AUTHOR'S NOTE: This doesn't take place in the same storyline as my "Forced Base" and "Fractured Heart" stories, so forget those when you're reading this. Also, about Sanza/Red X: When he's wearing the mask, he's Red X. When he's not, he's Sanza. Simple as that.
SECOND AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the third part of a trilogy, which includes "The Life and Times of Red X", and "Maiden of Stone", both of which are in my profile. Read those before you read this. Also, this fic COMPLETELY IGNORES the events of the fifth season (with the exception of "Go"). For the purposes of this fic, "Things Change" NEVER HAPPENED.
It was evening in Jump City. The moon was shining high in the sky, and the light breeze blowing through the air made this particular night a very pleasant one indeed.
At least, it was pleasant until...
"Ahahaha, Titans, you'll never bring me down!" The sounds of city bustle were being drowned out by the roar of a powerful motorcycle engine as Johnny Rancid sped down the city's main thoroughfare, twirling a long chain in his right hand. "Say goodbye, Teen Losers!"
Rancid sped past Beast Boy, snapping his chain across the young changeling's chest. The impact of the chain was painful, and it brought Beast Boy down immediately, causing him to let out a loud scream as he slammed into the pavement on his back.
As soon as Beast Boy had gone down, Terra flew over his head, riding on a small chunk of pavement about six feet above the ground. She let out a loud cry and clenched her fists, her eyes taking on a bright, golden glow as several small pieces of the street below her lifted up and flew off in Rancid's direction.
"I think you're a bit over your head, little girl," said Rancid, smiling as he did a hard right turn on his motorcycle, dodging the rocks that the geomancer had sent his way. He sped forward, charging right at the other four Titans: Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, and Raven, who had to break up their battle formation to dodge the reckless roadster.
"It's not gonna be that easy!" shouted Cyborg, firing several blasts from his plasma cannon. The blasts missed every time, as Rancid's motorcycle proved just a little bit too fast for Cyborg to shoot. "Geez, he must've had a serious upgrade since the last time we fought him!"
Her earlier attack having failed, Terra lifted up another, larger piece of the pavement and tossed it Rancid's way, while Raven, standing nearby, decided to throw something a bit bigger.
"Azarath, metreon, ZINTHOS!" screamed Raven, taking telekinetic control of a nearby lamppost and throwing it toward Rancid's front wheel, in an attempt to make him have a nasty wipeout. Instead, Rancid did a quick wheelie, positioning his back wheel just right, and doing a flying leap into the air, propelled by the side of the lamppost.
"AWESOME!" shouted Rancid, flying nearly twenty feet before landing well past the teenage crime fighters, his momentum carrying him quickly down the street. "See ya later, losers! Hahahahaha!!!"
"Don't let him get away!" ordered Robin, mounting his T-Cycle and peeling off in hot pursuit. Just as he got up to speed, Starfire zoomed past him, her eyes brightly aglow.
"Do not worry, I will pursue him on my own!" said Starfire, quickly catching up to the speeding Johnny Rancid's motorcycle and launching Starbolt after Starbolt at his back wheel.
Further down the road, while Robin and Raven both took off after Rancid, Terra was tending to Beast Boy, who was still stinging from the hit he took earlier. He lifted up his shirt and saw an ugly, chain-link shaped bruise on his head from where Rancid's primary weapon had impacted him.
"Ugh..." said Beast Boy to himself, looking down at his bruise. "I'll be feeling that one tomorrow..."
Terra's soft, concerned voice, coming from just a foot or two away, startled Beast Boy, especially since he still had his shirt pulled most of the way up. He immediately yanked it down, a bright blush forming on his green face.
"Y...yeah, I'm fine..." said Beast Boy, blinking his eyes and trying to put on his best innocent smile. "I... I just-"
"Need a hand?" Terra asked, after a short giggle. She reached down and extended her hand to Beast Boy, who eagerly reached up and used it to get to his feet.
In the three weeks since Terra had been revived, Beast Boy had never been happier. Even though he still had serious issues trying to sort out his affections for both Terra and Raven, he was still glad to have the beautiful blonde geomancer back on the team... and glad to see that she was getting happier and more confident with every passing day.
"Hey, c'mon, you guys..." came Cyborg's voice from nearby, just as Terra was helping Beast Boy get up from the sidewalk. "The others have already gone after Rancid, we gotta go help 'em out!"
With a nod, both Terra and Beast Boy walked over to Cyborg. Knowing that Cyborg couldn't fly, Terra levitated a rock underneath herself and her mechanical comrade, leaving Beast Boy to his own devices.
"C'mon, Beast Boy, let's go kick that guy's butt!" said Terra, shooting him an encouraging smile. The changeling nodded, and in less than a second, had transformed into a cheetah.
Nearly a thousand feet away, the chase had intensified, with Rancid being forced to weave in and out of traffic in order to dodge the onslaught of Starbolts and energy blasts by Starfire and Raven, while Robin had nearly caught up to Rancid in his T-Cycle.
"We need to stop him before he gets to the bridge!" shouted Robin up at his two female companions, not wanting a repeat of what had happened the last time he'd chased Rancid onto a bridge... "I don't want to break my arm again, and I certainly don't want to have to deal with Larry again..."
But Rancid had heard Robin, and he sped up as much as he could, seeing the bridge, and potentially freedom, just a few thousand feet away.
"If Robin does not want you reaching the bridge, then you will NOT reach the bridge!" shouted Starfire, speeding up herself and flying side-by-side next to Rancid's bike. Her eyes lit up, and she prepared to fire her ocular lasers straight at Rancid's chest. He gave her a sly smile, and then thrust his chain outward, causing it to wrap around her neck. The chain immediately tightened, and Starfire let out a scream and a gasp, feeling all of the air go out of her lungs. Her eyes returned to their normal appearance, and she fell hard onto the pavement, immediately bouncing back up and then hitting it again at over a hundred miles per hour, the chain holding her in Rancid's grasp like a leash.
"STARFIRE!!!" screamed Robin, watching helplessly as Starfire slammed into the pavement over and over like a ragdoll, held tightly by Rancid's chain. He zipped forward in his T-Cycle, passing through a narrow gap between two cars in order to put his endangered friend between Rancid's bike and his own. Starfire looked up at him with a terrified expression, her eyes wide and desperate as she hit the pavement over and over, the chain constricting even tighter around her neck. She mouthed a silent 'Robin!' to him, reaching a hand upward to him and trying desperately to grab onto his arm.
"I can't let this continue," thought Raven, swooping along to the other side of Rancid's bike and attempting to hit him with a midair kick, which he blocked with the side of his arm, nearly losing control of his bike in the process. When another kick of hers was blocked, her hands lit up, and she attempted to fire a blast to knock Rancid off of his bike. For her effort, she received a punch to the chest that sent her flying backward, knocking her through the air.
