(A/N)- Has it really been a year since I've updated this one? Gah.
Well, I won't keep you from the chapter any longer. Enjoy this Titans East-centric ficlet dear readers!
Disclaimer: Boy do I wish I owned Teen Titans so I could rescue them from the whole New 52 mess. Alas.
"All right, KF. Thanks anyway," she sighed.
"I'd zip over there and check on them myself but Mirror Master just broke out of prison and the Big Flash needs me to help track him down," the speedster told her apologetically.
Bumblebee waved him off with one hand while she put the other to her face tiredly. "I'll keep trying," she told him. "Bumblebee out."
She hit the button to disconnect. Silence reigned for a few moments. Bumblebee's fingers started tapping out a nervous rhythm on the desk. She rested her cheek in her palm, staring past rather than at the computer screen, her brows furrowed and making deep creases in her forehead. She studied some unseen mystery inside the bits, her eyes deep with concern. She crossed, and then uncrossed her legs.
Behind her, the door opened, and Speedy stepped in, patting his face dry with the towel around his neck. He frowned when he saw her still sitting there, in front of the main computer, as she had been before his workout.
"You haven't moved at all, have you?" he guessed.
Bumblebee didn't stir from her musing, reaching over and sliding her Titans communicator closer to her. "Kid Flash hasn't heard from Robin either," she relayed.
Speedy rubbed water out of the inside of his ear. "So?"
"So," Bumblebee emphasized, swiveling in her chair to face him, "no one in the Titans network has heard from him or Titans West in at least twenty-five days." She crossed her arms. "That doesn't strike you as just a little weird?"
The archer shrugged. "Like I said earlier, they probably just went off on a space mission."
"Without telling anyone?" Bumblebee countered. "Or making sure there was someone to cover Jump City while they're gone?"
"They've left Jump before without calling in someone to babysit," Speedy argued, walking up to join her at the console.
"Not since we fought the Brotherhood," she reminded him. She leaned back in her chair, looking over her shoulder and frowning intently at the computer screen. "I'm telling you. Something's just not right."
Speedy looked up at the ceiling long-sufferingly. "Or everything's perfectly fine and you're making mountains out of molehills," he shot back.
Bumblebee didn't rise to the bait, which surprised him. Instead, she just sat there looking pensive and concerned, eventually grabbing her communicator again and flipping it open.
"I'm going to try the Tower again," she said.
Speedy resisted the urge to groan. He crossed over to the conference table and took a seat, while Bumblebee attempted to connect to Titans West for perhaps the thirtieth time that day.
A sloshing whoosh could be heard suddenly from down below, beneath the balcony. Moments later Aqualad's figure appeared over the railing, riding a cresting wave up from the pool. The Atlantian stepped casually off the wave onto the railing and from there down to the floor, releasing the wave to slide smoothly back down into the pool.
"Oh good. You're here," Speedy said, by way of greeting. He waved an annoyed hand towards Bumblebee. "Can you please tell our esteemed leader that she's being overly paranoid?"
Aqualad frowned, coming over. "What's going on now?" he asked, crossing his arms.
Bumblebee glanced at him as she explained. "Okay, so, yesterday morning when I tried to call in to give Robin the monthly report, ten o'clock our time, as scheduled, I got no answer from him."
"Something could have come up on his end. He might have been in the middle of stopping a crime," Aqualad pointed out.
"That's what I thought at fist," Bumblebee said. "But then I tried again later and still nothing. So then I tried Cyborg, and Starfire, and the rest and none of them responded either. For a while I just figured they were on a stakeout or something and had to maintain radio silence. I left a message. I never heard back."
Aqualad took this in and nodded slowly. "Okay… odd," he acknowledged. Robin was usually pretty punctual about responding to messages, especially the monthly reports that all the Titan branches were required to exchange with him.
A hint of smugness came to Bumblebee's face. Finally someone else believed something was… off. "So then I started calling around, asking the other branches you know, and it turns out nobody's heard from Titans West in almost four weeks." She set aside her communicator, which had been waiting for a response from the Titans West Tower all that time, and swiveled around in her computer chair, folding her arms as she prepared to dish her trump card, the tidbit of info she knew would raise the hydrokinetic's red flags, as it had raised hers. "And get this: Robin hasn't called any of the other branches for their reports either."
The Atlantian made a face, halfway between a grimace and a flinch of worry. "That's… not like him," he admitted.
"Exactly!" Bumblebee declared, triumphant, shooting a pointed look at Speedy.
The archer just rolled his eyes.
Aqualad leaned against the console, mulling over what Bumblebee had told him. "So… complete silence from Titans West means what exactly?" he asked.
Bumblebee's smugness disappeared in an instant and she cast a wary eye on her communicator, still waiting and waiting for someone on the other end to make the connection and open the channel. "I don't know..." she said softly. "I just… I have this horrible gut feeling. Something's just not right," she repeated.
"I'm telling you, they're probably just off on a space mission and forgot to let us know beforehand," Speedy insisted.
Bumblebee rounded on him. "Robin doesn't forget to leave someone watching Jump," she growled. "Maybe you think I'm being paranoid but I think the Titans being out of contact for almost a month can mean nothing good. And if I'm right? Then something serious is up and it's up to us to fix it!"
Speedy held up his hands in placating surrender, sighing. "Okay, look, if it makes you feel better, keep calling around. I'm sure someone's heard from them."
The Titans East leader glared at him. Why could he not just admit that her instincts were pinging for a good reason? Sure, sometimes her gut had been wrong. She didn't know anyone who hadn't over-worried for nothing at least once or twice. But with such a strong mountain of evidence piling up that Something Was Terribly Wrong she couldn't understand why the boy kept insisting that everything was fine. It was infuriating.
She simmered down and decided to cut him some slack, in spite of her frustration. Maybe he just didn't like entertaining the thought that something bad had happened to Titans West. She knew she certainly didn't like the idea.
