A brief note from your author:
This might appear familiar to some of you. To others, this story seems brand new. That's because Avatar began and summarily ended almost/over a year ago. I pulled the story for...well, reasons that I've come to reconsider (thanks to the inquiries from some dedicated fans whose appreciation I need to start living up to). In any case, I'm bringing the story back in relatively the same shape it was originally published in. To my new readers: welcome! To my old readers: welcome back!
Avatar began as a single, ludicrously simple-minded concept: what would happen if Robin got super powers? Admittedly, I wish I had alterior motives for starting the story, but in reality, that's about all I wanted to see happen. Lucky for me, the story took on a life of its own, and grew into something even I had a hard time imagining. There are subplots that came into being along the way that I have yet to find conclusions for, so just about everything you read in the story is going to be as exciting at its conclusion for me as it is for you (I hope).
The updates will be fairly brisk in the beginning, as I have a number of chapers backlogged from the story's inception. After that, it's my usual game of waiting, for which I apologize but cannot yet renegotiate. So sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the oddest Titans fiction to ever hit the net. If you like what you see, tell a friend. If you don't like the story, tell someone you don't like, just to upset them. And always remember...
The best is yet to come.
Ghost of the Net
Teen Titans is a registered trademark of DC Comics and Cartoon Network Inc. All trademarked characters, locations, themes and ideas are used without permission in a work of fan-created fiction. The following has been done without profit and purely for entertainment purposes. All original concepts, characters, themes and ideas within are the copyrighted property of the author, not to be reproduced without prior consent. Additional information used in creating Teen Titans: Avatar courtesy of Titans Tower Online.
by Cyberwraith Nine
Every morning Tim Drake ceased to be, and every night he was reborn.
It was a simple process for Robin to do away with his alter ego. He didn't need grappling lines, or birdarangs, or electro disks, or any of his other gadgets to rid himself of the young teen from Gotham City. There was no magical change, no illusion or dark spell involved. All it took was a mask, and the right frame of mind.
Tim stood in his room, preparing himself for the new day. He looked at himself in the mirror, examining his uniform in the pale light the room's only bulb offered. Green tights and red armor clung to his form, perfectly symmetrical save for the stylized R insignia on his left breast. A black and gold cape flowed from his shoulders, soft as silk but stronger than steel. It was a most un-Tim-like costume, but that wasn't a problem; he held the final piece in his hand that would complete the transformation. Though small and seemingly insignificant, the component spelled the end of Tim Drake each time he placed it on his face.
The black domino mask rested lifelessly in his palm. He cradled the space-age fabric carefully, staring down at its white, soulless lenses with unusual consideration. Though he had only been Robin for less than half a decade, the training ran deep. His mentor's words were drilled into his head;
When you put the mask on, the old man had lectured him his first night, You die. A new being rises in your place. It isn't you. It isn't even human. When you put that mask on, you become Robin. You have to; to do anything else means you're just playing make-believe games, and games will get you and innocent people killed.
"Strong words, Bruce," Tim muttered, clutching the mask in his fist. He wasn't sure why the concept of his identity was such an important one this morning. He had never questioned it before. Then again, he mused, glancing back at a small metal object on his desk, I suppose it's more of an issue today.
A gentle knock echoed from his door, breaking his thoughts. "Robin?" a soft and very welcome voice called from the hallway. Though it was muffled, he would recognize that uncertain yet purely innocent tone anywhere and anytime. It always seemed to cut straight through his defenses. "May I come in?"
Tim answered hastily, "Just a second, Star."
All of his doubts and stray thoughts were swept aside in a single motion as he brought the mask to his face. The high-tech fibers adhered effortlessly to his skin, bonding in an instant. Flexible lenses sunk into his sockets, and would shrink and expand with his brows to allow him a full range of expression. It offered him total visibility without hindrance of any kind, and would only come off when given the proper electrical impulse from his own gloves. More importantly, though, it banished a weak-minded teenager and brought forth the leader of the Titans.
The ritual complete, he sat down at his desk and pretended to be busy with something. "C'mon in, Star." Robin called back.
The door parted, allowing a being of unparalleled purity and beauty to brighten Robin's dour, darkened domicile. The alien princess Koriand'r, formerly of Tamaran, entered his room with preternatural grace and quite a bit of hesitation. Her green eyes wavered about the walls of the room, each one covered in so many newspaper clippings, graphs, charts and photos that the original color of the space was a mystery.
"Good morning, Robin!" Starfire greeted the back of Robin's head with her perfect smile. Though she was (as always) overjoyed to see him, she remained a respectful distance away. She knew better than any of the Titans that Robin's room was to him what the fabled Batcave was to his mentor. It was Robin's element, and each of them had learned the hard way that to disturb Robin in his element was a grievous mistake indeed.
As if to prove her convictions correct, Robin barely afforded her a grunt as he concentrated on his deskwork. "Morning," he muttered.
