Chapter 1 – First Signs
It was already 11:30 in the morning when Robin awoke to find the sun beating down on him relentlessly, making him feel like he was in the Sahara desert during a warm spell. He had been up half the night investigating a dead end anonymous tip regarding a line of abductions, and when he tried to get to sleep, he found his efforts futile, his mind hopelessly full of a jumble of thoughts that threatened to keep him up all night. When Robin had finally fallen into a light, dreamless sleep, the sun was already minutes away from rising.
Robin looked through half-opened eyes to his window, and found that he had left his drapes wide open all night. He hated when he did that. He could never shake the feeling that just maybe someone was looking in at him, watching his every move, and he would never know. Slade could be perched on top of any given skyscraper, staring at him right then through a telescope… Alright, perhaps that was just a touch paranoid, but hey, you can never be too careful.
Jump City was experiencing sweltering weather for mid-June, and needless to say, Robin didn't enjoy the heat. After all, it's hard to combat crime when you're busy fighting dehydration. However, there was certainly an upside to the current weather. The crime rate was always slower when the temperature reached triple digits. Whether the criminals were just waiting until the weather made their activities more convenient or if they actually took vacation, Robin certainly wasn't complaining.
He was distracted from his thoughts by a loud, nagging growl from his stomach. He hopped out of bed and opened the door to his room, grateful for the wave of cool air that greeted him. He inhaled deeply. 'Time to start the day,' he thought to himself, just before succumbing to a gigantic yawn that practically dislocated his jaw. 'Or maybe I should just stay in bed…'
It was nearing noon by the time Robin had fixed his hair to his liking and arrived in the kitchen for some food.
"Good mornin,' sleepy head! Finally decided to grace us with your presence?" Cyborg grinned in between bites of cold pizza as his leader stumbled into the room. The cybernetic teen was perched on one of the barstools at the table, several magazines spread out in front of him.
"Yep," said Robin with a lazy yawn. Despite the late hour, Robin was feeling quite lethargic, having received only a few hours of sleep. "Where is everyone?" he asked.
Cyborg finished chewing before he replied, "BB and Rae are in the training room, last I heard. And I haven't seen Star this morning. Kinda figured she was with you," he shrugged. "Have ya seen her?"
"If I had I wouldn't have asked you where she was, would I?" Robin snapped.
Cy returned to his pizza. "Someone's a little cranky," he commented, not entirely surprised at his leader's behavior. Robin wasn't known for being even remotely personable until he had imbibed several cups of coffee.
"I'm not cranky, it's just early," Robin retorted, sauntering over to the fridge. He opened it, looked through it a bit, and sighed, closing the door loudly. "How come we never have anything good?" he complained under his breath.
"Well if you want to go shopping for groceries, be my guest."
"You're too kind," Robin grumbled. He moved over to his coffee pot, filling it carefully with water and starting it up. He tapped his foot impatiently while the contraption worked.
Robin polished off his first cup of hot coffee within seconds of it being produced, refilling the mug to the brim before leaving the kitchen.
Robin decided to walk by Starfire's room out of curiosity. It was very strange for the bubbly alien girl to still be asleep after noon. She was almost always fully awake and cheerful when everyone else, still half asleep, rose grudgingly to greet the day, and they had become accustomed to finding some fresh (or not quite so fresh) Tamaranean delicacy prepared for them by Starfire for breakfast. Granted, she often ended up consuming the whole thing herself when her teammates offered half-baked excuses as to why they couldn't partake in her delicious cooking that day, but never did she even consider stopping. Perhaps that why Robin was so fond of her. Her kindness and refreshing naiveté made their friendship invaluable to him.
Lost in thought, he eventually made his way down the hallways and corridors that led to Starfire's room. "Star?" Robin quietly called out, softly tapping on her bedroom door. There was no answer. 'Maybe she is still sleeping,' he thought with a shrug.
The Tower's alarm suddenly sounded, and Robin tensed instinctively. Red lights flashed in every room. Well, if Starfire wasn't already awake, she certainly would be now. Robin finished downing his coffee and sprinted back down the hallway as if on autopilot, winding through the halls toward the Operations Room. He quickly opened the electronic door to the Ops. Room, and almost ran face-first into Cyborg.
"What's the trouble?" he asked his friend, stopping short to avoid a painful collision with his mostly metal friend.
"Dunno, but the alarm was set off from the training room. C'mon!" Cyborg replied, stepping past his leader and drawing out his sonic cannon, just in case he might need it when they arrived at their destination.
The teens dashed into the training room. They were just in time to see an extremely angry Raven, hovering six feet from the ground, hurl a dumbbell at Beast Boy's head. The doomed changeling agilely dodged to the left, narrowly avoiding a very painful encounter.
