Chapter Eight: Suicide King
Pedestrians fled as heroes and villains began clashing in the street once again, their screams reaching Robin's ears even as he began surveying the situation. There were still a lot of variables in the fight, but he trusted his team to minimize damage. Still, if Robin had a flaw he'd cop to, he'd call himself a bit obsessive. And that included things such as preferring to be in command if possible
Thanks to the not guilty verdict he'd just received, possible it was.
Robin caught the belt that Cyborg tossed at him with his left hand—though Robin was indeed naturally right handed, years as a crime fighter had taught him a degree of ambidexterity—and flung it around his waist, snapping it at the buckle.
He withdrew his bo-staff and charged into battle.
"TITANS!" he shouted as he leapt into the air. "GO!"
The command of the Titans leader instantly lifted Beast Boy's spirits, his snake body writhing with a shiver of excitement. Robin was acquitted, which meant all they had to do now was mop up the bad guys and go home. Beast Boy had always thought the actual fight was the fun part. The paperwork, the report-filing, late night patrols; all that stuff was boring. He knew it was necessary, of course, but he'd prefer if Robin and the others handled that.
"Thisss is where the fun beginnsss," Beast Boy hissed, lunging at his foe, the Royal Flush Gang's Queen of Spades. But a beam of energy lashed out of Queen's bejeweled scepter and sent Beast Boy flying into a nearby building in the shadow of the massive courthouse. It also managed to put a bit of a damper on his spirits. "Or not," he said. Suddenly it seemed much less fun.
Taking the RFG down would be easier said than done, especially when the changeling was effectively limited to species' with no shoulders for his bullet wound to carry over to. Well, he probably could fight even with the wound, with the healing Raven had done already, but he'd really rather not. It would hurt, and it would just make the wound worse.
"This would have been so much easier if you had simply believed our subterfuge and turned on your leader," the Queen said, zapping at the green snake with her staff again. He dodged out of the way and began strafing around her—a harder feat when you had to slither than it was with legs—keeping his eyes and forked tongue on her at all times. He eyed a piece of reflective metal and glass and began to move towards it…
"I don't know what sssssubterfuge issss," said Beast Boy, keeping his eyes locked with the Queen's, "but you can forget ussss ever abandoning Robin."
He slowly slithered to the side one last time, passing next to a car that had been damaged already in the fight… And the Queen looked down just in time to see the mirror that Beast Boy had been trying to obscure. More accurately, she saw what was in the reflection, and turned behind her to lash at Yin.
Beast Boy hissed in frustration; he'd been trying to distract her long enough for Yin to knock her out without her catching on. If he'd just led her backwards, they would have moved out of the shadow of the courthouse, and Yin's own shadow would have been a dead give away.
The Queen turned and zapped a crimson beam at the youngest Titan, but Yin twisted his rubber body, dodging out of the way of the strake and smashing a dual-fisted hammer strike across the villainess' face. "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear!" he quipped.
The Queen flicked her scepter around and stabbed at Yin with the sharp point on the end, her regal cap fluttering a bit. Yin's phobia of knives caused him to recoil, but Beast Boy had more than enough time to pick up his slack, and lunged forward, morphing from snake to tiger shark in the blink of an eye and slamming into the Queen with the extra momentum.
She staggered back, before Beat Boy could take advantage of his ability to defy the laws of physics—and before he could sink his shark's teeth into her. He immediately resumed the form of a snake—but this time, instead of a six-foot boa constrictor, he became an utterly massive forty-foot anaconda. He wasn't going to risk wrapping around a time-traveler though—Starfire's encounter with Warp had made all the Titans wary of their kind.
Instead he used the muscles that would normally constrict to smash her into full-force, sending the Queen sprawling onto the pavement.
But it wasn't quite as critical of a hit as Beast Boy had hoped for. Queen reached to her belt and pulled out a small metal sphere with the Spades logo on it. "You insolent wretch, the Bloominflaurs are not to be trifled with!"
She dropped the bomb and immediately took off, a massive playing card somehow materializing below her feet and carrying her off. Beast Boy saw the bomb and threw himself as far as he could away from it, Yin diving towards the nearest reinforced wall and curling into as tight of a ball as he could.
Even then, the brilliant white flash of the grenade was the last thing Beast Boy saw.
Cyborg winced when he saw the grenade explode and Beast Boy go flying. He landed hard as a snake and immediately transformed back into his human form, which at least let Cyborg know he was alive.
Anger surged in his circuits and Cyborg took some pot shots at Queen with his sonic cannon, even as he turned and deflected an attack from the elder Jack—Edward Bloominflaurs from ten years in the future. Jack came at him with a saber with a glowing red boarder, and Cyborg leapt backwards and fired a rocket from his shoe.
"Cause he's Cyborg!" the million-dollar teen shouted.
Jack recoiled in alarm and smashed a button on his left wrist, even as the missile hit him and exploded, a ball of fire consuming the teen. Cyborg sensed the energy shield Jack had erected dissipate and fired into the smoke cloud…
Before he was suddenly smashed in the back with a powerful cybernetically enhanced kick. Cyborg staggered through the dissipating smoke cloud and turned to see Jack coming at him hard, his brow furrowed and his teeth bared.
"Short range teleporter," Cyborg realized aloud, explaining how Jack had appeared behind him. "Impressive. Bet it cost you a pretty penny."
"Money is not an object to a Bloominflaur," Jack hissed, slicing into Cyborg's midsection with his saber. An electronic signal approximating pain jolted Cyborg's brain and the Titan reacted by swinging his left arm wildly…
And hitting only air. Jack had teleported again, vanishing in a dim burst of white light. Cyborg whirled around behind him, anticipating an attack only to swing again and again hitting only air. This time Jack attacked from his right side, smashing his foot into Cyborg's head where the biological and mechanical met.
Cyborg muttered a curse and fired off several shots that Jack barely managed to dodge, even as Queen appeared behind him, still hovering on her flying poker card.
"Edward, follow me," she said to him in a commanding tone. "We are regrouping with your father and sister."
"But I have him on the ropes, Mother," Jack snapped.
"The Titans are more resourceful than you think," The Queen responded. "But your father has a plan."
"So did John Kerry," Jack snapped. "A lot of good it did him." Nevertheless, he complied, tapping a button on his belt and deploying a card similar to the one that Queen was flying on, but patterned after a Jack instead of a Queen.
"Yeah, you better run!" Cyborg shouted, shaking his arm cannon angrily as the two began to fly off. Queen ignored him but Jack shot him back a murderous glare. Cyborg converted his right arm back to normal and tapped a button on his left arm; the appendage immediately transformed, not into his standard sonic cannon, but something with a bit more umph.
Specifically, a rocket launcher. Cyborg sent the projectile off towards the two, and it passed directly in-between them before exploding in a ball of concussive and incendiary force; nearby windows shattered in the blast.
"ACK!" shouted Edward.
Cyborg took a breath and blew on the end of his missile arm. "Boo-yah."
Suddenly, the nearby shadows coalesced on a single point, and Raven emerged from them, looking tired but otherwise uninjured. "Robin, Starfire, and Ragnarok are taking care of King and the younger Jack near the arcade. Are Beast Boy and Yin okay?"
"My scans say they're just unconscious," Cyborg said. "Should we go after Queen and Jack, though? What if they get their time travel junk to work and go do something crazy like put asbestos in our teddy bears or something?"
"Ignoring the fact that there are far more efficient methods of infanticide," said Raven, "That's not possible. I began to suspect that time travel was involved late last night, trying to figure out how they disabled our security cameras. So, just in case, I used a spell I learned recently to pollute the time stream with incidental mystic energy."
"Which would accomplish what?" Cyborg asked, scratching his head. Even his massive vocabulary and extensive knowledge of physics sometimes had trouble comprehending what Raven was saying when she started throwing magic into the equation.
"It's like throwing mud in a pond," Raven elaborated, raising a hand and producing some vaguely transparent dark energy that gradually became murky. "The interference will prevent them from scanning the time stream accurately—"
Cyborg's eyes lit up—his left one quite literally—when he realized where she was going. "If they can't navigate the time stream properly they could end up anywhere and any when."