After thinking a few moments, Bumblebee rolled out the landline phone from its drawer, and brought out her small notebook of emergency contact numbers. She thumbed through the pages, flicking past the info for the Titans' civilian identities (and those of their families, if they had them) and quickly found the section for her Jump City contacts. After their last sojourn looking after the place while Titans West was off stopping the Brotherhood's schemes around the world, Bumblebee had exchanged contact information with the mayor, the police commissioner, and several other key city officials, just in case they needed to contact Titans East again.
Or vice-versa, in this case.
She started with the police commissioner. After getting a bit of a run-around with the station's phone system, she was finally put through to the man himself.
"This better be important," he grumbled, once he picked up. "I've got Cinderblock and Overload having a field day in the Tech Sector right now."
"Commissioner Brody?" Bumblebee addressed him respectfully. "It's Bumblebee, leader of Titans East. I'm trying to get ahold of Robin. Do you know where he might be? He isn't picking up his communicator."
"Hell if I know," the man's voice grunted, irritable. "Been too busy to breathe. If you see the Titans tell 'em to stop slacking off and help us out here. We're getting slammed."
"…Sir? Sir?" Bumblebee called into the phone. As the dial tone filled her ears, she blew out an, "Ugh."and hung up herself, moving down to the next contact number, Mayor Parker. She avoided the run-around this time by dialing in straight to the man's personal cell.
"Ah! Hello Miss Bumblebee!" he greeted cheerfully, after she'd identified herself. "To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?"
He sounded like he was genuinely happy to hear from her. Bumblebee managed a tired smile. "Well sir, I'm actually having a little trouble getting ahold of Titans West right now. One of my teammates thinks they're off in space again or something. Do you know where they might be or how I can get in touch with them?"
The Mayor's voice shifted in tone so suddenly it was unsettling. "Oh dear," came his sigh. "I had hoped… They are not visiting you then?" he asked. "Helping you on a big case?"
Next to her she could feel Aqualad and Speedy straighten, and lean in closer to hear the conversation. She glanced towards them soberly as she replied. "No. They're not."
At a prolonged silence on the other end, a roiling anxiety started to churn in the pit of her stomach.
"I'm still here," he assured her. "I'm just disappointed I guess. I was hoping the Titans had called you to come in and help custodian the city."
"Yeeeeeah," Bumblebee drawled, glancing awkwardly at her two teammates, now standing behind her in order to listen. "I just finished talking to Commissioner Brody. It sounds like you've got your hands full." She shook her head. "We haven't heard from them."
"That is very troubling…" he mused. "It isn't like Robin to not make sure there's someone watching the city in the Titans' absence."
Under her breath, Bumblebee voiced a soft, "I know." Aloud, she asked, "Major Parker, when was the last time you saw the Titans?"
There was a hum from the other end. "Hm, let's see… I think it was towards the beginning of this month. Monday, I believe," the mayor told her. "A new villain was causing a disruption in Greens Park. The civilians cleared the area pretty quickly on their own-they're used to this kind of thing by now, you know-and the Titans went right in to put a stop to it. Chased him all down Westmoore Boulevard and into the warehouse district I heard."
"Who's this new villain?" Aqualad asked abruptly, tilting over Bumblebee's shoulder and rudely pulling the mouthpiece of the phone away from her and closer to him, earning him a sour glare from the girl.
"It isn't terribly clear," Mayor Parker said. "Police and witness accounts are vague. He seems to be calling himself 'The Disruptor' and apparently he has a swarm of robotic drone minions."
Bumblebee yanked the mouthpiece back from Aqualad and shoved him away to give herself some space. "Did the Titans catch him?" she asked into the phone.
The worry was clear in the man's voice as he replied, "No, in fact, Disruptor has been making regular rampages in the city ever since then. Strangely enough he doesn't steal anything, just causes a bunch of damage and panic and keeps demanding to be put through to the current HIVE headmaster." The mayor's voice was pensive as he added, "Even interrupted a heist by the new HIVE Five once to make his demands."
Her heart was doing a quick, anxious pace inside her chest. "And… you say you haven't seen the Titans since they fought him?"
"That's correct, Miss Bumblebee. They haven't been seen around Jump City at all since then."
"And there haven't been any, I dunno, any Slade sightings? Emergency distress signals from Tamaran? Priority calls from the League? Anything like that?" she queried further.
"Not to my knowledge."
More red flags were raising in Bumblebee's head. New villain, Titans missing, crime left unchecked... The picture all these things were painting in her head was getting worse by the second.
She made a quick decision.
Lifting the phone a little higher she said, "Mayor Parker? I'm bringing my team in to help. We'll leave immediately and should be there in-" She checked the time on the computer display. "-approximately four to five hours, depending on the weather between us and Jump. Get me everything you guys know about this Disruptor and the Titans' last fight with him and have Commissioner Brody pipe in in via frequency…" She grabbed the computer mouse and hovered it over an icon on the desktop, then squinted and leaned in to read the lettering. "…Zero-seven-five-six-eight-two-one-J."
"Understood. I'll get on it right away," the mayor promised.
She dropped the phone onto its cradle to hang up. She stared at it in silence, her mind already making plans for what to do next. Behind her, Aqualad and Speedy exchanged glances.
"Okay… now I'm worried," Speedy admitted, looking truly concerned for the first time that day.
Bumblebee didn't have it in her to take any satisfaction in his concession. She couldn't be smug about this. Not anymore. There was only room for a nervous, churning anxiety.
She rolled back and stood up from her chair, pressing the Tower's intercom button as she did so.
"Más, Menos, you boys get up here quick," she ordered.
They didn't need to be told twice and appeared in seconds with a rush of wind.
"Qué hay Señora Bumblebee?" asked Más, noticing their leader's troubled countenance. "Tú pareces preocupada."
"Titans West is missing," she told them simply. "You and Aqualad start getting the T-ship ready to launch."
"Desaparecidos?" Más repeated with a gasp.
"Ay ay!" chimed Menos in dismay.
Then they both chorused, "Vamos!" and zipped off in a red and white blur.
