by Blue Ten
When the Titans defeat a mysterious assassin targeting Starfire, they are thrust into a journey to possibly save an entire system from destruction. Can the Titans' friendships and bonds survive in the harsh environment of war? RobxStar, BBxRae
I do not claim any ownership of the TV series 'Teen Titans', or any of its counterparts.
Contains major spoilers for 'Trouble in Tokyo'.
Episode One: Hunted
- - -
Act One: Cheers, Plays, and Showoffs
A feeling of laziness drifted about with the warm breeze on this sunny day in Jump City. As was typical on such a day, the denizens of the metropolis – at least, those fond of the outdoors – would flock to the rolling green hills and shady trees of the park. None had come to satisfy vocational responsibilities or obligations of that nature; all had come to forget about such things, for as long as the good weather would allow. Even the city's five most notorious workaholics could not ignore the call of leisure time.
Running alongside the coast, the park's green acres stretched on, covered in many places by populations of short yet leafy trees. The hills looked out upon the brilliant blue of the sea, leading downward to the white sands of the beach, where many more people had undoubtedly taken the day off. However, the upper portions, where clearings in the trees created large open spaces, seemed to be among the favored spots. Here, in a clear patch of green beside a lengthy dirt walkway, a tense battle was in recess. The two opposing forces were both but a field's run from victory.
Cyborg stared forward at his opponents, fierce determination in his human eye. "Maybe y'all should just give up," he cracked, smirking confidently. "It might spare you the embarrassment of all-out defeat," he finished with a well-placed incentive. Beast Boy, with no less confidence on his smiling, green face, stood a few feet to the left of Cyborg's tall form, ready for the deciding match to take place.
"Heh," chuckled Robin, looking out across the open field, his back to the view of the ocean. "Funny, I was just about to say the same thing," he said, lowering one eyebrow under his mask as he gave a sporting grin. Starfire, though having lived on Earth for a long enough time, had always found herself unable to engage in 'the trash-talking', and so intended to simply wait until it was over. She stood at Robin's right side, ever supportive, though in slight confusion over strange Earth customs such as this.
Without further ado, Robin clenched the plate-sized, circular orange object in his hand and took a step back. Leaping forward, he threw his arm to the right and sent the disk flying across the field.
"A splendid kick off, Robin!" cheered Starfire, leaping into the air as well, an immense smile on her face as the Frisbee cut through the air.
Watching carefully as the saucer made its way over, Cyborg bent low to the ground and launched himself upward, his arm stretched high to make the catch. The spirit of competition abound in his expression as he caught the wayward object, Cyborg made an easy landing on the grass and stood up to point across the field. "Let's finish this in one shot," he said, peering over his shoulder at Beast Boy. "BB, go long!"
Nodding, the changeling took off toward Robin and Starfire's end of the field without restraint. Entirely focused on his goal as he continued, he had a simple strategy planned: run far, leap high. Grinning widely, he took several more quick steps until something abruptly snatched his attention away.
"WAIT!" shouted Cyborg as loud as he could... which, apparently, was more than enough.
Almost as though Cyborg's speech had become a physical obstruction in front of him, Beast Boy found his upper body halted. Unable to keep his feet from moving, he tripped over the grass and landed flat on his back. Groaning, about to stand up and protest, he turned to see what Cyborg had called a time-out for and immediately decided to join in.
A figure was stationed across the field from the dirt pathway, under a nice, shady tree. Sitting atop a flat, gray stone at the trunk of said tree, Raven remained still, a hard-cover novel held close to her face. Quietly, she flipped aside another page, paying little noticeable attention to the goings-on around her. Cyborg and Beast Boy now stood under the shadow of the tree, staring with narrowed eyes... something which Raven found excruciatingly impossible to ignore.
"...What?" questioned the empath after a long pause. She looked up from the pages of her book at the two, the extent of her vexation made visible by the sudden appearance of a vein on her temple.
Finally getting the response he was looking for, Cyborg's face grew a smile. "Hey, didn't Raven say she would 'root for us' since she's not playing?" he questioned, crossing his arms about his chest and looking over to Beast Boy, who stood at Raven's other side.
"It was a figure of speech," replied Raven, hoping to clarify things for Cyborg, at least. The next sentence, however, was intended for Beast Boy. "And, I only said it because, at the time, I was physically closer to--"
"Yeah," Beast Boy cut in, responding to Cyborg's question, apparently without knowledge of Raven's words. "And I don't hear any 'rooting'," he finished, cupping a hand beside his ear and leaning toward Raven expectantly.
Letting out a low sigh, Raven set the book down on her lap and stared off at nothing with a blank look on her face. "W-o-o-o," she cheered, with about as much enthusiasm as her expression displayed. "Go, team..." she continued listlessly. "Beat 'em..." she added more, reveling inwardly at the bewildered expressions Beast Boy and Cyborg now displayed. "Kick their collective a--"
"Okay already..." Cyborg suddenly broke in, shaking his head with narrowed eyes, his arms now hanging limply at his sides.
"'Figure of speech'..." quoted Beast Boy, shoulders slumped forward, eyes looking off to the side. "We get it."
As Cyborg and Beast Boy walked away, defeated and dispirited, Raven picked her book up and smirked. One more victory... and surely more to come. Hardly a day went by when she couldn't find some form of amusement in this manner.
As soon as Cyborg and Beast Boy made it back to the open space of the playing field, they stood still for a moment in silence. A slight wind rushed, rustling the grass beneath the two and whistling through the trees. Feet tapping on the ground, a runner in red and black made his way across the adjacent pathway... A group of birds chirped in the distance, their song filling up the relative silence.
"So... uh," started Cyborg, lifting the object in his hand and tapping the side of his head with it. "What were we doing again?" he queried. In response, Beast Boy simply brought a hand up to his face and scratched his chin thoughtfully, eyes closed in concentration.
Unable to believe what was going on before them, Robin and Starfire remained in place, faces catering to looks of utter confusion. After a moment of examining the situation, however, they soon caught scent of what might be going on. Their expressions soon shifted to ones of annoyance.
"THROW THE FRISBEE!!" shouted Robin and Starfire in unison, fists held low and clenched tightly.
Caught off guard, Beast Boy and Cyborg nearly fell over in response to the explosion that erupted from across the way. Repositioning themselves, the two chuckled sheepishly. Considering they had actually managed to get that reaction out of Starfire... and not just Robin, they figured they had done enough damage.
"Heh..." Cyborg held up a hand in defense, a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead. "Just messin' with ya," he said, closing his eyes. Finally getting into the game again, he looked back to Beast Boy. "All right. How 'bout we try for the 'Parallel Play'" he suggested in a sly tone of voice.
Beast Boy took a moment to grin back. "Gotcha," he replied with a secretive understanding.
Readying themselves, Cyborg grasped the Frisbee, looking across the open field, and Beast Boy slid one foot back, preparing for a mad dash. Quickly, Beast Boy took off, kicking up blades of grass with the sheer amount of force he applied to his steps. Waiting a moment for Beast Boy to gain some distance, Cyborg poured all his strength into throwing the Frisbee, sending it high to follow behind the changeling.
"They're going for the 'Parallel Play'," said Robin, watching closely as Beast Boy headed their way from his end of the field. "Nice try. But we won't fall for that again," he added, smiling competitively.
"No we will not," agreed Starfire with a joyous expression, implying that they had already come up with a countermeasure. Moving closer to Robin, she reached out and took hold of his hand. The two stood almost like a barricade as Beast Boy, in the distance, could be seen shifting his form.
As a cheetah, Beast Boy tore his way onward, keeping up with the speed of the Frisbee behind him. As soon as he met a critical distance with Robin and Starfire, he bounded forward, changing form once again. Landing on the ground as a kangaroo, he wasted no time and sent himself soaring with a powerful leap, morphing back into human form to grin at Robin and Starfire as he passed them by. The two had made no attempt to get past him, or even move at all. Ignoring that odd fact, he looked back to see the Frisbee still coming his way; deciding he had some time, Beast Boy simply looked forward and stretched his arms out at his sides.
As soon as Beast Boy's attention was away, Starfire made her move. Taking her free hand and grasping Robin's upper arm, she turned around to face Beast Boy and launched the Boy Wonder into the air with one quick motion. She smiled, watching Robin close in on Beast Boy and the Frisbee. The rest of the game was now up to him.