"Exactly. And as careful as they've been so far, I don't think they're going anywhere until that problem is resolved."
"Which will be?" Cyborg asked…
"When I lose consciousness," Raven answered. "Unfortunately."
"When? You mean if, right?"
Raven winced. "I got plenty of sleep last night. But I'm exhausted because of this spell. I have to maintain at least a modicum of focus or the energy will stop doing what I want it to and gradually dissipate."
"Perfect," Cyborg muttered. "Can you still heal BB?" He glanced over at the changeling, still unconscious a few yards away. For the first time, he noticed the crater in the ground from where the grenade had gone off. He hadn't seen it before because of all the smoke.
She nodded. "I can try, at least. You can probably wake Yin up yourself—I sense his mind beginning to stir."
With that, the two Titans set off to accomplish their tasks.
Harold Bloominflaur—now transformed into the regal, armor-clad Spades King of the Royal Flush Gang—brought his massive sword down towards Starfire as the villain and heroine clashed above the streets of Jump City. The nimble Tamaranean dodged the strike and fired back at him with a pair of brilliant green eyebeams. The rays of the sun beating down on Starfire's skin gave her assurance that she'd have plenty of energy for this fight, but the King's demeanor made her wonder if she should mislay some of her boundless confidence.
King smiled wickedly and spread his arms out, and the beams struck him in the chest and sent him and his Card sailing backwards. But King suffered no damage, as an energy shield absorbed the brunt of the attack. "A valiant effort, alien," King said, "But even your considerable powers are no match for technology from the future."
"I believe you underestimate my people," Starfire answered. "Our technology is advanced far beyond that of Earth, and has been for over a thousand of your years. Perhaps because we do not waste our time hating each other in the manner humans such as yourself are prone to do."
The King slashed at Starfire again with his sword, and Starfire flew backwards, hurling a flurry of starbolts at her attacker. King held his sword up and pressed a button on the hand guard with his thumb.
To Starfire's horror, all the starbolts curved in mid air, flowing into the sword like light into a black hole.
"Be that as it may," said the King, "you posses little or none of this advanced technology your species supposedly achieved. You are nothing but your own faculties, girl. But don't fret; you may rest assured our weapons were designed to insure a quick death for our foes."
A bitter laugh behind the King and to his right drew Starfire's attention, and she glanced that way to see Ragnarök, standing atop a chunk of pavement which was itself situated on a massive column of rock and dirt. "Funny you should mention Tamaranean technology," Rag said, raising his hand and summoning a chunk of limestone from the side of his pedestal. "I happen to be wearing some!"
Ragnarök used his geokinesis powers and slammed the stone and a flurry of others torn from his pedestal into King's face, filling his mouth with the dirt.
"You insolent--!" King shouted, coughing up dirt and spitting out mud. Then he lifted up his sword and smashed the pedestal to pieces, but Ragnarök had already leapt to a second one, and fired again…
Unfortunately, this time the shield came up, blocking the attack. All the dirt slammed into it, scattering around the King. He smiled wickedly again, and Starfire thought back to how Harold Bloominflaur had acted before. Starfire had always found him a bit… arrogant, acting in a way that would have made her father King Myand'r blush.
Still, the cruelty in his eyes—it was as if he transformed into a different person upon donning the clothes of villainy.
"It adapts," Rag thought out loud. "His shield figured out how to stop your solar attacks, and now it's blocking earth attacks too."
"Perhaps a more thorough scan of his technology would be useful?" Starfire suggested as she hovered next to her comrade. She was trying to think like Robin would, and it was usually Robin reminding Ragnarök of the scan visor on his Tamaranean technology. (Now that she thought of it, Yin had once commented that Ragnarök's visor would have made the fictional hunter of bounties, Samus Aran, green with the envy.)
"No, my dear, that's not happening." King blasted forward, shoulder-ramming Rag before he could assess tactics. Rag was sent careening off his column of rock and onto the roof of a nearby store twenty feet below. Then King turned, slashing his sword once again at Starfire. Starfire brought her arms up and blocked with her bracelets..
Immediately she regretted it; pain shot up the bones in her arms, immobilizing her as she reeled from the attack. The King tried to bring the sword down again and finish her off, but the column of rock and dirt broke off and slammed into King's side; the shield held, but the King went flying off into the distance. Ragnarök jumped on top of the half-column that remained and shouted some of the obscenities from his home universe as he propelled the other half forward, smashing the King again every time the card-themed monarch tried to climb off the rock and fly under his own power.
But it didn't take long before Ragnarök was again frustrated; little Jack, the modern incarnation of Edward Bloominflaur, leapt up from wherever he'd been hiding and dive-tackled Rag.
"Friend Collin!" Starfire shouted heading down to tear the nasty young one off of the other Titan….
Suddenly a beam of energy slammed into Starfire's back. She landed hard and rolled over to see Queen and Older Jack arcing towards her on their own cards. Queen stopped, and pulled her young son from atop Ragnarök. "Come along dear, your father wants to strategize."
"But this guy hurt Daddy!" Younger Jack protested.
"And we shall pay them back in full," Queen said. The Elder Jack just looked down at his younger self in contempt and harrumphed. Starfire was eager to kick the butt, if for nothing else than to administer pain to the selfish older version of Edward.
"You shall do no such thing," Starfire shouted, firing at the Queen. Elizabeth looked as though she had been affronted, and blasted Starfire's starbolt with her scepter. Star's attack exploded, and the flash of light blinded Star long enough for the three Royal Flush members to escape.
Star turned to Ragnarök. "Are you alright?"
He let her help him up. "Yeah, yeah. Stupid kid. You know how embarrassing it is to get beat up by a kid."
A familiar voice sliced into the conversation, as green tights, red tunic, and a black-and-gold cape fell into Starfire's peripheral vision.
"You wouldn't have gotten beat up if you'd train with me like Yin does," Robin growled.
"ROBIN!" Starfire screamed. She did not care what his advice to Collin was—she was too overwhelmed with happiness and immediately wrapped him in a hug. Tried as she might to use the discretion, she still felt multiple joints pop as she drew Robin into the embrace.
At least no bones broke this time.
"AIR, KORI! AIR!" Robin grunted. Starfire felt herself blush as she broke the embrace.
"I am sorry…"
"It's okay," Robin said, rubbing his right arm where Star's had wrapped around him."I'm glad to be out of those cuffs myself." That was an understatement. He was exhausted, angry, and needed to take a shower, but rest and relaxation would have to wait.
"I'm afraid this isn't over yet," he said.
Star nodded. "Indeed."
"I don't like the looks of this," said Ragnarok. Starfire and Robin glanced over to him to see Rag standing at the edge of the rooftop, scanning the distance with his visor. "They're building up chronal energy, according to this readout."
"I thought they said their time travel equipment was broken." Robin pulled out a monocular and looked off in the distance where Rag was looking, but only saw the five of them. "Surely they're not going to try and travel through time with a broken time machine."
"It's not their equipment that's broken," came the harsh voice of Raven next to him. Robin looked over to saw the rest of the Titans phase from a shadow and that shadow coalesce into Raven. "Last night I cast a spell to strand them in this era, but their equipment is fully functional."
"What does that mean?" asked Beast Boy, his wounded arm now back in a sling.
"It means they're trying something more drastic," Raven said. "Unless I don't understand the mechanics of time travel as well as I think I do."
"Well, have you ever actually traveled through time?" Cyborg asked with a shrug.
She glanced at him. "No, but I did pull you through a vortex from five thousand years in the past once. I have a little experience."
Vic grinned, his facing turning red as he scratched his head. "Oh, right, that."
"I don't care what they're up to—we have to stop them," Robin said. "Titans—TOGETHER!"
Atop the roof of a department store several hundred yards distant, a brilliant ball of sparking began coalescing in King's hand. Queen began to look worried, and it was a worry that Jasmine Bloominflaur rightfully shared.
Ten had never seen her parents so reckless. They were getting as bad as her brother, and that was territory they didn't need to be treading. Yet Ten's father seemed… so sure of himself, as if he knew this would work. Certainly, there was no record of this battle in their archives.