Pushing the T-ship to its terrestrial limit, Titans East managed to make it to Jump City in just under four hours. Even that seemed unbearably long to Bumblebee, the tension straining her nerves to the breaking point. She kept an outward cool though, not giving in to panic and keeping a calm and level head. The others followed her example, keeping quiet and not voicing the worry they all shared for their West Coast friends, as much as it bit away at their hearts.
A light pinged on in Bumblebee's pod. She stirred and leaned forward to look at the display.
"Okay, the police reports on Disruptor are coming in now," she reported.
Aqualad glanced at his own display and frowned. "He doesn't seem all that tough. Are we sure he's the one behind the Titans' disappearing?"
"He shows up, he fights the Titans, and then the Titans stop showing up to fight crimes," Speedy pointed out. "Could be coincidence but it's a pretty big coincidence," he added, glancing towards Bumblebee's pod. "So what's the plan, Bee?"
Bumblebee nudged the steering control slightly left, to start bringing them in for a landing. "First thing to do is check at the Tower. If they aren't there then at least we can request a trace on their comms." She shook her head. "I would've tried that first thing but…" she trailed off.
"You don't have the new codes," Aqualad finished for her.
The corner of her mouth lifted wryly. "Robin was supposed to give them to me yesterday, when I called in."
"Which obviously didn't happen," Speedy added under his breath. After the whole affair with the Brotherhood of Evil, Robin had implemented new security procedures to make sure no one could use the communicators' locator signals against them again. Any one individual device could only trace the communicators belonging to the owner's team. Getting the location of anyone outside of that required inputting a security passcode. Robin changed the codes every month, and personally contacted each team's leader to issue the new ones. With an outdated code, Titans East couldn't just tap into the GPS system to find the Titans. (Which would certainly have made things a lot easier for them.) Only the mainframe in Titans Tower had clearance to bypass the security passcodes. So that was obviously their first stop.
Aqualad nodded. The plan made sense to him. "I just hope their locators aren't deactivated. Or being blocked. Or not being kept with them."
Menos piped in, adding what was surely another potential complication to the list.
"Easy boys," Bumblebee cautioned them. "Let's not get carried away here. One thing at a time."
"Perdón, Señora Bumblebee," Menos apologized sheepishly.
"ETA seven minutes," Bumblebee said, glancing out the window. "Start the landing sequence."
Speedy reached forward and flicked a few switches. "Vents flushed, turning to point two-five-seven."
The T-ship banked slowly to the right as it circled the still, silent Tower.
It was quieter still on the inside. Their carpet-muffled footsteps sounded unnaturally loud, as the five of them stepped into the entrance hall.
Más and Menos jetted off at once, zipping to and fro throughout the Tower.
"Starfire? Señorita Starfire? Señor Cyborg? Dondé estáis ustedes?" Speedy heard them calling every so often.
Bumblebee led the way to the elevator. The twins could sweep the Tower faster than any of them, so they just made a beeline for OPS.
No sooner had they reached it, in fact, then the twins reappeared, skidding to a perfect stop just inside the door.
"No hay nadie aquí," Menos reported.
Speedy frowned as he passed by the kitchen table, upon which was a cold, half-full cup of tea and a chessboard with a game in-progress, the pieces standing idle in a blended formation. "Looks like they left in a hurry, though."
"They didn't even lock down the Tower," Aqualad noticed.
The archer nodded. The ease of their entrance and passage through the Tower meant that the building's security measures hadn't been employed before the Titans had left. They'd clearly intended to come right back.
Bumblebee had already seated herself at one of the computer terminals and was checking through the communications log. The entries scrolled by slowly on her screen.
Aqualad came to look over her shoulder. "No distress signals from Tamaran?" he guessed.
"A lot of calls in-mostly crime alerts-but none from Tamaran," she confirmed. She clicked through a few more entries, then straightened. "Okay, here's the first alert about Disruptor." She brought the log up on the main screen. "Calls out from the Tower abruptly stop after that. The rest of the entries are incoming." She pointed to a set of entries about halfway up the list. "There are all my calls."
Más bit his lip and Menos scrunched up his face worriedly. Wordlessly, the two grabbed hands and made another sweep of the Tower. They stopped in each empty room, double-checking the closets and corners. They noted more signs of the Titans' quick departure on this second sweep, from the tools left scattered on Cyborg's worktable in the garage to the unsorted papers left on Robin's desk in the evidence room to the drool-coated chewed-up trail of objects left by a very hungry Silkie.
Not too soon afterwards the grub himself made himself known by flinging himself into Menos's arms as the boys opened up Starfire's closet. Menos grunted in surprise and fell back on his butt, caught off-guard by the larva's robust leap.
Silkie nuzzled into Menos's front, whining and gurgling in distress. Menos held the grub up to eye level and smiled reassuringly at him.
"Está bien, Silkie. Estamos aquí ahora. No te preocupes," he told him.
The grub gave a forlorn moan, glancing to the side towards Starfire's empty bed.
Más came and patted him on the head comfortingly. "Si, encontraremos tú madre pronto." Sharing a worried look with his brother he added to himself. "Yo espero."
Silkie just whined again, flailing his stubby feet, so Más and Menos rushed back to the common room, zipping through the cabinets in an effort to locate some food for the poor creature. (Fortuitously there was a canister of groopy worm food in the back of the fridge. The container was ice-crusted and the stuff itself was rank and clearly out of date but Silkie perked up immediately upon seeing it and proceeded to devour it with no hesitations.)
Meanwhile, Bumblebee was all set to try the trace on the Titans' communicators. Her fingers poised over the button.
"Okay guys," she said, "here goes. Keep your fingers crossed."
Más and Menos glanced up from attending to Silkie and everyone looked anxiously towards the screen. For a few milliseconds after Bumblebee pressed the key the screen was blank, searching.
Then, the map grid appeared. And half a breath later the icons that marked each of the five Titans, curiously grouped together in nearly the same spot, in the abandoned section of the warehouse district.
Titans East released a simultaneous, audible sigh of relief.
"So at least whoever has the Titans' comms isn't smart enough to turn 'em off or destroy 'em," Speedy figured, stroking his chin thoughtfully.
