Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans, obviously, but I DO own Phantom, Livewire, the rest of the Six, Joey, Professor Grimm, Python and Icharus and all the other characters you don't see on the
Um… if I even tried to apologize for the horrendous delay in updates, I get the feeling that the general response would be a hailstorm of rotten vegetables. Nevertheless, I really am sorry about this. I've really been wrestling with the idea that I may have to give it up. I've put off working on it because I hit a plot snag, and my other project is demanding my full attention. But I AM trying to finish it, and even if I do drop it, you guys are guaranteed a story up through Halloween and Thanksgiving at least.
Anyways, thanks for everyone who reviewed. It really means a lot, especially when you guys take the time to point out my mistakes and inconsistencies to I can improve. And so, shoutouts to elecktrum (go read her stuff, she's amazing), Agent of the Divine One (your review made me giggle), Broken Sword of the Morning (you've caught me—I'm a shameless Rowling stealer, but I'm trying to get better!), acosta perez jose ramiro, and RavenSis (I hope this satisfies your desire for the "other" characters). You guys ROCK. I hope this chapter is up to scratch!
Attack On The Home Front
The days went on, and the seasons began to turn. The air turned brisk and cool and the sky took on a sharper tone of blue. Light jackets were brought out and worn unzipped as the Titans walked to the bus stop in the morning. The leaves on the trees in the park went from green to the fiercely bright colors of autumn, and they crackled underfoot when the wind teased them from the branches and swept them through the streets.
Through fights and endless school days, the Titans and their new friends grew closer. As it turned out, Dick and Logan got along quite well, and they would spend hours debating battle tactics. Dick wasn't the only one with whom Logan got along well with; he and Raven could often be seen talking together quietly. Logan could also be as goofy as Gar sometimes (which was quite a wonder as to how Raven got on so well with him), and there was more than one incident where the others, Raven excluded, would be rolling on the floor with laughter. Ashley and Gar had hit it off at once—they teased each other and fought and bickered and laughed so much that they were soon as thick as thieves. Phantom and Livewire got along well with everyone.
One morning in mid-October found the Titans walking to the bus stop as usual. Kori had hold of Dick's forearm and was squealing excitedly whenever they passed a tree whose leaves had turned from green to fiery red, orange or yellow, and she kept dragging Dick over to look ("I see them, Kori! They aren't that hard to miss!") Gar had his nose in the air, inhaling the scents of autumn that only his keen nose could pick up over the smells of the city. Victor was, once again, recounting the winning touchdown he'd made (yes, he made the football team) during the last game to Raven, who looked rather bored and was trying to entertain herself by watching Kori yank Dick from one side of the street to the other.
Ashley and Logan were waiting apart from the other kids as usual. They approached the Titans and were nearly bowled over as Kori dragged Dick over to yet another tree.
"Has she been doing that all morning?" asked Ashley, watching with raised eyebrows.
"Believe it or not, yes." Raven looked over at Logan and smiled. "Hey, you might want to put your jacket on over your shirt before Gar sees."
"Sees what?" asked Gar, coming up from behind her. Then he noticed Logan's shirt: it was black with three chickens watching another chicken on a rotisserie, with the words HORROR MOVIE written underneath. Victor seemed to think this was hilarious, but Gar blanched and shouted, "THAT'S EVIL!" Several of the other kids looked around in surprise and Gar quickly lowered his voice.
"What's wrong with it?" asked Logan, offended.
"Dude! What part of Beastboy don't you get? I've been a chicken, and that—" he stared in disgust at Logan's shirt, "—that's just not right!"
"Sorry, Gar, I forgot," Logan grinned.
"Ouch, Kori, stop!" Dick finally managed to wrestle his arm free of Kori's grip; quite a feat, considering Kori's strength. Kori looked a little put out. "She does this every year," he explained to Logan and Ashley, who were giving Kori odd looks. "She likes the colors—they didn't have trees on her home planet."
"The colorful displays of Earth leaves are quite fascinating!" beamed Kori.
"Yeah, they are pretty," Ashley said, watching dreamily as a leaf floated by on the breeze. "We're going to have quite a colorful Halloween."
"Oh, that reminds me!" Gar exclaimed. "Are you guys going to the Halloween Carnival at the pier? We are—we wanted to know if you'd like to come."
"There's a Halloween carnival at the pier?" asked Logan.
"Yeah, they have one every year," said Victor. "Y'all should come, it's a blast. Almost everyone in the city is going to be there."
"I don't know… I think I'm going to have to take my brat trick-or-treating this year," Ashley sighed. "I'll try to convince him, though. Hey Vic, when's your next football game?"
"Friday. Why? Are you finally going to come?"
"Don't be like that. My mom's had to work late at the hospital for the past few weeks and I've had to baby-sit. Pays well, though." Ashley grinned. "But yeah, I want to come watch the Jaguars kick the crap out of the Eagles."
"Don't be so cocky, you'll jinx the winning streak!" Gar put in immediately.
"Come off it," said Dick impatiently. "They've beaten every other high school team in the county—I sincerely doubt that thinking they'll trounce the Eagles is going to jinx them."
"Yeah," laughed Victor, although he looked a little worried.
"BUS!" someone shouted, and everyone scrambled into line.
By now, Gar and Joey had become very good friends; Joey considered Gar to be his best friend, with the other Titans, Ashley and Logan running closely behind. Gar had gotten past Joey's hyperactivity and Joey had gotten past Gar's unwillingness to answer certain questions. It was an unspoken agreement not to speak of either of their families. Gar understood his reasons, but he didn't understand Joey's at all.
"What about your sister?" Gar had asked week or two ago. "What grade is she in?" Joey had stared at him blankly.
"I don't have a sister," he'd said, his brow furrowed.
"Yes you do!" Gar exclaimed, surprised. "You told me on the first day that your sister told you—"
"Oh that sister!" Joey interrupted, looking slightly panicked. "Yeah, um… she's in the twelfth grade, she'll be graduating any time now…"
Gar, still confused, had dropped the subject.
Now they were sitting in Art class, making self-portraits with oil pastels. Or rather, Joey was making a self-portrait, and with much gusto, and Gar was sitting with his chin in his hand and his eyes half-closed. The Titans had been out late last night stopping a robbery, and he'd been up until three struggling through the Algebra homework that had been piled on him. Gar didn't understand it—Raven, Robin and Cyborg flew through the homework as though all the problems were as simple as two plus two. Even Starfire had a fairly easy time of it. So why was it that whenever he looked at a problem it made about as much sense as one of Cyborg's lengthy explanations of how the T-ship worked?
"Garfield, are you feeling all right?" Mrs. Rachel asked, concerned. You haven't even picked up your pastels."
"'M fine," Gar muttered sleepily, sitting up straight and rubbing his eyes. How come he could pull an all-nighter on the Gamestation and still have enough fuel to go in the morning than he could if he stayed up doing homework?