And surely, that meant the Bloominflaurs would have an advantage. For there would have to be a record now, now that they'd made themselves known. And, with history changing, the only possible outcome to people from the future fighting people from the past would be the future prevailing.
Yes. This was logical. This was how things would turn out. Her father knew what he was doing. Didn't he?
Ten hovered closer, her hard-light body crackling as she neared the swirling temporal vortex in her father's hand.
"What is the purpose of this?" the Queen asked. "The technology was not meant to be used in this way."
The King grinned broadly. "Pure chronal energy can be chaotic, and with our navigation impaired, returning to our own era or traveling to any other is impossible."
"So why are you wasting time with the device?" demanded Edward. He smiled sadistically. "I say we simply collaborate and kill the Titans one by one and be done with the whole affair. They've already prevented us from locking Robin away; we've nothing left but revenge."
"Don't be so shortsighted." The King stepped forward. "We have a great weapon here. I believe that, lacking the ability to travel through time, we can at least send cosmic ripples through history with nothing more than physical force."
"In other words," Ten thought aloud, "you want to punch history."
"Indeed," said King.
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, Father."
"It will never work," nagged the Queen. "You'll end up making us all Neanderthals or some awful mutant aborigine freaks."
"Watch and learn, my family," King said. "Watch and learn."
Footsteps on the rooftop nearby cued the Royal Flush Gang, and they all turned to see the Teen Titans, weapons and powers ready. It was a battle formation.
"Royal Flush Gang," commanded King, "CHARGE!"
Ten blasted forward, her super-computer mind processing the command far faster than anyone else in her family. She lanced directly towards the only one who could think as fast as she did—Cyborg, and shoulder rammed him. "This is for using me as a tool to take out your frustrations on a Nissan Extera," she cried, referring to the car he'd smashed her into earlier.
Cyborg staggered back, but regained his footing quickly and smashed Ten across the face. She sailed to the side—having little real mass, and landed hard on the roof. A sensation that human language cannot begin to approximate rushed through her as the hologram reoriented itself into a standing position.
"That's a nifty device," Cyborg said. "I'll look forward to dissecting it after deactivating you."
He jammed his right arm forward, a burst of blue sonic energy erupting from his cannon. Ten dodged out of the way and blasted at him with lasers from every point on her body, the streaks of light melting tiny divots into Cyborg's metal plating as they made contact. He dove out of the way and fired again; Ten dodged again, but this time he compensated and the beam slammed into her.
The hologram dissipated and the tiny orb that contained Ten fired all its thrusters to come to a dead halt before the orb returned to just a few feet above the roof. By this time the rest of the Titans had engaged Queen and the Jacks, while Robin alone contended with her father.
"Victor Stone," came a voice that Ten barely recognized as her own. The tinny speaker in the orb never captured the melody of Jasmine's old voice right unless it was modulated within the hologram or within that accursed six-year-old shell. "Poor kid. Only sixteen when your mother was eaten by an extra-dimensional monster. It almost killed you, too. I heard you would have preferred that. But your dad saved you—he turned you into this freak. This half-metal monster."
A brilliant blue-white beam lashed out in response. "That ain't gonna work, little girl!" Cyborg spat. "I came to terms with what I am a long time ago! Ever heard of a guy called Brother Blood?"
"Oh, Brother Blood," you say. Ten hovered up, her hologram projectors beginning to fluctuate. "Of course. You and he have a grand history together." She felt the light emerge, twisting and turning as though she were being molded, and when it ended, Ten coalesced into the form of the Hive Academy graduate Jinx.
"I know all about you and Brother Blood," Ten said in Jinx's voice. "I know what already happened and what's going to happen."
"What are you talking about?!" Cyborg demanded, firing off another sonic cannon shot. "Answer me!"
Ten cartwheeled out of the way. "I guess you'll have to beat it out of me!" she said. "But until then, this fight will be interesting!"
There's something to be said about trading troublesome antagonists so that the odds stack in one's favor—and that's exactly what the Titans did with the Royal Flush Gang. Raven, Yin, and Beast Boy went after Elder and Younger Jack, while Starfire and Ragnarök focused their efforts on the Queen.
Raven had felt Starfire's worry for Robin, as the Boy Wonder was now going toe-to-toe with King alone, but the Royal Flush's leader was so preoccupied with his chronal energy that Raven knew Robin would be able to handle himself.
What was really making her sweat—other than keeping her time-travel prevention spell going—was exactly what the King had planned with his increasingly powerful gathering of chronal energy.
It wasn't a question Raven had to ponder long, because Little Jack was suddenly on her, a pair of glowing red knuckle guards dishing out far more force than a twelve year old child normally could. Beast Boy dive-tackled Little Jack as a hyena, snarling and laughing at the child in an attempted to frighten him.
"Garfield Logan playing Batman," Raven thought aloud. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"I know a little about playing Batman!" Elder Jack growled as he lunged forward, his own cybernetic enhancements speeding up his limbs and strengthening them. It was obvious now how he could have driven the bo-staff through Frank Newitt's chest one-handed. "Except I'm the bad-cop version!"
"Do you know who Batman is?" Yin asked, bounding off a wall in a ball form and ramming into Elder Jack's face. "I'd really like to know."
Raven heard Jack mutter an expletive combined with something about shutting up, and took the opportunity to attack while he was distracted. She lunged at him with a kick, her boot coated in dark energy.
Jack blocked the attack and turned, delivering a punch of his own. Raven stepped back, deflecting it with a dark-energy shield, then stepped forward and palmstriking him in the chest. The combined magic-martial arts attack broke Jack's deflector shield and sent him flying onto his rear.
"I wonder, witch girl," he said as he stood up, "why you've not just said your little magic words and blown me to smithereens. I could be scattered all over this city like so much confetti falling after a victorious acquittal in court…"
Raven narrowed her eyes and made a slight grunt. She couldn't use her full powers and keep the distortion spell running, but she'd been way too obvious about the limitation. She just hoped Jack wouldn't figure out why. "Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos!" she whispered, sending a burst of dark telekinetic force that knocked Jack further back. This time he managed to stay standing.
"That was weak," he said. "I bet you stayed up all night pondering how to indict me. You look exhausted."
Yin returned the earlier warning to shut up (though this time without the expletive) and began pounding Elder Jack's face with his elastic fists. Blow after blow came down, the sum of which was less bone-crunching than it would have been had a stronger Titan been delivering the blows.
Jack managed to get an arm under Yin and released a burst of energy into the young Titan's stomach. Raven hovered up and caught him, slowing him with dark energy first, then easing him into her grip. He had a deep red burn wound in his stomach, she saw through a hole in his shirt. His unique (at least among Jump City's heroes) physiology made the skin around the burn melted and difficult for Raven to mend properly.
"ARGH!" he shouted. "Let me at him; I'm gonna tear that stupid domino mask off his face!" Yin wriggled out of Raven's arms, his teeth bared and tears falling from his eyes.
"You will pay for that." Raven held Davis back with dark energy and flew straight towards him. "A minute ago you said you wanted to see more of my power? HERE IT IS! Azarath Metrion Zinthos!"
Raven pistoned her fist back, coated in dark energy, then delivered a powerful uppercut that sent Elder Jack hurtling across the city. Raven didn't bother to look and see where he landed.
"Wow, that was impressive," Yin said, standing up with a hand cradling his wounded abdomen.
"Zip your jacket up," Raven said. "If any of the Royal Flush Gang sees the wound they'll aim for it."
"Like attacking my weak point for massive damage," Yin nodded.
Raven paused, letting her exhausted brain process what little tidbit of pop culture he was referring to this time. Finally, the memory came and Raven groaned inwardly. "Davis," she sighed, "you are such a nerd."
Beast Boy, satisfied that the Younger Jack was scared witless at this point, turned his attention to Raven and Yin and goggled when she saw the Elder Jack nowhere in sight; rather, Raven and Yin were together, Yin leaning on the older Titan and Raven's hand up his shirt.
Well, no, not his shirt, Beast Boy realized, but rather his jacket, which was now zipped up. "Whoa am I missing something?" Beast Boy said as he tried to figure out what was happening. "Raven, this really isn't the time for public displays of affection."
Raven shot Beast Boy a glare that seemed to stab right through him, and Beast Boy shrank away.