"Guys, help! Raven's gone mad! She's gunna kill me!" he desperately pleaded, sliding to the floor to escape being caught in the chest by another weight.
Robin sighed. "So you tripped the alarm, Beast Boy? You know it's only for emergencies."
"Hello! This IS an emergency! Make her stop! Make her stop!" the poor green teen yelled, dashing behind Cyborg for protection.
"Raven! What's going on?" Robin demanded.
"You green idiot! I'm going to boil you alive and feed your corpse to a shark!" Raven growled, ignoring her leader's question.
Cyborg shut off the blaring alarm from a controller built into his right arm. Raven seemed to notice Cyborg and Robin for the first time since they entered the room. She dropped down from the air, regaining a large amount of her composure before walking casually over to meet them. The changeling slowly moved further and further behind Cyborg, careful to keep a good eight feet in between Raven and himself.
"Good morning Cyborg, Robin," she said lightly.
"Raven?" Robin steadily began.
"Why were you trying to murder Beast Boy?"
"Well, he stole my cape, ripped it, asked me for a date and changed by treadmill speed to 25 miles per hour, causing me to slam into the back wall very painfully. So if you'll excuse me, I'd like to kill Beast Boy now," she said calmly, beginning to step towards the doomed shape shifter.
The Boy Wonder shot out an arm and grabbed her wrist, most likely saving the changelings life.
"Whoa, Raven. Let's not be too hasty. Just calm down," Robin reasoned.
"Well, Rob, I guess the 'emergency' is under control now, so I'll be going." Cyborg announced. Beast Boy decided it would be wise to vanish before Raven could inflict her promised tortures upon him. The birds were left alone in the training room.
Once Robin heard the door close, he let go of the wrist of the inwardly seething demoness.
"I should have killed him when I had the chance," Raven muttered regretfully.
"Good thing you didn't. That would look pretty bad on your record."
"It might be worth it."
Robin decided to change the subject. "So, are you all done training for now?"
"C'mon," Robin beckoned with his fingers to follow him, "I've got to show you something."
He led her to the main research room, and motioned to one of the computer screens. He tapped a few words into a keyboard and brought up a map of the state.
"The abduction sites are represented by the red dots, and they're numbered in the order that they took place."
Raven examined the screen carefully. Robin stood close by. They had been working on this bizarre chain of kidnappings for weeks now, the severity of the situation increasing as more and more people became victims. Raven had been particularly interested in the case, and Robin had been more than happy to let her do much of the research. He trusted in her ability possibly more than any other teammate, and she did not disappoint. Raven was just as anxious to get to the bottom of this case as he was.
"Wow," Raven commented quietly, examining Robin's work carefully, "The pattern is pretty obvious."
"Definitely," Robin replied. "Whoever - or whatever - is performing the abducting is concentrating on one area at a time, kidnapping anywhere from five to ten people before dropping off the scene and appearing again in another location within days."
"Jump City hasn't been targeted yet. It's just a matter of time, isn't it?" she sighed.
"Unless we can stop whatever is doing this first."
"Do you have any new leads?"
"None. I was up pretty late last night working with the last one. Dead end."
Raven shook her head slowly and peered back at the monitor. She appeared pensive for a moment.
"You don't think…" she started fretfully.
"What?" Robin pressed.
"You probably noticed that Starfire has been gone since last night, and I think I might know why she hasn't come back yet."
"Do you know where she is?"
"Unfortunately. I think I have an idea."
Raven motioned to the most recent cluster of abduction sites, which were located in a small city not more than 35 miles from Jump City.
"Starfire was helping me research yesterday, and she said she was going to go investigate something around there." Raven swore under her breath. "I just let her go alone. I should have gone with her, Robin."
"It's not your fault that she left alone. I'm sure she can take care of herself. I'm sure she's fine. Really." He hoped that his voice sounded more confident than he felt.
"I'm sure," Raven replied without enthusiasm.
"Well," Robin began thoughtfully, "We can do one of three things. One, we can just wait around here to see if she comes back on her own. Two, we tell the others and we all get down there to look for Star. Or three, we tell the others and send a few of us there to look for Star, and the rest stay here and try to dig up anything that might be helpful regarding the matter."
"Someone should go find her, but there's no sense in all of us going," Raven replied, her worry betrayed in her voice. She turned quickly, heading for the door.
Wait, Raven! Robin reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, turning her around to face him. "We'll get Star back safely. I promise."
A.N. Well, I hope you liked the story so far. I'll have the next chapter out as soon as I can. I'd love to hear from you. Make sure you review! Thanks.