"It's my crayon!" shouted a five-year-old boy in the back seat of a nearby car, attempting to tug a green crayon away from his seven-year-old sister.
"No, it's MY crayon!" screamed the girl, so caught up in her tug-of-war that she didn't see the blue-cloaked Teen Titan on a collision course with the window across from her. Suddenly, the glass window shattered, and Raven flew into the car, landing in the laps of the two arguing kids, whose quarrel stopped immediately, along with the car they were driving in. They, and their parents, sat silently for a couple of seconds, blinking their eyes. Finally, the silence was broken. "It's MY Raven!"
"No, it's MY Raven!" shouted the five-year old, pulling on Raven's ankles while his sister tugged hard on her cloak. Raven simply rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.
Back outside, Rancid was getting closer and closer to the bridge, and Robin was having no luck getting Starfire free from the chain around her neck. He had one final option... he pulled out one of his Bird-a-rangs and started desperately hacking at the chain, trying to break it and set Starfire free. Starfire, however, knew that though she may soon pass out, she still had to try and stop Rancid before he reached the bridge and intensified the danger of the pursuit even more. She wrapped her arms around a section of chain and began tugging as hard as she could, in an attempt to pull the speeding biker out of his seat. At first, the tugs were nothing more than a minor annoyance... but as Starfire's determination and anger grew, her eyes lit up again, and Rancid began noticing that Starfire was fighting back.
"Hey, stop that!" shouted Rancid, swerving to the left and heading for the side of the bridge, while at the same time attempting to pull Starfire into the path of an oncoming car. She threw her body just to the side of the car, causing it to skim past her and miss her by less than a foot. Robin, however, had had to swerve his own T-Cycle to the left to avoid hitting the car, and was now having to dodge oncoming traffic, leaving Starfire on her own. "Looks like your boyfriend's left you high and dry, babe!"
"Robin would never abandon me!" Starfire half-gasped, "but on this occasion, I will take you down on my own!"
The Tamaranian's fingers gripped tightly around the chain, and with one powerful tug, Rancid found himself flying through the air, his now-riderless motorcycle racing down the bridge without him on top of it. He began to scream as he flew wildly through the air, passing between two of the cables of the bridge and plummeting straight down, toward the water.
About halfway down, his fall came to a sudden stop, as a Birdcable looped tightly around his stomach. Much to his relief, Rancid found himself being pulled up, but, of course, when he reached the bridge, he saw two very angry Titans staring at him.
"Needless to say, you're under arrest," said Robin, tightening the cable around Rancid's arms, pinning them to his sides. Next to Robin was Starfire, pulling Rancid's chain off of her neck and letting out a loud gasp before rubbing the bruised skin near her throat. Robin heard Starfire's gasp and immediately turned to face her, a look of concern in his eyes. "Starfire, are you okay?"
"Yes," said the now-smiling Tamaranian, her voice still a bit raspy. She gave a couple of weak coughs before resuming her normal expression. "I am quite undamaged."
A few seconds later, Raven walked over to the duo, her hood down, revealing a face covered in green crayon.
"Don't ask," said Raven, silencing them before they could speak.
A few minutes later, the police had arrived to take Rancid to jail. By now, Beast Boy, Terra, and Cyborg had joined their friends on the bridge... happy that Rancid had been caught, but disappointed that they had been too late to re-join the battle.
"It's okay, you guys," said Robin, comforting his three friends as the six Titans stood near the side of the bridge, watching the cars go by from their position at the bridge's halfway point. "I'm sure you'll be able to take out the next one."
"Yeah, but I still wanted to make Rancid pay for knocking me down," said Beast Boy, an eager smile on his face as he threw a few practice punches in the air. "Give 'im the old one-two... yeah, yeah!"
Standing next to Beast Boy, Terra let out another giggle, putting her hand to her lips and shooting Beast Boy an amused look.
"I thought your specialty was turning into animals, Beast Boy... I didn't know you were taking boxing lessons..." Terra commented.
"Well, I guess I could be a boxing kangaroo..."
Beast Boy then repeated his punchy performance, only this time, as a tall, green marsupial, causing Terra to laugh even harder. By now, Raven had seen enough.
"Okay, we took care of Rancid, so let's go back to the Tower and-"
The sound of hundreds of screams immediately drew the Titans' attention to the center of the bridge, where a long, outstretched arm, clad in red, was sweeping dozens of cars off the side of the bridge, sending both they and their inhabitants plunging into the water below. The Titans could only watch in horror, and all of them focused their gaze on a woman with short black hair, standing about thirty feet away, a sadistic smile on her face as she watched dozens of families fall to a watery grave.
"I know my mission is to seek out and destroy the Teen Titans," said the woman to herself in a thick Russian accent, not yet noticing her targets standing just a short distance away, "and what better way to lure them out than by attacking the innocent residents of their pathetic city?"
"Lady, you just made a HUGE mistake," said Robin, his eyes narrowed in rage. Immediately, he began giving orders to the rest of his team. "Starfire, Raven, go down there and save as many people as you can! The rest of us..."
"Have one REALLY stretchy butt to kick," continued Terra, watching in bewilderment as the woman's arm retracted back toward her body, until it returned to its normal length.
As Starfire and Raven separated from the group, and the other Titans prepared for battle, Beast Boy's eyes were as wide as saucers, and his jaw had dropped several inches.
"...Madame Rouge...?!" said Beast Boy quietly, drawing an amused look from the woman in red.
"Ah, it's you... the Doom Patrol's littlest member. I see you've associated yourself with a different group of failures."
"Beast Boy... do you know this woman?" said Cyborg, looking down at his changeling friend.
"Yeah," said Beast Boy, his voice serious and solemn. "She's Madame Rouge... she's one of the most dangerous criminals in the world."
"Ah, I am glad you remembered me," said Rouge, her lips curving into a smile. "But that doesn't mean that I won't tear all of you apart..."
In less than a second, Rouge's arms had stretched forward, spanning the gap between Beast Boy and herself in order to punch the changeling in the chest and send him flying toward the side of the bridge. Terra reached her hand out quickly, grabbing one of Beast Boy's hands just in time and stopping him from going over. While this was going on, Robin ran forward at Rouge, extending his bo staff and swinging at her head several times.
"You will have to try harder than that," said Rouge, using her flexibility to swing her head back and to the side, avoiding each and every one of Robin's blows before smashing her leg into his stomach, knocking him to the ground. Several blasts from Cyborg's cannon slammed into her before she could attack Robin again, and she quickly diverted her attention, letting out a cry of pain as one of Cyborg's blasts tore right through her chest, creating a large hole.