"Are you sure? You look very tired," she told him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I was up late working last night, is all," Gar explained. "I didn't even get started on my homework until eleven—"
"What?" Mrs. Rachel asked, startled. "Why not?"
Oh, I had to go with my friends to stop a few bad guys from robbing a jewelry store, no big deal. Gar debated with himself whether he wanted to keep their cover or see the teacher's face when he told her, but he decided on the former. "Um… I had a lot of chores to do…"
"Your parents gave you so many chores that you stayed up until eleven?" she asked, genuinely alarmed now. Joey was listening intently, gripping his pastel a little harder than he was intending to. "Gar, dear, does that happen often?"
"Not really, wh—?" Suddenly Gar got an idea of what Mrs. Rachel was hinting out. "Oh, no, ma'am, I think you've got the wrong idea. This was just a one-time thing. My parents don't abuse me or anything." Gar felt a pang of longing when he spoke of his parents, but he was used to it by now and didn't let it distract him. He kept his face open and honest as Mrs. Rachel relaxed.
"Oh, good," she sighed. "I'm sorry dear, you don't know how many children I've seen in these situations. Neglected, beaten… and the worst part is that the children believe it's all their fault, as though they deserve it… When really it's the fault of the parents…"
"SHUT UP!" someone screamed suddenly. Joey had jumped out of his chair, his freckles contrasting sharply with his now pale face. "Shut up, you don't know what you're talking about!"
"Mr. Harper!" Mrs. Rachel screeched, jumping back as Joey accidentally upset the table. "That's enough! Out of my class, now!"
In a huff, Joey left the classroom to stand out in the hallway. Gar got up to help Mrs. Rachel get the table back up. Once that was done, Mrs. Rachel told Gar to sit back down and she swept out of the room to talk to Joey.
"What was that all about?" asked Cole, or Colin, as his twin peered over his shoulder.
"Heck if I know," Gar replied, shrugging, and letting his head fall forward onto the table with a thud. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what was wrong with Joey.
Dick was nervous. They had a test in Home Ec. The students were supposed to bake cookies or something like that, he really wasn't sure. But if it involved Dick and a gas oven, he was sure things would not end well.
He was right.
So far, Dick had only had a few minor incidents. A few weeks ago he'd almost had another "Thanksgiving Incident" when he'd tried to heat up a potato wrapped in tinfoil. Luckily Dick had remembered and had rescued the potato just in time. The week prior to that he'd accidentally set Heather Brown's apron on fire, but how he'd managed that he would never know. Heather had been nice enough about it—she'd hit him over the head with her spatula, true, but she'd been laughing when she did it. There were other small incidents and explosions Dick had caused as well, but nothing too major. Still, it was a wonder Mrs. Cook was letting him near an oven at all.
About halfway through the class, Dick was scowling heavily at the recipe book on the table in front of him. He was in a bad enough mood—all the good aprons had been taken and Dick had gotten stuck with one with a floral print. The other three or four boys were sniggering behind their hands at him, but they didn't tease him beyond that. No one teased him or any of his friends after Dick had put Bradley in his place. Joey still got shoved into a locker from time to time, but he never saw the culprit. If he did, he wasn't telling.
Dick was very carefully warming up the gas oven when the door to the Home Ec. room opened. Dick's natural curiosity forced him to look—the Art teacher had just walked in with Joey. He was looking extremely angry, his face as red as his hair, and the teacher had a pronounced frown on her face as she spoke quietly with Mrs. Cook. Dick pretended to be looking at his book, and he strained his ears to listen.
"Yes, Emma, of course I'll hold him for the period… goodness, no reason to trouble the principal now, what with the leak—"
Mrs. Rachel quickly shushed her and glanced around, but Dick was the only student who had heard.
"I've got to go, Carlene," said Mrs. Rachel with a guarded look at Dick. "My class will go berserk if I leave them for too long. Just put Mr. Harper here in the back and leave him alone; he needs to cool down." Joey's scowl deepened. Mrs. Rachel left the classroom and Joey was shooed to the back, near Dick. Heather Brown watched him go by with interest.
"Hey, Joey," Dick said with a grin. Joey didn't respond, and instead grabbed a chair and plunked down in it, glaring furiously at the wall. "What's going on?"
Dick had never seen Joey so angry. In fact, he didn't know Joey did angry; normally he was so peppy and cheerful that it was hard to imagine he felt anything negative at all. The redhead before Dick now was a very different Joey. Dick pulled uncomfortably at his collar, partly out of nerves at dealing with a severely ticked off Joey, partly because the room had gotten very warm in the past few moments. He supposed this was due to the fact that everyone was baking.
"Rachel sent me out of the class," Joey muttered. His face suddenly contorted in fury. "I blew up on her."
"What?" Dick turned away from the oven for just a second. "Why did you blow up—?"
This, it turned out, was a very bad choice of words. Dick never got to finish his sentence because suddenly the gas oven behind him exploded.
Ten minutes later found the Home Ec. room a disaster area. Every teacher on the hall had rushed down with fire extinguishers and finally put out the flames. No one had been seriously hurt; the least fortunate had gotten a bruise or two at the most. The room itself hadn't fared so well. The entire wall was gone, and little metal bits of the oven were strewn about the floor along with the rest of the rubble. Students crowded at the doors of their classrooms to look at the wreckage.
The Home Ec. students stood in a confused huddle, loudly demanding to know what the heck had happened. Only two were absent from the group, and they were sitting against the wall.
Dick was covered from head to toe in black soot as a result from the smoke, so that his bright blue eyes were just about the only discernable features of his face. They were round and shocked, and his mouth was hanging wide open, unable to comprehend the fact that he'd just blown up the Home Ec. room. The blast had ruffled his hair even more than he had taken to arranging it, making it look more windswept than normal. He was uttering incomprehensible phrases that made no sense when you strung them together.
"But… I only looked—only turned for a second… then the oven, the oven—it… it exploded and—and…" He shook his head, his eyes still wide open.
"Yeah, that was cool, wasn't it?" Joey beamed from beneath the layer of soot that obscured his freckles. The explosion had vastly improved his mood. "I wonder what caused it? Let's do it again!"
"But the wall was gone…" Dick stuttered. Joey wasn't able to get a full sentence out of him in this state of shock, so he just chattered on happily, fully aware that Dick wasn't listening: "Hey Dick, nice apron!"
A few minutes later, Mrs. Cook came stomping up to him. She looked absolutely livid.
"You," she said, pointing at Dick. "Front office. Now. I'm going to get you out of my class if it kills me. Move it!" Dick, unable to think of anything else to do, got up numbly and began the walk up to the office.
Logan was bored out of his mind. He'd been sitting up at the front office for at least an hour, and he still hadn't been admitted to see the principal. Aside from the explosion about ten minutes ago, nothing interesting had happened except that various school officials kept running in and out of the office, looking distressed.
