"Darkstalker Titan: Wings of Night"
Chapter 4: "Release the Dragon Within"
Disclaimer: Teen Titans and Darkstalkers are not mine. The former belongs to DC Comics and Warner Brothers, and the latter belongs to Capcom. As I am not a part of any of those corporate institutions, I completely lack control over the direction of the franchises I just mentioned. Furthermore, I make no money whatsoever from this story; this is entirely for my own amusement and the amusement of you who read this story.
Author's note: For the reviewer who stated that Demitri's power was already influencing Nightwing, you are partly correct. However, that power is also being drawn out by Morrigan feeding on his sexual energies. In contrast to draining a normal human, the more Morrigan drains Nightwing, the more the gap is compensated by Demitri's spirit. Now that Nightwing's in an actual fight with Darkhunting robots, you're just going to have to wait and see how those powers will actually work for . . . or against him. Shall we begin?
Nightwing reached for his T-com, pulling out the silver-and-blue device and pressing the button that would transmit his voice to any and all Titans communicators within range. "Titans, this is Nightwing. We're under attack. I'm sending you my coordinates now. I would not advise dragging your feet. Nightwing out."
He put the T-com away and withdrew a pair of Birdarangs that were closer to short swords than anything else. Beside him, Morrigan and Jon Talbain prepared for battle. "I think we can take them," Morrigan said.
"You always think we can take them," Talbain grunted. "That's what I like about you, your insane confidence."
The Huitzil robots looked at the trio appraisingly. "Darkstalker identities confirmed. Morrigan Aensland: Succubus. Threat level: Omega. Jon Talbain: Lycanthropic wolf. Threat level: Beta. Demitri Maximoff reincarnation: Vampire. Threat level: Beta-Alpha. Course of action determined: Terminate all."
"Terminate this," Morrigan retorted, launching herself into the air and wrapping her wings around her legs for a corkscrew kick that literally acted as a drill, destroying one of the Huitzil. The others began to attack in a swarm pattern, prompting Morrigan to shoot the lead Huitzil down with an energy blast. She then wrapped her wings around her arms to act as gauntlets that amplified the force of her punches while protecting her hands from injury upon impact with the Huitzil's golden bodies.
Nightwing waded into the fray, alternately stabbing and slicing the Huitzil. Strangely enough, it only took one stab or one slice for the Huitzil he attacked to fall apart entirely, much to Talbain's surprise even as he rent the Huitzil with savage grace. Just what is this kid, anyway? Talbain wondered.
Morrigan wrapped her wings around her legs next, the wings acting to amplify the force of her kicks, of which there were many. One Huitzil in particular was kicked a hundred times in the space of one second before being finished off with an energy blast. She defeated other Huitzil by transforming her wings into lashing spikes that pierced and ripped the robots. She divided herself into two perfect duplicates and they kicked a Huitzil together from opposite sides. Fusing back into one, Morrigan punched another Huitzil before setting off an energy blast that blew it apart, shrapnel flying everywhere.
Nightwing continued to fight through the Huitzil, his sight so clear that every intrinsic weakness of the Darkhunter robots was obvious to him. His Birdarangs cut apart the Huitzil like they were nothing but wet tissue paper. Strangely enough, for all the excitement and intensity of the fight, his expression was one of complete aplomb. He didn't shout, he didn't yell, he didn't make any taunts . . . hmm, that last one would have to be scratched, as he was taunting the robots.
"You know, you completely suck at this," he remarked with cold derision. "Really? Can't you do better than this? Shouldn't your programmer have been smarter than this?"
This was the scene the Titans emerged upon, seeing Nightwing cut apart the Huitzil robots with cold, brutal efficiency. At that moment, the Huitzil turned their attentions to the Titans. "More Darkstalkers detected. Identifying now."
"Oh, go fuck yourselves," Cyborg scoffed and fired his arm-turned-cannon at the Huitzil, several of which were crushed by the weaponized concentration of sound.
"Sensing metapathic resonance with previously recorded Darkstalkers. Determining source now."
Jinx threw out several hex blasts at the robots, causing them to fall apart. "What's with these things, anyway?"