"I'm healing a wound," Raven hissed. "Or at least trying to."
"Oh, right," Beast Boy said with a nervous laugh and a big sweat drop on his head. "I knew that."
"We took care of Jack," said Yin, "Let's help Starfire and Rag."
Beast Boy nodded, as Raven and Yin broke their embrace. Gar winced when Raven stood up, because even though she tried to hide it, it was obvious how exhausted she was; her shoulders were slightly slumped and her eyes were bordering on bloodshot, her eyelids half covering them.
"You okay, Rae?"
"I will be as soon as this fight is over," she answered. "Let's go."
With that, the three Titans took off towards Queen and the Teen Titans she was fighting.
The fight between Cyborg and Ten had by this time left the rooftop and ended up in the streets of one of Jump City's many commercial districts. Pedestrians fled as the Jinx-doppelganger flipped and hopped around, firing simulated Hex Blasts at her foe. "Why do you look like her?" Cyborg demanded.
"Oh, you'll find out soon enough," said the fake Jinx. "And then you'll tear your flesh off and sacrifice everything that made you human—all because of what Brother Blood did to her."
Cyborg fired off a series of sonic cannon shots that Ten dodged; the beams smashed into bystanders' cards, causing windows to shatter and doors to dent. "Why should I care about Jinx?!" Cyborg demanded. "What aren't you telling me?"
"Don't be so coy," Ten said, dodging as Cyborg tried to smash her with his fists. "You know how you feel about that witch."
Cyborg grimaced—what was she talking about? Sure, he and Jinx had flirted a bit during his time at Hive Academy.. And she was pretty cute… and not entirely evil like some of those kids had been.
But what could she possibly see in Cyborg? He was a half-metal freak—she was a homo magi. She was a villain, he was a hero. So why did Ten's words make him so worried?
"Whatever you think you know, it ain't gonna happen!" Cyborg readied his sonic cannon…
And Ten grunted, lifting both hands and firing out a massive magenta energy beam that slammed into the ground, kicking up asphalt; then it moved forward, and Cyborg couldn't move fast enough to dodge it. The beam slammed into his chest and sent Cyborg careening backwards and through the window of a storefront. His world went white, then black as his optical sensor in the robot half of his face surged with power and went offline.
It came back on seconds later, and his biological eye blinked open with it; his optical sensors detected the familiar hum of the orb containing Ten's mind hover towards him. Then he heard the sounds of light bending around a frame of force fields. A new hologram?
He tried to sit up and found his lower torso immobile. Diagnostics immediately identified the problem and sent some micro probes to restore mobility. Meanwhile, he'd have to stall for time. He'd looked up far enough to see the silhouette forming in the door, but couldn't make out who or what it was.
Then came the voice—a kind voice, but austere and scientific. It wasn't exactly like any voice Cyborg had ever heard—but he instantly knew who it was supposed to be.
"What's wrong... son?" asked the hologram. The fake Elinore Stone gave a bitter laugh and took a step closer. "Did you fall and hurt yourself? Was the girl from the future too much for my little robot spawn?"
"You ain't my mother," Cyborg hissed from his supine position on the floor. "You never will be."
"You hurt me, child," said the hologram. "Your insults are evil to a poor old woman's heart."
Now Cyborg was really angry—not only was she imitating his mother, she was doing it very, very badly. Cyborg unconsciously prepared his sonic cannon to fire… but with a few adjustments this time.
"Perhaps I should just put you out of your misery," the fake Elinore Stone said, raising a gun that was probably also a hologram. "End your pathetic existence as this half-machine freak your father made you. You should have died when I did."
"Funny," Cyborg said, trying to stall for time. "You call me a half robot freak when you're nothing but a floating probe with hologram technology. Your parents did a lot worse than mine. Taking your mind out of your body entirely. Making your disease into something useful for them."
Ten recoiled, dropping her character and shouting at him. "You take that back—they were saving my life!"
"So they could profit from it," Cyborg retorted. Just a little more and…
"LIAR!" Ten hissed, and fired…
Cyborg rolled out of the way, his legs coming back online at the last second. And then he thrust the sonic cannon forward and unleashed a burst of sound—but not his normal blue beam—a transparent white wave of sonic energy washed over the doppelganger. "THE ONLY LIES HERE ARE THE ONE'S YOU'RE SPEWING FROM THAT TWO-BIT SPEAKER!" Cyborg growled.
The sound drove Ten back, the shape of Elinore Stone vanishing; the probe took the full brunt of the attack and sailed back into a stone retaining wall, thrusters failing. The probe fell to the sidewalk with a dull thud.
"How…?" came a tinny voice from the speaker.
"What's that?" Cyborg asked, walking over to the broken hologram-probe.
"How did you destroy the force fields?"
"Not hard," Cyborg said. "I listened. Light moves a lot faster than force fields can refresh, so I listened to how often the light was bouncing off your force fields when you were making that hologram of my mom and just matched it with my sonic cannon. Advantage to having a robot ear."
The little probe seemed to quake as Jasmine Bloominflaur's voice emerged, as if it could physically express her fear. "P.. please… don't kill me."
Cyborg narrowed his biological eye. "Naw. That ain't how I operate."
With that, Cyborg walked away, leaving the probe broken and alone.
A blast of dark energy arced side-by-side with a starbolt and slammed into the shield around the Royal Flush Gang's King; Queen tried to jump in to help him out against Raven and Starfire, but Ragnarök and Yin double teamed her, Yin stretch-dodging a blast from her scepter and diving towards her face while Rag pelted her body with his geokinetic powers.
Robin came down towards the roof of the department store, smashing at King with his bo-staff just as the shields began to return to standby, catching King across the head and staggering him. "It's over, Bloominflaur!" Robin growled.. "You've lost your little gambit in court, and you're about to lose this fight too."
"Give up and we'll take it easy on you!" said Beast Boy from behind—not in the form of a crow, thankfully.
"A Bloominflaur doesn't surrender so easily!" King protested, raising the hand that had been glowing red for this whole fight. "This entire affair has simply been stalling for time, my boy. I don't know why we can't escape this time period, but our technology is still good for one thing."
A red aura surrounded King's fist, reality itself seeming to warp in its wake. And then the King flung his hand out, a bright white flash consuming it—and shockwaves arced over the entire block, sending the Titans sprawling. Robin's last coherent thought was that Queen and King didn't seem affected by it…
It was quickly over, and Robin immediately stood, surveying his surroundings—
And found something he did not expect.
Starfire and Raven were gone—and in their places were two young women Robin had never seen before. Robin darted over to them and helped them up, the first one he reached her eyes batting open. "Hey there, handsome," she said. "You Robin?"
"Um…" Robin stammered. "I am," he said. "Who are you?"
"The name's Jubilee," she said. "I'm with the X-Men."
"The comic book characters?"
Jubilee winked. "Hee. In my world, you're the comic book character, Grayson. Don't worry, I know all about our history-punching ne'er-do-wells."
Robin goggled—she hadn't gotten his name right, but she had named the first Robin. Which meant she really did have insider information. Robin had heard of Jubilee from the old X-Men Cartoon, but that had been years ago, and he couldn't remember her real name, nor what she looked like until now.
Robin tried to process the fact he was talking to a fictional character, but found it difficult.
She must have mistook that frustration for worry over her identity. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." Suddenly, a shadow fell over them and Jubilee shot to her feet, dodging out of the way as Queen blasted at the two of them with a beam from her scepter. Robin flipped the opposite direction and hurled a birdarang at Queen.
By this time, the other teenager, who had replaced Raven, got up. "What happened?" She glanced over and saw Robin and Jubilee fighting Queen and ran towards them.
"Leave them alone!" she shouted.
"Shadowcat, watch out!" Jubilee called.
But the girl didn't react in time, and Queen was able to blast her in the chest and sent her sprawling… "Ugh!!"
Jubilee fired a blast of fireworks into Queen's face, and ran over and grabbed Shadowcat. "Kitty! Kitty, talk to me!"
Robin was trying to do three things at once by this point—fight Queen, try and figure out if the other Titans were okay, and try and figure out what had just happened with Shadowcat and Jubilee…
Unfortunately, it was the first objective that suffered the most, and Queen was able to smack him across the face and send him sprawling onto the rooftop.