'Hehe. Couldn't get past my block,' thought Beast Boy with a chuckle as he flew along, unaware of what had just occurred behind him. 'Just like last time...' he trailed off, suddenly sensing something wasn't quite right. Slowly, he turned to look over his shoulder.
Robin held his arms back and his knees forward to gain speed. His cape flapped furiously behind him as he flew closer, a confident look on his face. "Hey, Beast Boy," he called, causing the changeling to shift his weight and face him, shocked, of course. Robin decided to gloat a little. After all, they had found a good way around Cyborg and Beast Boy's... 'invincible play'. "Got anything to say before this is over?" he questioned.
Beast Boy paused for a moment, unsure of what he could do. Suddenly, though, the Frisbee caught his eye; spinning through the air above their heads, it seemed to have gained some height since he last looked. "Yeah," he responded, trading his shocked expression for one of smug sureness. "Thanks for the lift," he said, making sure to give Robin a nice, big grin.
"...Huh?" wondered Robin, his facial expression contorting as confusion set in. Before anything more could be said, Robin's face was met by the underside of a large, green frog. In an attempt to remove the amphibian, he moved his arms forward and reached for his face... which caused him to lose some of his forward momentum. With surprising force, the frog's legs pushed away from his face. As Robin's flight slowed, he could see Beast Boy morphing back into human form and reaching for the Frisbee... smiling appropriately. Taking his mind off of his slight frustration, Robin braced himself, realizing, with his current rate of descent, he would soon come in contact with the ground.
Seeing Robin falling out of the sky, Starfire quickly took off in his direction, looking up and holding out her arms as she ran. Just before the Boy Wonder could hit the ground, Starfire leaped forward and made a quick catch. The two suddenly found themselves tumbling across the grass due to the speed at which they met, as well as the hill's slight slope.
Finally coming to a stop on her back, dizzy eyes facing the sky, Starfire sat up straight and turned to Robin... who was on his hands and knees, in the process of pulling his face away from the ground. "You are okay?" she asked, finding it hard not to smile as he wiped a few blades of grass from his face.
"Yeah..." replied Robin, remaining close to the ground as his lightheadedness from the spin wore off. "Just remind me never to try frog legs..." he said, smiling with a slight cringe as he remembered the frog falling right on his open mouth.
Seeing the Frisbee coming his way, Beast Boy knew victory wasn't far. All he had to do was make a catch, and land safely in the 'end zone'. Reaching up high, he opened his palm and waited for the object to glide right into it. However, a pair of... intriguing voices soon turned his eyes away from his goal.
"Wow, look at that guy," said one of two girls who had been walking along the path beside the field. She tugged at her friend's elbow and pointed up to the sky. Blocking their eyes from the sun, the two girls watched in awe as Beast Boy flew along. Short, blonde hair pushed away from her eyes, the first girl simply smiled and stared up through sparkling blue eyes, looking thoroughly starstruck. Mouth agape, the second girl, a brunette with long, wavy locks, appeared truly impressed.
Though a little surprised at first, Beast Boy's ego quickly grew several notches in response to the extra attention. Finding it hard to resist showing off a little, he placed his hands behind his head and took a relaxed pose, as though flying through the air was nothing to him. "Hey, ladies," he spoke over the wind, sending a wink their way with a large grin on his face. The two girls responded by giggling.
Watching from his side of the field, Cyborg shook his head and slapped a hand over his face, hoping against hope that the little showoff could still make the catch. Raven, though still sitting under the tree, had her attention grabbed by the events... but mostly, the giggling; looking down the field with one eyebrow raised, she nonchalantly flipped aside a page of her book. In the process of helping each other up, Robin and Starfire took notice of Beast Boy and wondered if they had been given another chance to win.
Deciding to show off again by making the catch in some outlandish manner, Beast Boy morphed into a small dog with big, bright eyes, and opened his jaw wide. As the Frisbee came close enough, he closed his eyes and quickly snapped his mouth shut. 'It's in the bag,' he thought, smiling inwardly as he reached the peak of his arc and began moving toward the ground. Quickly, though, he realized something was missing. Opening his eyes, Beast Boy felt nothing but air in his mouth and looked up to see the Frisbee flying away above him. His expression faltered as he felt himself gaining speed, closing in on the ground. Morphing back into a human, he flailed his arms about wildly, neglecting to try another animal form due to his state of panic.
Face colliding rather painfully with the ground, Beast Boy slid across the field a good distance. Sitting up and spitting out chunks of dirt and grass from his mouth, the changeling looked up through squinted eyes to see the Frisbee continuing its flight down the hill. He chuckled nervously with an embarrassed grin as the orange disc disappeared behind a grouping of trees.
'Wow... that flew pretty far...' thought Beast Boy, massaging the pain from his forehead.
"You just had to turn into a dog," commented Cyborg, now standing just behind Beast Boy, who flinched in response to his words.
Beast Boy turned around to see Cyborg staring down at him seriously. Though he knew the fault was entirely his, he felt the need to defend himself in some way. "Tch... You're the one who issued that 'no flying' rule," he started, making sure not to look Cyborg in the eye as he spoke. "Plus... everyone knows chicks love puppies," he finished, crossing his arms defiantly. After a long silence, Beast Boy opened his eyes to a squint, seeing Cyborg's unchanged expression... though his eyebrows seemed much lower than before. "'I'll go find the Frisbee'?" Beast Boy spoke for Cyborg, finally giving up his useless defense as he pointed off to where the aforementioned object had gone.
"That's more like it," said Cyborg, expression still set in stone, watching as Beast Boy guiltily made his way down the hill. As soon as Beast Boy disappeared, Cyborg let his shoulders fall forward. 'We were so close!' he thought, eyes practically tearing up at the thought of losing in such an embarrassing way. However, he knew it was only karma, losing when he expected so much to win. "I guess there's no such thing as an invincible play..." he admitted to himself reluctantly.
"So..." started Starfire, looking away from the far end of the field, her attention back on Robin as they walked to where Cyborg and Beast Boy's starting point had been. "This is a good thing?" she asked, smiling hopefully with a hint of blush in her cheeks.
"Well," replied Robin, coming to a stop as he thought back to the events during that final round, "it was a tie-breaker, and Cyborg overthrew, so I guess that means..." he trailed off, crossing his arms in thought.
"We are victorious?" Starfire clapped her hands together happily. She had been hoping for this, because it gave her an opportunity to once again try one of her new favorite Earth traditions. Stretching out her arms, Starfire locked Robin in a strong embrace and administered a nice, big smooch to his cheek.
Though, considering they were together now, and he had gotten mostly used to that kind of thing, Robin found himself caught completely off guard by the kiss. Entering into a stupefied daze, a ridiculous smile on his face, Robin swayed back and forth as Starfire let him go – happily standing aside, currently unaware of her affect on the boy. Most likely due to a combination of flying through the air at high speed, falling, tumbling across the grass, and receiving a kiss, Robin suddenly lost his balance and fell to the ground. Placing a hand over her mouth and gasping, Starfire immediately knelt down to help her boyfriend up.
A small sound of amusement could be heard to the side of Robin and Starfire. "Still can't handle those victory kisses, huh?" asked Raven without looking away from her book, a tiny smirk on her face as she flipped aside another page.
- - -
Act Two: Killer Smile
Having taken the form of a bloodhound, Beast Boy sniffed away at the ground, sensitive nose passing over each blade of grass as he meticulously searched for the scent of the Frisbee. Coming upon the distinct smell, he began to pick up his pace, snout still pressed firmly against the ground. All the while, his mind was brimming with various grumblings...
'Why do I have to search for it...? He's the one that overthrew,' thought Beast Boy with contempt, paying little mind to the flurry of footsteps suddenly passing him by. 'Well... I guess it was partly my fault,' he admitted to himself. 'Wouldn't have happened if I didn't show off like that,' he continued as another set of footsteps thumped against the grass at his sides and quickly faded out of earshot. 'Then again... Cyborg probably would have done the same, maybe worse.' Beast Boy chuckled inwardly at the thought.
Though his mind was focused mostly on smell and his own thoughts, leaving sound at a distant third, he couldn't dismiss yet more footsteps crossing by his person. Lifting his head from the ground, Beast Boy looked back only to see a young boy running up the hill... rather frantically. Shrugging his canine shoulders, he ignored the oddity and turned back to the ground, resuming his search.