"BOOYAH!" shouted Cyborg, pumping his fists in jubilation. However, Madame Rouge was far from defeated, and the hole in her chest healed itself just a second later. She then lifted one of her legs, stretching it out and slamming it into the side of Cyborg's head, knocking him to the ground.
As soon as Rouge had dealt with Cyborg, she saw Beast Boy and Terra coming at her from the left, Beast Boy having transformed into a large ostrich. Rouge stretched both of her arms toward them, just as Terra slammed her fist toward the ground, causing a large fissure to form in the pavement. When the fissure neared Rouge's feet, several large chunks of concrete burst upward from it, but Rouge simply bent her whole body to the left, causing the concrete to sail past her. She continued stretching her arms, her left arm wrapping tightly around Terra. Beast Boy avoided a similar fate by leaping into the air, aiming both of his ostrich feet straight at Rouge's face. She let out a scream as she was kicked, flying backward and immediately losing her grip on Terra before skidding on the ground about ten feet and landing on her back some distance away. By the time she could stand again, the four Titans she was fighting had regrouped, standing just a few feet away from her and taking up battle stances.
"You may be one of the most dangerous criminals in the world, but you're about to go down, just like every other criminal we've faced," said Robin, holding out his bo staff and looking Rouge right in the eyes. Once again, a smile crossed Rouge's lips, and it seemed as if she wasn't intimidated at all by the Titans' display of force.
"Believe me, I am nothing like the other criminals you have faced... you will soon learn that fact all too well."
A mile away from the bridge, the Centech Institute of Technology, a one-story office building about the size of half a football field, was being paid a late-night visit by none other than Jump City's most infamous thief...
"This was almost too easy," said Red X, standing in front of a display case which held a thin white floppy disc. The disc contained code for a new type of software program... a program that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if the right bidder was found. "Not a bad haul for five minutes of work..."
The masked thief pressed his gloved hand to the case, placing an X on the glass that dissolved it almost immediately, allowing him to reach in and take the disc without having to make a sound. As soon as he withdrew the disc, the X disappeared and the glass reformed... it was like he'd never been there.
"Now to get out of here before those Titans show up... especially Terra..."
But before X could turn around, he heard a loud, booming voice from the front of the building...
Thinking that it was just a security guard, X didn't even bother taking his time. He turned away from the case, his hands held high in the air in a mock gesture of surrender.
"Okay, okay, you got me... but don't expect to hold onto me very-"
When X saw who had really called out to him, his eyes widened, and he nearly dropped the disc. There, blocking his exit from the building, were four costumed heroes, but not the Teen Titans X was so familiar to seeing. All of them were dressed in purple, and, while two of them, a male and a female, appeared human, the group appeared to have a mummy and a robot amongst their ranks... at least that's what they appeared to be from Red X's viewpoint.
"We didn't come here to stop you, but when we saw you break in, we knew we couldn't just let you get away," said the woman of the group, her hands on her hips. "Now you can come quietly, or..."
"Okay, first off... tell me who you guys are," said Red X, not letting even the least bit of nervousness show in his voice, though he wasn't entirely sure about fighting what appeared to be four adult superheroes.
"We're the Doom Patrol," said the human male, clearly the leader of the group. "That's all you need to know."
"The Doom Patrol?" replied Red X, in a slightly skeptical tone. "Well, the Patrol sounds heroic, but I'm not sure about that Doom part... are you sure you're not the bad guys?"
"I've heard enough talk," said Mento, placing his hands against his forehead. "Doom Patrol, attack!"
And Mento was first to strike, firing a concentrated blast of mind energy straight at Red X's forehead. As soon as X was hit, he went down to one knee, dropping the disc and placing his hands on his head.
"Damn...!!!" thought Red X, gritting his teeth beneath his mask as Mento continued his mental assault. "It feels like... like my head is being ripped apart!"
Mento, who could hear every one of Red X's thoughts, smiled as he realized his attack was working.
"He doesn't like my mind waves at all," said Mento. "This is going to be an easy one."
As the Doom Patrol split up and began coming at X from all directions, the thief realized that if he didn't make a quick counterattack, he'd be easy pickings.
"Gotta... fight back somehow..." thought Red X, seeing Robotman, the biggest member of the group, coming at him out of the corner of his eye. "That big guy looks like he could use a charge..."
Still fighting off a pounding pain in his forehead, X somersaulted into the air, getting behind Robotman and slapping down an electrically-charged X right onto the center of his back. As the X began sending waves of electricity through Robotman's body, the mighty robot let out a scream and fell to his knees, his circuits rapidly shorting out.
"Don't worry, I'll take care of him!" shouted Elasti-Girl, now charging at both X and Robotman, her legs carrying her quickly toward her target.
"I don't know what your power is, but I don't really want to find out, so..." Two Xs flew out of the thief's hands, one turning into cables that bound Elasti-Girl's legs together, while the other one expanded to bind her arms to her sides. She quickly fell onto her face and began struggling, trying to get her trapped limbs free. When that didn't work, she started to grow... and within a few seconds, the cables that were binding her burst open as she expanded to three times her normal size. She stood up, now towering over Red X, who took several steps back until he found himself pinned against the wall of a cubicle, staring up into the eyes of a woman who was now sixteen feet tall. "Oh... that's what her power is..."
While this was going on, Robotman had stood up, and with Red X distracted by his teammate's transformation, the robotic member of the Doom Patrol had the perfect opportunity to strike. He rushed forward, slamming his fist into Red X's face and sending him flying through the back of the cubicle and into a nearby wall, making a small dent as his back hit the soft plaster.
"Aaaaaaaagh!" screamed the thief, raising his arms at a charging Robotman. "This better work...!"
A glowing red net burst forth from X's hands, temporarily stopping Robotman's charge and knocking him into the rubble of the destroyed cubicle. Relieved that he'd stopped Robotman, the thief turned to his left, and saw Negative Man staring him down from across the hallway.
"So... which pharaoh are you?" joked the thief, trying to get Negative Man to attack so he could see just what kind of powers he possessed. Negative Man silently obliged, manifesting a glowing black soulself that rushed forward at Red X, one of its arms held back in preparation to throw a punch. "Well, THIS isn't so bad..."
The thief fired several Xs at the soulself, but all of them passed right through, creating an explosion that did nothing to stop the dark energy manifestation that was headed the thief's way. The soulself's fist slammed into X's face, sending him flying backward and skidding along the ground several feet.
"That's really not fair... I can't hit him, but he can hit me...?" Red X got up and was forced to dodge several more of the soulself's blows, while at the same time, ducking under a super-sized punch sent his way by Elasta-Girl, who, together with Negative Man, had Red X trapped against the back wall of the building.
"Keep at him, Doom Patrol!" shouted Mento, launching another mental blast in Red X's direction as he too ran toward the back of the building to corner the thief. "We've just about got him beat!"