"Identities confirmed. Source of Darkstalker metapathic resonance also confirmed. Raven: Half-demon. Threat level: Omega. Lord Raptor reincarnation: Undead. Current identity: Garfield 'Changeling' Logan. Threat level: Beta. Donovan Baine reincarnation: Dhampir. Current identity: Victor 'Cyborg' Stone. Threat level: Alpha-Beta. Lilith reincarnation: Succubus, fragment of Morrigan Aensland's soul. Current identity: Maharet 'Jinx.' Threat level: Beta-Alpha."
"What . . . the hell?" Changeling asked. "I'm . . . a Darkstalker? Whoa. In another context, that might actually be cool."
"How come I'm a Beta and Raven's an Omega?" Jinx asked petulantly, blasting the Huitzil robots with more hex energy.
"Yeah, they totally don't know what they're talking about!" Flash chimed in, attempting to comfort his distressed girlfriend as he vibrated through Huitzil robots, his vibrations causing them to shatter.
Morrigan whistled when she noticed what Flash had done. "Now that's what I call a vibrator."
"Hey, quit flirting with my boyfriend!" Jinx shouted, even as she directed more hex blasts at the Huitzil.
"You are so totally an Omega!" Flash continued on. "These buckets of bolts ought to be bowing down to you!"
"Um, I'm supposed to be an actual demon lord, and they're not bowing down to me," Nightwing remarked snidely.
"Good," Flash answered. "Can't have your head getting any more swollen, now can we?"
"Flattery gets you nowhere," Raven said to the Huitzil, just before ripping them apart with her telekinetic powers.
"Whoa, check out Nightwing," Changeling uttered.
The Titans turned their attentions to Nightwing, just enough to see him calmly dissecting the Huitzil while delivering biting barbs like, "You really didn't think this many of you was all you needed, did you?" He sliced apart another Huitzil and sighed. "Oh, you did? Idiots. And they say robots are supposed to be smarter than organics? Get real." He stabbed one Huitzil and it instantly fell apart around his Birdarang.
"How is he doing this?" Starfire asked.
"We'll ask him later," Cyborg replied, blasting more Huitzil with concentrated sonic vibrations from his cannons.
At that moment, Nightwing did something that surprised the Titans. He put the Birdarangs away and launched himself into a flying kick that caught one Huitzil in the eye, only to bounce off the falling Huitzil and flipped into a kick to another one. He launched into a series of ricochet kicks that felled no less than ten Huitzil, counting the ones he had already downed with his kicks. Now there were only five left, and they didn't look all that pleased with him. Nightwing simply extended his hand and made a beckoning gesture, the corner of his lips quirked into a smirk.
"Who the hell is this guy and what the fuck has he done with Nightwing?!" Changeling exploded.
Raven fought not to fall to her knees out of sheer terror from the waves of murderous intent emanating from Nightwing. She had never felt anything like it, not even when her father Trigon had attacked the Earth; Trigon's aura had been full of murderous apathy, a force of nature that simply was and couldn't be bothered to be anything else. This toxic energy she felt coming from Nightwing . . . was full of malice and bloodlust.
"You're right about one thing," she finally spoke, through gritted teeth. "That's not Nightwing."
"You rhymed," Changeling uttered, pathologically unable to avoid making a dumb joke in the midst of a dangerous fight.
The five remaining Huitzil robots swarmed around Nightwing, obscuring him for a moment. A moment later, the robots fell, reduced to so much scrap metal, revealing a motionless Nightwing holding a pair of tonfa batons with blue energy lances extending from their back ends. An expression of cold satisfaction rested on his handsome face, giving it a frightening aura only augmented by the waves of murderous intent still crashing from him.
Starfire looked up at Morrigan with an expression of complete fury, before flying up to her and punching her in the face. "You did this to him!"
Morrigan quickly recovered, a dark smile forming on her face. "Not really. I simply brought out what was already there, waiting beneath the surface." She blocked another punch from Starfire, closing her hand around the warrior princess's fist and squeezing. "Think of me what you will, but I have Nightwing's interests in mind when I do what I do."
"You lie!" Starfire yelled, shooting a starbolt at Morrigan with her other hand. Unfortunately for her, Morrigan deflected the starbolt and it flew through the ruined skylight.
"No, I don't lie," Morrigan answered. "I do many things, but I don't lie. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth."