Nose bumping into a bit of orange in the grass, Beast Boy barked happily upon recognition of the Frisbee and quickly resumed human form. Reaching forward, he began to pull at the saucer, only to find it stuck to something. Practically pressing the object into the ground, at the other end of the disc was the toe of someone's black boot.
"Uh, hey..." started Beast Boy, tilting his eyes up toward the owner of the foot, "you're standing on my--" Beast Boy cut himself off with a surprised gasp as his sight took in the rest of the figure. The man's getup was mostly pitch black, except for heavy silver bands adorning his wrists and ankles, and a thick belt of the same color at his waist. Behind the figure, though hard to see in the bright light, a long object swayed back and forth... a tail? Spanning his chest was a peculiar gray design, oblong in shape with three evenly-parted, vertical points at its base, the longest in the middle. However, peculiar uniform and tail aside, what caused Beast Boy the most alarm about the... creature... was currently staring down at him in a decidedly unsettling manner.
Upper half almost made a silhouette by the sun behind it, the figure's facial features were hard to make out. Stretched across a gray faceplate was a wide and terrifying grin, above which were a pair of eyes, narrowed to thin white slits. It was obviously a mask of some sort, but that fact made it no less frightening to Beast Boy. Merely the look on the monster's face seemed to adequately describe itself as 'blissfully psychotic'.
"Um..." started Beast Boy, finally choking back a bit of his initial fear. However, before he could mutter anything else, he found his collar grasped tightly by the creature's... gloved, claw-like, three-fingered hands.
- - - - - -
"Hm... That's weird," started Cyborg, having joined the others by Raven's tree. He looked down in slight confusion at the time displayed on his arm's computer screen. "Usually doesn't take Beast Boy this long to find something like that," he said, looking to Robin and Starfire.
"Perhaps he has located his female fans, and has decided to initiate the small-talking?" queried Starfire, remembering the two girls who had since disappeared. Robin and Cyborg's slightly amused expressions seemed to imply they agreed.
Seeming a little annoyed by what Starfire had pointed out, Raven set her book aside and looked to the others with a twitching eyebrow. "If that's the case, then I wouldn't be surprised if he's getting his face shoved into the side of a nice, big tree right about now."
- - - - - -
"Oof!" coughed Beast Boy as his cheek was slammed harshly against the bark of an oak. Held in place by the creature's hands, he stared back beyond the fingers, feeling worn out. He had put up a good fight, but the tall and lanky creature was surprisingly strong. For the last several minutes, Beast Boy had been fighting back against the mysterious enemy, given no time to contact his friends, while being constantly questioned about the whereabouts of... an alien girl. Now, face pressed firmly against the side of a tree, feeling the soreness of being jabbed, kicked, and whacked in one too many places, he decided to wait as long as he could to regain some energy. Grabbed by the collar once again, Beast Boy was pulled away from the tree and quickly slammed back against it, now face to... face with the monster.
"We know it is lying," the creature started in his odd, shrill voice, the grin on his mask remaining still even as he spoke... more evidence that it was simply for purposes of intimidation. Pushing Beast Boy harder against the tree, he began to sniff the air sharply, causing the changeling to cringe. "That wretched scent is unmistakable. This one has surely been in contact with the foul being." For a moment, the masked attacker simply stared at Beast Boy, narrowing his featureless eyes, his frozen smile becoming all the more unnerving. "We will ask it once again. Where is the filthy Troq?" the creature questioned, his high, crackling voice grating on the green Titan's ears.
Beast Boy lowered his eyebrows and glared as the question registered in his mind. Troq... He knew what that term meant... and he wouldn't stand for someone insulting his friend like that. Beast Boy huffed and turned his head to the side, coming up with a good plan for escape.
"Where's the Troq?" Beast Boy restated the question, still looking away. "Funny, I coulda sworn he was holding me up by the collar just now," he grinned, chuckling appropriately. However, he quickly found himself slammed back against the tree once again.
"Twisting Zoka's words. It is clever, this one," spoke the creature in a deceivingly amused tone, revealing his name. Releasing one hand from Beast Boy's collar, Zoka continued to hold the boy up and swung his free arm backward through the air; a scraping metal noise sounded as he did so. Zoka brought his hand back up to Beast Boy's face, brandishing the thin, sharp blade he had extended from his wristband. "Perhaps we shall see how clever it is in the absence of its head..." he threatened, holding the weapon close to Beast Boy's neck.
Beast Boy suddenly took a deathly seriously expression and stared Zoka directly in the eyes. "Dude, you are threatening the wrong people," he said, voice shifting to an almost low growl. Zoka's eyes showed signs of confusion as Beast Boy seemed to gain mass, gradually losing his humanoid form. In little time, the masked creature found himself high above the ground, grasping the neck skin of an enormous lizard. Beast Boy, in Tyrannosaurus form, looked down at the pitiful creature still attached to him. Deciding to take his revenge, he let out a deafening roar, causing Zoka to flail wildly like a flag in a hurricane.
- - - - - -
The four Titans remained in the shade of the tree, taking a break as they waited for Beast Boy's return. Robin and Starfire, sitting back on the grass together, were simply looking up at the leaves as the sun broke through various apertures, engrossed in their own quiet conversation. Raven, still perched on her rock, had leaned back against the tree; eyes closed and book set aside, she appeared to be resting peacefully. Taking a note from the others, Cyborg had reclined back against the grass under the tree; arms behind his head, he watched the thin clouds drift about in the midday sky. At this point, they had decided to let Beast Boy do whatever he wanted... it was a day off, after all.
Hearing what he interpreted as a loud car horn, Cyborg quickly sat up and looked around, feeling the ground rumble a little. "What was that?" he asked, looking over his shoulder to the others. Robin and Starfire had already gotten up, both looking alert, though they shrugged to imply they didn't know what caused the sound.
Raven cracked one eye open and scanned the area. "It sounded like a roar to me..." she stated, having recognized the tone as one of Beast Boy's ancient lizard forms.
Nodding in agreement, Robin decided to take action. "Could be trouble," he said, turning around to look down the hill in the distance. "Let's--" Robin stopped, finding himself staring into two green and jittery eyes, whose pupils were severely dilated.
"Big," started Beast Boy, sounding out of breath as he stared eerily at Robin. Jumping over to Starfire, who reacted instinctively by guarding with her arms, the shaken changeling continued his peculiar behavior. "Ugly," he added, quickly moving over to Cyborg, whom he had to climb in order to get face-to-face with. "Smiley-guy," said Beast Boy as the others simply listened and watched in confusion. Speedily moving on to Raven, still in a great deal of panic, Beast Boy took hold of her cloak and pulled her forward. "Trying to KILL me!" he shouted, pointing back down the hill without looking away.
Reacting calmly, Raven stared forward through lazy eyelids. Pushing Beast Boy's hand away from her cloak, she dusted herself off and looked to him inquisitively. "What are you talking about--" she started, eyes suddenly widening. "Get down!" she shouted, pulling Beast Boy away from the tree.
As Beast Boy and Raven fell to the ground, the Titans witnessed a quick, black blur rush across the area. Several splinters of wood broke away from the tree as a result. As the blur came to a stop, it revealed itself to be a tall, thin figure with a tail, clad in black and silver, a strange looking, round mask covering the entirety of his head. An odd length of gray tubing extended from the back of his mask to an area between his shoulders. The creature's right arm was fully extended; a blade attached to his wristband had created a large gash in the tree.
Zoka cocked his head to the left and looked down at Beast Boy and Raven. "The green one has friends... How peculiar," he said, turning to face them and pulling back his bladed arm. Thrusting the blade forward, he found it blocked by a wall of black energy. Raven held her hand up and focused her energy as Zoka continuously struck her shield to no avail. "Most peculiar indeed..." added Zoka.
"Big, ugly, and smiley... You weren't kidding," Raven spoke over her shoulder as she examined the creature beyond her shield, standing up fully to parry more attacks. Still feeling sore, Beast Boy made no comment and stood up, clutching one of his arms tightly and staying close behind Raven.