"You're not gonna knock me down again!" shouted Robotman, leaping over the wall of a cubicle to clear the distance between himself and the thief. The four members of the Doom Patrol had Red X trapped, and were closing in fast... a fact that the thief realized very quickly.
"Ugh... I picked a very bad day to rob this place... I could've gone tomorrow night, but nooooo... just had to come here tonight, that's when there would be nobody working here... damn..."
After nearly ten minutes of fighting, all traffic had totally cleared from the bridge, giving the Titans as much room as they needed to combat their latest, dangerous opponent. With her flailing, outstretched arms, Madame Rouge was able to counter the Titans' second round of attacks, and had knocked Beast Boy and Terra onto their backs, leaving only Robin and Cyborg to contend with.
"You two are beginning to annoy me..." said Rouge, looking at Cyborg on her left, and Robin on her right. The two circled her cautiously, waiting for an opportunity to catch her off guard and launch an attack that she couldn't block.
All the while, both Robin and Cyborg were hoping that their flying female companions, Starfire and Raven, had managed to save all the people that Rouge had knocked off of the bridge... they couldn't bear the thought of so many people dying right in front of their eyes before they could lift even a finger to stop it.
"You didn't have to attack all of those people!" shouted Robin, having put his bo staff away in favor of other gadgets. "We were right there in front of you, if you wanted a fight all you had to do was attack us!"
"Oh, but where is the fun in that? Tell me... Robin, have you ever heard the screams of a thousand people? How about ten thousand? Do you know how delicious of a sound that is?"
"You are really starting to piss me off," said Robin, a very serious tone in his voice. "I don't care what I have to do, I won't let you hurt ANYONE else!"
Robin charged at Madame Rouge and threw several punches at her face and chest, landing more than half a dozen blows before she could begin to react. Surprised by Robin's sudden attack, Rouge tried to stretch herself to the side, only to be countered by Robin's fist slamming directly into her face, causing her to stumble back and nearly fall over. At the same time, Cyborg had rushed forward to get his own licks in, and launched a devastating uppercut that Rouge only barely managed to avoid by ducking under.
"I tire quickly of these games!" she shouted, quickly stretching out two of her arms and wrapping them around Robin and Cyborg's waists, tossing the two of them away. They landed on their feet and began charging forward again, giving Madame Rouge very little time to rest.
"Wait up for us!" shouted Beast Boy, standing up about the same time as Terra, and running with her to join the fight against the stretchy supervillainess. He turned into a rhino, blowing past Robin and Cyborg and charging at Rouge, hoping to put his horn right in the center of her chest. She stretched her legs upward, allowing Beast Boy to charge harmlessly between them. She had little time to savor the success of avoiding Beast Boy's attack, however, because Terra, standing up on a small chunk of pavement, was hovering in front of her, staring right into Rouge's eyes.
"Gotcha," said Terra, smiling and launching a punch right at Rouge's face. Rouge simply smiled and caught Terra's fist in her hand, her fingernails pressing painfully into Terra's skin, causing the geomancer to wince. "How did she... she's so fast...!"
"Pretty little girl, you know you have no chance against me..." And Rouge's fingers began to grow, stretching out and tightening around Terra's right arm, until it was completely trapped in the winding tendrils that just a few seconds ago had been a regular set of fingers. Then, Rouge's hand began to grow and stretch... and Rouge's entire arm... turning into a mass of flesh that began to envelop Terra's body. Terra attempted to struggle free, but soon, she found her chest, then her head, and then her entire upper body engulfed by Rouge's rapidly-growing arm. As she found herself being smothered, she let out a series of increasingly quiet cries, until she was completely silenced. She began kicking her legs furiously, until her legs too began to be engulfed. "That is it, take your final breath..."
"Azarath, metreon, ZINTHOS!!!"
Rouge had barely turned her head when a car slammed into her chest, immediately causing her hold on Terra to cease and her body to fly backward toward the side of the bridge. She landed right at the edge, her form having quickly reverted to normal, and she was groaning in pain. Terra landed on the ground next to Beast Boy, gasping for breath and a little bit shaken, but otherwise unharmed.
"Raven...?" said Terra and Beast Boy at the same time. They, along with Robin and Cyborg, were stunned and amazed to see Raven hovering at the other side of the bridge, a dark glow surrounding her body, along with every single car that Rouge had pushed off the bridge just a few minutes ago, save for the car that Raven had just tossed into Rogue's chest.
"How... how did you...?" said Madame Rouge in stunned bewilderment, which only grew even more when a smiling Starfire flew up from under the bridge and stood directly under Raven, her hands on her hips.
"Raven and I managed to rescue every single person you tossed from this structure... and their cars as well."
Before Rouge could react, Raven began hurling cars downward at her at the rate of two per second. The screaming, frantic Rouge was forced to dodge what she could and use her arms to knock away the rest, barely managing to avoid being buried under a pile of metallic scrap. By the time Raven had exhausted all of the cars, Rouge was gasping for breath, bent over with her hands on her knees, staring at the ground.
"Wow..." thought Beast Boy, standing next to Terra with a smile on his face. "I thought Rouge would beat us, but... we're totally kicking her butt!"
As soon as Rouge caught her breath, she looked up to see all six Titans staring at her, all of them still ready to fight.
"It is becoming increasingly apparent that perhaps this is not my day," said Madame Rouge, trying to sound as calm and collected as possible.
"That's right," replied Robin, beginning to walk toward her. "Today's the day you're going to jail."
Madame Rouge simply smiled, and began backing toward the side of the bridge.
"No... no, Robin, it is not... it is time that I made my escape. But rest assured, we will meet again, and you will not be so lucky."
"Don't let her get away!" shouted Beast Boy, and Robin nodded, starting into a run and extending his bo staff once more.
"She won't," said Robin, but an instant later, he and the other Titans received an incredible surprise. Madame Rouge had leapt off the side of the bridge, and when Robin looked down to watch her fall, he saw... absolutely nothing. "What the...? Where did she...?"
Underneath the bridge, Madame Rouge had stretched herself out, grabbing onto various cables with her arms and legs, pressing herself flat against the underside of the bridge and making it absolutely impossible for anyone to see her unless they were directly below. A smile was on her face as she hung silently out of sight.
"Perhaps she is under the bridge somewhere..." said Starfire, immediately flying below to check out the support poles holding the bridge upright. She suspected that Rouge might be clinging to one of those, never suspecting that anyone could cling to the cables beneath the bridge. Even if Starfire did look up, she would have to be at exactly the right spot, as the mass of beams and cables would conceal Rouge from view. After looking for nearly half a minute, Starfire emerged from below the bridge and sadly shook her head, letting the Titans know that Rouge was long gone.
"We need to get back to the Tower... so I can look up as much as I can about this new criminal," said Robin.