Starfire was in no mood to listen. Starfire wanted to tear Morrigan apart for corrupting Nightwing. Starfire launched an optic starbolt at Morrigan, but Morrigan's head wings folded over her face, shielding it from the blast. When they pulled back, Morrigan smirked at Starfire, prompting the warrior princess to throw another punch – this one starbolt-enhanced – with her free hand. Once again, Morrigan's head wings folded over her face, shielding it from the impact of Starfire's starbolt-charged fist.
"Hey, Nightwing!" Cyborg shouted. "Snap out of it! Your girls are gonna tear each other apart over you!"
"I suppose I should end this tête-à-tête," Nightwing mused, his voice carrying a hint of a Romanian accent. He jumped into the air and kicked both Starfire and Morrigan in the stomach, proceeding to grab the guardrail below and swing up on it back onto solid ground. "There. Ended. Satisfied?"
"What the fuck was that?!" Jinx asked.
"I ended their fight," Nightwing answered. "Like you wanted me to."
"You were supposed to talk them to their senses, not one-shot them!" Cyborg protested.
"Never ask a not-Nightwing to do anything you would ask the real Nightwing to do," Raven drawled. She turned to Nightwing, who was still looking at them all with an expression that bordered on malevolent curiosity. "Just who the hell are you?"
"If the boy can have a codename, so can I. It's Dracul."
"You mean like Dracula?" Changeling asked.
"No," Dracul replied. "It has two meanings, one being 'devil' and the other being 'dragon.' I really don't care which one you're thinking of when you address me, just make sure you address me with the proper respect."
Cyborg pointed his cannon arm at Dracul. "Give us back our friend."
"How about . . . no?" Dracul answered, just before assaulting Cyborg with extremely fast punches and kicks. To his surprise, Cyborg fell apart.
"How . . . ?" Cyborg asked.
"I can see the clear path to my victory and your defeat," Dracul replied.
Flash attacked Dracul at super-speed. "If you won't give us back Nightwing, we'll take him back!"
"Nice sentiment, but do you have the power to back it up?" Dracul taunted, striking the Scarlet Speedster in the chest with his fingertips. To the Flash's surprise, he crumpled to the ground from the blow. Dracul looked to the other Titans, as well as Talbain and Morrigan. "Who's next?"
"Should have killed you before you manifested, Demitri," Talbain snarled, lunging for Dracul's throat.
With lightning-like reflexes, Dracul caught Talbain's outstretched claw and spun into a throw that sent Talbain crashing into the other Titans. At least, that would have been the outcome if not for Talbain's own dexterity, enabling him to land on all fours almost like a cat. When he attacked again, he did so with the help of Changeling, who had transformed into the Werebeast. Not that it did either that much good, as Dracul cut them both with his tonfa-hilted laser blades. Under normal circumstances, those wounds would have healed quickly, but . . . these were not normal circumstances, and they weren't healing.
"What's . . ." Talbain started to ask.
Dracul smirked. "I wounded the very concept of your existences. Try healing from that."
"What the hell is he talking about?" Jinx asked. "How can you wound a concept?"
"It's a power very few psychics and mystics have," Raven explained. "It's the ability to see the nature of a thing, and not just its nature, but also the very metaphysical concepts behind that nature. Those who can see the metaphysics at work in a thing's existence can strike directly at those metaphysical concepts and thus wound or even utterly annihilate the very existence of that thing."
"That wasn't a power Demitri had before," Morrigan mused. "But then, no one ever said a reincarnation ended up exactly the same as its former existence."
Starfire, Jinx, Morrigan, and Raven went on a four-pronged assault, hex blasts, psychically generated dark matter, morphing wings, and emerald plasma globules flying at Dracul. For his part, Dracul dodged their attacks with unnatural alacrity, speeding up to Raven and thrusting his tonfa-hilted laser blade at her. To the surprise of everyone except Raven, Dracul missed her entirely and had gotten close enough for her to kick him in the stomach, the added telekinetic pulse behind her kick sending him flying.
"Wow. He must have really bad aim," Jinx remarked.
"No," Raven denied. "Nightwing is resisting. That's why Demitri missed."
Dracul landed on the guardrail, perched in a combat stance. "Doesn't matter. His resistance simply makes this more amusing."