Puzzled, Starfire approached him cautiously. "Um…Beast Boy told me you wished to see me." Though she was loathe to disturb him, she could tell he was acting stranger than usual; colder, more distant. He did not seem to be the boy who had shown her so much patience, kindness and unconditional friendship since her arrival on the planet.
"That's right." he grunted again.
She blinked at the frosty reception. "Have…I done something wrong, Robin?" she asked meekly.
Robin swiveled dramatically in his chair, lacing his fingers together as he turned to face her. "In a manner of speaking," he replied coolly. Leaning forward, one featureless white eye grew larger as he examined her nervous form. "Do you remember when we all went into town last week?"
Starfire's features fell immediately as realization hit her hard. "Oh…yes. You are referring to the 'unpleasantness' that ensued in the mall's food court."
He nodded, also recalling the pair of uncouth, slovenly teens that had tried their luck with the gorgeous alien, and then berated her after being shot down. "That's right," he said. His hand reached lazily to his desktop, scooping up the small metal object he had been fiddling with earlier and twirling it between his gloved fingers. "You remember what the guys called you, don't you?" he asked as he rose to his feet.
"Yes," she said again, growing red about the cheeks. "They called me 'Sherbet Skin,' as well as several less-wholesome names." She fidgeted uncomfortably as her green eyes probed his face, wondering why he was bringing this up now. As an afterthought, she added, "I do not believe the mall security people appreciated having to cut them down after you hung them from the ceiling."
"Not the point," he said quickly. Heavy, metal footsteps rang out as his boots carried him across the room. He still toyed with the tiny band of metal, though his eyes never left her worried face. "The point is, this isn't the first time your appearance has drawn unwanted attention."
"It is all right," Starfire fibbed good-naturedly. "I do not mind others ridiculing me for my unusual appearance, so long as I am accepted here by my friends." Her voice quivered as, after a brief hesitation, she asked, "You do not think I am freakish, do you, Robin?"
"You 'do' stand out in public, Star." Robin reminded her. He clutched the band decisively as he at last reached her position in the center of the room. The cold quality of his voice frightened her just a little. "It may not be so harmless in the future. After the White Martian incident, people might get a little jumpy around aliens. They might try to hurt you, or worse-"
"Oh please Robin!" cried the panicked alien as she rushed forward. Starfire grasped at Robin's shoulders, feeling a sharp terror welling up in her breast. Despite the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes, Robin's demeanor remained static and stoic. "Do not send me away, or lock me in the Tower! I could not stand to be incarcerated so, and-"
He held up a single hand to silence her. As she quieted, she saw the strange metallic band hanging from a single finger in front of her face. Up close, she could now identify it as a standard Earth-style chronometer, a 'watch'. It was thin and appeared delicate, most likely designed for the female of the species.
"Put this on." he told her in a commanding tone.
She did so, sniffling pathetically as she strapped the cool band onto her wrist. Once it was in place, Robin reached over and pressed a small, silver button set on one side of the device. A brief tingle jumped over her skin, then vanished as abruptly as it had come. Rubbing the mild itch from her arms, she asked, "What was that?"
Robin looked her up and down, examining her. He seemed to nod in satisfaction, and Star thought she saw a ghost of a smile haunt his lips. He grasped her arms gently, turning her to his full-length mirror. "See for yourself."
She rotated obediently, already formulating a question. The words died on her lips as her jaw hung open upon first sight of her reflection. There, in the mirror, was a stranger staring back at her…a stranger with a human face. The reflection had her vibrant red hair and lavender outfit, and appeared similarly proportioned to her.
However, there were many key differences. Though the irises of her reflection were green, the rest of her eyes were now a milky white. The soft orange skin tone was now a dainty peach, reddened at the cheeks by her sheer shock. Each eyebrow now stretched across her entire eye, the same brilliant color as her ginger hair.
Starfire at last found enough of her voice to breathe a single word. "How…?" Her hand reached out shakily, touching the surface of the mirror as if to grasp at her own likeness. She noted in even greater amazement that her reflection spoke the truth; the skin on her arm had changed.
Robin at last broke into a smile. He stood behind her, placing an arm on her shoulder. "I'm glad you aren't angry," he admitted sheepishly. "Vic thought you might not take it so well"
"Cyborg?" she asked distantly, too enraptured by the new her to pay close attention.
"Sure. Who do you think built it?" He tapped the watch, and her façade flickered for an instant. "I told him he should be the one to give it to you, but he said since it was my idea…" he shrugged, secretly grateful that Victor had given him the opportunity.
Starfire turned back to him, this time with tears of joy. "I love it!" she exclaimed. "But how...?"