Robin looked over at the two young X-Men, just in time to see them vanish, their forms suddenly replaced with those of Starfire and Raven. "Star, Raven," Robin shouted, "are you okay?"
"I am unharmed," Starfire said, "But Raven seems to be… in great pain."
Robin glanced back up to see King and Queen approaching, but suddenly Cyborg, Beast Boy, Ragnarok, and Yin jumped them, taking the fight off the rooftop and into the streets below, giving Robin the breathing room he needed. He knelt by the two girls, expecting to see the wound Shadowcat had received in Raven's chest…
But it wasn't there. Instead Raven's pain seemed to be internal—she had a massive headache, by the looks of it.
Robin placed his green-gloved hand on her arm. "Raven, what happened? Do you remember any of the past few minutes.."
"I don't… know how… but King…" Raven stammered through her agony. "He punched time. And since my spell is what's keeping the from traveling, there was feedback—into my brain."
"Punching history? How is that even possible!?"
"He figured out a way."
"How serious is this?" asked Robin
Raven glanced at him. "I'm not sure," she said, sitting up but still shaky. "If he keeps doing it, I could fall unconscious, and if that happens, my spell will vanish. They can escape."
"Is that the worst case scenario?" Robin asked pointedly.
"No. The worst case scenario is that the feedback kills me."
"What are the odds of that?"
Raven blinked. "I have no idea. I've never done this before."
"This is terrible," said Starfire. "We must stop the King before he uses his fist of punching on the history again."
"Hang back, Raven," Robin ordered. The last thing he needed was the villains at large through time. "Try and take care of yourself." He turned to Starfire. "Kori, you're with me. We're going to shut King down, now, hard and fast. Ready?"
"Always," Starfire said with a confident nod.
"Then let's go!"
Starfire wrapped her arms around Robin's torso and took off, carrying him into the battle once again.
"Jack, Ten, get down here," demanded King. "Jack, Ten, please respond!"
"They can't hear you, dude!" Beast Boy shouted, transforming into a lion and pouncing at the King. King leapt backwards and aimed for Beast Boy's still-not-one hundred-percent shoulder. Beast Boy rolled of the way and transformed into a mouse, then ran between the King's legs before turning into an elephant and sending him flying end-over-end to the asphalt.
Just then Robin swooped in and kicked King in the head as he got back up, and all the Titans used the opportunity to fire their respective attacks at him.
Queen jumped in the way, however, smashing the solid matter out of the air with her scepter and shielding herself from the brunt of the energy. Starbolts rained down, and Queen deflected them, her eyes narrowing as she saw her attacker.
"Harold, look!" she shouted. "The Tamaranean transformed back."
"It's as I feared," King said, smacking Robin out of the way and joining the Queen. The two of them hovered away from the Titans on their flying cards, which seemed to generate from their feet at will.
"After them," Cyborg shouted.
Beast Boy and Robin ran side by side as they approached Jump City harbor…
And skidded to a halt when Jack appeared beside them on his own flying card, drenched in water. "I don't particularly appreciate being drenched," Jack said. "Especially in the dead of December."
The brilliant white form of Ten soon joined them, though from the flickering of her hologram it was clear the little probe that housed her mind had seen better days. "We are here, mother, father," she said.
"Then let the games begin," King whispered harshly, smashing his glowing fist out once again. And again a shockwave tore through reality. This time, none of the Titans were so close as to be hit directly, but when the flash subsided, the Titans gasped in shock. Where before there had been only four members of the Royal Flush Gang, there were now thirty-two robots, all identical except for a symbol on their chest bearing the insignia of a playing card—all but the twenty cards that made up the four houses of the Royal Flush Gang were represented.
"Well that's not good," said Cyborg.
"Tim, do you have a plan?" Beast Boy asked, glancing sideways at his leader… to find that it wasn't his leader there; it was still Robin alright, but he was taller, with five-o-clock shadow on his face, which seemed to be frozen in a perpetual scowl. His costume was also different, with red tights and black shorts replacing the normal green pants.
"The name's not Tim, Logan," barked the older boy in the Robin costume. "Must be another time shift. Don't worry, I'm up to speed."
"You're Jason Todd," Beast Boy realized out loud.
"Well at least I existed somewhen in this timeline," the young adult muttered. "Titans—ATTACK!" he cried.
The robots charged forward, and Beast Boy ignored the sudden change in his leader and went to work smashing them. Starfire and Cyborg joined in, but it quickly became apparent that these things weren't run-of-the-mill Sladebots that could be destroyed in just a hit or two.
One of them smashed Robin across cross the face and sent him tumbling, but he recovered and hurled an explosive disk into the face of one of the robots. The bright flash erupted and tore the robot's head off.
Beast Boy turned, transforming into a massive stegosaurus as he smashed a couple of the robots across the street with his tail. Both of them smashed into the sides of buildings and fell to the ground…
Then they got back up and began wobbling towards Yin and Ragnarök.
"These things are too tough," Rag whined, smashing one with a series of rocks to little effect. Yin, for his part, tried to punch the one nearest him, but his rubbery attacks did little to halt the robot's advance.
Luckily, a pair of eyebeams lanced down and sliced the robot's head off, and the body crumpled to the ground, inert. "Thanks, Starfire," Yin said, glancing up.
"It was my pleasure," she answered…And Yin found himself goggling. Starfire… wasn't herself—something had changed her…
"Um…" Yin stammered, staring directly at the center of her chest, now covered in only two thin violet strips of an alien material leaving ample cleavage exposed. Her hair was different too, he noticed as he wrenched his eyes away from her torso—it was enormous and curly, like a rock band wig from the 1980s. Davis found it vaguely frightening yet somehow attractive.
"Don't worry," said the new Starfire. "I won't bite." Her voice was similar.. but different, as if a different life had accompanied the same set of vocal cords. She spoke with less of her alien inflection, more like an Earthling, and in a harsher, lower tone.
Starfire turned and unleashed burst of solar energy that decimated a nearby robot…
And just as suddenly as she had appeared, reality seemed to melt away and the new Starfire was replaced with the old. Yin stared blankly at her for a moment, trying to process what had just happened.
"Yin?" She asked, alarmed. "Are you harmed, my friend?" She began shaking him. "Why are you staring at my grebnacks as if they are about to burst through my shirt and attack you?"
Yin blinked. "No comment," he said, slinking away so she wouldn't see him blush. This was getting way too weird for him.
Tim Drake had no idea why Beast Boy was looking at him so funny when he climbed out from behind a pile of rubble that one of those robots had knocked him into. Beast Boy seemed to get over it fast enough and went back to smashing them. Tim himself did the same, drawing two birdarangs and joining them together to form a sword.
"HIYAH!" he cried, slicing the arm of one of the robots off as it missed a punch. He turned and ran another through under the armpit.
"Aim for their joints!" Robin shouted so that the rest of his team could hear. "Whoever designed these things did so poorly. They're strong—but flawed."
The rest of the Titans complied, aiming for the robots' weak point.
Robin found himself near Jack and attacked him, but was able to see King in the distance, his fist glowing red once again.
King punched, and a massive shockwave washed over all the robots. One of them exploded as Cyborg hit it, and sent Ragnarök flying into the crater another had made earlier.
But the shockwave washed over all the other robots, and suddenly, their design changed before the Titans' eyes, the weak points under their arms and at the knees vanishing—the entire chassis transforming from something out of a low-budget episode of Doctor Who to something closer to a Star Wars storm trooper.
"Not good!" Beast Boy shouted, morphing into a mouse to avoid getting clobbered by one of the robots.
"Argh!" Ragnarök shouted at Robin. "Come on, man, get to King. We've got to stop him from glomping around with reality."
Robin nodded and threw a bunch of explosive disks over his shoulder, hoping they were enough to stop the robots as he darted towards King. Unfortunately, before he could get there, a black blur slammed into his torso and sent him sprawling.
Robin hit his head hard against the sidewalk and everything flashed white, then went dark. He opened his eyes and discovered he had a massive headache, possibly a concussion. "Ugh."