"Well, this guy doesn't waste any time," said Cyborg, recovering from his initial surprise. He turned his face to Robin with a semi-serious expression. "Were you gonna say 'Titans go', or is that just implied?" he asked, charging up his sonic cannon.
Robin shook his head, still wondering what in the world was going on. "Come on!" he said, rushing forward and waving for the others to follow. Starfire, at the back of the group, hesitated a bit as she looked upon the attacker... something about his form was frighteningly familiar. Shaking away her suspicions, she quickly followed after Robin and Cyborg, who now held their weapons ready.
"Hey!" shouted Robin, swiping his staff through the air to get the creature's attention. "You're probably new here, so I'll say this once..." he paused, narrowing his eyes, "we're the last people you'll be picking a fight with today," he said, holding his weapon defensively as the strange face turned to look his way.
Paying no attention to Robin, Zoka's eyes widened as he noticed the girl standing behind the two humans. Quickly extending another blade from his left wristband, he turned away from his prior focus and bolted forward. Thinking the attack was coming his way, Robin rushed into the battle and swung his staff. However, to his surprise, the enemy quickly dodged. Knocking Robin aside with a strong shoulder, Zoka simply moved on.
"Goin' somewhere?" questioned Cyborg, moving in front of Zoka with his arm aimed forward. Before Cyborg could fire, Zoka stabbed one of his blades into the bottom of the cannon and pushed upward, directing the blast harmlessly into the sky. Tearing his blade away, he delivered a powerful sideways kick to Cyborg's abdomen, sending him to crash against the tree.
Starfire stood ready, eyes glowing, both hands imbued with bright green energy. The tall figure dashed her way, blades held back. As Zoka executed a high horizontal slash with his right blade, Starfire ducked and sent a strong punch to his stomach in retaliation. The creature could be heard letting out a pained breath as he tilted forward over Starfire's arm. Using the punch to his advantage, Zoka flipped forward and landed on the ground behind Starfire; wasting no time, he swept his tail across the ground, knocking Starfire over. Kneeling low, Zoka hovered over Starfire and pulled a blade back. Seeing her chance, Starfire quickly threw an arm forward, firing a starbolt at the attacker's chest. Her blast had a strange affect, though... its light and energy seemingly absorbed right into Zoka's uniform.
Tightly grasping Starfire's wrist with a claw, Zoka narrowed his eyes menacingly at the frustrated Tamaranean. "Long have we awaited this day. Does it think us so foolish that we would not prepare?" he asked, pulling his free arm back.
Gritting her teeth, Starfire growled and tilted backward on her shoulders. Pulling her legs back, she quickly slammed her feet against the creature's chest, launching him away and into the air. Standing up, she watched as Zoka struck the ground in the distance and rolled to a stop, slowly recovering. Breathing hard, she looked furiously at the creature, calming down as she felt a familiar hand grasp her shoulder.
"Are you okay?" asked Robin, who had come to Starfire's aid along with the others. Turning to Robin, Starfire nodded... though she was sure her eyes had already told him different. Zoka's strange words were now hanging on her every thought...
"He's after Starfire," Beast Boy spoke up, standing at the back of the group, still tightly clutching his right arm. "Kept asking about her... Tried to beat the answers out of me, but I didn't say anything," he explained with a pained grin. "Looks like it didn't matter, though... he found you anyway..." he added regretfully, looking to Starfire who had turned a sympathetic eye his way. Seeing Zoka beginning to stand up, Beast Boy, along with the others, began to rush forward... however, with his injuries impeding him, the changeling only made it a few feet before falling to his knees and cradling his ribs with a groan.
Stopping and kneeling down to hold Beast Boy up, Raven looked him over carefully. Bruises were starting to form across his face – and the rest of his body as well, she could only assume... He looked much worse than before. She wouldn't admit it, but she felt rather proud of him for being so noble. "They can handle him for now," said Raven in her usual, calm voice, letting the others go after Zoka. "Just... tell me what's broken, and I'll see what I can do."
Pushing his hands against the ground to help himself up, Zoka was about to rush back into the fray, unwilling to let his target escape. However, as soon as his face turned away from the grass, it was met with a powerful strike which sent him tumbling across the ground again and onto a dirt pathway. Quickly regaining his balance, he stood up to find himself surrounded. Robin slowly retracted his fist, looking angrily at the masked creature. Cyborg, no less furiousness in his expression, stood behind Zoka, ready to attack on a moment's notice. Still unsure of the nature of this assassin, Starfire was ready to fight nonetheless, knowing now she had to keep to physical attacks.
Looking from opponent to opponent, Zoka let out a loud growl and dashed in Starfire's direction, having only one thing on his mind. Nodding at each other, Robin and Cyborg rushed up behind Zoka and grasped his arms tightly, holding him in place. However, both had to put all their strength into keeping him still as the tall creature thrashed about with an astonishing amount of force, whipping his tail back and forth.
Ignoring Robin and Cyborg, Zoka looked straight ahead at Starfire. "It will perish by our hands. And if its friends continue to fight, they will meet the same fate." Tearing his arms away, Zoka elbowed Robin and Cyborg in their stomachs, causing them to tilt forward. Taking advantage of the Titans' momentary weakness, he grasped their heads and forcefully slammed them together, sending both falling to the ground as a result.
"Robin, Cyborg!" shouted Starfire, rushing forward. However, she halted as the creature stepped away from her friends and moved in her direction, reptilian tail scraping against the dirt.
Retracting one of his blades, Zoka reached down to his belt and removed from it a short, tubular object – which appeared to be some sort of projectile weapon. Fastening it to his free wristband, he aimed it toward Starfire. "As we stated before, we are not foolish," said Zoka mysteriously. Soon after, an explosion of smoke erupted from the weapon and a length of glowing white rope with weights on its ends was propelled toward Starfire.
With such little distance between her and the attacker, Starfire couldn't see her way to moving in time. Immediately, the strange rope had wrapped itself tightly around her waist, tying her arms to her sides. Suddenly feeling all her energy disappearing, Starfire's eyes widened as she tilted toward the ground, falling flat against the dirt path. She couldn't move... not only because the rope was constricting her, but because it seemed to be draining the life from her body as well. She struggled, but could only find shallow breaths escaping her mouth as Zoka's footsteps approached.
"Four years planning..." started Zoka, slowly closing in on Starfire as he placed the weapon back in his belt and unsheathed his blade once again, "twenty-five light years traveled..." he continued, bending down beside her, "nine planets in this pathetic system searched..." he said, reaching down and pulling her up by the hair to face him, "and we find it here, in the open, mingling with the animals," he finished, staring her in the eyes. Starfire felt her body quaking as she helplessly watched Zoka pull his blade back. "We would have appreciated a more challenging hunt."
Swinging his blade downward, Zoka was infuriated to hear it clash against metal. Rushing in between Zoka and Starfire, Robin had blocked the blade with his staff and now held it safely at bay.
"Appreciate this," said Robin, glaring upward at the smiling assassin.
"Meddlesome primate!" growled Zoka, pressing harder against the staff. Eyes twitching and narrowed, he breathed angrily as he stared down at Robin. The Boy Wonder made no response and simply held his position. Suddenly, as the assassin lessened his push against the staff and looked over his shoulder to see the other Titans recovering, a small chuckle could be heard behind his smiling mask. "Another time, then..." he said. In an instant, Zoka pushed away from Robin, slashing harshly at the staff in the process. Sprinting around Robin, Zoka speedily disappeared into the trees beside the path, kicking up dust with his speed. He could be heard rustling away through the flora until the sounds faded out.
Letting out a breath, Robin squinted and felt a sharp pain on his cheek. Reaching a hand up to his face, he ran his fingers across the area and looked at them to see a small amount of blood. Ignoring it, Robin dropped his staff, immediately turning to kneel down beside Starfire, the terrified look in her glassy eyes sending a chill through his body. Finding the weights on the strange rope, Robin began to unravel it and finally tossed it aside. Holding Starfire up in his arms, he watched worriedly as she slowly seemed to regain her energy. Life finally back in her eyes, Starfire looked up at Robin without saying a word.