"I just can't believe that she was such a formidable opponent... I mean, all she could do was stretch her arms and legs," said Cyborg, a slightly surprised look on his face. "We still beat her, but... she gave all of us a workout, especially Terra."
He then turned toward Beast Boy and Terra, hoping to check on his blonde teammate's condition... but she was already deep in conversation, listening to Beast Boy tell her everything he knew about the mysterious Rouge.
"So... you used to fight her back before you even became a Teen Titan?"
"Yeah..." said Beast Boy, much more serious than he normally was. "Her name's Madame Rouge, and she's a member of the Brotherhood of Evil... I don't know what she's doing here, but wherever it is, it can't be good."
"Beast Boy," said Robin, walking over to the changeling with his usual, all-business look. "When we get back to the Tower, you need to tell me everything you know about Rouge. Her attack patterns, her personality... I know it's probably been a while, but-"
"Don't worry," replied Beast Boy, looking right into Robin's eyes. "I remember everything."
As he and Robin walked away, Cyborg walked over to Terra, finally able to get a word or two alone with her.
"I've never seen Beast Boy that serious before..." said Terra, looking at Cyborg, her hands in the pockets of her denim shorts. "I mean, not since... well..."
A look of sadness crossed Terra's face as she remembered her betrayal of the team... a betrayal that took place so long ago, but to Terra, would always seem like it had happened yesterday. She let out a sigh, and tried to put herself in a happy mood again, not wanting to dump all of her memories on Cyborg.
"But hey, at least we won, right? And everybody's safe?"
"Yeah... speaking of that, are you okay? I mean, I was trying to get over to get you out of that creepy arm thing as fast as I could, but it happened so fast that I-"
"Don't worry about it," said Terra, smiling once again. "It's over now, I'm all right... we'd better get back to the Tower, huh?"
And with that, Terra walked past Cyborg, leaving him wondering if perhaps Terra had something else on her mind... if she was still worried about betraying the team all those months ago.
"Guess we've got another mysterious new villain on our hands," thought Cyborg, following Terra and the rest of the team back to the T-Car. "And I was just getting used to Sedaris being defeated..."
Back at the Centech building, Red X's time was running out... the Doom Patrol had him backed against a wall, and were closing in fact.
"You have no way out," said Elasti-Girl, having just shrunk back to normal size. She and Mento were walking forward, while Robotman and Negative Man were coming at X from his sides. The thief was totally surrounded.
"Of course I have a way out," replied Red X, still managing to maintain his calm as the Doom Patrol got closer and closer. "It's through all of you!"
A barrage of exploding Xs flew toward the Doom Patrol, creating a large fireball and a cloud of smoke that briefly concealed the thief from view. He took this opportunity to charge right at Mento, throwing an elbow into his gut that caused him to double over.
"Unnnnnngggh...!" Mento held his ground and lunged forward to grab Red X, only to have the thief duck under his grasp and slide between his legs. "Come back here!"
Having gotten past Mento, Red X fled down the hallway, using several more explosive Xs to blow up nearby cubicles so that he could clear a path to the front door. He looked behind him and could see both Negative Man and Robotman giving chase, and watched as Elasti-Girl grew rapidly behind him, swelling first to twice, then three times, then four times her normal size, until she had to bend slightly over to keep from hitting the ceiling. She swiped at Red X with her overgrown hands, missing him twice. He turned around and formed an energy chain, looping it around Elasti-Girl's wrists and tugging as hard as he could, binding them together before breaking off into another run.
"I hope this works..." thought Red X as he ran toward the front door, pulling on the chain which now held the enlarged Elasti-Girl's wrists together in front of her. Sure enough, the force of Red X tugging on the chain caused Elasti-Girl to lose her footing, and she began to fall... right on top of Negative-Man and Robotman.
"LOOK OUT!" shouted Mento to his comrades, but it was too late, and Elasti-Girl fell on top of both of them with a loud gasp. Releasing the chain in his hands, Red X chuckled to himself as he continued toward the exit, leaving three of the Doom Patrol's members in a groaning heap on the ground.
"Score one for the bad guy..." thought Red X to himself, stopping as he reached the front door and turning around to taunt the defeated Doom Patrol. "You guys are tough, but you're no Teen Titans... which is pretty sad, since you're all old enough to be their parents..."
By the time Elasti-Girl had returned to her normal size, Red X was long gone, laughing all the way back home. Negative Man crawled out from underneath his shape-shifting teammate, while Robotman gently nudged her off and then helped her stand.
"Are you all right, Rita?" asked Robotman, referring to Elasti-Girl by her real name. When she nodded, Mento let out a sigh of relief, then angrily clenched his fists, furious that he'd left the thief get away.
"C'mon, team, this isn't the Brotherhood of Evil we're dealing with! It's just one thief! If we can't stop a thief, then how are we going to stop the Brain from taking over the world?"
"Well... he did leave this behind," said Negative Man, picking up the disc that Red X had dropped at the start of the fight. "Looks like our thief has the memory of a goldfish."
The fact that Red X had failed to steal the disc didn't cheer Mento up even a little bit, and he angrily punched the pedestal that the disc had once been on, nearly knocking it over. Before he could do any more damage, Elasti-Girl placed a tender hand on his shoulder, which served to calm Mento down... if only a little bit.
"It's okay, Steve... we didn't come here to stop HIM anyway... remember, we still have a stop to make tonight. According to the information I received, Jump City's local crime-fighting team is the Teen Titans, and since they're likely to be the Brotherhood's first targets, we need to warn them about the Brain's presence right away."
Mento gave a nod of silent affirmation, though he didn't seem to like the fact that any other group of heroes would be getting involved. To him, the Doom Patrol was the only group of people that could deal with the Brotherhood of Evil... and he would be doing everything he could to make sure it stayed that way. When he warned the Titans to be careful, he would also tell them to keep out of the Doom Patrol's business.
He had no idea that the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans had a common denominator... but he would soon find out.
As Sanza Salazar laid in bed that night, he couldn't stop thinking about the rush he'd gotten from that evening's battle with the Doom Patrol. He stared up at the ceiling, a smile on his face... sure, he'd left the disc behind, and he was kicking himself for that, but... the fight with the Doom Patrol was like nothing he'd ever experienced before. He'd thought that maybe the Teen Titans would show up to stop him, but when that other team had gotten there, it was the surprise of his life...
"I wonder what they're here for?" thought Sanza to himself, staring up at the ceiling of his room and feeling the cool night breeze through his slightly opened window. It had been two weeks since he and the Titans had brought down Alex Sedaris, bodyguard-turned-psychopathic villain, and in doing so, had saved Jump City and all of California from a terrible cataclysm. He'd promised himself that even though he would help the Titans when he saw fit to do so, his main goal in life was to do whatever he wanted, and thus far, he'd stuck to it. He'd committed a string of robberies over the past two weeks, hitting building after building, warehouse after warehouse, and in his closet was a box filled with advanced technology. Not once in two weeks had the Titans shown up to stop him.