"You were trying to hurt daddy!" Robin focused enough to see that the voice was Younger Jack—little Eddie Bloominflaur. "I don't care how cool you are, I'm not going to let you hurt daddy."
"You're father is a super-criminal!" Robin spat. "He's no better than Slade or Doctor Light."
"Liar!" Little Jack spat, smacking Robin across the face with his fist as the Boy Wonder tried to sit up. "In the future, you betrayed us—thanks to you we ended up fugitives. It's your fault, Robin—or should I say NIGHTWING!"
Suddenly, black energy coated Jack's costume and he hovered up off the ground. Robin got to his feet and saw Raven standing near by, looking at the child furiously through bloodshot eyes.
"The future where Robin becomes Nightwing is cancelled," she hissed. And with one burst of telekinetic energy, Raven ripped the jetpack and the entire Jack costume off young Eddie and sent the kid sprawling on his butt, now clad in his civvies.
"She did you a favor," Robin said in a tone that immediately shut the kid up. "Listen, I have no idea what your parents told you, and for all I know it might be true. Maybe I did do something bad to them in the future. But looking at them now, when they're trying to kill me and my friends… You think maybe the deserve it?"
"The said you made one of their friends be an enemy."
"I don't care," Robin spat. "They're tearing apart the fabric of the universe over a stupid grudge ten years before the grudge even starts! I don't care if you hate me, Eddie, but I WILL shut your parents down."
"…" Eddie took a step back, suddenly terrified—and perhaps in awe—of Robin once again.
Raven turned to Robin and placed a hand on his shoulder.. "Listen to me, Tim," she said. "I can't take much more of this. Every time King punches the time stream the feedback goes directly into my brain. He can't keep doing this… I'll…"
She fell backward with a scream of agony, and Robin glanced over to see another wave of temporal energy arc out and transform Beast Boy's colors from black and purple to red and white. Though thankfully, the robots all transformed back into their original incarnations as well.
Unfortunately, all the broken ones got back up, fully repaired.
Robin sighed. "This is getting tedious."
"How do you think I feel?" Raven stood up, using the wall to steady herself. "Go, get to King. Order everyone to get to King!"
Robin nodded, and ran off to commence the order.
Yin had managed to avoid getting himself killed so far, and dove behind a car near the crater where Ragnarök had fallen. He made sure the coast was clear before leaning over and pulling Rag out of the pit..
And gasped when he found someone other than Ragnarök. "What the heck?!" Yin gasped. The teenager he found was at least a year older than Ragnarök, blond-haired and blue-eyed, with a white T-shirt that had a big black G emblazoned on the middle.
His entire right arm was covered in a metallic gauntlet that had a ruby on the back of the hand.
"Who are you?" Yin asked.
The boy blinked open, and frowned. "Don't worry, man. The name's Gauntlet, and I'm up to speed on what's happening."
"It's happening in my world too."
The boy called Gauntlet got up, stretching his arms and then glancing over at Yin. "Huh, well, you're not Savior, but you'll do."
"Who is Savior?"
Gauntlet scratched his head. "Remember that guy who helped the Titans out with Trigon a few chapters before you showed up?"
Yin blinked. "No."
"Well, that's Savior," he said. "Who are you?"
"I'm Yin—the rubber Titan."
"Ho-boy, they really don't give people nicknames like they used to." Gauntlet extended his right arm, and a bunch of swirling yellow energy emanated from it, forming what seemed to be a giant semi-transparent packing machine.
"What's that for?" asked Yin.
Yin's agonized screams fell on deaf ears.
Robin darted forward, smashing robots as he moved with his bo-staff. He leapt towards one with a flying kick and slammed his foot into its chassis… And his foot seemed to sink in, the metal denting because of its flimsiness. Robin gasped, knowing he was about to suffer a grievous injury to his ankle..
Until the robot grabbed him by the leg. Robin looked up and goggled when he saw that the Royal Flush Gangs' machines had transformed once again, and cursed the fact he hadn't gotten to King before he punched history again and injured Raven further.
"Let go of me!" he growled at the robot.
Instead, it pulled Robin's leg out of its chest, seemingly confused.
"You are not the Doctor!" the robot cried in a shrill voice. "DELETE. DELETE!"
Robin gasped, as electric weaponry appeared inside the robot's eyes, but no matter how hard he struggled, Robin couldn't free himself from its clutches. "DELETE!" it cried again…
When a violet boot slammed into its face, sending the shrill robot sprawling. Electricity arced off into the sky, and the robot faded back to normal as reality reasserted itself.
"Thanks for the save, Starfire," Robin said.
"I was glad to help. Now, before King punches again, go after him—as for these robots, I shall kick the butt!"
Robin turned and let Starfire handled the robots who were around them, running off to take down the RFG leader.
Three more robots appeared in front of him, and Robin growled in frustration. "Oh, come on, is there someone up there churning these things out?"
Jack watched Raven tear the armor off his younger self and chuckled. He was such a weak child, so sentimental. And then he noticed something else… when his father reached out and struck history with his chronal-energy gauntlet, Raven herself recoiled in pain. As if her mind were linked to the time stream itself…
"Which means…" Jack thought aloud…
He opened a communicator on his wrist and pressed one of its buttons. "Father! Keep punching the time stream. It's that Azarathian Witch keeping us from leaving this time period. I think she has to maintain focus or the spell will vanish."
"Understood," came the King's voice through the communicator.
Jack smiled, and turned to see if he could take down the witch himself… But soon, Beast Boy was in his way and he found himself lost in the sound and fury of battle once again.
Satisfied with how tightly Yin had been packed into a ball, Gauntlet stared at his handiwork and smiled broadly. "Perfecto," he said. "You okay in there little guy?" It felt odd talking to a basket-ball sized sphere and expecting a reply. Usually that only happened when Ithlian came out to play.
"Mmpph pphmm mm mmphhm!!" the angry reply came.
"Don't worry, I'm almost done." Gauntlet took a step back, forming a brilliant golden sling with energy from his namesake armament and began whirling it around as fast as he could, until poor Yin was nothing more than a little dark blur inside a big bright blur.
Then Gauntlet took a step forward and hurled Yin with all his might, directly towards three robots that had been giving Robin a lot of trouble. Yin slammed into the middle of one of the robots, plowing directly through due to the immense velocity at which he had been propelled and continuing on through the other two, sparks and gears flying everywhere.
Gauntlet tugged on the golden-energy tether and pulled Yin back towards him, satisfied with the result.
Robin saw the bullet slam through three robots, goggling with surprise. What it was made of or who launched it, Robin didn't have a clue. But he wasn't about to look the gift horse in the mouth. He hurled himself towards King, throwing a duo of birdarangs as the King tried to blast him out of the air with an energy weapon on his left wrist.
It was the other hand Robin was aiming for, though—the one with the history-altering energies stored in it. King reached for his massive sword, but he wasn't fast enough and Robin slammed two birdarangs already in-hand together, once again producing the blade he'd used against Malchior and Trigon's minions.
Down it came, the sword cutting clean through King's arm, the chronal energies therein sputtering to nothing. Sparks and gears fell out, and Robin realized that he had been correct in assuming the hand was fake. (Flesh and blood, he assumed, wouldn't be able to survive the rigors of punching the time stream unaided. Unless they were, you know, Kryptonian or something.)
"What have you DONE!?" cried the King, backhanding Robin across the face with his undamaged hand. Robin took the attack and stepped back, drawing his sword and preparing to fight King one-on-one.
Then a massive force wave slammed into his side and a jeweled scepter came down across his chest. Pain exploded through his body, and Robin found himself on the ground before he knew what had happened. He rolled out of the way when he heard another attack coming, and narrowly avoided the Queen's scepter from smashing into him. Robin shot to his feet, kicking at her, following up with punches and generally trying to get past her guard…
He realized much to his annoyance that he'd dropped his sword, and backed away when Queen tried to hit him with the scepter again.
She turned to King, who was still cradling the maimed extremity. "Harold, you have the Particle Cannon! Use it on Robin!"
"Great, just what I need," Robin hissed, leaping at Queen with a spinning crescent kick.
Queen blocked it with an armor-enhanced forearm and smacked Robin across the face with a backhand. He felt a tooth fall out and spit it up, then wiped a trail of blood from the corner of his mouth.