Hearing footsteps in the hallway, Logan turned lazily to look. Dick staggered into view, covered in soot and looking dazed.
"Hey," said Logan nonchalantly as Dick plopped down beside him.
"Hey yourself," Dick returned, grinning sheepishly.
"I'm almost afraid to ask, but what happened to you?" Logan studied his friend thoughtfully—the boy looked as though he'd just crawled up a chimney, and he smelled like smoke. Dick went scarlet. He opened his mouth to say something, shut it, and tried again. Logan, who'd heard about Dick's abysmal cooking abilities, put two and two together.
"You blew up the Home Ec. room, didn't you?" he asked, grinning.
"It was an accident, I swear!" Dick cried despairingly. Logan dissolved into a fit of hysterical laughter.
"You blew up the Home Ec. room! That's awesome!" he practically crowed. Dick sank lower in his seat, his face and ears a bright red even beneath the soot. The debris on the back of his shirt left a streak on the bench.
"What did you do to get sent up here, Logan?" he asked after his friend stopped laughing, hoping to change the subject. Logan shrugged carelessly but looked around with caution before going on. "My powers are on the fritz right now," he muttered in a low voice. "It happens every now and then; Gadget says it'll stop after a while. Says it has something to do with puberty."
"More than I wanted to know, but okay, keep going."
"Well, I was in Biology when my hand went intangible and I dropped one of the beakers I was holding. Spilt chemicals all over the floor."
"And they sent you to the office for that?" Dick asked incredulously.
"Yeah, considering it's the—oh, I'd say about the tenth or eleventh one this year."
"Going for a record, are you?" Dick asked with a smirk. Logan grinned and punched him playfully in the shoulder. Or, he tried to—Logan's fist suddenly went intangible and passed right through, giving both boys the sensation of plunging into a bucket of ice.
"Sorry!" said Logan quickly, yanking his fist back. He flexed it for a moment and it went solid again. "That's what I'm talking about. It just happens."
"That's okay. It's like being around Raven when she's in a bad mood; light bulbs start blowing up and stuff."
"Sort of." Logan let out an exasperated sigh. "Good grief, I wish the principal would hurry up already—I'd rather be sitting in class than out here with nothing to do."
"I'd just as soon stay as far away from the Home Ec. room as I can," said Dick, looking genuinely frightened at the prospect of being in the same hallway as Mrs. Cook. "What are they doing in there, anyway?"
"I don't know. I keep hearing something about an information leak."
"I heard about that too. Any idea what it means?" Logan shook his head.
"Not really." He grinned slyly. "But I know how we can find out."
Logan got up off the bench and walked over to the door of the office. Crouching to the floor, he cocked his head, indicating for Dick to come over.
As soon as Dick and Logan were on the same level, Logan put a hand on Dick's shoulder. "It's about to get a little cold."
"What are we going to do?"
"I'm going to make us intangible so we can look in on what's going on."
"No offense," said Dick skeptically, "but I'm not so sure that's a good idea. Won't someone notice if we just suddenly phase through the wall?"
"Well, duh." Logan rolled his eyes. "I'm going to make us invisible too."
"Will it work—I mean…"
"What, our clothes?" Dick's ears turned red. "As long as they're in direct contact with our bodies, I should be able to make our clothes invisible. Our shoes might stay visible, but the rest of us won't be. Ready?" Dick nodded. Logan concentrated, and suddenly things went oddly cold as they both became intangible. Logan grinned, and stuck his head through the wall.
Dick stared. Logan pulled his head back out. "Are you coming or not?" Dick shook off his amazement and stuck his head through too.
It was a very curious sensation, to have his head on one side of a wall with the rest of his body on the other. Dick glanced to the side at Logan, but he wasn't there. Logan had turned them invisible. Sudden loud shouting startled Dick from his thoughts.
"CAN'T TRACE IT?!?!" someone bellowed. Dick's ears pricked up—the voice sounded familiar, but he couldn't tell who it was. A plant was blocking his view of the desk. "What do you mean, you can't trace it?"
"Exactly what I said!" snapped another voice, equally ill tempered. "Whoever it was that hacked into the files did a thorough job—I can't tell who it was that did it. The only reason I noticed was that the database showed the files had been opened sometime late last night." There was an exasperated sigh and a creaking sound, as though someone was leaning resignedly back in their chair.
"What were the hackers after?" the first person asked finally. The voice was female, and Dick assumed that this was the principal judging by her authoritive tone.
"I'm not sure," replied the second person, a man. "As far as we can tell, the hacker was after the students' health records. Allergies, blood types, birth certificates…"
Dick looked skeptically over at Logan, forgetting for a moment that they were invisible.
"And there's no tracing it?" the first asked.
"No. We've tried at least a dozen times."
"Try again," the principal snapped. "Try until you've found out who has done this. We cannot have this sort of thing happening. The safety of the students—"
"Enough," Logan whispered, his voice strained. "Come back through, I can't hold us any longer…"
Reluctantly, anxious to hear more, Dick pulled his head back through the wall. Logan became visible again and sat back on his heels on the floor, looking exhausted. Warmth rushed back to Dick's limbs as he solidified.
"Sorry," Logan wheezed. "I was getting tired, and I didn't want my powers to give out and accidentally get us splinched."
"Splinched?" Dick asked. "You took that straight out of Harry Potter."
"Yes, and for a right good reason. If one half of your body is on one side of the wall, and the other half is on the other side, and you become solid again, the pressure of whatever you've passed through splits you clean in half."
Dick winced. "Great. That's just great."
"You're telling me," Logan grimaced. He jerked his head toward the office. "What do you think that was all about? The leak and everything."
"I'm not sure," Dick replied, his eyebrows knitting together. "Why would someone bother going through the student health records?"
"Search me. Unless…" Logan looked thoughtful for a moment. "Nah, never mind. It's stupid."
"What is it?"
Logan never got to answer. The door to the office opened, revealing a tall, thin, balding man with glasses perched upon his thin nose and a frown firmly in place. Completely aware that they had just been caught eavesdropping and unable to think of anything else to do, both boys flashed him angelic "We didn't do it" grins. He didn't buy it.
"Excuse me, Angelina," he said, his eyes narrowing at the two boys on the floor. "But I believe you have visitors."
"What? Who is it, Crawley?"
The principal appeared from behind him. She was a rather small woman, wearing a jacket and matching skirt in a businesslike manner. Her iron-gray hair was twisted up into a neat little bun on the top of her head. On the whole, she had a rather unremarkable appearance, which was why Logan gave Dick a very funny look when the boy gasped and stuttered out, "M-M-Mrs. Gardner!"
"Oh, hello, Mr. Grayson," the woman replied with a taut smile. "And Mr. Marshall too, what a surprise. Did you break another beaker?"
"Yes, ma'am," Logan answered. Mrs. Gardner frowned and turned to Dick.
