who collapsed to his knees, briefly staring out into space before reaching up and removing his mask. He looked up at the six Titans, unable to form a single word... and a tear emerged from each of his eyes, slipping down the sides of his cheeks and framing his face.
"Mom... Maddy... I..."
The smile on Sanza's face was unmistakably real.
The computer crash had disabled the forcefield guarding the quantum computers, enabling the Titans to destroy them easily, as well as using the oil platform's manual controls to pull the drill up out of the ground. They, along with Red X, were now back at Titans Tower... though Red X had neglected to put his mask back on after removing it at the control station, instead deciding to return to the Tower as Sanza.
"Yeah... it's a school night, I know, I'll get home as soon as I can... it's over now, don't worry... bye."
As Sanza set down the phone, Beast Boy glanced over at him from the couch, a smirk on his face.
"The greatest thief in Jump City has to check in with his mom... you have no idea how hilarious that is."
Sanza glared over at Beast Boy, planning to say something else, before a hand gently landed on his shoulder. He turned to see Robin, standing behind him and holding something in his hand.
"Sanza... what you did today was one of the most heroic things I've ever seen anyone do. I'd be honored if you would-"
"Robin, I already told you. I don't want to be a Teen Titan. Ever. Not just because I'm a thief, but because if I became a Teen Titan, I'd have to take orders from you, and... I hate taking orders. From anyone."
Sanza turned away from Robin, placing his mask back over his face.
"Besides... you're the real heroes. You took out Sedaris and his anime reject bot... I pussed out on the whole fight and went to play on the computer. You deserve all the glory... all I did was make a computer crash. Every nerd in my school has done that."
As Red X walked out of the room, Starfire and Terra both noticed that he was headed toward the elevator.
"Are you... going to go home, or-"
"I need to think," said Red X, interrupting Starfire before she could strike up what was probably going to be a long, heartfelt conversation. "I'm going up to the roof."
The thief disappeared behind the closed elevator door, leaving Starfire to wonder exactly what he was going to think about... but in her heart, she knew.
"He... he no longer wishes to be a thief! I knew that being a hero with us would change his mind... even if he does not wish to join the Titans, I am glad that he has finally come to his senses..."
Red X stared out at the skyline of Jump City, briefly imagining what it would be like had the earthquake been allowed to take place... every building completely collapsed, the city rapidly washing out to sea...
"And mom and Maddy both dead..."
Had he really been thinking of the people of the city? Not just of Jump City, but of all the cities along the West Coast and the Pacific Rim that stood to be destroyed by the massive earthquake and tsunami that Sedaris wished to cause?
Or had he been thinking of Maddy and his mother... essentially, had he been thinking of himself?
The door to the rooftop opened, but Red X didn't turn to see who it was... he could guess by the sound of their voice, coming closer and closer to him.
Red X reached up and once again lifted the mask from his face, setting it down beside him and waiting until Terra was right behind him to begin to speak.
"I am now..."
The blonde geomancer sat down beside Sanza, who turned to look into her eyes... her wide, beautiful blue eyes, perfectly positioned above her smiling lips.
"So... what did you come up here to think about?"
"...just... what I should be... or what I already am."
"You mean a thief?"
"Robin seems to think I'm a hero... along with all the other Titans."
"By the way... earlier, when you said... when you said you didn't care what the Titans thought about you..." Sanza raised an eyebrow, and Terra could instantly tell what he meant by 'the Titans'. "You... you don't consider me a Titan?"
"Well... I never fought you, so... you're different from the rest of them. You-"
"You care what I think of you?"
Sanza couldn't speak, and a trickle of sweat began to run down his face. He struggled to find the words, but again, Terra already knew what he really meant. She giggled, and a smile briefly formed on Sanza's lips.
"Look, what I said... what I said about you... your life's been way rougher than mine, so you can take everything I've said about what you should do with a grain of salt," said Sanza, showing uncharacteristic honesty. Terra giggled again, then shook her head.
"Out of all the Titans, out of all the people I've met... you're the one I can identify with most..." Terra bowed her head, briefly thinking of all the wonderful things that Beast Boy had said and done for her... he was fun, and she loved him dearly, but... "...I don't feel nearly as comfortable talking with anyone else as I do with you... not even Beast Boy."
"That... that's nice of you to say, but..."
"Sanza..." Terra's hands reached over and gripped Sanza's, his gloves warming her cold hands, "Thank you... thank you for everything... you've given me so much strength and confidence since I was revived, and I just..."
The two were now leaning in toward one another, their eyes beginning to close.
"Terra..." whispered Sanza, just before their lips met, and the two exchanged a kiss that lasted for several seconds, a kiss that, for a brief instant, brought to Sanza the most wonderful feeling that he'd ever had... and brought to Terra comfort that she'd never known. The two slowly pulled away from one another, and Terra stood up, looking at Sanza as she walked back toward the roof entrance.
"Thank you so much..."
And with that, Terra was gone, leaving Sanza alone on the roof with his thoughts. He reached down and picked up his mask, putting it back over his face and staring up to the stars, thinking of all the chaos of the past week and a half, and how, even though he'd had moments of happiness, anger, and despair... very little had changed.
"What God wants... what the Titans want... all that matters is what I want."
When Red X wanted to be a thief, he would be a thief. When he wanted to be a hero, he would be a hero.
"That's why I took the suit in the first place... to get what I want."
Red X wasn't a hero... and Red X wasn't a thief. He was merely Red X... and that was everything that he ever wanted to be.