Robin couldn't stand seeing her this way... it scared him more than anything ever had. "Star... are you--" he started, immediately finding her arms draped over his shoulders, holding him tightly. It was not the kind of embrace he had become accustomed to from her. Starfire's body shivered relentlessly as she sobbed into his shoulder without restraint. Robin felt his heart sink as her heavy tears began to tap against him. He wanted only to comfort her, to tell her everything would be all right. Wrapping his arms around her back, Robin returned the embrace, slightly quelling Starfire's trembling. "Don't worry, we'll make sure nothing happens. I promise," he said, glad to feel Starfire's breathing settle.
Hearing Robin, Starfire attempted to calm herself in spite of the nightmarish thoughts running through her mind. No matter what was going on, she knew she could trust his words and that was enough comfort for her. "...Thank you," she responded without moving, a small smile appearing on her face.
By this time, the others had gathered next to Robin and Starfire, almost glad they had missed the horror leading up to this point... but more than a little guilty that they seemed powerless to prevent it. Cyborg scanned the trees with his robotic eye, making sure the enemy had actually left the area; he sighed with relief, seeing the only life signs were small creatures. Raven held Beast Boy's arm over her shoulder, helping him over to the scene; she had managed to heal a few of his injuries, but there was only so much her powers could do all at once.
"Thanks," said Beast Boy, letting go of Raven to look at Robin and Starfire. It was a gloomy moment, to say the least. However, he had seen a smile appear on Starfire's face and so thought it appropriate to lighten the mood a little. "This may not be the best time to say it... but, Cyborg, I think I lost your Frisbee."
- - -
Act Three: Plan Versus Plan
A bright, quarter moon loomed in the night sky over Jump City's bay area. Due to a slight cover of wispy, dark clouds, the heavenly body shone a parted glow upon the calm water. The waves reflected also the bright lights of the city itself, whose many buildings were lit up, streets still bustling with traffic. However, there was one building outside the multitude which was as dark as the night surrounding it. On its island in the bay, Titans Tower stood tall below the moon, all interior lights extinguished.
The three panes of the tower's common room windows invited the moonlight in. In the large floor's central sunken area, the arc-like, gray couch faced the windows, casting a heavy shadow where the red carpets from the main doorway and opposing halls met. The tables in the dining area and yellow counter tops in the kitchen cast shadows of their own in the quiet night. All was perfectly silent – which was typical at this time of night, when the Titans usually retreated to their rooms.
However, every now and again, a quiet metallic thumping, only noticeable to the most astute of ear, could be heard, interrupting the dead silence. As time passed by, the sound gradually... patiently traveled from the ceiling to the hallways. In the corridors outside the Titans' rooms, the sound continued on.
A dark figure slowly shuffled through the air ducts, pulling himself along with his arms in the tight space. In the pitch darkness, the image of a grin on his mask was all but invisible. Every so often, his reptilian tail would strike the metal interior of the ducts, causing a soft thump. It was these moments that Zoka took to slow down and listen carefully to make sure he had remained undetected. He followed a scent he recognized, his intention to carry out his plan in a silent and efficient manner. No need to alert the Tamaranean's friends; they were not targets... they were not even factored in.
Coming to a stop over a grate in the ducts, Zoka inhaled sharply through his nose, finding the scent to be a bit stronger in this area. Looking down, he peered through the horizontal blinds in the grate only to see darkness. Reaching up, he tapped at the side of his head and activated his mask's heat sensors, which caused the eye holes on his faceplate to glow red. Though only strong enough to see through the grate, his sensors showed no heat signs, even near the bed in the immaculate room.
Grunting under his breath, Zoka looked away from the grate and moved along, feeling the scent become stronger as he progressed. Further down the duct, the smiling assassin came to a halt as he heard the sleeping breaths of a female. The sound became more pronounced as he approached a grate in the duct. Looking down beyond the grate, Zoka took notice of a presence in the room below. Described through his sensors as a bit of red and yellow in an otherwise blue area, he could see his target under the blankets of a large, circular bed. The sound of breathing was clearly coming from that position, and the Tamaranean scent was even stronger. Unmistakable.
Deactivating his mask's heat sensors, Zoka focused on the grate. There was a bolt on each of its four corners. Knowing his mission would soon be complete, Zoka carefully removed each of the bolts with his sharp fingers and set them aside in the duct. As quietly as he could, he pushed down at the grate until it came loose, about to fall onto the floor. Realizing his mistake, Zoka reached out fast and caught the grate. Pulling it back into the duct, he set the piece of metal further ahead with the bolts. Slowly, he took hold of the opening in the duct and lowered himself into the room, landing silently on the floor beside the bed.
Zoka could see nothing in the dark, the room's drapes shut tight, but the sound and scent were enough to identify his target's position. Moving closer to the bed, he slowly extended a blade from his right wristband. Making no sound, he lifted his arm up high.
'No interruptions,' he thought, quickly slashing his arm downward. The force of his attack shattered the bed into two pieces, after which a warm liquid splashed back up at him. The breathing had come to a stop. However... something didn't seem quite right.
"It slices," came a boisterous male voice from the shadows.
"It dices," added a younger, higher voice.
Suddenly, the room's bright lights switched on all at once, causing Zoka to guard himself as he turned around to face the voices. "But it's none too sharp, now, is it?" said Cyborg, grinning widely as he stood by the door, a hand pressed against the light switch.
Eyes widening, Zoka looked at the mechanical human's side of the room to see three others accompanying him, lining the wall to his right. The caped child stared at him through furious masked eyes. The green one, hands behind his back, had an extremely amused expression. And the one in the blue cloak simply stared forward, eyes visible behind the shadow of her hood.
Zoka grunted, looking over his shoulder to examine the bed. He growled furiously as his eyes caught sight of it. Sitting between the sections of shattered bed, in a puddle of water, were many pieces of multicolored plastic. Beside the mess was a mechanical device which appeared broken, soaked by the water. Breathing angrily, he turned around to face the Titans, only to find their expressions unchanged.
"Y'know... it's amazing what you can do with a voice recording and a bunch of hot water balloons," said Cyborg, taking his hand away from the switch to aim it at Zoka in cannon form.
Removing his hands from behind his back, Beast Boy tossed a yellow water balloon up and caught it. "And you wanted me to throw them out," he said, leaning toward Raven with a grin. The empath rolled her eyes in response. Chuckling, Beast Boy pulled his arm back and hurled the balloon at Zoka, where it popped against the creature's face. Zoka could be heard constantly muttering under his mask with indistinct grievances as he glared, unmoving, letting the plastic and water slide down his face.
Stepping forward, Robin extended his staff and let a small smirk show on his face. "I'd say 'we were expecting you'..." he started, leaning forward to get a better look at Zoka, "but you've probably figured that out by now."
- - - - - -
Several lights and monitors illuminated an otherwise dark room with their multicolored glow. The room was a simple, box-like area, with computer panels lining three of its walls, and a strong, reinforced door taking up its fourth. Well hidden and highly protected, the security room was where all of the tower's camera feeds could be viewed across the various monitor screens that lined the forward wall.
Sitting at the main computer console's chair, Starfire stared forward at one of the screens, watching warily as a fight spilled out from her room and into the tower halls. As advised by the others, she stayed in place to remain safe. However, the more she saw, the more she felt like leaving to help them.
Keeping a close eye on the events unfolding before her, Starfire thought back to the fight in the park. They had nearly been defeated... by a single opponent. How could they hope to stop him now?
'Long have we awaited this day. Does it think us so foolish that we would not prepare?' Zoka's words ran through Starfire's thoughts. 'Four years planning...' she repeated his speech in her mind.Eyes widening, Starfire stood up and turned to face the security room's heavy door.
- - - - - -
A loud explosion erupted in the hall beyond the main doors in the common room; as a result, its two sliding pieces were sent flying across the floor and crashing into the couch. Cyborg lowered his cannon as he looked out through the newly opened doorway at the clearing smoke beside the couch. The others stood just behind him, watching cautiously as well. As the smoke dissipated, it revealed Zoka, bringing himself to his feet atop one of the dented pieces of metal. He glared off toward the Titans.
"Where is it?" Zoka demanded loudly, referring to Starfire. "We must complete our mission. This does not concern foolish, Terran children," he said as the Titans approached him.
"Trying to assassinate our Starfire?" questioned Cyborg as he and the others came to a stop at a safe distance. "Yeah, that concerns us a little," he said, charging up his cannon once again.