"I already know why you're here, Mr. Grayson, Mrs. Cook e-mailed me not ten minutes ago. How on earth did you manage to blow up the Home Ec. room?"
"I—er… don't know," he confessed, turning red again. Looking up, he could have sworn he saw a small, fleeting smile on her face before she turned stern again.
"I suppose I ought to give you detention, but giving the circumstances I'll be willing to let this slide," she said. Mr. Crawley looked at her as though she'd lost her mind.
"Ma'am, if I may say—"
"That will be all, Crawley," Mrs. Gardner snapped. "Wait for me in the staff lounge, I will be there shortly." Crawley gave Dick and Logan a nasty look before shuffling off down the hall. "Now, as for you two, I'm going to assume that you heard what was going on in my room?"
"A bit…" The boys got to their feet and stood straight, preparing themselves for a scolding.
"I want you to think nothing of it. It is a domestic problem that will be taken care of shortly. I daresay you two have enough on your plates, what with all your schoolwork and—extracurricular activities…" She looked pointedly at Dick when she said this, although Dick had the sneaking impression that she knew Logan's secret too somehow. "Now, off with the both of you, I have some business to attend to." She made a move to go past them, but Dick, thinking quickly, said, "Ma'am? I was wondering—I think Mrs. Cook wanted to get me a different elective so I—"
"I've already seen to that. Mrs. Coggins has already transferred you into Drama for that period. I hope you can use your knack for making things explode to construct some decent stage props." She paused, looking at them both. "Mr. Marshall, do me a favor. If Mr. Abbott asks, tell him I shouted at you for twenty minutes and gave you a detention. He'll pitch a royal fit if he doesn't think I've punished you somehow."
"Will do, ma'am," said Logan with a grin.
"Good boy. Now, off to class with you!" She turned and strode down the hall, leaving the boys to stand alone.
"What's up with you?" Logan asked finally, seeing Dick's face still slightly stunned. Dick gave his head a small shake.
"She's the one we told you about, the one that came and told us we had to go to school!" he said, amazed. "I didn't know she was a principal!"
"Stranger things have happened," Logan shrugged. "Trust me, I'm one of them."
"And now I'm out of Cook's class! Yes!" Dick punched the air triumphantly.
"Aren't Raven and Ashley in Drama?" Logan asked.
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Well, the more the merrier." Dick suddenly froze and did a double take, looking out the window he had just passed. "Hang on a sec… did you just see something?"
Logan joined him at the window. "No, why…. Holy crap!"
Dick's eyes had not lied to him. Lumbering outside, near the blasted wall of the Home Ec. room, was a great, blob-like, many-eyed thing, easily ten or twelve feet tall. Logan's mouth dropped open as far as his jaw would allow in a silent scream of horror. His face went from white to green in seconds, and he looked like he was about to be sick.
"That's—that's…" He opened and closed his mouth a few times, completely unable to find words to describe the abomination outside.
"Plasmus," said Dick grimly. "What the heck is he doing here?"
"He's going inside!" Logan squeaked in an uncharacteristically high voice. "Holy crap, holy crap, he's going inside!"
"Logan, calm down!" Dick grabbed his friend's shoulder and gave it a rough shake. "It's okay. He doesn't know we're here; we have surprise on our side. We have to rally the Titans and get into our uniforms before he does too much damage. Okay?" Logan made a sound like a beached goldfish, swallowed, and nodded. Dick pulled his communicator out of his pocket and pressed the panic button. Within minutes, he knew, the Titans would meet outside their lockers for their assignments. Logan pressed a button on his watch to alert Ashley.
Already, people had seen Plasmus and were panicking. The whole Home Ec. class bolted out of the hallway, screaming in terror.
"This would be a whole lot easier if we were invisible," Dick suggested with a sideways look at Logan. The other boy nodded and grabbed Dick's shoulder.
The frantic teenagers in the crowd were too terrified to notice that they were jostled roughly by some unseen force, and no one saw that two pairs of sneakers were making their way to the freshman hallway.
"What's going on?" Vic asked the minute Dick and Logan popped back into view at their lockers. "And what happened to you, Dick? You look like you fell into a fireplace."
Dick waved his hand impatiently. "Never mind that, we've got bigger problems right now. You'll never guess who just showed up in the electives hallway."
"Plasmus," Logan put in immediately. While Ashley looked bewildered, the other four merely looked astonished.
"What?" asked Gar in a horrified voice. "How'd he get into the school?"
"Well, um… he came in through a hole in the wall—"
"You mean the crater you made in the Home Ec. room?"
"That was you?" asked Victor, looking delighted. "Boo-yah! Raven, you owe me twenty bucks."
"Can we get back to the subject?" Dick snapped. "Get your uniforms, quick—he's already working his way down the electives hall; my Home Ec. classmates were in hysterics."
Without waiting for further instructions, the Titans, Phantom and Livewire seized their costumes from their lockers and tore into the nearest bathroom, which, thankfully and like the hallway, was empty.
Moments later, the hallway was packed with hectic students, all screaming and fighting tooth and nail to get to the exits. Teachers raced through the din, trying to restore calm, but were having no luck.
A great cheer went up when the Titans flew overhead, the land-bound boys carried by the girls.
"Look, the Teen Titans!"
"Phantom and Livewire!"
"They'll save us!"
The school was in absolute chaos. The frenzied teenagers were in a state of panic. Students were tripping over themselves and disappearing under their classmates. Small students like Joey would be crushed.
"We have to get the other kids out of here before someone gets killed!" Robin shouted over the noise.
"Do you have any suggestions?" Livewire yelled back.
"No! We'll have to wing it!"
The Titans split up, trying to shepherd students out of the exits. Livewire was flying overhead, pushing kids if necessary; Beastboy had turned into a T-rex and students were tripping over themselves just to get away from him; Raven surrounded large groups of students with her aura and teleported them out of the school; Phantom and Robin were on the ground, trying to direct traffic without getting crushed; Starfire and Cyborg were taking a more direct approach by picking up students and throwing them bodily out the exits and to safety.
"That's most of them!" Livewire gasped, holding a stitch in her side and panting. It was a bit of an overstatement—they had succeeded in emptying the school of half of its students; the rest were running around the hallways like chickens with their heads cut off.
"Where is Plasmus?" asked Starfire, her green starbolts shimmering at her fists.
Before anyone could answer, Plasmus himself burst through the wall, uttering horrible screeches through what one could only assume was his mouth. Everyone who had been remotely near that particular wall bolted away screaming, but not before Plasmus had taken a swipe into the crowd with his blob-like arms. He withdrew a student and shoved her under one arm, where he already held the screaming twins Cole and Colin, and a mop of flaming red hair that could only be Joey.
"He's abducting students!" Cyborg shouted unnecessarily.
"Titans, go!" Robin bellowed. "But be careful, we don't want to hurt anybody!"
Plasmus let loose another one of those terrible screeching screams and charged bodily into another crowd of students just as the Titans charged at him.