It was at that moment Jericho locked eyes on Dracul, and his power activated, transforming him into an astral being that merged with Nightwing's body. Inside, Jericho found a tall, imposing man with brown hair simultaneously gelled up and styled in a widow's peak and dressed in black Victorian garb looming over a Nightwing struggling in his chains.
"You think I'm going to let you kill my friends?" Nightwing taunted.
"Actually, you won't have a choice in the matter," Demitri answered in a cruel, strong Romanian accent. "You will have a front row seat, though, to their deaths."
"I . . . don't . . . think so!" Nightwing screamed, bursting free of his psychic chains. "Let's dance, you shitty Dracula wannabe."
Demitri scowled. "As you will. But you'll regret this."
Demitri and Nightwing began to fight, trading brutally fast and precise punches and kicks. Demitri might have thought himself the stronger of the two, due to various dark powers at his disposal, but this battlefield was Nightwing's psychic territory, giving him the home team advantage. As they fought, Jericho watched, ready to give Nightwing his aid in any way he could should it become necessary.
It was at that moment Nightwing became aware of a third presence in his mindscape. "Joey, you mind not just standing there?"
Jericho nodded and threw himself into the fray. "Two against one," he taunted Demitri. "You sure you want to go up against us?"
"Two little boys, against me? I'll have both your souls as my feast!"
"Blah, blah, woof, woof," Nightwing sneered. "Prove it."
Demitri roared in rage and attacked both Nightwing and Jericho with inhuman speed and force. Nightwing and Jericho blocked his attacks and retaliated with equal precision and power. Nightwing grabbed Jericho by the arm and spun him into a kick that knocked down Demitri, only for Demitri to get up and wipe blood from his lip. "You hurt me. I'm impressed. There is some bite to your bark after all. But that won't save either of you."
Nightwing laughed harshly. "You think this is all we can do? This is my mind. I can do anything here."
"Really?" Demitri prodded.
Demitri got his answer when Nightwing flashed into an attack on Demitri that knocked the proverbial wind out of the former demon lord. "That's my Superman impression. Wanna see my Green Lantern?"
"Do whatever you like, fool mortal," Demitri answered disdainfully.
Suddenly, thousands upon thousands of hard-light swords formed around Nightwing and Jericho, all of them pointed at Demitri. "As you will," Nightwing taunted, just before the swords flew at Demitri, so many of them that not even he could deflect them all. The swords he could not evade or deflect impaled him in every single part of his body they could reach, pinning him to an invisible vertical surface.
Demitri's body twitched and the hard-light swords dissipated, although the wounds they had dealt remained . . . and those were healing quite rapidly. "Foolish boy, you think that's enough to finish me? True, you've wounded me . . . but there's a proverb: Never wound what you cannot kill. I will teach you that lesson the painful way."
It didn't escape either young man's notice that as Demitri spoke, he was transforming into a monstrous bat-like hominid. Nightwing merely shook his head in disdain. "I've taken down bigger monsters than you."
To prove Nightwing's point, Jericho used his hands as a springboard for Nightwing to leap into a drop kick that staggered Demitri. It didn't knock him down, though, and Demitri retaliated with a vicious punch that sent Nightwing crashing to the ground. At that moment, Jericho went on the attack, kicking Demitri in the solar plexus, only for Demitri to grab his ankle and throw him aside.
"Is this what you call 'taking me down'?" Demitri taunted.
"You haven't seen everything I've got, have you?" Nightwing retorted. "I might just be one guy, but I am not alone here. My friends, the people I love, the people who love me, are right beside me. I will never forsake them, and they will never forsake me."
As Nightwing spoke, mystical avatars of the other Titans – Flash, Cyborg, Changeling, Starfire, Jinx, Raven, Arsenal, Tempest, Wonder Girl, Bumblebee, and Herald – emerged as a protective barrier between him and Demitri, who simply barked out a laugh. "The power of friendship? Is that what you intend to use to defeat me?"
"There's a reason the redemptive powers of love in its various forms are such a popular theme in fiction," the Raven avatar spoke, stepping forward. "It's true. Love saves. Our love will save Nightwing from your grip."
Demitri laughed in her face. "You fool." He launched himself into the "sky" of Nightwing's mindscape and launched himself into what he meant to be a decisive final attack.