"They do not need to die as well. Had we carried out our mission without interruption--" Zoka stopped to slash at an object suddenly thrown his way. Cut into two pieces, Robin's birdarang detonated in midair, sending Zoka tumbling backward over the couch. Fallen on his stomach, about to stand up, he found himself grasped by the end of his tail. He looked back to see Robin as the culprit.
"You're about to get a lot more than interrupted," said Robin with a glare, pulling backward, managing to lift the lightweight Zoka from the ground. Turning in place, he began to swing his enemy around by the tail, while the others simply watched in wide-eyed astonishment. With a growl, Robin finally released Zoka, sending him in the direction of the farthest window pane on the right.
Seeing the window coming up, Zoka rotated himself in the air and pointed his feet directly at the glass. In an instant, the masked man shattered the window pane, flying outward through the hole he created. Chuckling as he passed through the window, Zoka reached out his hands and took hold of the vertical separator between the adjacent panes, using it to redirect himself toward the tower. Crashing through the center window, Zoka entered the common room once again, feet first, with a target chosen.
Guarding himself from the inward-flying glass, Robin was too preoccupied to guard the incoming attack. As soon as he dropped his cape, he found his face met by Zoka's boots. Robin tumbled back over the couch, slowly recovering as the others came to help.
"We will rend this building to the ground if we must," said Zoka, removing an object from his belt as Cyborg stepped forward with his weapon ready. Whipping his arm through the air, Zoka launched a small circular object across the room. Almost like talons, four sharp objects extended from the rim of the object, latching themselves onto the barrel of Cyborg's cannon.
"What the--" said Cyborg, stopping as he watched strings of electricity surge about on his arm. Unsure of what would happen, Cyborg quickly stepped aside, deciding to let the others handle the lizard while he focused on removing the foreign object. He knelt down behind the couch where Robin was recovering. Cyborg watched from the corner of his eye as Zoka moved toward Beast Boy – who had gone to defend the hallway threshold by the kitchen.
"No way. You're not getting in there!" said Beast Boy, guarding the hall entrance with his arms spread out. Morphing into a gorilla, he took off toward Zoka with a roar. Reaching out, he attempted to grasp his enemy, but found the lizard too quick for his heavy form.
Zoka easily dodged, ducking under Beast Boy's arms and moving around to his back. With a high kick to the left, he sent Beast Boy flying toward the kitchen counters, reverting back to human form. Though the boy was out of the way, now resting against the outside of the counter, Zoka continued after him.
Massaging his forehead, Beast Boy opened his eyes to see one of Zoka's blades coming down at him from the front. Blocking with his arms, he watched it cut into the counter at his right. Rolling to the left, Beast Boy found himself blocked by the other blade, which Zoka quickly sliced into the counter. The changeling began to morph, deciding to turn into a small animal to escape this predicament. However, before Beast Boy had a chance to change completely, Zoka snaked his tail forward and wrapped it around the boy's neck.
"We have unfinished dealings with this one," said Zoka in a creepy tone, bringing his face up close to the choking Beast Boy. Suddenly, though, Zoka released Beast Boy's neck as something more urgent came to his attention. A knife, propelled at high speed from the kitchen... had implanted itself in the front of his mask, avoiding his face by minuscule distance. He looked forward to see the telekinetic one acquiring several new weapons from the various drawers in the kitchen with her powers.
"Step away from the imp," said Raven, turning as many pointed objects as she could to face Zoka. Beast Boy's facial expression showed he was both appreciative... and insulted.
In a manner quite different from his attitude so far, Zoka's eyes widened. Quickly, he pulled his blades from the counter and leaped back as the entire kitchen's arsenal came flying his way. Dodging all the sharp objects – though being struck by the blunt ones – Zoka took refuge behind one of the tables in the dining area and plucked the kitchen knife from the front of his mask, tossing it aside on the ground.
'They are becoming a greater problem than anticipated...' thought Zoka, scanning the Titans in the room around him. All were now closing in on his location. Reaching to his belt, Zoka removed a spherical metal object from the front compartment and pressed a button on its surface; a red light on the device began to blink. Narrowing his eyes, he stood up to face the Titans, concealing the object from sight. Leaping over the table, he positioned himself near the center of the room. Oddly enough, the Titans all came to a stop, seeming to stare through him at something. Zoka peered over his shoulder to see, in the main doorway, his target standing in plain sight.
"Starfire," started Raven, more than a little surprised at this turn of events, "what are you--"
"I could not let you fight him alone. He is here for me..." said Starfire, looking down toward Zoka, whose eyes had already begun to dig into her. She didn't allow his stare to affect her, keeping her brave expression steady. "If anything were to happen, I would rather it happen while I am here to help."
"But, Star..." Robin trailed off, looking across the room in a distressed manner. "Don't worry about us! You've got to get out of here. We'll handle him."
"Yes, we will," said Starfire, starting to move down the steps. "He came here prepared to fight me alone. He was not expecting 'us'."
Hearing Starfire's words, the others looked toward Zoka and suddenly saw him in a slightly different light. The assassin had been prepared for a one-on-one battle, but found himself facing a team instead... it explained why he had retreated in the park. He was afraid.
"That is why you attempted a stealth attack, is it not?" questioned Starfire. Zoka was already showing signs of distress, looking around himself frantically, his body language saying more than his hidden facial expression ever could. "You knew you could not defeat us as a whole, so you tried to avoid my friends at all costs. Together, we are too strong for you." Starfire looked forward through sure eyes.
Growling behind his mask, Zoka turned to fully face Starfire. "A problem we mean to rectify..." he started, displaying the spherical device he held, the sight of which caused Starfire's eyes to widen, "right now!" Spinning around, Zoka hurled the object in Cyborg and Robin's direction. Along its course, the device emitted a quick, continuous beeping sound.
Though the device was surely alien in origin... the Titans could easily understand what it was. Both Beast Boy and Raven were too far from the action to do anything, thinking whatever they could try would either be too late... or prematurely destructive. Starfire stood in place, leaning forward, about to fly off toward the object, planning to snatch it and take it to a safe distance outside the tower; however, seeing a recognizable look on Robin's face, she halted, hoping he had come up with a plan. All this took place in less than a second.
Watching carefully, Robin focused on the wayward sphere as time seemed to slow down around him. Already halfway across the room, its beeping became more frequent as it approached. Robin swallowed hard, finding himself nearly frozen in place, gripping his staff tightly. Acting on instinct, the Boy Wonder ducked low and rolled forward as the bomb came close enough. Now on the other side of the device, he quickly swung his staff through the air and struck the object, increasing its velocity.
Looking surprised as they creaked their necks to face each other, Robin and Cyborg immediately rolled away as the blinking metal sphere made its way out through the broken window. Suddenly, a blinding flash of light scorched the area as the object detonated loudly. Each Titan ducked low, guarding themselves from the explosion and sudden luminosity.
As a sound of rushing air in the tower became more prominent, the bright light slowly began to fade away. Vision returning to them, the Titans gave off a collective gasp, each witnessing the result of the explosion. Part of an immense, perfect sphere had been cut away from the tower, completely obliterating the windows... and most everything else on that side of the room, including part of the sofa. Wind from the outside now rushed freely into the tower, a view of the night sky, bay, and the floor below the common room now visible through the vast, gaping wound.
Finding themselves standing right at the fringe of the damage, Robin and Cyborg quickly stepped back, both feeling cold sweat on their foreheads.
"No..." growled Zoka bitterly, seeing the two had survived.
Gaping at the hole as his shock gradually wore off, Cyborg began to clench his teeth and fists tightly. "That's it..." he started, slowly turning around, shoulders tightened. "That's the last... and I mean LAST time anyone..." Cyborg paused for a moment, sending a murderous glare Zoka's way, "ever takes a chunk outta MY TOWER!" he shouted, motioning a hand at the disaster. Cannon freed of any foreign objects, the robotic Titan aimed his arm at Zoka once again.
Too frustrated to have paid any attention to what Cyborg had said, Zoka began to turn around. Even if it meant his own demise... he would complete his mission. However, one Titan had already decided to take tactical advantage of the previous explosive distraction. Before he could turn around fully, Zoka was met by the horn of a charging green rhino.