Raven managed to put up a magic barrier around the students so that Plasmus couldn't get at them. "Run!" she bellowed, and she looked so dangerous with black magic crackling in lightning bolts that she was instantly obeyed. Plasmus slashed out at Raven's shield and knocked her against the wall.
"Over here, you Play-Doh monster!" shouted Phantom from somewhere in the hall, invisible. Plasmus swung his head around just in time for a well-aimed piece of brick to find its mark. The bit of rubble sank far into the pulpy mess covering his body. From up in the air, Livewire made an absolutely revolted noise. Plasmus heard her and slung one of his massive arms. Livewire hit the ceiling with a wet slap!
"Oh, GROSS!" she shouted, trying to fly free, but she was stuck tight. Starfire saw and flew up to help. She and Cyborg could do very little besides throw things at Plasmus, because misaimed starbolts and plasma cannons could potentially kill the hostages. Cyborg was on the ground with Beastboy, hurling very large things more to distract Plasmus than anything else. Phantom was running around, invisible, shouting and throwing things and generally driving Plasmus insane. Raven was still trying to keep him from grabbing students, while Robin was hurling every freezer disk in his utility belt as Plasmus's feet, trying to freeze him to the ground. It wasn't working.
Plasmus swung his huge head around, not overly concerned with the Titan's efforts but very annoyed at an invisible someone throwing things at him. The disembodied voice came from the direction of a moving shadow, but it moved too fast to pinpoint it. Plasmus watched it as he sent a jet of slime barreling into Cyborg. Robin saw the comprehension dawning on his face.
"Phantom, quit talking to him!" he shouted. It was an unnecessary warning: Plasmus decided he didn't want to bother locating the source and compensated. With a huge grunt, Plasmus released an explosion of… whatever it was he was made up of, knocking every young hero against the wall.
Robin frantically wiped the goop off his mask and looked around. Plasmus was roaring furiously and flinging rubble aside as though he were looking for something. A few feet away, a frightened girl peeked over a fallen ceiling tile. Robin recognized her easily as the girl Plasmus had picked up—she was covered from the neck down in sludge. Joey had already disappeared, and the twins were nowhere in sight.
"Run!" Robin told her. Not waiting for another word, the girl bolted for the nearest exit. "Titans! He's lost the hostages! Get him!"
Now the real fight began. Livewire and Starfire teamed up in a double attack, releasing a volley of starbolts and balls of lightning on Plasmus's head. They were accompanied by a tremendous blast from Cyborg's plasma cannon.
"HAH!" Cyborg yelled triumphantly. "Gotcha, booger-man!" Plasmus responded with a torrent of acid spewing from his mouth.
"Dude, he spits acid?" Livewire shrieked incredulously. "That would have been nice to know!"
"Well, now you do!" Robin shouted back, running as fast as he could away from the acidic vomit Plasmus was throwing at him. Beastboy helped out by transforming into a brontosaurus and whacking Plasmus with his huge tail. This made the blob-like monster turn the poisonous green torrent on the changeling, who morphed into a bird and flapped frantically away. Raven glided to the center of the hall and raised her hands.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos!" she shouted, her eyes glowing, and a Coke machine farther down the hall detached itself from the wall and began firing out sodas like a machine gun at Plasmus's unprotected, protuberant green eyes. The monster screamed and shielded them with his huge, dripping arms.
Someone was screaming loudly. Robin looked around; one of the twins was standing in the middle of the hall, his mouth open in horror, all the color drained from his face, staring straight at Plasmus.
"Come on, move it!" Robin snarled, grabbing the twin by the collar and attempting to drag him away. Whichever twin it was screamed even louder and struggled, yelling, "Cole's still in there!"
"What?" Robin asked, freezing. "In where?" Colin pointed with a shaking finger at Plasmus.
"He's still in the slime?" Robin bellowed incredulously. Colin nodded, his eyes still wide with panic. Robin leapt away, shouting, "Stop, STOP! Someone's still in there! THERE'S SOMEONE STUCK IN THE SLIME!"
"Oh, come ON!" Phantom shouted angrily, his voice coming from a mound of sludge that had plastered itself around a chunk of seemingly empty air in a roughly humanoid shape. "He's a blob of putty, he shouldn't be this hard to beat!"
"Where's Cole stuck?" Livewire asked, looking at Colin. The twin turned his terrified eyes to her and didn't reply, but after Cyborg once again blasted Plasmus in the head with his sonic cannon he screamed, "The stomach, he's stuck around the stomach!"
"You'd better be right!" Livewire snapped, bracing herself against the wall. Before any of the others could figure out what was going on, she rocketed off the wall and, flying straight as an arrow, into Plasmus's abdomen. Plasmus screeched and convulsed in agony, and seconds later Livewire burst through the sludge straight through his back, her arms wrapped around the struggling form of Cole Greenwich. As soon as they were out of harm's way, Raven, Cyborg, Starfire, and Robin hit Plasmus with a combined attack of magic, plasma, starbolts, and electric disks.
With a terrible scream, Plasmus exploded, showering the young heroes with yet another layer of purplish slime. In the middle of the wreckage lay a small, skinny man in nothing but his boxers, sleeping like a baby.
"Livewire, you idiot!" Robin yelled at her as she touched ground, still holding a thoroughly shocked Cole. Finding solid ground so close, Cole squirmed free and ran toward his twin. Horrified though he was at the fact that his cousin had just flown through a monster, Robin was relieved to see her unharmed. Livewire pulled a face that was hardly distinguishable underneath the sludge.
"Oh, shut up," she snapped. "I'm the one who should be complaining over here; look at me! I look like I fell into a vat of purple Jell-O! What on earth am I going to tell my mother?"
"Let's stick with the Jell-O excuse and see how far we get," said Phantom, reappearing and trying to comb Plasmus goop out of his curly hair with his fingers. "God, my mom is going to kill me…"
"I feel for you, my friend," Beastboy grinned, clapping a hand on Phantom's shoulder. It was hard to tell which one of them got splattered with more slime at this exchange. "Ah, the perks of living in a giant T with no grown-ups…"
"I believe I feel the need to 'call the shower,' as you would say it," said Starfire, flying back down to their level and attempting to wipe slime off her arm. It made very little improvement.
"Hang on a sec…" Robin was doing something with his communicator. "Okay, got it." He flipped it shut and returned it to his pocket. "I just called the police; they should be here in a few minutes."
"What do we need the police for?" asked Livewire. "We already beat the bad guy…"
"Yeah, but someone has to take him to jail."
"What are they going to do, scrape him off the walls and carry him in a bucket?" she snorted. The Titans led her over to where the unconscious man was snoring away. Her mouth popped open. "You mean, this little guy—this… little… guy—did this?" She gestured to the demolished hallway and to the slime that covered it. "But… he—" Unable to finish her sentence, Livewire fixed a pout on her face and folded her arms, saying, "Dude, I hate your villains."