This was both a blessing and a disappointment. A disappointment because Sanza had always found fighting the Titans fun. As Red X, he had everything he needed to keep them from capturing him, and, though clearly outmatched if he fought them for long periods of time, was still quite adept at putting up a very competitive fight.
And a blessing because, save for the one time when she had been controlled by the Crisis Crystal, Terra and Red X never had to come to blows. Why Sanza disliked the prospect of fighting Terra was for a number of reasons... first, because Robin had not designed the suit with Terra in mind, there was no specific gadget in the suit's repertoire that could take her down. And second, because... Sanza was beginning to grow quite fond of Terra.
The last time they'd seen one another, Sanza and Terra had ended their conversation with a kiss... and it was a kiss that Sanza hadn't soon forgotten. He dreamed of that kiss, twice in the two weeks since it had happened.
"Come on, Sanza, you're still getting over Cleo... that's gotta be why you feel this way about Terra..."
There were a number of reasons why Sanza couldn't allow himself to fall in love with Terra. First off, she was still with Beast Boy... of course, that had never stopped Sanza from lusting after Starfire, despite knowing full well that she and Robin were a couple. Secondly, Sanza didn't want to be hurt again... after his relationship with Cleo had ended so disastrously, he blamed himself for letting her be placed in danger... though he knew that Terra, with her incredible powers of earth manipulation, could definitely take care of herself.
But all of these thoughts of the Doom Patrol and the Titans and Terra were quickly halted when someone flipped the light switch, bringing a flood of luminescence to Sanza's eyes.
"Unnngh... mom, turn those back off..."
"Sanza, it's only eight-thirty... don't tell me you've worn yourself out again going out on one of your criminal escapades..."
Sanza could hear the disappointment and annoyance in his mother Maria's voice as she walked toward him, finally kneeling down beside his bed and staring into his eyes.
"You know that the only reason I tolerate you being Red X is that I know you're capable of doing good with that suit... but every day on the news I hear about another robbery you've committed, and I know more and more in my heart that I'm partially responsible!"
"Mom..." said Sanza sleepily, rubbing his eyes and sitting up, slipping out of his covers in nothing more than a white undershirt and a pair of black boxers. "You know that if I'm gonna help people, I have to keep practicing, and the best way to do that is by breaking into buildings and stealing stuff..."
"That's a load of crap and you know it, Sanza!" Maria shouted, her hands on her hips. She slid her foot underneath the bed, using her heel to push out the long white box that contained Sanza's Red X costume, and using her foot to take off the top of the box. "You want me to burn this thing, because I will! Not only are you committing crimes, you're endangering yourself by going out and stealing! Don't think I won't toss this suit into the ocean..."
"If you wanted to do that, you'd have done it already, and you know it," said Sanza with a smile, looking right into his mother's eyes. "C'mon... you know I never hurt anyone... and I'm only stealing from big, rich corporations, which, by the way that you're always yelling about politics and such, I know you hate just as much as I do."
"That is beside the point!" said Maria, leaning in closer so that her son knew just what she was trying to tell him. "Not only are you breaking the law, you're breaking one of God's commandments! Honestly, Sanza, do you even care about that?"
Sanza opened his mouth to speak, but then realized that he wasn't going to be able to do anything to stave off another long, lecture from his mother. He let out a sigh and bowed his head, preparing to hear it for at least another half-hour.
But Maria said nothing. For ten seconds, she just stood there, staring down at her son, wondering what she could possibly say or do to get through to him... and she knew that, even though he was a thief, he was also a hero... a hero who'd saved the city on numerous occasions, and millions of lives in the process. She wasn't in the mood to argue any further about semantics. With a sigh even louder than the one her son had given earlier, she bent down and put the top back on the box bearing Sanza's Red X suit, then slid the box back under the bed.
"Honestly, Sanza, I don't know what I'm going to do with you..." she said, shaking her head sadly and turning to leave.
"How about giving me a good night kiss?" asked Sanza, the smile returning to his face. Rolling her eyes, Maria turned back to her son and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. She then turned toward the door and walked out, but not before saying one last thing to her son.
"We will discuss this in the morning," said Maria. "Just remember that no matter what, you will always be my precious angel... I love you, Sanza."
"Love you too, mom," said Sanza, yawning as his mother turned out the light and closed the door. As soon as his head hit the pillow, he closed his eyes, a smile still on his face. "She keeps saying she doesn't approve of me being Red X, but every day the costume stays under my bed is just another way of her telling me, 'Go ahead and steal as much as you want, as long as you don't kill anybody I won't stop you.' Ah... that's my mom for you."
And with that, Sanza drifted off into slumber.
Three hours later, he found his slumber interrupted by a loud banging noise from just outside his room. He sat up in bed and walked quickly over to his door, wondering if maybe his mom had fallen on the way to the bathroom... at least, that was his initial thought.
"What in the hell was that...?" he muttered quietly to himself, creaking open his door and stepping out into the hallway. As soon as he did, he heard another noise... this time, a brief, muffled, but fairly loud cry coming from the adjacent room... Maddy's room. "Maddy...?"
He walked over to her door as quickly as he could, ripping it open and turning on the light. When he saw what was going on, his eyes went wide.
A Sladebot was standing next to Maddy's bed, holding the girl about two feet above the ground, her legs kicking wildly beneath her. She was being held tightly, one arm around her chest, pinning her arms to her sides, while another of the Sladebot's arms was up by her face, its hand clamped tightly down over her mouth. She looked into Sanza's eyes with a horrified expression, giving another muffled cry while struggling as much as she could.
"You bastard... LET HER GO!"
The Titans, meanwhile, were having a much more tranquil evening... at least, all of them but Robin and Beast Boy. For several hours, Robin had been gathering as much information that he could about Madame Rouge... and from what Beast Boy had been telling him, Rouge wasn't working alone.
"So that's everything I know," said Beast Boy, sitting across a desk from Robin in what typically was used as the Tower's interrogation room. Unlike most of the people who had sat across from Robin in that room, Beast Boy was more than willing to tell Robin as much as possible. By the time he was done talking, Robin had been able to gather information not just on Madame Rouge, but on her companions... the timeless General Immortus, the profoundly intelligent Monsieur Mallah, and the most dangerous Brotherhood member of all... its leader, the Brain.
"So you say that Madame Rouge never attacks without her three teammates," said Robin, worry beginning to form in his eyes. "Which means that... if Madame Rouge is in the city, the other three can't be far behind."