Vision flashing white from the impact, Zoka was propelled across the room in a daze toward Cyborg, who immediately took decisive action. Stepping aside, Cyborg faced the opposite wall and held his cannon forward, waiting for Zoka to enter his sights. Robin responded by retreating several steps to avoid the blast – as well as prepare for his part in the chain. As soon as the lizard entered his view, Cyborg fired off a sonic burst. Struck in the back by the blast, Zoka grunted as his direction was shifted in midair; he continued his flight, now heading toward Robin.
Narrowing his masked eyes, Robin wasted no time and tossed his staff aside as the reptilian flew his way. He felt like inflicting some damage in a more personal manner. Ducking low, Robin swept his leg vertically through the air to his left, striking Zoka across the face and sending him in an arc toward the kitchen.
Seeing her turn had arrived, Raven held up a hand, focusing her energy on the stunned, airborne opponent. She felt no need to delay things by being flashy. As soon as Zoka was engulfed in her dark force, Raven whipped her hand to the left, sending him toward Starfire in an instant.
Seeing Zoka coming her way, face-first, Starfire focused energy in the palm of her right hand. Examining him closely, she knew of one point on the enemy that surely wouldn't absorb a starbolt. Eyes glowing, she pulled her arm back, waiting for the right moment to strike. Deciding the critical distance was met, Starfire threw her open palm forward, slamming it directly into Zoka's mask. Just as she had predicted, the mask could not absorb the energy. In a bright green explosion, Zoka was sent backward into the center of the room, where he rolled across the floor, the front of his mask leaving a trail of smoke behind.
Zoka released labored breaths as he pushed against the ground with his hands, barely managing to lift himself with his shaky, weakened arms. The front of his mask had gained a clearly visible crack, which stretched diagonally across its surface, passing between the eye holes. "Our... years of planning..." he groaned, eyes squinting as he looked through blurry vision at the children encircling him. "Our training... waiting for this day... preparing for every possible encounter... It should not have ended like this." Finally giving up, Zoka let out a single breath and collapsed on the floor with a thud.
"You can't win 'em all," said Cyborg, still holding his cannon forward cautiously, looking down at the defeated creature. Seeing no more movement from the lizard, he sighed in relief and relinquished his aim.
Relaxing their fighting stances, the Titans all gathered around the center of the room, where Zoka remained, sprawled out like a swatted insect. All simply looked down at him, their many questions still unanswered.
Kneeling down to examine the fallen enemy, Beast Boy's mind dwelt on the mysterious man's features for a moment. "Well... he's kinda skinny for a..." he began, scratching the back of his head, looking toward Starfire inquisitively, "Gordanian?" he questioned.
- - -
Act Four: Setting Off
Zoka took in a sharp breath and forced his eyes open. A blinding white light flooded his vision, causing the lizard to squint. Attempting to move, he found his arms, legs, and tail constricted as he sat forward in a chair. What little he could see revealed to him that his hands were held in place at the wrists against a metal tabletop by two thick braces. He could feel his tail and feet were constricted by similar implements. Even more alarming to him... his weapons were missing; his belt, his wristbands, everything. The only relief he found was in the fact that his mask had remained in place.
Looking up from the table, Zoka saw two silhouettes – a large and small one – beyond the intense light from above. They whispered indistinctly, sounding as though they had taken notice of his awakening. The large one stepped forward into the light, followed by the other. Upon sight of the two children, the assassin now knew he had been taken captive... his main mission effectively failed.
Cyborg dropped several silvery metal objects onto the table. Zoka's belt and wristbands shimmered under the light in the interrogation room. "Have a nice nap?" questioned Cyborg, leaning forward over the table to look Zoka in the eyes. The assassin made no response.
Robin stood to the robotic Titan's left, no clear expression on his face, arms crossed strongly about his chest. For a moment, he glanced over his shoulder to the room's two-way mirror, on the other side of which were Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy. He couldn't see the others with the intense light on his side of the room reflecting off the mirror, but he gave them the signal that Zoka had woken up. Turning back to the table, he decided to let Cyborg do most of the talking, knowing himself to get... somewhat worked up when enemies affected him on a personal level such as this.
On the other side of the mirror, in a much darker area, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy stood side by side in front of the glass, watching intently as Cyborg and Robin proceeded with the interrogation. They were each eager to know more about Zoka's so-called 'mission', Starfire especially. With Cyborg and Robin's combined interrogation tactics... they were sure they would know soon enough.
Cyborg noticed Zoka eyeing the objects he had placed on the table. Reaching out, Cyborg patted them with a hand. "Some impressive stuff here," he started, remembering his examination of the belt; not since Robin's equipment had he seen so many things stored away in such a small amount of space. "Mind telling me where a guy like you gets a hold of tech like this? Seems too high-end for you. Heck, I couldn't figure out what half of it was supposed to do."
Zoka seemed disturbingly unaffected by his predicament, merely looking up at Cyborg from his seat. "Return them to us and we will show you," he said defiantly, clenching his fists and sitting up as far as he could.
"Not in a cooperative mood?" responded Cyborg, taking his hand away from the table and standing up straight. "We've got an expert here who can help us trace this stuff back to its source. So whether you're in a talking mood or not... we'll find out," he finished seriously.
This seemed to get Zoka's attention, the lizard-like man turning his head to the left for a moment. Before long, he looked back, switching his attention to Robin. "And what of this one?" he questioned. "Still bitter that we scarred its face?"
Robin chuckled once through his nose, keeping a sedated expression. Stepping further into the light, he placed both hands on the table and looked at Zoka. "Believe me... if this had ended up on anyone else, you'd be in far worse condition right now," he threatened, pointing to the small slash mark still on his cheek.
Cyborg moved to Zoka's side and leaned forward as the staring contest continued. "Robin here doesn't like it when someone tries to assassinate his girl," he spoke quietly, hoping to intimidate the lizard with his next words. "He's already on the edge. If you push him further, I can't be held responsible for what he does," he warned, standing up and shrugging as he stepped out of the light and rested his back against the wall. "It'd be smart to answer his questions."
Robin felt like shaking his head... Cyborg had seen way too many cop movies. Stifling his reaction, he backed away from the table and continued to stare down the alien. "We're going to give you one chance to cooperate..." said Robin, crossing his arms. "Who sent you? And why are you after Starfire?" he questioned.
Zoka made no movement, simply staring out through his grinning mask. "...Privileged information," he responded dryly after a moment.
Robin let out an exasperated sigh and looked to his right... pausing to think about how he could get the information out of the guy without going too far. He remembered Starfire explaining what she could about Zoka. He was a Gordanian... but one who had been raised outside of the homeworld, trained in space as an assassin. His suit, though Starfire did not recognize its design, appeared to imply that he had developed an intolerance to certain atmospheric pressures and compositions. Though the other Gordanians who had visited Earth were not in need of such devices, this one was. It was a good place to start when looking for valid threats.
"Starfire..." called Robin, looking over his shoulder to the mirror. "Does he need the suit to survive?" he asked, waiting as a long silence followed.
"No, he does not," Starfire's voice sounded over the speakers.
Robin seemed satisfied with the answer, moving away from the table and slowly walking around to Zoka's side. Seeing this, the alien began to struggle, writhing in his chair to no avail. As Robin came to his side, Zoka, panicking a little more, turned to look at Cyborg.
"You think I care?" asked Cyborg, chuckling under his breath. "Hate to break it to ya, but there ain't no 'good cop' here, man."
Coming to a stop, Robin examined the back of Zoka's suit. A short length of metal tubing extended from the back of the mask and plugged into a port between the shoulders. As Zoka continued to thrash about in his chair, Robin reached out and took hold of the tube.
"Wait!" shouted Zoka, scratching his claws against the table to get Robin's attention as he felt the tube being tugged at.
Still keeping hold of the tube, Robin glared at Zoka from the side. "Tell us why you came here!" he shouted, threateningly pulling at the lifeline.
Glaring angrily, Zoka looked forward at the mirror. "...Several years ago, the Troq was handed over as a peace treaty between our people," he began, speaking as though he knew Starfire was standing just beyond the glass. "But it did not deal well with its place in life, did it? It tried to escape."
Generally confused by this information, Raven, who stood at Starfire's right, turned to look at her friend. The Tamaranean's eyes were wide with recognition. She obviously knew just what Zoka was talking about... and was now piecing things together in her mind. Raven turned back to the glass and eyed the alien on the other side with curiosity. The time when she had switched bodies with Starfire suddenly came to mind. Even though she and Starfire had shared much information about their lives with each other... Raven had no knowledge of the things Zoka spoke of. But then... Raven knew she hadn't exactly shared everything either on that day. Apparently, even Starfire had skeletons in her closet.