"Para qué estamos esperando? Vamos!" the twins urged. "Más y Menos, si-"
"Hold up a second, boys," interrupted Bumblebee sternly.
Their hands froze a hair's breath apart.
Speedy took a computer terminal of his own and scanned their info on Disruptor. "If this Disruptor person is behind the Titans' disappearance-"
"Which he is," Bumblebee growled, quite certain of it now.
Speedy didn't confirm or deny her suspicions, merely continued, "-then he managed to take them out somehow."
Aqualad nodded in agreement. "We need to be careful."
Bumblebee was reading over the police reports, picking out all the relevant information on their foe. "Witness accounts claim he wears some kind of technologically advanced suit. He can redirect the flow of water and electricity, and he's surrounded by at least five of his drones at all times." She sat back, folding her arms. "We'll have to watch out for those. They have incinerating lasers and taser prongs." She stood up from the chair. "But we won't know much more until we get a closer look. Titans!"
They straightened into alertness.
"Go!" Bumblebee ordered.
The twins disappeared in a red and white blur and they turned as one towards the door.
"I'll say this for Disruptor: he doesn't seem too worried about people finding his hideout," Speedy commented dryly.
The five of them perched on the rooftop, just across from the decrepit, derelict former chemical lab. Peeling yellow signage with fading black letters declared the building to be part of EXCO-a defunct company that had long since moved out of the facility, leaving it to gather cobwebs and rust.
Patrolling in slow, measured patterns around the building were a dozen or so of Disruptor's drones. Yellow and roughly egg-shaped, with black beetle-like legs and appendages sprouting from underneath their bodies and eerie round red eyes mounted on their heads, they looked unsettlingly like giant foot-long insects, a mental picture not helped by the faint buzzing they emitted as they floated to and fro, keeping watch.
"They look a little like the battle training drones HIVE uses," Aqualad noticed. He looked to Bumblebee. "Think he's an aspiring student?"
"Probably not, given his frequent sabotage of HIVE's dealings," she answered.
"Unless he's doing that to discredit his future classmates and make them look bad," Speedy considered.
Bumblebee sat up from her low crouch, putting her hands on her hips. "He's certainly gunning for HIVE's attention, at any rate." She thought a moment, then decided their next move. "Más, Menos, take out those patrols. Then we're going in through that service door on the east side."
The twins saluted and dashed off, Más hopping up on Menos's shoulders. He reached up and grabbed hold of the first drone they met. As Menos ran them around the perimeter, Más smashed his drone into the others like a high-speed cue ball. The twins came full circle in seconds and Más hurled his drone to the pavement to break it. It sparked and sputtered like the rest of its destroyed brethren.
Furtively, Bumblebee took to the air and led the way to the service door, Speedy and Aqualad hopping down to street level and following behind her. The twins appeared next to them as they flanked the door. Speedy drew an arrow back on the string and Bumblebee readied her stingers. She looked across to Aqualad and nodded. Aqualad stepped back, wound up, and with his inborn Atlantian strength kicked open then heavy door.
It gave a sharp bang! as it slammed inward. Titans East quickly filed in, raising their guard against anything that might attack them.
The hallway was clear, so they proceeded down it, wary and on guard. Everyone kept deadly silent, hardly daring to breathe lest they alert someone of their presence.
There was a sliver of light peeking out from under the door that led into the main chamber. They crept up to it and Bumblebee waved Speedy forward to check.
The archer gently nudged the door with his foot and peeked through the crack, outwardly calm though he felt a quiet dread from the myriad of horrible scenarios he could picture finding inside. None of these ghastly mental pictures emerged just yet, as he scanned the cross-section of the chamber he could see.
The room beyond was dimly lit, and hummed with active machinery. Speedy's eyes panned across, seeing a worktable covered over with a cloth, a panel of obviously new communications equipment, and, sitting in a chair and tapping the console impatiently, a red-clad figure. Speedy peered closer, then flinched back as an irritated raised voice rose up from the figure.
"What is taking so long?" he complained to no one but himself.
Speedy stepped away from the crack and whispered, "Bad Guy at eleven-o'-clock."
Bumblebee nodded, then placed her palm flat against the door and gently pushed it open. All of them tensed as it slowly swung inwards, waiting for it to creak. Miraculously, the hinges were oiled and the door opened without even a squeak. Even more luckily, Disruptor would not have noticed if it had creaked, involved now in a heated conversation with the person whose response he'd been waiting for, whose face now occupied the large screen above his head. Bumblebee recognized her as one of the members of HIVE's Executive Council.
And she was none too pleased at Disruptor's call.
"Who is this?" she demanded. "This channel is encrypted! Only active HIVE members and students are authorized to use it!"
Disruptor held up one of HIVE's standard issue hexagonal communicators. "Palmed this off of one of your 'top alumni'," he growled.
"Oh, it's you," the HIVE Councilwoman spat, her nose scrunching in disgust. "What the hell do you want?"
"You know perfectly well what I want," said Disruptor through gritted teeth. "I've told your sorry excuses for students over and over again."
"Is this about 'Brains' Beldon's bid for a seat on the Council?" she huffed. "You can tell your old man that it's going to take more than sending his brat to screw with our operations to browbeat us into letting him on."
"He doesn't know I'm doing this and I'm not trying to browbeat anyone!" Disruptor snapped. "I'm offering HIVE a bargain."
"HIVE doesn't bargain with mobsters, kid. Come back when your dad hits the big leagues and starts smuggling anti-meta tech instead of drugs and firearms."
Disruptor leapt from his seat, livid. "Unacceptable!" he yelled. "I demand to speak to Brother Blood!"
"Brother Blood is still locked up in prison in Steel City. He's not Headmaster anymore," the Councilwoman replied, folding her arms. "The Council is in charge of HIVE affairs now, for the time being. So unless you're offering a formal apology for your interference in our business, I suggest you stop wasting our time."
Throughout the whole argument, Titans East had kept quiet, surveying the rest of the room. Directly across from them was a metal railing and ramp that led down into a small antechamber. When EXCO was running things, it had been a storage space for the water they used in their filtration system. But now…
"Mira!" gasped Menos quietly, pointing.