"It's a holoprojector." Robin explained. "It emits a pattern of light over your skin. That's why your clothes are still the same. I, uh, asked Cy to keep as much of you just the way you are." He looked away, slightly abashed. Suddenly, his fingers snapped, and he plucked a small card from his work table. "Oh, I took the liberty of making this, too. You probably won't need it, but you never know..."
Starfire took the card and examined it briefly. It was a California ID card which featured her humanesque image. To the left was her relative Earth age, as well as a name. "Kory Anders…Oh!" Starfire's smile grew wider. "Very clever."
"So…you really like it?" Robin asked warily.
Starfire grabbed him up in a bone-crunching hug. "I love it! Thank you, oh thank you Robin!" She released him at last, giving him a chance to regain his breath as she turned back to study herself in his mirror. Starfire's heart soared at the wonderful gift bestowed unto her. "Raven has agreed to go to the mall with me tomorrow! I will gladly wear your gift."
She heard Robin clear his throat, and turned away from her doppelganger. His features had become deathly serious once more. "There's just one condition," he said ominously.
Curiosity returned at once to her demeanor. "What is it?" she asked, fearful of anything that could cause her to lose the wonderful disguise.
Once again, the Boy Wonder couldn't keep up his stony appearances in her presence. He reached over, deactivating the holo-watch and returning Starfire to her true self. Together, they looked at the young alien girl's image in his mirror. He took a chance, and grasped her by the waist as he laid his head upon her shoulder. "You can't ever wear it while you're in the tower." he told her, drinking in her beauty.
Starfire secretly shivered at his touch, and tried to keep her voice level. "Why? Will the device malfunction?"
"Because your friends like you for who you are." he told her, giving her a small squeeze. "You should never have to hide who you are around us. Ever."
She nodded, rubbing the metal band affectionately as Robin released her from his embrace. "Thank you, Robin." she said again.
Then, as she looked back at the Titan's commander, a thought came to her. She studied his uniform intently, lingering on the mysterious mask that covered his eyes. In all the time they had been friends, she had never seen the face existing behind his mask. He had never taken it off in front of any of them, even her. "But Robin," she pointed out, "You have always hidden who you are."
Robin paused at the revelation, tilting his head as Starfire looked to him in confusion. He had clarified many things to her in the past, but this explanation was going to be tricky. "It's…not the same, Star."
Starfire only grew more puzzled. "I do not understand," she admitted. The ID card he had given her returned to her hand, and she held it up to illustrate her point. "On this world I have many names; Starfire, Kory Anders…yet I am always the same person. Koriand'r. It is who I am." She emphasized by tapping the card to her chest. "Is it not the same with you."
"Not exactly." Robin struggled for the right words. He plopped himself back down in his desk chair, propping an ankle on his knee as he delved into deeper thought. "See, when I'm in this uniform, I'm Robin. There's nothing else. No one's 'underneath'," he explained, making quote marks with his fingers.
"That is…different." Star quirked an eyebrow in confusion.
A slight chuckle escaped his throat. "Star, I think that's about the nicest anyone's ever put it." He couldn't help but smirk; Starfire's naïveté was always so refreshing. It made him see the world in a whole new way. Sometimes he even had to give himself a good examination to answer her bizarre questions.
"People have pasts," Starfire pressed, stepping closer. "Yet I know little of yours; you were trained by 'The Batman', and I know you were not the first to bear the name of Robin."
He smiled again, nodding twice. "Right on both accounts, Kori. But like I said, it's different with me." At her enduring bewilderment, he continued patiently, "Try to understand: When I wear this mask, I'm not hiding who I am. I am Robin."
"But why?" insisted Starfire. "Why can you not be the person you truly are."
"Because the person I used to be isn't a hero…and he certainly isn't Titan material." Robin shrugged, recalling his life before Bruce Wayne had flipped it upside down. Tim Drake had been smart, resourceful, and cunning, but he was no superhero. It took a mask and an eccentric millionaire to turn him into that. "In our line of work, someone like him wouldn't last a New York minute."
This only confused her more. "Time is…different in New York?"
He suppressed another smile as he rose from his chair. "The point is," he said quickly, "I've never hid who I am from you guys. I'm Robin." He clapped her on the shoulder, rubbing it affectionately as she stared at him in open mystification. "Anything I was before I became Robin is totally irrelevant. Now c'mon," he encouraged her, making for the door, "Let's show everyone your new 'outfit."
The young Tamaranian girl sighed in defeat. "I am afraid I still do not understand."
"It's no big deal," he remarked as he exited his own room. "Besides, I can't think of anybody who'd want to know the old me anyhow."
Starfire's shoulders sagged as her fellow Titans and best friend left the room. A wave of miserable despair seeped into her spirit as her hand absently brushed her new, cherished gift on her wrist. If she was not ashamed to wear such a device in public, why would Robin refuse to reveal his true self to the rest of them?
"I would." she answered his rhetorical remark in a soft murmur to an empty room.
To Be Continued