"Harold—SHOOT HIM!" the Queen demanded. "Let us wipe our hands of this sordid affair and be done with it."
Robin glared at the King, who tapped a button on his belt. His armor changed, transforming his free arm into a massive cannon that would make (stop me if you've heard this one before:) Samus Aran green with envy.
"Go ahead," growled Tim Drake. "Make my day."
To have called Yin livid would have been a grievous understatement. His fury burned with the white-hot intensity of a thousands suns and it was all directed at a young man with the heroic codename Gauntlet. Yin stretched up, out of his ball form and towered above the battle. He cringed a bit when the wound in his stomach began to stretch and sent shudders of pain up his torso, but was able to ignore it. He quickly sighted Gauntlet, fighting a couple of the remaining robots, and zeroed in on him, hurling himself at the blond teen and smashing him against a nearby wall.
"YOU PIECE OF CRAP!" he growled, eyes closed from the sting of his angry tears. (And perhaps there were tears of pain there too, though Davis would be the last to admit it.) "I OUGHT TO TEAR YOUR STUPID SPIKY HAIR OUT OF YOUR HEAD!"
"What the GLOMP did I do?!" came the response. Needless to say, the voice wasn't that of Gauntlet. Yin blinked his eyes open to see not him, but Ragnarök, his back against the wall looking confused, frightened, and not slightly angry.
"You…" Yin said absently. "Where…?"
"Have you lost your mind, Yin?" Rag asked.
"Um. I blame it on the time shifts." Yin slinked back to a standing position. "Truce?" he extended a hand.
"Um… sure…" Rag said, reaching out to take Yin's hand.
When they were both blasted in the side by Ten, and crumpled to the ground in a heap. "That was easy," she thought aloud.
"You'll pay for that!" Cyborg shouted, leaping from the top of a nearby mail truck and kicking Ten in the face. "Didn't I break you earlier anyway?"
"I got better," Ten replied dryly. "Surely you know what a nanomachine is. The innards of my probe are crawling with them, repairing damage and correcting deficiencies."
Cyborg punched at her with one hand, but she grabbed it; he punched with the other hand and Ten grabbed that one too. "Whatever you think you know about my future, I don't care," he said. "At your core you're just a selfish little teenager in need of a good beat down, nanomachines or not."
"'I'm not a better robot than you,'" Ten mocked, in Cyborg's own voice. "'I'm a better person.' Pathetic."
Cyborg head-butted her, and stepped forward as he drove Ten back, their hands still locked together.
Ten smiled, her eyes narrowing wickedly. "Oh, poor uneducated little Victor. Let me give you a bit of a history lesson." Cyborg heard the thrusters in Ten's probe fire, and she began to press forward.
"History, Cyborg. History tells us the battle is never won by the side that's the most noble, or the side with the most heart and spirit. No, no. History teaches us this lesson: in any conflict, the battle is won by whoever has the best technology!"
Light exploded around Ten, blinding both of Cyborg's eyes with both radiation and light, and Ten stepped forward, punching her glowing fist through Cyborg's abdomen, chunks of metal spraying everywhere as transistors and all sorts of other machine parts leaked out.
"Lesson learned," she said, as Cyborg's senses all faded to black.
Somehow Jack found himself fighting Starfire, diving in and out of Starbolt blasts, using all his armor's abilities. He fired off a burst of energy from a plasma pistol he'd brought with him, but the Tamaranian dodged it and fired back with Starbolts.
Jack put his shield up to full strength, deflecting all the bolts and then firing back. Starfire dodged… and the beam hit the car behind her, causing a massive explosion that shattered windows all along the street and sent Starfire careening into the asphalt. She did not get back up.
Beast Boy darted forward to try and rescue her, but the heat was too much, and he staggered back and also collapsed.
Eddie Bloominflaur stared at his family and the Teen Titans fighting, and began to feel something. Guilt, he guessed. It hurt, though. It felt as though he'd made a terrible, terrible mistake. The way Beast Boy selflessly ran towards an explosion to save Starfire—the way Cyborg kept fighting even though Jasmine out-classed him.
It reminded him of why he'd loved the Titans—and Robin—so much in the first place.
Even if Robin had done something so horrible to them in the future, was any of that really worth all this?
"Daddy…" he whispered. "Please be right about this… Please don't be the villain."
Raven witnessed all these events from the shadows, dread and horror growing in her stomach. She wanted so badly to help, but she could barely walk straight, let alone fight. Even though the King was no longer able to punch history, she was still far from okay. For now, she needed to hang back, to regain her strength…
And then she saw Robin, bruised and beaten from his fight with the Queen, standing in the middle of the road where Haney Street intersected with the road that ran along the bay; the King stood, the bay to his back, aiming the massive particle canon directly at him.
The Queen fell to her knees a few feet away, Robin having been too much for her and she having been too much for Robin.
And after all the litigation and fighting, the Titans lay defeated and the Boy Wonder stood helpless in the sights of King's particle cannon. Raven wanted to reach out, to do something to help, but found her legs shaky. She tried to press on anyway, not even daring to fly. Exhaustion seemed to drip off of her, weigh her down…
Starfire got to her feet and started slowly walking over too Robin…
She wouldn't be fast enough, and it didn't matter anyway because Ten got between her and her leader and Starfire didn't have enough strength to fight…
"Now, Harold!" shouted Queen! "KILL HIM!"
"It has been a good fight, lad," Harold said. "But it must end. Checkmate."
"NO! DADDY! DON'T HURT HIM..!" cried a young boy, finally realizing that his childhood idol was in grave danger, finally realizing how badly he'd been misled. Finally realizing that some things may well be more important than family.
King saw what was happening and tried to stop himself—
Too late; the wave of particles lashed out…
Raven jerked her head to the side as a little black blur ran past, and dove towards Robin and slammed into his side, pushing him out of the way of the stream of charged particles.
A shrill cry escaped Queen's lips as the beam struck little Eddie Bloominflaur; his body was a silhouette in a cloud of burning white-hot energy, and then fell to the asphalt with a sickening thud.
"No… No… What have I done!?" cried the King, darting over to the body, and Queen following shortly there after.
"Eddie!" she cried, a gut-wrenching scream of a woman pleading for the impossible.
Robin stared at the charred body from where he lay a few feet away, and glanced over at King and Queen. "You killed him," he spat. "You murdered your own son."
"I didn't mean to!" wailed Harold, as if that would bring Eddie back. Raven could feel his guilt, his anguish, even from this far away, as the Bloominflaurs cradled the corpse of their son.
"Eddie!" cried Jasmine, hovering over to the body. "No.. no, this can't be happening…" Jasmine's eyes filled with rage, and whirled around, pointing her arm at Robin. It transformed into a shotgun. "Mother, father… should I kill him?"
King and Queen stared blankly into the distance, not answering. A full minute must have gone by.
"Stand down," said King. "It's over."
Ten's arm transformed back to normal. "You're right… we have." She hovered over and knelt by Eddie's body. "This is not what was supposed to have happened."
Harold Bloominflaur inhaled "We've lost too much… I killed him…" The rest of his words were unintelligible through his sobs, the tears building up inside his white playing-card mask so that he pulled it off and threw it down the street with a shout.
It landed with a thud and skidded to a halt at Jack's feet. Raven narrowed her eyes on the face of the elder Edward Bloominflaur, seeing and feeling the rage and insanity emanating from his heart and mind. He was becoming—unhinged… Dangerous…
"Surrender?" he said in a low growl. "After all this, Dad? Surrender?"
"We've lost too much," King sobbed. "What does any of it matter anymore? It's over! My son is dead! I killed my own son!"
"I AM YOUR SON, OLD MAN!" Jack bellowed. "That stupid child was a weak parasite. I'm glad he's dead. I hated my younger self. He was so worthless."
"Don't talk about—yourself—that way!" Queen sobbed, finding the very idea awkward.
"Don't you understand? Now that this has happened you don't even exist anymore! The only reason you've not been erased from history is—"
"Shut up! Shut up!" Jack screamed, tearing off his gloves and charging for Robin. "I'll finish this with my bare hands because you are too weak!"