There was a row of four tall glass cylinders, set on raised metal bases, filled with a clear blue liquid-water or something else, they didn't know. And floating in those cylinders, silent and motionless, were four of the five Titans.
"Oh man…" breathed Speedy.
All four of them hung limply in the fluid, still save for the rustling of their hair and clothes, their eyes closed. Some kind of apparatus was attached to their faces, over the mouth and nose.
"Estás-" Más began to ask.
"No, look," Aqualad interrupted, pointing to the trickles of bubbles that escaped around the breathing apparatus with every exhale. The Titans were alive, at least.
Bumblebee's eyes were darting about, searching. "Where's Cyborg?" she hissed.
"There he is," Speedy said, spotting the half-robot better from his vantage point on the left side of the door. He was on another worktable just past the glass cylinders, disassembled and deactivated, his pieces strewn across the table.
Más and Menos muttered something decidedly angry-sounding, at the sight.
Disruptor, meanwhile, was trying to keep the HIVE Councilwoman on the line.
"I have something you want," he offered.
The Councilwoman rolled her eyes. "I sincerely doubt it." She reached to press the button to disconnect.
"Oh, so HIVE isn't interested in the whereabouts of the Titans?" Disruptor asked, smug grin on his face.
The Councilwoman froze mid-reach. She was silent a long moment, the wheels turning behind her eyes, considering.
"What do you know about the Titans?" she finally asked, cautiously.
"Haven't you been wondering where they've been?" Disruptor leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms with a self-satisfied look that made Titans East want to punch him in the face. "Well let me put you at ease," he continued. "I've got them. And I'm willing to hand them over to HIVE custody."
The Councilwoman was pensive only a moment. "All right, you've got my attention," she admitted. "You give us the Titans, in exchange for what?"
"Put my father on the Council."
"Of course," she nodded, expecting Disruptor's answer.
"Five Titans for one Council seat. It's a fair trade. The android alone should secure my father's position."
"Yes, well…" The Councilwoman cleared her throat. "With Brother Blood's incarceration we do have an open vacancy. Once you've delivered us the Titans, we'll definitely call a session to consider Mr. Beldon's candidacy."
"Ohhh no," Disruptor said, his eyes narrowed slyly. "Instate my father first. Then you can have the Titans. And designs for the technology my father developed that helped me take them down."
Bumblebee's eyes narrowed and her fist clenched tightly. It was the suit, she knew it. She studied the thing from afar, trying to parse the skintight red spandex, with its yellow accent lines, through to the sinister surprises hidden within.
"You drive a hard bargain, kid. All right, we'll do it your way," the Councilwoman conceded. "But first HIVE is going to need some kind of proof that you actually have the Titans."
"Will you accept the android's internal power core?" Disruptor offered.
She nodded. "That'll do."
"Done. And I'll even throw in their T-Communicators for good measure."
"I've heard enough," Speedy growled. Before anyone could stop him he let fly an arrow that imbedded in the screen and pierced the image of the HIVE Councilwoman in the face, cracking the glass, and shorting out the connection. Disruptor yelped and leapt back as the screen went blank, on his feet immediately and whirling to face them.
They had already jumped through the doorway and stood ready to fight.
"Be careful," Bumblebee cautioned them. "We still don't know what that suit does."
Now that Disruptor was facing them, they could see it, and its owner, much better. Disruptor was older than them-about college-age-and slight of build, with cold blue eyes. His suit consisted of a single piece with an attached full cowl-with holes cut out for his eyes and the lower half of his face-separate gloves and calf-length boots, and a pouched belt. He scowled at them, angry and confused.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Titans East, Titans West's sister team on the East Coast," Bumblebee replied sharply.
"There's another Titans team?" blurted Disruptor in surprise, his eyes widening. They darted from Titan to Titan, sizing them up quickly, as if pondering what he could get for the capture of two sets of Titans.
"There's a whole lot more of us," Bumblebee threatened. She raised her stingers a little higher and pointed them straight at him. They crackled with energy. "You have our friends," she told him. Her eyes narrowed determinedly. "Let 'em go," she ordered.
Disruptor sneered, spreading his hands. "Make me," he challenged.
The twins shot forward, barreling towards him.
Instinctively his hand jerked in front of him. The twins yelped as they were blown apart by an unseen force, the magnetic attraction connecting them together suddenly reversing polarity and flinging them to opposite ends of the room. Más hit one wall with a crack! and fell unconscious to the floor. The railing around the antechamber received Menos's back with a painful-sounding metallic clang.
Startled, Speedy, Bumblebee, and Aqualad tracked the twins' chaotic flight paths, then wasted no time and let loose. Bumblebee and Speedy unleashed a volley. The stone floor buckled and rent as Aqualad yanked a water main up from under the ground and sent a torrent arcing toward Disruptor.
The villain rolled and ducked behind the scant shelter of his chair, then waved his arm in a broad diagonal sweeping gesture.
In midair the path of Speedy's quintet of arrows wobbled and then veered off-course, pinging off the floor, the console, and the back of the chair. Bumblebee's stinger blasts frayed at the edges, spritzing off into wild directions so what little made it to her target had no bite and barely even made Disruptor flinch.
Most disastrously, Aqualad's torrent of water lost cohesion and broke apart, spraying everywhere. Droplets hit their chests and faces as their eyes collectively widened, realizing-belatedly-exactly how Disruptor had been able to take down the Titans.
Crouched behind his chair, Disruptor raised his wrist and pressed a button on his gauntlet. A faint buzz grew sharply in volume as a pack of drones rounded the corner and came to a halt, compartments unfolding to reveal their weaponry. Another push of the button sent them after Titans East.
Bumblebee's wings hummed and she jumped back, drifting, putting some distance between her and the drones as she sent stinger blasts back at them. Speedy zigzagged, dodging the laser bolts sent at him. He fired arrows at the drones but they were quick and highly maneuverable and he missed more than he hit. Aqualad stayed planted, drawing up some water still trickling from the broken water main. As the first volley streaked towards him, he leapt behind the wall of the pipe and thrust his hand out.
