Dark Titans – Arc 1 – Red XX?

Prologue

Enjoy if you will, Tolerate if you won't.


The dark figure knelt down, melting into the shadows, as he continued to watch his target. The gravel crunched beneath his knee, only the slightest of annoyances. In the distance, the gleaming tower stood proudly, separated from him by the water of the city's famous bay. He had been planning this heist for months, ever since his imagination had been set ablaze by that one news report, oh so long ago.

The prospect of actually breaking into Titan's Tower itself . . . it set his whole body to tingling. When he had first heard of his prize, he knew that he had to have it. It had meant weeks of research, of asking witnesses and tearing apart all the drones left behind when Slade was finally defeated, but it had paid off in spades. He had finally discovered who had created his latest target, and thus who possessed it and where it was being kept.

Of course, finding out where it was being kept, that was only the tip of the iceberg to this caper. Everyday seemed to bring new complications. For some reason, the Titans had vanished for over three weeks, leaving the tower on Lock-Down. Even with all of his skills, there would have been no way for him to break in then, even if his plan had been finished.

Then, after the Titans had returned, they had been dragged into some bizarre turf war with some over-blown super villain. He would never understand those people, why did they insist on making such a mess that they inevitably bring down every hero in the country on their heads? Heck, the Titans had even imported a few foreign models from what he'd seen during his reconnaissance.

He wasn't sure what had happened in the end, not really. He hadn't had any good chances to break in then either. After that big battle that the Titans ran through the city, Raven had put the Tower on Lock-Down again. Then a bunch of strangers arrived to help out, making it even less likely for him to break in. Though . . . they were kind enough to show him the Titan's back door.

Then, of course, the big finale, an entire cathedral vanishing into a glowing green tornado. Kind of hard to miss, that was. Once again, he had no idea what had happened, but it did seem to bring things to a close. After that, the new kids hung around for a few days, then most everyone went on their way. A few days later, the old woman left, which left him with only the two extra stragglers, who didn't seem to have any intention of going anywhere.

Which brought him back to where he was now, kneeling uncomfortably in the gravel of a rooftop, patiently staking out the Titan's Tower. But he was a patient guy, it came with the profession after all. He knew they were feeling very secure lately. There hadn't been any major crime to speak of since their little hissy fit rained church over three city blocks. He also knew it was only a matter of time before they left the Tower relatively unguarded. Four of the Titans, and their new Asian member still went out on patrol, leaving only an injured Raven and that harmless seeming young woman behind.

He chuckled slightly to himself . . . he was pretty sure that he could handle those odds. Yes, he didn't know why, but he felt that tonight was the night. He had been watching them for a solid week now, since everyone had vanished, it was only a matter of tim-

There! He pulled up his binoculars and quickly zoomed in on the tower. There, in the main living room, he could see the red lights strobing, obviously signaling some emergency or another. An instant later, he was over the edge of the roof, sliding down the rope he had positioned there days ago, for this very moment. He was only a short five-minute sprint to the secret entrance of the Titan's base, the very reason that he had chosen that particular building in the first place.

He didn't dare wait to see the Titan's leave, he knew that he would need every second to get through the tunnel and bypass the tower's security. Luckily, he knew Robin was already out of the Tower, as was the Asian boy; though he had no idea where either of them were.

As soon as his feet hit the ground, he was off running. He leapt nimbly from the fire hydrant, up to the street light with practiced ease. He then ran down the length of the lamp and jumped for all he was worth, nearly clearing the four lanes of traffic that separated him from the underbrush that surrounded the secret door.

Just as he was about to be flattened by an oncoming transport truck, he threw out his grappling hook, catching the street light before him, and swinging the rest of the way across the road and through the air. He released the rope at the apex of his leap and let his momentum carry him another thirty feet to his goal. He rolled expertly with his landing, absorbing the impact of his short flight, and came up running.

A smile wormed its way onto his face, as he continued to sprint to his destination. He was easily beating the times he had achieved in his test runs. Must be the extra adrenaline of knowing this was it.

Finally, his goal was in sight. He skidded to a stop, slamming heavily into the titanium door, even as he slid the probe from his hacking computer into the doors lock. A few quick number sequences and a quiet hiss indicated his success. He quickly slid his hand into the manual override panel and pulled hard on the lever, forcing the heavy hatch open several inches. It was enough for him to slide his fingers in and pry the door open.