A noise from behind them made the Titans turn around. Mrs. Gardner was walking towards them, followed closely by Mr. Crawley, picking their way carefully over the rubble and puddles of slime.
"Well done, Titans," said Mrs. Gardner, ignoring the stupefied expressions on the faces of Cyborg, Starfire, Raven and Beastboy. "You managed to keep a dangerous criminal from abducting any of our students."
"Not to mention destroy two hallways in the process," Crawley interjected dryly.
"Yeah, um… Sorry about that," said Robin sheepishly. "It couldn't really be helped."
A large chunk of ceiling fell between them from when Beastboy had morphed into a dinosaur and grown too big for the building to hold. Crawley gave a derisive snort.
"That's enough, Crawley," Mrs. Gardner snapped. Looking astonished at the fact that he had once again been dismissed on the account of teenagers, Crawley turned and began to retreat out of the hall, slipping in a rather undignified way in a puddle of slime.
"Mrs. Gardner," Robin said as soon as Crawley was out of earshot. "Could we be excused from school for the rest of the day? I think we've earned it." He glanced behind him—Beastboy and Raven were covered in slime from head to foot, and Cyborg's joints were getting clogged from the sludge. Logan's hair was plastered to his forehead in a purple mess, and Starfire was wringing the goop out of hers. Ashley looked as though someone had dumped her into a can of lumpy purple paint. It was a rather comical sight, and Robin could only imagine how he himself must look.
"Yes, of course. You are all excused, including you two… Mr. Marshall and Miss Thompson, if I am not mistaken?" Phantom didn't seem particularly surprised, but Livewire looked horrified. "Oh, don't look so panicked, Ashley, I figured this out when you seven began hanging around each other all the time and the Titans picked up two new members." Livewire tried to regain her composure and scowled.
"You might, however, want to come with an excuse to tell your parents. Many will be coming to pick up their children because of the attack, and what with the attempted kidnapping, your mothers and fathers might get worried."
"We'll call them and tell them we went home with Dick," said Phantom. "Thanks, Mrs. Gardner."
"Don't mention it," she replied with a stony smile. "Oh, and there will be no school for the remainder of the week, so feel free to sleep in tomorrow. We have to find someone to fix these walls before classes can resume."
"That's too bad," said Robin, attempting to sound sincere while Beastboy punched the air and silently mouthed the word Yes!
"Excuse us." Everyone jumped and looked toward the hole in the wall left by Plasmus. A police officer with curly brown hair flashed his badge and took a step into what was left of the hall. "My squad is outside—we're here to pick up the criminal."
"Oh, crap…" said Phantom quietly. In the midst of all the action, Phantom and Livewire had forgotten to flee before the police showed up. The officer heard him and frowned.
"Yes, Phantom and Livewire…" he said. A news crew and other police officers poked their heads curiously through the wall. He cleared his throat and turned to face the Titans. "I'm afraid, now that we've got them, we're going to have to take in these two. Unsponsered young superheroes must be put under the protection of the government according to—"
"Wait, hang on!" Robin cut in, alarmed. Phantom and Livewire had moved automatically toward each other, their faces white beneath the muck. They and the Titans knew very well what "under the protection of the government" meant for metahumans, and it wasn't a reassuring statement. Ashley stood on her toes for a moment, ready to fly the second anyone made a move toward her or Logan.
"Unsponsered young superheroes?" Robin repeated. "What about us?" He already knew the answer, but an idea had suddenly sparked in his brain. It was so simple he could have kicked himself for not thinking of it before.
"Justice League protection," the officer said simply. "Now, if you two will—"
"No, wait!" Robin interrupted impatiently. "The Justice League has put the Teen Titans under their protection, right?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Well, as the leader of the Teen Titans, I am now putting Phantom, Livewire, and all of the Super Six under our protection. And if you have a problem with that—" he continued, ignoring the fact that the policeman had just opened his mouth to object, "—you can pick it up with Batman."
The police officer shut his mouth, his mustache bristling. For a moment he looked like he actually would take it up with Batman. Then, with a scowl, he shrugged and said, "Fine. The Super Six are under Titan protection. Government officials will not touch them here or in Rachel."
If Phantom and Livewire's grins of relief had gotten any wider, they would have fallen off their faces. They all watched as the officer radioed in and relayed the message to his superiors, and then took his squad and put Plasmus, once again, in his isolated chamber specially designed to keep him asleep and human.
"Well, I suppose that solves quite a bit of inconvenience," said Mrs. Gardner simply. "I'll be off, then, I have quite a bit of work to do myself. Titans." She nodded cordially, then began picking her way back through the hall.
As soon as the police officers were gone and the news crews were preoccupied with filming the damage from the fight, Livewire tackled Robin from behind and pulled him into a hug.
"Ow—jeez, Livewire! Let go, I can't breathe, you've got me around the neck!"
"You did it!" she crowed, laughing. "You did it, we don't have to run away anymore, we can be normal superheroes!"
"If there was ever an oxymoron, I think 'normal superheroes' would have to be it," said Raven with a slight smile. Phantom laughed.
"Way to go, Rob," he said, clapping him on the shoulder. "What can we do to pay you back?"
"Stop Livewire from strangling me, for starters," Robin gasped. Logan obliged and pulled Ashley off of him.
"I'm going to call Hotshot and tell him as soon as I get home," Phantom beamed. Then the glee on his face evaporated. "Aw, crud, I can't go home like this! What'll I tell my mom?"
"You know," said Beastboy with a toothy smile. "I think we might be able to help with that."
The Titans got immense satisfaction from Logan and Ashley's awestruck expressions when they stepped into Titan's Tower for the first time.
"You live here? All the time?" asked Ashley in amazement, looking around at the vast entrance hall.
"Yeah. It's not much, but hey, it's home," said Cyborg with a grin—he'd helped design and build the Tower with Jump City architects and his father.
"It's incredible!" said Logan, checking out the living room with the long sofa and huge windows. "Where's the TV?"
"Press that switch over there," Robin explained. Logan pressed it and instantly the window flickered and began showing a football game.
"Whoa!" exclaimed Logan appreciatively. "This kicks the crap out of our headquarters; we had to set up in an abandoned warehouse."
"We've got a Gamestation, too, that you can play on that big screen, and a computer console for each of us. The stereo is over there." Beastboy was busy showing Ashley their entertainment system.
"Starfire's already called the first shower, but there's another shower up on the roof near the pool," said Robin.
"You guys have a pool?" asked Logan.
"Yeah. Towels are in the hall closet—it's the fifth door on the right. Make yourself at home."
"I can't get a bath yet—Raven and Starfire have beaten me to it." Logan grinned. "How about showing me this Gamestation I keep hearing about?"