"Speedy!" he called.
Speedy caught on at once and-as Aqualad's water surrounded two of the drones in a bubble-shot out a freeze arrow.
There was a flash, a bang, and the drones dropped solidly to the ground, encased in ice.
They'd lost sight of Disruptor briefly in the melée but the villain soon made himself known, redirecting the trickle of water from the pipe into a narrow lance that smacked into Aqualad from the side. He yelped in surprise but wasn't hurt, just distracted.
The drones took advantage to pepper him with incendiary bolts. Aqualad was forced the run from cover with a trio drones on his trail.
Bumblebee had led the ones chasing her up into the rafters. She'd shrunk herself to present a smaller target but she didn't want to stay miniscule for long. She had a feeling Disruptor turning his suit's powers on her size-changing ability would be extraordinary unpleasant.
Sure enough, when he glanced up at her and brought his powers to bear, Bumblebee felt a horrible stabbing pain as her hand started growing, much faster than the rest of her. Frantically, panting with the effort as her growing arm began to serve as a deadweight weighing her down, Bumblebee pumped her wings and tried to escape even higher.
Near the ceiling, the weight suddenly lessened, and Bumblebee was able to shoot up. Her arm returned to its normal size.
She blew out a breath. So, Daddy's Boy has a limited range, she thought. That could work to their advantage.
A laser bolt streaked over her shoulder. Bumblebee alerted to the drones at once, zooming off. She took a sudden sharp turn around a crossbeam and came at them head on, stingers out. She scored a direct hit on one, dead in one of its beady eyes, and sent it sputtering to the ground below.
It landed near Speedy's feet and he kicked it out of his way as he ran, firing arrows behind him. Between the drones' swerving and Disruptor's influence, he could barely hit anything. A lucky shot slipped past the villa8in and brought another drone down. Speedy circled the room, trying to root out Disruptor whole he avoided drone fire. The villain was keeping to the corners, messing up his aim at critical moments. They had to take him out of the fight quickly.
Speedy felt a laser bolt sting his ankles. He yelled, stumbled, but recovered and rolled back up into a ready shooting position, just behind a low metal hunk of old machinery.
A hand grabbed hold of his wrist.
"Hold still," Aqualad's voice hissed next to him.
Speedy tilted his head only just enough to see the Atlantian crouched next to him. "What is it?" he whispered back.
"They have motion sensors." Aqualad nodded towards the oncoming drones.
Speedy tensed as they closed in but kept frozen in place. The pair suddenly slowed their charge, coming to halt just shy of them. They hung motionless in the air a moment.
Then, they began drifting away.
Still not moving, Aqualad explained, "They don't have any visual input. They target you by movement."
That explains why they're leaving the twins alone, Speedy realized. Más was still out cold by the wall.
But Menos was stirring. He raised his head and rubbed a hand over his face.
The drones alerted to the movement and dove in for the attack.
"Shoot," Speedy growled, standing up and firing the arrow fitted to his string as Aqualad leapt up, lunged, and tackled Menos just in time.
One drone fell from the air, an arrow sticking from its back. The other strafed Aqualad's exposed back, as the Atlantian squeezed Menos close to his chest to protect him. Aqualad's face twisted and his back stung but, being made of pretty stern stuff, he wasn't seriously injured.
Speedy rushed over, his bow raised, and was at their sides in a second.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I'll live," Aqualad grunted, uncurling from around Menos.
A drone plummeted from the air and crashed next to their feet and, a moment later, a diving Bumblebee joined them. She grew to normal size quickly, searching the perimeters of the room for Disruptor.
"His suit has a range of about fifteen to twenty feet. He pauses between bursts for an average of six seconds, so I'm guessing it needs a cooldown period before firing, too," she said, addressing her team.
"So it can overheat," concluded Speedy.
"So is the plan to make him expend a larger burst?" asked Aqualad.
She shook her head, zapping her stingers at the villain's darting figure as he ran for cover behind the covered worktable. "He's too careful for that. We'll have to-"
She cut off with a yelp as a blast from Disruptor sprayed back her stinger fire into her own face. Speedy, standing close to her, got caught in it too. Electricity sparked across both their bodies and they flailed their arms uselessly before falling on their butts.
Bumblebee set her teeth until the energy dissipated, then spat out an… understandably frustrated word.
"What you said," Speedy groaned, flat on his back, his limbs numb.
Bumblebee then proceeded to expound, at length, about the villain's parentage, his mother's character, his eternal destination, several lewd sexual acts he could perform upon himself, and almost certain relation to a donkey.
"Language, Bee!" Aqualad complained, holding his hands firmly over Menos's ears. "There are kids around!"
She finished her rant and blasted one more attacking drone from the air as she leapt to her feet. It clattered, skidding and bouncing along the ground before bumping the far wall.
Behind the worktable, Disruptor watched the swift disposal of the last of his drones and pressed the button on his wrist again.
He tried again. Silence met his summons, and no more drones appeared around the corner.
"What?" he gasped, confounded, staring at his gauntlet in disbelief.
"Looks like you're out of reinforcements," Aqualad observed coolly. Disruptor jerked his head up to see him, Speedy, and Bumblebee all standing ready for round two, rolling up their metaphorical sleeves. Menos had rushed off, darting across the room, and was busy trying to rouse his brother.
Más gave a groan at the prodding and raised his head.
"Ay, mi cabeza…"
Disruptor's face twisted furiously as he shoved himself to his feet. "I don't need them," he snarled. "I took down the Titans. You think I can't take you down too?"
"You caught the Titans off-guard," Bumblebee said. "We won't be surprised so easily."
"Wanna bet?" Disruptor challenged.
He raised his hands. The Titans tensed, but all that happened was that the trickling water from the broken pipe expanded into a cloud of blinding fog. The cloud surrounded them, obscuring their vision, and Bumblebee yelled out a warning.
"Don't let him slip past us!"