"We could not have that. There would be no peace without a means to maintain it," Zoka continued, still staring off at the mirror. "Our General Trogar followed and captured it in this system... but was defeated, yes. Its people had gone back on their word... Unforgivable. We are its punishment. We are Citadel. And Citadel demands retribution!" he shouted, sitting up as far as he could.
"No..." Starfire began to back away from the glass, trembling slightly. Zoka seemed to be staring directly at her.
"If not in the end of this one's life, retribution will come in another form. We failed in our mission... this information has reached our system by now. If we cannot destroy it, its entire planet will take its place, its people no longer a threat. That is our judgment," he spoke in a frighteningly serious manner. "It is only a matter of hours now. Vega will be witness to a destruction not seen in a thousand years!" he shouted before entering into low laughter. "Did it think it could hide? Did it think we would simply forget what was done?"
Robin cringed at the words which had escaped the creature's mouth. But it didn't take long for his shock to turn into anger. Gripping the tube tightly, he quickly tore it from the back of Zoka's mask, tossing it aside to the ground. As he did this, pressurized air began to pour from the hole, flying out in a thick white fog. Suddenly gasping wildly for breath, Zoka began to make the only major movement he could... slamming his face against the table as he wheezed.
"Get used to it," said Robin, getting his face up close to Zoka, who continued to thrash about, creating dents in the table as he continuously threw the front of his mask at it. "You'll be breathing that air for a long time."
- - - - - -
"Ugh," coughed Zoka, falling flat on the asphalt, arms, legs, and tail restrained tightly by specialized cuffs. Like a fish torn from the water and tossed to the dirt, he weakly gasped for air as he looked around at his current location. The moon loomed above him in the clear night. To his left was a large facility with high stone walls, and a thick metal gate which he currently rested in front of. To his right... the Titans, suspended in the air by the telekinetic one's powers.
Zoka had been taken to the high-security prison, which resided near a patch of forest, safely outside the city limits.
From within Raven's bubble of dark energy, the Titans each looked down at Zoka as several prison guards scrambled to the gate to apprehend him. He certainly did look weakened now... but they had warned the prison to be extra cautious with him anyway.
"Say hi to Cinderblock for us," said Beast Boy, making light of the situation with a serious tone.
Zoka used what little strength he had to glare bitterly as the Titans floated away to the west. However, he quickly cringed as he heard the gate beside him slowly sliding open, thick metal grinding against the ground. Weapons being removed from their holsters could be heard as well.
Five fully armored guards stepped out into the open... gasping in surprise at the large creature on the ground. One of the officers, presumably the squad leader, stepped forward to examine Zoka closer. The creature's lizard-like features were the subject of his awestruck attention.
"When I heard the term 'illegal alien'... this is not what I envisioned."
- - - - - -
"This is terrible," said Starfire as Raven dropped everyone off on the roof of Titans Tower. "If I am to believe what he has said..." she trailed off, trying to hold back her despair at the thought presented to her. She stepped away from the others and looked to them helplessly.
"...What do you mean?" Beast Boy chimed in, stepping forward with a bit of hope in his eyes. "It hasn't happened yet. There's still time, so we can just get in the T-Ship and--"
"We appreciate the enthusiasm, but..." started Raven, hanging her head forward a bit, "Tamaran is over twenty-five light years away... it would take more than a few hours to get there."
Robin remained silent; for once, he had nothing to say... nothing he could say. Starfire, the one person in the world he always wanted to protect, would lose her home... the most important thing to her. And there was nothing conceivable they could do about it. Robin looked across the rooftop at Starfire... He had never seen her in such a state of sadness. He wanted to comfort her... but he felt like he would only be making things worse.
Cyborg examined each of his friends. Everyone was looking perfectly at the ground, their eyes blank and void of any hope. With a small smile forming on his face, he figured this was as good a time as any to tell them.
"Guys... don't give up just yet."
- - - - - -
A single, collective gasp echoed in the immense, open room as the Titans gazed upon the object before them. All eyes were wide, most with astonishment, and a pair with pride. Necks tilted back to take in the full scene, Cyborg's teammates were awe-struck, to say the least.
"When did..." started Robin, trailing off as he looked at the practically building-sized object.
"She's been my project ever since we went to Tamaran the first time. Sorry for keeping it a secret all this time. I wanted to surprise you guys with it," said Cyborg, grinning as he looked up at his creation. "Ladies and gentlemen... the T-Ship," he said, motioning a hand up at the immense vehicle.
The cavernous metal room was located directly under the island's outdoor training course. Until now, the other Titans were completely unaware of its existence. Hugging the four walls was a strip of metal flooring, the railing of which looked out upon the T-Ship and its supporting platform. Above, the ceiling seemed to be split lengthwise into two separate parts.
The T-Ship itself was a sight to behold. With a shining blue and silver outer shell, its sleek, aerodynamic form nearly filled the entire room, illuminated by the lights that lined the floor. The vehicle's short, glider-like wings loomed over the outer platform, holding up a pair of large, fighter jet style thrusters at their ends. At its aft was a large, bulbous looking engine... just looking at it, the Titans could only guess the immense amount of speed it could kick out. Windows were located at the front of the ship, where Cyborg would most likely be piloting; the Titans also noticed windows in an area just over the engine. The Titans saw it as reminiscent of a NASA spacecraft... but much... cooler.
"Sweet!" said Beast Boy, eyes sparkling with wonderment. Suddenly, his expression faltered as he thought about the vehicle's name. "Wait... T-Ship?" he questioned, leaning over to Cyborg. "Don't we already have one of those?"
Cyborg leaned over to Beast Boy in response. "Actually, that was just the T-Sub with a pair of escape rockets strapped to it. It wasn't really designed for space flight, or even anything above the water," he explained, whispering behind his hand so as not to disturb the others.
"This will get us to Tamaran in time?" questioned Starfire hopefully.
Cyborg nodded happily, chuckling a little. "With time to spare," he replied confidently. "Remember when Starfire told us all about the physics of space travel?"
"Yes," came a collective reply: three exasperated voices and a single elated one.
"Well, I took what she said, applied it to this ship, and came across a new engine design which can reduce travel time exponentially. We should even have time to pack," he explained proudly. Cyborg looked over to Starfire, seeing she still seemed a little worried. Wanting to be as reassuring as he could, he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and looked back to the ship with everyone.
"Don't worry, Star. We got your back."
- - - End Episode One - - -
Author's Note: I'm loving this :). I haven't felt this good about a fic since 10 Leisurely Days. Nor have I had one so planned out since then. Forget Me Not was sort of a 'write-as-you-go' fic, which is okay, but I ended up feeling like I could have done a lot more with it.
This originally started as a fan comic for my Deviant Art gallery, but I'm glad I decided to do it this way, because I think it could be my biggest fic yet. It's a story I really want to tell, and now I'm convinced that this is the best format for it.
I was a little rusty with writing after taking such a lengthy break, which is why it took me so long to get this first episode out. Hehe, I'm sure I'll get back into the swing of things eventually, though XD. Still, this format (writing chapters in acts, episode style) has given me a lot more freedom with the story, allowing me to try a lot of different things. I'm looking forward to the future episodes, whose stories will be able to take advantage of this as well.
Also, I should mention that this will be probably be my last Titans fic. I know I spoke of a sequel to TLD, but I think it's better if I left it alone; I don't want to ruin my most successful fic by making a follow-up that doesn't compare to the first. I also don't want to run this fandom into the ground. If I carried on any longer with it, I fear my writing will start to lose its quality.
The truth is, I feel like I'm slowly growing apart from writing Teen Titans stuff. I'm no longer the overly enthusiastic, easily inspired kid I used to be when this started.
So, anyway... I hope I can bring you something worthwhile as my farewell Titans fic. I may come back to writing fics if my other current obsessions inspire me so (Avatar or Naruto).
Next Episode Preview: Starfire arrives on Tamaran with the Titans, but she may be in for the worst welcome home imaginable. A strange message tells of disaster on the horizon, but is there any truth to it? "Episode Two: Home".