Feeling a bit heady from his minor successes, he nearly flew into the tunnel. He waited only long enough for the lights to come on, before he started down the stairs; taking them four at a time in his haste. He completely ignored the dank, dingy look of the tunnel. The buzzing fluorescent lights, the ominously dripping water, the oppressive smell of stale air and mildew, none of it registered. The only sound that mattered to him, was the rapid patter of his feet, and the occasional splash, as he sprinted down the corridor.

He controlled his breathing as best as he could, he knew it was at least a twenty-minute trek at his current speed, judging by the distance he had estimated between the tower and the door he had entered. It was a hard run, but he had trained for it everyday for the past few weeks, he knew he could do it.

The time seemed to fly by, and soon his run across the bottom of the bay became an uphill jog as he came up to the base of the tower. Just as quickly, he pulled out his security computer and hacked the dull titanium hatch that hung above his head at the top of the staircase. As soon as the tell tale hiss of the locks disengaging was heard, he heaved the hatch open and tossed a sphere from his belt up into the room above him.

A second later, a dull boom echoed down through the hatch and on into the endless tunnel below him. He leapt up quickly, just as the silver chaff began to float down to the floor all around him. His vision was limited slightly, but he saw the lasers extend out from the walls and begin to slide around aimlessly, unable to lock onto him with the chaff in the air.

He smiled widely at that; sometimes completely automating your security just didn't pay off. He hit the massive door that sealed off this chamber and quickly pulled a tube from his belt. This door didn't have anything to hack, as the plans he had stolen indicated. Instead, he started applying the experimental thermite paste in a long strip around the entire door.

The chaff was starting to thin out already, he could hear the lasers start to slow in their frantic searches, likely in his direction. With a flick of his wrist, he ignited the highly volatile putty and dove to the side. A second later, the entire room was filled with a blinding light and the sound of a thousand thousand sparklers all being lit at the same time. A few moments later and the door slid out and crashed to the ground on the far side of the entrance.

He sprang to his feet and bolted through the molten hole, not even waiting for the glowing white metal to cool. Not a second too soon, as a laser blazed to life and fired one poorly angled shot through the hole, nearly taking his foot off at the ankle. He easily cleared the smoking remains of the door as it's molten edges melted into the floor.

Once again, he hit the ground running, this entire level only consisted of the room he had just exited, a short corridor, and the elevator door which loomed before him. He smiled again, pulling out one of the lasers he had taken off of one of the numerous drones that had belonged to Slade. This would be one of the few doors it would actually work on. A few swipes of his arm and the elevator door fell to pieces, revealing an empty shaft beyond it.

Ironically, for security reasons, the target of his search was being held in the third subbasement, only two levels above him. He didn't even need his, already discarded, grappling hook, simply jumping from wall to wall until he reached the door to that level. Again, the laser made short work of the elevator door. Without a second though, he tossed the laser down the shaft behind him and dove through the cleanly sliced hole.

The corridor before him was pitch black, but that was a minor inconvenience, as he pulled out an ultraviolet lamp and slipped on his specially treated goggles. Soon enough, the corridor lit up before him. With that, he placed the powerful lamp on the ground and carefully aimed it down the hallway, before taking in his surroundings. It was another very nondescript level, only a simple corridor and his target lying at the end of the fifty-foot hallway.

A massive vault door, built into the wall, and nearly taking up the entire end of the passage. He smiled again, his breath coming in excited gasps as he finally saw his quarry. This time he pulled a small canister from his belt and began spraying a fine mist into the air before him, letting it fill the entire corridor. As the mist spread out, it revealed an innumerable number of lasers criss crossing the entire corridor between him and the vault at the other end of the corridor.

Taking a deep breath to calm his excited nerves, he carefully took a step back towards the elevator and considered the positions of the lasers. He took another deep breath, closing his eyes and trying to find his center.

Then he was running! He ran very nearly into the first set of beams, before springing over and through the lasers. In an amazing display of acrobatic prowess, he ducked, weaved, leaped and tumbled through the countless laser wires. He pushed himself to his limit, somersaulting through the beams, rolling under them, nearly running up the very walls when he needed to.

Finally – finally, his feet touched the ground, only five feet separating him and the large titanium alloy door of the vault. The only thing between him and that was a fine grid of lasers, hovering only inches in front of the door. There was no way to squeeze between that, since the lasers were only positioned about four inches apart, running up both walls and across the floor and ceiling. And even if he could, opening the door would also set off the lasers.