Speedy twitched his bow this way and that, looking for movement in the fog. There was a shout from his left-Aqualad it sounded like-and the sound of a tussle. He let off a few wild shots but with the fog there was no way he could see his target.
A red and white whirlwind suddenly swirled around them. The wind from the twins' tornado sucked up the mist, yanking it from around them and clearing the air suddenly.
Now Speedy could see Disruptor grappling with Bumblebee and Aqualad. The Atlantian had ahold of one of Disruptor's arms, while he had grabbed Bumblebee's wrists and was trying to wrest her stingers from her. One had already dropped to the floor.
The twins ran in and kicked one of Disruptor's legs out from under him. He buckled, going down on one knee, and his grip loosened. Bumblebee pulled a hand free from his grip and aimed point blank at him with the stinger clutched tight in her fingers.
He disrupted the shot, but not before she fired. Yellow arcs of energy bounced between and over all three of them. Aqualad gave a shrill cry as he let go of the villain and stumbled back. Disruptor and Bumblebee were knocked back in opposite directions.
Bumblebee recovered first, and retrieved her other stinger, eyes on Disruptor, watching as the electricity coursed through his suit, lighting up the circuitry.
It subsided after a moment, and the villain scrambled to his feet and sought for cover as he waited for his tech to cool down.
An idea turned over in Bumblebee's head as she watched Disruptor's suit struggle to get back to normal function.
If we could overload his tech… she thought. Pieces clicked together in place and she called to her teammates, motioning them closer.
"I've got a plan," she whispered to them.
Disruptor's heart pounded in his head. He could still feel the burn on his arms. That had been too close a call. He had to take this other Titan team out quickly. He couldn't afford to lose his hostages now, not when he was so close!
His head jerked towards the Titans. He could threaten them. Heroes never risked the lives of others. Yes… this Titans East would surely surrender if he put their friends in immediate danger.
He started to raise his hand, point it at the glass tubes.
The twins were too quick.
They bowled over him at high-speed, running him over and then coming around for another pass.
He brought the suit's powers to bear against them instead. They cried out, staggering, pulling away from each other and stumbling lopsided against the walls. But they gripped each other's wrists tightly and refused to let go, refused to be separated again.
Disruptor pushed harder, concentrating more power on them. His suit whined in his ears in protest.
Más gave a shriek as he was wrenched to the side by a sharp jab from Disruptor, dislocating his shoulder. Menos let his feet skid, still holding tightly to his brother, resisting the force propelling them apart.
Bumblebee took a potshot at Disruptor, forcing him to release the twins and duck for cover. Más doubled over at once, clutching his shoulder, his small face ashen.
Beside her, Speedy fit a trick arrow to his bow. "Now?" he asked.
"Now." She nodded, then thrust herself forward into the air, stingers blazing.
Disruptor took the bait, and Bumblebee took one for the team as he reflected her blasts back at her. She went down, yellow sparks passing over her body, but Disruptor's smug grin faded in an instant and his eyes widened as a rubber-fist arrow caught him in the gut. Speedy had charged in behind Bumblebee, hidden from his sight, and was now in close quarters with him, swinging his bow and throwing punches.
The villain blocked and backpedaled clumsily, frantic worry beating through him. He was no skilled martial artist, and it showed. Speedy would have him on the ropes soon if he couldn't think of something.
He looked behind Speedy's shoulder briefly, barely holding the archer back, and saw Aqualad standing ready by the leaking pipe. Whatever he had planned, it couldn't be good.
"Give up yet?" Speedy taunted, drawing Disruptor's attention back. "If you surrender quietly, we'll go easy on you."
Disruptor gnashed his teeth defiantly. "Ha! As if your power could hope to match mine!" Something dangerous glinted in his eyes. "I can disrupt the natural flow of anything!" he yelled.
He gave a sudden hard shove against Speedy's bow, pushing the archer back. Speedy grabbed another special arrow from his quiver to enact the next part of Bee's plan but the murderous expression on Disruptor's face gave him uneasy pause.
"Including the blood in your very body!" Disruptor shouted.
They both raised their hands but Disruptor was a hair faster.
It hurt. A lot. Speedy fell to his knees, struggling for breath, a horrible stabbing feeling coursing through him. He couldn't get enough air. His heart and head panged. It felt like he was having a heart attack.
Aqualad started in dismay and looked as though he was going to rush forward and leave his post, despite his orders. Disruptor thrust his other arm out. A still-recovering Más was yanked off his feet and away from his brother, and used as a flying projectile to collide with the Atlantian, hitting him headfirst in the stomach.
The momentum carried them clean over the antechamber railing. Aqualad uttered a winded grunt as his back hit one of the glass cylinders. He slid down to the floor.
Behind him, Robin's eyelids fluttered sleepily blinked, uncomprehending, at the disturbance.
Menos had skidded in the opposite direction of his brother, but now he was up and throwing broken drones at Disruptor. The villain dodged them clumsily, trying to keep his powers trained on Speedy.
Through bleary eyes and the haze of pain, Speedy shakily fit his trick arrow to the string. The arrowhead twitched and jolted, but as a drone hit Disruptor's shins and distracted him, Speedy steadied his arm just enough to take aim and release the string.
Disruptor jumped as he felt the arrow whoosh by his ear. He turned a smug look on the archer.
"You missed," he sneered.
Speedy was on his hands and knees, panting. "Wasn't… aiming… for you…" he choked out.
There was a thunk! and a crackle, and Disruptor whipped around, releasing Speedy from his disruptive hold. He saw the arrow embedded in the controls for the glass capsules that held the Titans, regulating the air and water flow and the drugs keeping them under. He saw the apparatus beginning to spark and fizzle dangerously.
"No!" he cried.
Heedless of anything else, he ran to the controls, trying to dissipate and redirect the cackling electricity. He couldn't afford the Titans waking up now. Not now!
Movement drew his eye. He looked up from the ball of fraying sparks he was trying to keep control of, right into Aqualad's unpleasant glare. The hydrokinetic sat at the base of Robin's cylinder.
He raised his hand.
Too late Disruptor realized there was more than one source of water in the room.