Jack darted forward, and Robin got up, clearly barely able to stand. He pulled a birdarang and started towards Jack, running on pure survival instinct. It was kill or be killed at this point. Robin had no other alternatives…
And then, Jack stopped abruptly, dark energy coating his armor. Slowly he turned his head and upper body and saw Raven, ten paces behind him and to the left. The energy slipped off his torso and off his legs, and retreated down to Jack's belt.
The belt came unfastened, loosening and sliding open, barely any longer around Jack's waist. "So the witch shows herself," he spat.
"I've been watching you." Raven took a step clockwise around him. "Every time King would punch the time stream, your belts would all begin to glow, just briefly. They're the things protecting you from the changes to the time stream. They're the reason you've not been erased from history."
A surge of fury arced through Jack, and Raven knew she was correct.
"If you take one more step, you'll be out of the field this belt uses to stop the timeline changes from affecting you. If you take one more step… you'll be dead. Stand down." It was all Raven could do to stay conscious, to keep herself from succumbing to sleep. She had to stay awake. She had to stay long enough to stop Jack.
"You insolent 'hero'…" said Jack, clenching his fists. "You think you know everything. You don't understand anything. My younger self died, but I'm here. I still exist—I exist now outside of time, outside of reality. The philosopher said I think; therefore, I am."
"He wasn't talking about time travel."
"I'll prove it!" Jack raged. "I'll prove that I can exist with or without my younger self. With or without—this accursed belt!"
And Jack stepped forward, out of the belt; he stooped down and grabbed a birdarang, and strode over to Robin.
"This isn't possible!" Jasmine whispered. "He can't…"
"Edward!" cried Queen…
Raven fell to her knees as temporal energy began buzzing inside her brain. Oh no, here it comes. He's going to be erased… She glanced up to see that Jack was now covered in pulsating white energy, red lightning bolts arcing across his hair, between his fingers; it got stronger, until it was practically covering his body. He staggered towards Robin, raising the birdarang threateningly. And Robin let the birdarang in his own hand fly, knocking Jack's to the ground.
Edward Bloominflaur cried out in rage and fell to his knees. Lightning arced into the sky, and the world exploded into a wave of white light, filling everyone's vision, blinding even Jasmine as she was propelled backwards.
When it cleared, there was no trace of Jack at all. He was simply… gone.
Robin looked up the street and saw Raven, her eyes lolled back in her head. She muttered something or made a dull groan and collapsed to the ground, devastated one last time by the ravages of the temporal shock on her brain.
Robin staggered over to her. "Raven!" he shouted. "Raven, hang on… I'm coming."
He glanced over at the Bloominflaurs, cradling the body of their son. Compassion stirred in his heart for them, but they were criminals.
..And he was in no shape to apprehend them. He pulled off a glove and knelt to check Raven's pulse, never taking his eyes off King and Queen.
Queen grabbed her husband's arm. "Come, Harold. The witch has fainted—we must escape now."
King glanced up at Robin and shook his head. "I'm sorry we put you through all this, lad."
"Frank Newitt," Robin thought aloud. "He was your Ace, wasn't he? Then he came to me—me in the future—and got a deal to hide in the past in exchange for testimony. That's why you killed him."
"I can't stop you," Robin said. "I can barely move. But if you ever set foot in this or any time period again, I will do everything in my power to bring you to justice. Do you understand?"
King nodded again, then followed his wife and Jasmine as Queen opened a temporal vortex with her scepter. The three of them vanished into it, leaving the Titans to fend for themselves.
Robin pulled out his communicator. "This is Robin," he said. "The threat has been neutralized. Send a medical team. Over."
SIX DAYS LATER
"Merry Christmas, Mister Nick!" Pearl Fey reached behind her back and pulled out a small but beautifully painted woodcarving of a Phoenix rising from its ashes.
"Wow, Pearls—that's incredible!" Nick said, taking the little carving from her. "You got this for me?"
"Yup! All by myself!"
"Pearly!" Maya scolded.
"Okay," Pearl admitted. "Mystic Maya helped a little bit."
"I helped quite a bit, actually," said Maya. "What did you get me, Nick? A new car, I hope!"
Phoenix Wright winced, leaning back and half-sitting on the desk in his law office. "I'm afraid not," he said. "I'm really sorry, Maya, but I just didn't have enough money."
Maya looked down. "It's okay, Nick. I can wait till next year."
Nick gave her a light smile, hoping to cheer her up. Though, really, it was probably Nick that needed the most cheering up. In the days since the end of the trial of Timothy Drake—or rather, Robin, as it was officially written on the court record—a few rather disturbing facts had come to light about what actually happened with the Bloominflaurs.
Apparently, their future selves had jumped the incarnations from this era, knocked them out, and placed them in a hidden closet behind the stairs of their house. Technology from the year 2018 sure was marvelous, Nick mused. The Bloominflaurs had been placed in a type of cryogenic stasis, all except Eddie. Little Jasmine could be faked, placing her probe in a robot body, but there was no way they could change Edward into Eddie. For this reason the concocted the fake older son, Theodore.
The whole family had been thawed out, and JLU member Zatanna had been brought in to create false memories of the months the future Bloominflaurs had taken their place. They were told that their son had been returning home from school and got caught in the crossfire of a metahuman turf war. They were, of course, devastated.
On a brighter note, the illness that wracked young Jasmine's body was diagnosed three days ago. Perhaps now there would never be a future where her parents would have to put their daughter's mind in a holo-probe. Perhaps none of this would ever happen—the Bloominflaurs would never become criminals, never succumb to the temptations of wealth stolen rather than earned.
In light of all this, Wright had felt so selfish on the one time he had started to ask Robin about his payment that he had put it off and put it off. And now Christmas was here and he had barely enough money to pay the bills, let alone buy Pearl and Maya something nice. He'd ended up just getting them a season box set of Steel Samurai.
He walked to his chair and slumped down.
"Well, I guess we had better get going," he said.
"Where to?" Maya asked, her eyebrow raised curiously.
Nick laughed. "You'll never believe this, but Edgeworth invited us over for Christmas dinner."
"I don't believe it!" Pearl shouted. "I had no idea Mr. Edgeworth was so nice!"
"Welcome to the club," Nick joked. "Not just us, either. He told me that Dick Gumshoe, Maggey Byrde, Lana Skye, and the judge are going to be there, among others."
"Now you're just pulling my leg," Maya said, crossing her arms. "There's no way."
"I'm telling the truth!"
Maya beamed. "Really!? In that case, we'd better get going before Gumshoe eats all the food!"
"Alright," Nick said. "Just let me get my coat and…huh?"
"What?" Maya turned.
And there, in the middle of Wright's desk, a bright flash of light slowly coalesced into a field of sparkling energy. The energy subsided, and where nothing had been before, there was now a metal briefcase…
And on the top, there was emblazoned the emblem of the Bat.
"Whooooooooaaaa!" Pearl said. "Do it again!"
Nick reached down, at first wondering if the Bloominflaurs hadn't sent him a bomb back in time. For revenge or something. But Nick slid his fingers along the edge of the case and undid the two fasteners.
The case flung open, revealing it to be stacked to the brim with money. Hundreds and hundreds of fifty-dollar bills, immaculately wrapped and placed in the suitcase. Nick gasped when he saw it.
"Ohmigosh, Nick! That's a LOT of money!"
"We're saved!" Pearl cried.
Nick fell back. He'd never seen so much money in his life, let alone owned it! Relief overwhelmed him. "Well, Maya. Looks like you might be getting that car after all."
"Not just any car!" she said. "I want a Ferrari!"
"With a DVD player in the back!" Pearl added.
"And heated seats!"
"And a cappuccino machine! Please Mister Nick! Please!"
"Look at him Pearly," Maya said with a devious smile. "It's about to burst out of him!"
"Say it, Mister Nick. You know you want to!"
And so he did.
End Note: Well, that's the end of this tale. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. All reviews are appreciated, positive or contructive. Be sure to check out my other fics if you're interested in knowing more about Ragnarok and Yin. Oh yes, and Gauntlet? He was created by FFN member BobCat. There's a link to his profile in mine; go check his stuff out. It's more than worth it.