Ten minutes later, Logan and Cyborg were locked in a fierce battle, fingers flying over the controllers and giving each other dirty glares. Robin and Beastboy had already been soundly defeated (Robin by Logan, Beastboy by Cyborg). Beastboy was now watching with interest, Ashley sitting closely beside him. Robin was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later, he reentered the room, carrying something behind his back and smiling in a rather nasty way. Coming up behind his cousin, he brought a large, pale white, maggot-like creature from behind his back and dumped it unceremoniously into Ashley's lap.
It had been quite a hassle trying to find Silkie and then coaxing him out from under Starfire's bed, but hearing Ashley scream was worth it. Robin and Beastboy both roared with laughter as Ashley shot off the couch in terror, sending Silkie reeling into Logan. Logan let out a startled yelp and jumped to his feet. The momentary respite allowed Cyborg to blaze past Logan's ship on the screen.
"What is that… that thing?" Ashley screeched, flattening herself into a corner on the ceiling.
"What's wrong, Ash? Don't you like Silkie?" Robin picked the mutated moth larvae up and rubbed its head.
"NO!" Ashley snapped, now looking murderous. "What are you playing at, dropping that thing on me?"
"Well, I just thought that since you introduced me to your pets, I would show you ours." Robin held Silkie out at arm's length after Starfire's pet tried to lick him in the face. He didn't care what Beastboy said; being licked by a mutated moth was not the same as being licked by a dog. Robin grinned up at his cousin. "I told you I would get you back for setting your dogs on me!"
"You're really rotten, do you know that?"
"So are you. Oh, look, now you've got Plasmus goop on our ceiling." Beastboy lost it right there—he laughed so hard he fell off the sofa and lay on the floor, clutching his ribs.
"You're both dead," Ashley snarled.
"What are you going to do?" asked Beastboy, propping himself up on one elbow with an impish grin. "You're too scared of big bad Silkie to come down!"
"I don't have to come down!" With a flick of her fingers, Ashley hit them both with small lightning bolts, making their hair stand on end.
Raven walked into the room with a towel draped over her neck, her hair still slightly wet from her shower.
"I'm done," she announced. "Who's up?"
Ashley flew wordlessly from her corner and disappeared through the automatic door before it had fully closed.
"Guess she is," said Raven with a shrug.
With a prodigious, computer-animated explosion, Logan's ship blew apart into a thousand tiny fragments. Cyborg let out a loud "BOO-YAH!"
"Ah, he got me," said Logan in a defeated tone. "Here, Gar, you can play, I have to call my mom to let her know where I am… at Dick's house." He winked and strode off toward the kitchen.
Logan didn't return until both Starfire and Ashley had returned from their showers, and Robin and Beastboy had been able to wash the sludge off of themselves as well. Now Cyborg was in the shower. Logan sat down in Cy's place when he returned.
"Get in touch with your mom?" asked Ashley.
"Nah," Logan shook his head. "I forgot; it's my grandmother's birthday, so she's probably on the phone with her. Took me ten minutes to get hold of Dad, he was still trying to get Plasmus to the prison—"
"What?" asked Robin.
"Oh, yeah, my dad's a police officer. I can't believe I haven't mentioned that already. You know that man we talked to at the school, who wanted to take me and Livewire in?"
"That's your dad?" asked Beastboy, dumbfounded. Logan grinned and nodded.
"I do not understand—why would your father wish to take you and Ashley to a government containment facility?" asked Starfire, her eyebrows knit together.
"He didn't know it was me, or else he wouldn't have," Logan assured her. "It's really funny, actually; we've had so many close calls with the police, it's a wonder he hasn't figured out it's me yet."
"That explains how you two kept getting the same alarms we were," said Robin thoughtfully. "You wired your watches to pick up the transmissions from your dad's patrol car."
"Yep," Logan nodded. "Gadget did it for us, right before we left, so we wouldn't still be picking up transmissions from Rachel. He did it for the others, too, so they wouldn't be getting alerts from Jump City."
"Clever," said Robin. "We've got one free shower, just so you know."
Logan and Cyborg finished at about the same time; Cyborg had to take some extra time out to scrape his joints free of the hardened slime.
"Alright, who's my next victim?" he asked with a wide grin, watching Gar and Dick fighting it out on the Gamestation.
Robin paused the game. "Are you up for a little detective work?" he asked, turning around.
"That depends. What kind of work are we talking about?" The boys quit their game and stood up.
"The kind you're really, really good at. Something to do with computers."
Robin and Logan filled the others in about all they had heard in Mrs. Gardner's office. By the time they were done, Cyborg had already accessed the school's private files and was hacking his way into the health records on one of the Titan's computer consoles.
"Won't the school be able to trace this hacking back to us?" asked Raven. Cyborg grinned and patted the side of the console almost lovingly.
"Not this baby," he said. "The Titan's computer can hack into any database short of the CIA, and won't be picked up."
"Are you in yet?" asked Robin, leaning over Cyborg's shoulder.
"Give me a second. They've upped security lately…" There was a slight ping from the computer. "Got it!"
"So what are you looking for?" asked Ashley, tilting her head to one side.
"Something that shouldn't be here. When a computer file gets hacked into, the hacker leaves small, almost undetectable… holes, I guess you could call them, where they got in. Those holes can be traced right back to them. It's kind of like a fingerprinting system for computers." Ashley nodded, although it couldn't be clearer that she, like many of the others, had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. "Here we go…" Cyborg's cybernetic fingers practically flew over the keyboard as he gave the computer instructions. "Let's see what we've got here."
The others waited quietly as Cyborg worked on tracing the link. After several minutes of frustrating silence, Logan began humming the Jeopardy theme song. Robin finally spoke up.
"It won't let me through!" Cyborg sounded shocked that someone else had outsmarted his computer system. "Something keeps interfering—every time I get close, the link terminates and sends me right back to the school files. It's like a loop or something—this is way advanced, if I can't get through it…"
"More advanced than the CIA?" asked Beastboy incredulously.
"That or really really close to it," Cyborg replied.
"Okay," said Robin, kneading his forehead in slight frustration. "We can't trace it. Can you tell what exactly the hacker was looking at?"
"Yeah. I'll just run a search on the hole locations…" Another window popped up on the screen. "Like you said, health records. Blood types, birth certificates, height, weight, all this stuff—wait, hang on…" Cyborg frowned. "Certain students' files have been book marked."
"Are you sure it's by the hacker?" asked Robin, leaning closer to the screen.
"Yeah, it's got the same electrostatic signature…" He scanned through the database, isolating the book marked files. "Look, here are the twins… and that girl Plasmus picked up, her name is Brianna Woodcroft… and here's Joey… and at least a dozen others… Ashley, Logan, you're on here too…"
"What?" Ashley, being unable to see over Cyborg, hovered a few feet off the ground. Logan took a more direct approach and, making his upper body intangible, simply phased through Cyborg's torso to get a better look at the screen. It was very disturbing to see Logan's curly head sticking through Cyborg's chest.