Glass splintered as water punched a hole through Robin's capsule and sprayed directly into Disruptor's chest.
Electricity exploded all around him, surging through the suit, burning him, overloading his limbs and senses. His limbs jerked about involuntarily and all he heard was a harsh zapping as components in his tech gave out under the strain.
His last thought before his eyes rolled up was a miserable, Dad's going to kill me.
Robin raised a hand to his head, still throbbing dully with a faint headache.
"How long were we off the grid?" he asked groggily up at Bumblebee, from his seat on the curb outside the warehouse.
"Almost a month, dude," she told him, crossing her arms over her chest.
Robin shook his head in a daze as an EMT draped a blanket over his shoulders.
"I thought something was odd when the drones crowded us together," he remembered. "He was trying to take us all out in one shot. It didn't work as well as he'd hope but that didn't really matter." Robin pulled the edges of the blanket tighter around him. "Star and I were the only ones not taken out by the initial attack. Disruptor turned his powers on her and made her… explode starbolt energy I think," he explained, squinting into the distance as he recalled the events that had led to their capture.
"How'd he take you out?" asked Aqualad, standing to Bumblebee's right.
"Not sure," Robin replied. "I just remember a lot of pain… and that I couldn't breathe… and then I think I just blacked out."
"Daddy's Boy messed around with your circulatory system," Speedy piped up from his seat on a nearby gurney. An EMT was busy checking his wrists and vitals, making sure there was no permanent damage. Speedy nodded towards her. "Got a taste of it myself. Not too much fun for me either," he told the Boy Wonder, cracking a grin.
Robin wasn't amused.
"He could have killed you," he said. "He could have seriously hurt all of you," he went on, shooting a look at Bumblebee that was almost scolding.
"But he didn't," Bumblebee pointed out. "And he wouldn't have anyway. We were worth more to him alive."
The argument died in Robin's throat on its way up. He gazed around at the scene. Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy were sitting on the lip of one of the ambulances, huddled together in their blankets and shivering. Más was on another gurney across the way, a pair of EMTs tending to his shoulder, gently easing the joint back into place. Another trio were helplessly trying to piece Cyborg back together as his head barked orders at them. They'd managed to reactivate him but, being doctors and not mechanics, they were at a loss as to how to reconstruct him. Cyborg was trying to give them instructions but it was clear from the frustrated tone in his voice that they were having difficulty understanding.
"Now turn the joint just a little to the-no, no, the other way-and connect the rotator socket with-Hey get away from there! What are you even doing? That doesn't even remotely go there! And turn the wrench three-quarters until-would you just-Hey Beast Boy! Menos!" he called. "Get your butts over here and gimme a hand will you?"
Not hiding their amused grins, Beast Boy and Menos popped up from their seats and came over. Más joined them shortly, his injured arm in a sling. The EMTs set down Cyborg's parts and stepped aside for them.
Beast Boy cracked his fingers. "Leave it to us, dude!" he pronounced.
He and the twins loomed over Cyborg, whose eyes widened.
"Woah woah woah hey wait a minute!" he blustered. "Do you even know how to-"
They descended upon him and he yelped.
Robin let himself smile and admit that, despite the danger, things had worked out for the best. "You're right," he told Bumblebee. "Sorry. I shouldn't be trying to lecture you when you just saved our lives."
"Yeah," she agreed nonchalantly, grinning. "You wouldn't want to seem ungrateful." A couple EMTs were rolling Disruptor past them on a gurney. Bumblebee caught one by the sleeve. "How is he?"
"A few minor electrical burns, but he'll make a full recovery," he answered.
"The Commissioner-" she started.
He nodded. "Already put out an APB for 'Brains' Beldon Sr."
Robin also addressed the EMT, expression serious. "When you remove his suit, turn it over to us. We'll make sure it gets destroyed."
The EMT looked uncertain. "I'm not sure I'm authorized to-"
"It's fine," the Boy Wonder interrupted. "I'll clear it with all the necessary channels. I just want to make sure dangerous tech like this doesn't get out onto the streets."
The EMT shrugged, pacified, and rolled Disruptor out with his companion. The Titans watched as they loaded him into the back of the other ambulance.
"We got to you just in time," Bumblebee told Robin. "Disruptor was about to sell your butts out to HIVE."
Robin shuddered. "Thanks again. I don't want to think about what would've happened if you didn't."
"Well, you know, when you didn't call we got worried," Speedy shrugged. Catching Bumblebee's withering glare, he quickly amended, "Bumblebee got worried I mean. And she kept on about it until it became clear it wasn't just an oversight."
"I'm glad." Robin stood up from the curb and turned toward Raven and Starfire, who were just walking up. "You okay?"
Starfire nodded. "Yes, though a bit sleepy."
"Clean bill of health," added Raven. She tapped her temple with a finger. "Rage is under control too." She looked at Titans East. "Though a little cranky that she was 'turned off' so long."
Bumblebee chucked. "Don't look at me. I booked my team here as soon as I could."
"How'd you know something was wrong?" Raven questioned.
She gave a light shrug of her shoulders. "Oh, you know…" she dismissed. She allowed herself to feel smug for the first time since the ordeal had begun. "…just a feeling."
Off to their side, the twins and Beast Boy emerged from their cloud of construction, presenting the newly-built Cyborg with a flourish. Their enthusiasm dimmed as Cyborg glanced down at himself and frowned at the sight of his torso… set backwards atop his forward-facing legs.
He frowned at Beast Boy and the twins witheringly.
"Heh-heh!" Beast Boy laughed sheepishly.
"Leeeet's try that again, little hombres," he told them.
(A/N)- Your trivia for today: Disruptor is a real villain from the New Teen Titans comics, who was given a special suit by his daddy and tasked with killing the Titans to secure the guy a spot in HIVE leadership. I thought he'd be a sufficiently dangerous curveball to throw at the Titans and someone who could have believably taken them down (so Titans East could get worried about them and come see what's up). So a nice little shout out there.
NaNoWriMo this month, which means I'll be writing a lot, and I'll try to squeeze some room for my fanfics in there somewhere.