Not that he was worried about tripping the alarm; he had likely already done that when he blew the door downstairs. No, he just didn't want to have likely twenty automated lasers popping out of the walls again before he even had a chance to open the door.

So, just as he had planned, he pulled out the tiny reflective discs which he had prepared for just this occasion. It took him a good five minutes, positioning the tiny discs with excruciating precision to divert the lasers, but eventually all of the beams were safely disabled.

A loud sigh escaped his lips and he wiped the building perspiration from his brow. Again, he pulled out his small security device and interfaced it with the computer lock that protected the vault. He tampered with the small device for several minutes, before tearing out the cord and jamming the device harshly back into his belt. As he had suspected, his hacking skills weren't nearly up to the task of opening this vault.

Luckily, he had anticipated this, and he removed the heavy pack he had been wearing on his back. Explosives wouldn't work here, not in a tunnel this small with him standing three feet away, nor would the thermite paste cut through something so thick. However, he had acquired a nifty device from a young tech head that went by the name of Gizmo that would do just the job.

He opened the pack and pulled out the large, round device. It was about a foot in diameter and a dull matte gray color. One half was smooth while the other was a shallow dome, making the machine roughly five inches thick at its center. Carefully, he placed the flat surface of the device on the very center of the vault door and pushed the large button that took up the center of the domed surface.

As soon as he pressed the button, several yellowish lights lit up on the device and it began to hum loudly. Instantly, it attached itself to the metal door with a metallic clang, as an obviously very powerful magnet flared to life in the machine. Thankfully, Gizmo had explained how the device worked, which was why he had tossed the laser away earlier. Considering just how powerful this magnet was, he wouldn't have wanted to have any metal on him by this point.

A second later and six metallic arms shot out of the device and extended out several feet. The arms then slammed into the wall that surrounded the massive door and began to push! The entire machine began to whine angrily as the arms strained against the reinforced titanium of the vault door.

He had been skeptical at first, when Gizmo had shown him the device; that something so flimsy looking could tear open a safe . . .

The machines unearthly whine continued to increase in pitch, only to be joined by the deep groan of the heavy door fighting against the impossible strength of the comparatively tiny device. The wall around the door began to crack and crumble as the legs began to sink into the building itself.

Starting to feel a bit nervous, as the whine of the machine and the groan of the warping safe door began to ring through his ears, he slid back as close to the lasers as he could, trying to put some distance between him and the looming disaster area.

Then, just when he thought the small machine was going to give itself a hernia trying to tear open the safe, a squeal of metal shredding sent his teeth to grinding and his hands flying to cover his ears. It took him a few seconds to regain his senses after the assault on his hearing. Finally, after shaking his head a few times, he looked up to see the machines handiwork.

The poor device, it was sparking and smoking, obviously it had killed itself in the attempt, but the vault door was open, only a few inches maybe, but all of the heavy bolts that had held it closed were snapped cleanly off and there was still enough of the hinges left intact that he could slide the door open.

A manic smile formed on his face now. Finally! After all of his planning and plotting, after all of this time and effort . . .

The Red X suit would be his!

Just barely retaining enough sense to be wary of the lasers that hung perilously close to him in every direction, he slid forward and pried to door open with all of his strength. He had to leap to the side quickly, when after opening a foot, the weakened metal of the hinges gave way and the whole door collapsed to the floor beside him, a massive clang ringing through the entire corridor.

He chuckled happily; not even being nearly crushed at the last moment could dampen his spirit now, not when his new suit was finally in his grasp. With a small laugh, he leapt up onto the door and pulled out a chemical glow stick. He snapped the small stick and shook it eagerly. A few seconds later, the dull green glow of the small device finally revealed the end of his long search, the interior of the safe which housed the dangerous and experimental Red X suit . . .

Was empty!

The glow stick dropped from nerveless fingers, as he stared in disbelief at the empty vault before him. All of his planning, all of his work, his training runs, all of the money he had paid out for the gadgets to get this far . . .

"W-where is it?"

He didn't even notice the glow stick hit the vault door, bounce several times, then gently roll towards the floor at the base of the wall. However, he did notice when it bumped into one of the many carefully placed reflector discs that he had positioned around the large door.

A second later, his reverie was interrupted by the blaring klaxons and the metallic clanking sound of around twenty or so lasers sliding out of the walls behind him. He turned to face the angrily glowing weapons, a look of panic spreading across his normally carefree features.

"Oh . . . hell . . ."