"Yeah..." said Beast Boy quietly, looking down at his hands, which had begun to tremble nervously as he set them on the desk. "The Brotherhood of Evil is in Jump City..."
Suddenly, the door to the interrogation room opened, and Starfire and Cyborg entered, both of them seemingly quite excited.
"Quickly, you must come to the main room! There are four people here who wish to meet with us!"
"Yeah, they call themselves the Doom Patrol, or something like that..."
"The DOOM PATROL?!" shouted Beast Boy, his eyes widening. Almost immediately, he crouched into a ball and hid beneath his chair, trembling violently. "Tell me when they're gone..."
"Beast Boy," said Robin, getting up from his chair and walking over to his changeling friend. "Let me guess... you know them too?"
"Yeah..." said Beast Boy, poking his head out from under the chair and looking up at Robin, a nervous expression clearly visible on his face. "I used to work with them..."
Back in the main room, the four members of the Doom Patrol had made themselves at home. Negative Man and Robot Man were seated together on one couch, while on the center couch facing the television were Mento and Elasti-Girl, currently engaged in conversation with Raven and Terra, seated on the final couch.
"So... that stretchy woman we fought today... she's one of them?!" asked Terra, having already been told about the Brotherhood of Evil by Mento. "Geez, if there's three more, then..."
"Your city is in grave danger," said Elasti-Girl. "That is why we came to warn you, so you could-"
The other four Titans, including a very reluctant Beast Boy, entered the room and began walking over to the sitting area. Beast Boy hid behind Cyborg, trying to keep himself concealed from view... the last time he'd been with the Doom Patrol was not a pleasant experience... as it had been his inexperience that had led to the Brotherhood of Evil's escape.
"C'mon, man," whispered Cyborg, trying to get Beast Boy to show himself. "You haven't seen these guys in two years, the least you could do is say hi!"
"You must be Robin," said Mento, standing up and walking over to the Titans' leader. "I've heard a lot about you... I thought you'd be a bit taller."
"So, what's this all about?" asked Robin, wanting to cut right to the chase. "If this has anything to do with what happened earlier tonight, I already know about Madame Rouge and the Brotherhood of Evil."
The mention of the Brotherhood of Evil came as a bit of a surprise to Mento and the other Doom Patrol members... since their main purpose for visiting Titans' Tower was to warn the team about the Brotherhood's presence.
"You already know...?" asked Robotman, standing up along with Negative Man and Elasti-Girl. "Maybe this meeting will be a lot shorter than I thought..."
"Hmm..." Mento began to quietly concentrate, and his mind energy filled the room, reading the thoughts of every one of the Teen Titans... almost immediately, he noticed a familiar pattern of brain waves coming from behind Cyborg. Beast Boy sensed Mento's probing and knew immediately that he'd been discovered. Very meekly, he stepped out from behind Cyborg and bowed his head. "Garfield, you're the last person I expected to see here!"
"It's been a while, sir..." Beast Boy said quietly, struggling to bring himself to look up into Mento's eyes.
"Wait a minute... Garfield?" said Cyborg, looking beside him at Beast Boy. "Your name is... Garfield?"
Terra, still seated on a couch some distance away, could barely contain her amusement at the revelation of Beast Boy's real name. She put both of her gloved hands over her mouth, but still could not stop the laughs from coming, trying to turn her head so that Beast Boy wouldn't see her having so much fun at his expense.
"Garfield, we've missed you..." said Elasti-Girl, calmly walking over to Beast Boy, whom, during his time as a member of the Doom Patrol, she'd treated as if he were her son. "It is a relief to see that you're in such good hands."
"I wouldn't say that," said Mento, looking around the main room of the Tower with his hands on his hips. "This place is a pig sty... though I can't say I'm surprised, knowing what happened the last time we were together."
"Steve, Please..." said Elasti-Girl quietly, looking back at Mento before returning her gaze to Beast Boy, a much calmer expression on her face. "So... you've already told them about the Brotherhood of Evil?"
"We've already fought the Brotherhood of Evil," said Robin, "one of them, at least... Madame Rouge."
"Rouge?!" said Negative Man, showing an uncharacteristic amount of surprise before returning to his normally calm demeanor. "Surprised you made it out alive."
"Of course they did," said Robotman, an encouraged smile on his face. "They had Garfield leading them, I'm sure with him in charge, everything turned out-"
"Actually, Robin is the leader of the Teen Titans..." said Starfire calmly, pointing at him. "Though all of us, including Garfield... Beast Boy, are quite capable of fighting with strength and skill."
"I'll be the judge of that," Mento replied sternly, walking over to Beast Boy and placing a hand on his shoulder. "You and your new teammates might have gotten lucky, but the Brotherhood of Evil is dangerous... too dangerous for these amateurs to handle. You might be better off coming with us."
"W...what?!" said Beast Boy, his eyes widened in surprise. "You want me to..."
"Now just hold on," said Robin, interposing himself between Beast Boy and Mento. "I understand your concern, but my team can handle itself just fine... we didn't have any trouble taking down Madame Rouge, and from what Beast Boy told me about the rest of the Brotherhood of Evil, we can handle them too."
"That's right!" said Cyborg, smiling confidently. "Anybody who messes with our city is gonna have to deal with the Teen Titans... and there hasn't been a bad guy yet who can take us down!"
Mento just snorted, turning away from the Titans and facing the wall at the back of the room.
"You have no idea what the Brotherhood of Evil is capable of..." said Mento quietly, his eyes narrowing. "Right now, they're likely concocting a plan to take over the entire world... and trust me, once they've started, they're almost impossible to stop."
"Sanza, help me!!!"
Maddy continued to struggle in the Sladebot's grasp, but she didn't possess nearly the amount of strength she would need to get herself free, and she knew it... if she had any hope of being saved, it would be up to her big brother to do it.
"Don't worry, Maddy, I'll get you out...!" He turned to exit the room, immediately going for his Red X costume... but another Sladebot stood in the doorway, blocking his path. He turned back toward Maddy, charging forward in an attempt to make the Sladebot drop her. It complied, releasing Maddy and letting her fall to the ground, then immediately snapping one of its arms forward, clenching tightly around Sanza's neck. Sanza let out a loud gasp, while Maddy crawled away as fast as she could, standing up and immediately realizing the situation her brother was in.
Sanza could feel the Sladebot's fingers tightening around his neck, and began punching it repeatedly with his right hand, aiming punch after punch into the side of the Sladebot's metallic skull. The blows did much more damage to Sanza's hand than they did to the Sladebot's face, but he didn't care, and he continued to punch until finally, the side of the Sladebot's head ripped open, sending sparks and scraps of metal flying to the side. The Sladebot released Sanza, and he dropped hard to the ground, landing next to Maddy, who immediately wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.
"Sanza, I'm so glad you're okay...!"