"Great, now you've seen, so get out of me, please…"
"Sorry!" Logan grinned and pulled himself back out and looked over Raven's shoulder instead.
"I don't like that," said Ashley, hugging herself protectively. "I don't like that at all…"
"So we know that whoever the hacker is has an interest in students, but only specific ones… Wait." Robin frowned and touched the screen gently, still immersed in thought. "Plasmus picked up Cole and Colin, and Brianna, and Joey, too…"
"So that means—" Logan began, catching on.
"—That whoever the hacker is must have hired Plasmus to kidnap those students and bring them back to him." Robin's frown deepened. "And I think I know who it is, too."
"Robin, if you even say Slade…"
"Well, yeah!" Robin burst out angrily. "Who else do we know has a computer that we wouldn't be able to hack into? What other villain do we have that regularly employs others to do his dirty work? It's got to be Slade!"
"Maybe…" Everyone looked around at Logan, who was staring off into space thoughtfully. "But why would he want the students at all? Why would Slade want us?"
"That I don't know," Robin replied. "But I'm sure it's him."
"Logan," said Ashley, her voice suddenly squeaky. "You don't think that… that Professor Grimm could have anything to do with this, do you?"
Logan was still wearing that thoughtful look, still staring at the wall as though trying to memorize every square inch of it.
"I don't know, Ashley," he finally admitted. "I just don't know…"
"I really hate to interrupt while we're in the middle of something," said Beastboy tentatively, "but it doesn't look like we're going anywhere with this, so could I run a search on a student?"
"Yeah, sure, Gar. Who were you looking for?"
"Joey Harper's sister," said Gar matter-of-factly. "I don't know her name."
"I'll look." Cyborg ran a search on the last name "Harper."
"Hmmm… Well, here's Joey. And there's this kid, but he's a guy, so never mind… Oh, here, Mallory Harper. Is this her?" Cyborg pulled up a file—the profile picture showed a girl with long, dark hair, squinty gray eyes and bad acne.
"No," said Beastboy in a defeated tone. "She doesn't look anything like him, plus she's a sophomore. Joey told me his sister was about to graduate. Aren't there any more?"
"No. Harper isn't a very common last name here, I guess. Sorry, dude."
Raven was the frowner this time.
"That's weird," she said. "Why would Joey lie about having an older sister?"
"Yes," Starfire put in. "I do not see the point in telling falsehoods about older siblings. While Blackfire is a… less than desirable sister, I do not think I would say I did not have her."
"Great," said Beastboy, pulling a face. "That's one more mystery to solve. I wonder what it would be like to have a normal life?"
"Dead boring," Logan grinned. "Trust me."
Robin stretched and yawned. "Good grief am I tired. I stayed up half the night working on an essay for Tatum and didn't even get to hand it in. I'm glad school's been cancelled for the week, I would have failed it for sure."
"Only because you blew it off until the last minute," scorned Raven. Robin grinned.
"Hey, a guy's got to make at least a little leisure time."
"You played Gamestation with Cyborg and Beastboy for three hours."
"… Believe it or not, that's actually pretty relaxing."
Logan took a look at his watch and swore. "It's four o'clock, I'd better get home. You ready, Ashley?"
"Yeah, I guess. See you, guys. Thanks for the showers."
"No problem. Feel free to drop by any time!" With a wave, Ashley and Logan got into the elevator and descended to the ground level. The Titans watched out the enormous window as Livewire flew into view, holding Phantom by the arms. She grinned in farewell and turned toward the city.
Beastboy bolted off the sofa and ran to one of the side windows. Flinging it open, he poked his head out and yelled "HEY!" Livewire looked around. "Don't forget to ask your folks about the Halloween Carnival!"
"We won't!" Livewire waved again, leaving Phantom to dangle perilously in the air by one arm. Grabbing hold of him again, she took off, and within a minute had turned into a speck that was soon swallowed up by the city buildings.
The Titans collapsed back onto the couch. Robin sighed and leaned back into the cushions as far as he could, his eyes closed.
"It feels really, really good to know that I don't have to wake up at six tomorrow morning."
"You've woken up at six in the morning for just about as long as I can remember," said Cyborg.
"Yeah, but somehow an alarm clock makes it a whole lot less enjoyable."
Raven was looking up with a curious expression.
"Does anybody know how we got Plasmus goop on our ceiling?" she asked. Then, "What?" after Beastboy and Robin burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
Professor Grimm stood in front of Slade, trembling. Slade had been in a terrible temper since the five o'clock news broadcast. Slade was playing the clip on the screen behind him now.
"You would consider us partners, wouldn't you, Grimm?" he asked delicately in his cold, oily voice. Grimm nodded, his voice stuck somewhere behind his Adam's apple. "As partners, we really ought to share any plans we come up with, don't you agree?"
Another nod. Slade rose from his chair, his voice shaking slightly with suppressed rage. "Then why, pray tell, did you employ one of my minions for your own purposes, instruct him to kidnap students that you hand-selected, and then have him attack Jump City High School, WITHOUT INFORMING ME?" Slade walked slowly up to Professor Grimm so that the differences in their height would be more significant. Even with his enlarged cranium, Grimm was at least a foot and a half shorter than Slade.
"I was attempting to apprehend more teenagers for my experiments," he explained feebly. "I have reason to believe that a handful of students have—have the potentiality to take to the gas positively, and I wished to—to take them into my—that is to say, our—custody so that I—I mean we—could—" He let out a literally strangled yelp; Slade had just seized him by the throat.
"I am going to say this once," he said in a low, threatening voice. "Whenever you do something, you will tell me. If you hack into another school database, you will tell me. If even the thought of a plan to capture students for your experiments flits across your mind, you will tell me. Have I made myself clear?"
Grimm nodded fervently; his face was turning slightly purple from his inability to breathe. Slade released him. Grimm's throat made a slight whistling sound as he inhaled, trying to re-inflate his lungs.
"As it so happens, Grimm," Slade went on, "your actions may very well have thrown us into the spotlight. Robin is not stupid, no matter how I may lead him to believe. He will trace Plasmus back to me, and will undoubtedly wonder what I want with high school students. With the combined knowledge of Phantom and Livewire, the Titans may find out that we have formed an alliance."
Slade began to work on the giant computer, leaving several minutes of uncomfortable silence for Grimm to sweat during. Finally, he spoke again.
"Thankfully, your blunder can be remedied. I have a plan that will send the Titans reeling in circles with confusion."
"Really?" Grimm inquired, thankful that Slade's fury had ebbed. "How will you do that, exactly?"
"Patience, Grimm. All in good time. Two weeks' time, in fact. Our little friends just need to redirect their focus. Things have been too quiet for my taste. We need to shake things up a little, and I know exactly where." Professor Grimm tried not to look too eager to learn Slade's plan as the other man turned to face him.
"Tell me, Grimm. Are you familiar with the annual Halloween Carnival?"