"We're not okay yet, Maddy..." said Sanza, looking back to make sure he'd incapacitated the first Sladebot before looking forward at the second, still standing in the doorway. "Maddy... I'm gonna charge that thing... as soon as I clear you a path, you run, run as fast as you can into my room, go down the fire escape and get as far away as you can!"
Maddy said nothing... she stared up at the Sladebot and reached back, her hand tightly gripping one of her brother's... she wasn't about to let him go.
"Sanza... I'm not leaving you, you can't fight these things alone!"
"Maddy, I am NOT letting you stay here, now I told you, when I get this thing out of the way, you RUN, and that's-"
From another room, more loud yelling could be heard... angry and frantic, and accompanied by the sounds of loud crashes and bangs... it was Maria, and it was coming from downstairs.
"MOM!" Sanza and Maddy cried out, looking into each other's eyes with the same, fearful expression.
Putting Maddy aside for now, Sanza immediately charged into the Sladebot in front of the door, barreling into it shoulder first and sending it crashing into the wall. There was a loud flash and a bright blue spark, followed by the Sladebot slumping lifelessly to the ground, de-activated in one mighty blow. Then, without saying a word, Sanza leapt over the Sladebot and dashed downstairs, coming quickly to his mother's rescue. When he got to the bottom step, he looked into the living room and saw his mother Maria, holding a large baseball bat and standing on one side of the room, fending off three Sladebots that were in various states of de-construction, one of them missing its arm, another missing one of its legs and hopping Maria's way.
"You fucking bastards want a piece of me, you come and get it, I fucking dare you!!" Maria shouted, hurling a tirade of Spanish profanities at the Sladebots. One of them lunged at her, only for her to respond by ducking out of the way and swinging around, aiming a brutal spinning kick right at its back that knocked its now de-activated frame into the chair facing the television. Another of the Sladebots grabbed onto her arm, trying to wrench the baseball bat out of her hands. Furiously, she let out a scream, slamming her fist repeatedly into the Sladebot's shoulder with as much force as she could.
"Mom, I'm coming!!"
Sanza dashed into the living room and tackled the Sladebot that had grabbed Maria to the ground, inadvertently taking his mother with it. As the three briefly wrestled on the floor, Sanza managed to land a punch to the back of the Sladebot's head that shattered its armor plating, causing it to de-activate as well. The final Sladebot in the room, the one with only one leg left, began trying to hop away, only to have Maria stand up and rush over to it, using her baseball bat to knock out its final leg. The Sladebot, now just a head and torso, fell to the ground, where it met a grisly end at the hands of Maria and her baseball bat. After the final Sladebot was vanquished, an exhausted and terrified Maria fell to her knees, dripping with sweat and oil, her hands trembling as she let the baseball bat fall to the ground.
"Sanza..." said Maria, turning her head toward him with a half-angry, half-scared look in her eyes, "why... are there Sladebots... in our house...?"
"That's what I'd like to know..." thought Sanza, trembling as well as he placed his hand on his mother's shoulder. "Dammit... I thought I was done with Slade... I should have known...
A muffled cry from the kitchen re-directed both Sanza and Maria's attention straight ahead, where one final Sladebot still remained, clutching Maddy tightly to him. One hand was held over Maddy's mouth, while the other held a knife to her throat.
"MADDY!!!" screamed Maria, standing up and reaching out toward the Sladebot, trying to pry her daughter from its deadly grasp. "Let go of her NOW!!!"
Maddy, her eyes once again wide with terror, had come down to assist her mother and brother in their fight, and had been grabbed from behind, unable to do anything to resist. She gave another loud cry, and a single tear passed down the right side of her face... she was scared for herself, but was also sad for her mother and Sanza, who were obviously as terrified as she was. "I'm... so sorry..."
"I've had enough of this!!" shouted Sanza, picking up the discarded baseball bat and walking into the kitchen. "Slade, your fight is with ME, not my family...!"
"Sanza, stop!" shouted Maria, weakly grabbing onto Sanza's arm in an attempt to hold him back. He wrenched his arm free and took another step forward, looking right into the Sladebot's eyes.
"I said... let... her... GO!!!" Swinging the baseball bat as hard as he could, Sanza smashed the bat into the side of the Sladebot's head... but instead of knocking it off, it only went an inch to the side... and immediately returned to its original position, its mechanical eyes narrowing in artificial rage.
"If I don't do something... I'm gonna die...!" thought Maddy, feeling the knife press even harder into her tender skin. "This is it... if this doesn't work...!"
Converting all of her fear into sheer determination, Maddy grabbed the wrist of the arm that was holding the knife to her throat, pushing it back as hard as she could. She moved the knife a couple of inches away, which was all she needed to slip herself free, wrenching her face out of the Sladebot's grip and ducking under its arms, running past Sanza and into the waiting embrace of her mother. Now that Maddy was safe, Sanza knew that he could put all of his effort into smashing the Sladebot... and that's exactly what he did, hitting it with the bat numerous times in the head and chest. At first, the blows did little damage, but soon, sparks could begin to be seen, and after a few more hits, the Sladebot fell to its knees, smoke pouring from its body. Sanza, now extremely exhausted, dropped the bat and stumbled back, until he was standing beside his mother and sister, wiping away the sweat that had gathered on his face.
"Is it... over...?" Sanza said quietly, crouching into a fighting stance.
"Oh, it's far from over."
The voice was immediately familiar, and brought a chill down the spines of all three members of the Salazar family. The front panel of the Sladebot's face fell away, revealing a small, lit screen that showed the shadowed figure of Slade, his one visible eye looking directly at Sanza.
"You thought that just because you've had a few months of peace, that I've given up on you? Sanza, you must know by now that I never, ever give up. I've been watching you... ever since you decided once more to put on the mask, I've seen everything... watched you save the city, watched you steal... and I remember now exactly why I want you to be my apprentice. No, I don't want you... I need you, Sanza."
"FORGET IT!" shouted Sanza, clenching his fists, his face a twisted expression of pure rage. "YOU CAN GO TO HELL!"
"You'll be changing your tone, I assure you... just know this. Tonight was just a warning... these Sladebots, merely messengers. If you don't do exactly as I ask, that message will quickly harshen... and those you hold dear will suffer more than you could ever imagine. I will give you a day or two to think about what I have said... just remember, Sanza, I'll always be watching you."
The screen flashed off, and the Sladebot fell on its face, its metallic frame making a loud crash against the tiled kitchen floor.
Slade's latest message left Sanza, Maria, and Maddy stunned and horrified... and all of them knew that it would only get worse in the days to come.
And so begins the final part of my epic Red X trilogy... things are already looking bad for Sanza and the Titans as they deal with their most dangerous threats to date! But are these threats really so different? Find out next chapter... your reviews are very much appreciated!