Cyborg, Changeling, Flash, and Arsenal grabbed Nightwing by the arms and threw him into the air. As Nightwing ascended, Wonder Girl ascended after him and took him by the hand, boosting his flight with a twist of her wrist. Tempest projected a tidal surge to further boost Nightwing's flight. Jinx used a hex burst to push herself just high enough into the air to kick Nightwing in the back, helping him close the distance between himself and Demitri. Finally, Starfire and Raven both ascended to take Nightwing by the hands, prompting him to look them both in the eyes for a moment before they sent him flying toward Demitri.
"See this?" Nightwing asked, clanging two Birdarangs together to form a sword. "This is real power, the kind you can't get fighting only for yourself."
Demitri thrust his hand out, hardening it into a blade that he intended to drive into Nightwing's heart. In that, he succeeded, but he did not succeed in the intended result of that action, as Nightwing held on long enough to stab Demitri in his heart with the Birdarang sword. He pulled his sword through and across Demitri's chest, yanking it out just in time for both combatants to start falling to the ground. To Nightwing's surprise, it was Morrigan who caught him, the demon queen looking into his eyes with a new respect shining in hers.
Once Morrigan and Nightwing landed, all of the Titans avatars disappeared except for Raven, who shifted into a shadow-form of herself. The shadow-Raven walked over to Morrigan, with Jericho following her. Morrigan looked up at Raven. "Will he be all right?"
"A battle in one's own mindscape, particularly against a force like Demitri, is not something one walks away from lightly," Raven answered. "But Nightwing's will and soul are stronger than anything else I've ever seen. He will be all right, he only needs rest."
"What about Demitri?" Jericho asked. "What if he recovers first and tries to take over while Nightwing's still recuperating?"
"That won't happen," Raven replied bluntly, a dark-matter coffin forming around Demitri's unconscious frame, which had reverted to its more human-looking state. "He'll be trapped in there, his influence sealed away."
"Will that make Nightwing a normal human again?" Jericho asked.
Raven shook her head. "What's done is done. The most I can do is prevent Demitri's personality from corrupting Nightwing's while Nightwing taps into his powers."
"At least we have our friend back," Jericho whispered. "That's the important thing."
In the real world, an unconscious Nightwing was carried in Morrigan's arms, much to the not-so-slight jealousy of Starfire, while Raven healed Talbain's and Changeling's wounds. Once that was over with, Raven telekinetically reassembled the damaged portions of the mall at the level of their very molecules, preventing a more "natural" collapse. She turned to Cyborg, whose machine parts had fixed themselves due to a self-repair subroutine he had previously installed in their programming.
"You all right, Vic?" she asked.
"Yeah," Cyborg replied. "But . . . the self-repair subroutine acted a little faster than normal."
"What do you mean?"
"At its maximum effectiveness, it's roughly four times faster than an external reassembly. This . . . felt more like six times."
"Those robots did say you were a Darkstalker reincarnation," Flash interjected. "Specifically, some guy called a 'dhampir.' What the hell's a 'dhampir'? Is it some kind of species of vampire?"
"In a sense," Raven replied. "A dhampir is someone born to a vampire parent and a human parent. Vampires can't procreate amongst each other; their reproductive material is too inert for such a thing. But mix vampire seed with a living egg, or mix a vampire egg with living seed, and you get a dhampir, someone with the strengths of the vampire but with human blood shielding him or her from many of the drawbacks."
"Let's go back to the Tower," Cyborg said. "We might find some answers there."
Once safe inside Titans Tower (more or less), Nightwing was hooked to machines that monitored both his bio-kinetics and his neuropaths. While he was still unconscious, it now seemed more that he was sleeping rather than having been subjected to some sort of mental trauma. His expression was still, peaceful, almost serene, something none except Starfire (and maybe Morrigan) had had the pleasure of seeing before.
"I wonder what he's dreaming about," Morrigan murmured, stroking Nightwing's face gently. Surprisingly, the gesture was more one of simple affection than mere lust. "Or whom he's dreaming about."
"Who is he dreaming about?" Starfire wondered, fearing the answer and yet desperate to know what it was.
"You," Morrigan replied.
"Me?" Starfire thought. "I thought Nightwing no longer harbored such feelings for me."
"You thought wrong," Morrigan answered. She looked at Starfire. "I cannot make someone love me. I can make them desire me, but I cannot make them love me. When I entered his dreams, the one that took center stage in them all was you." She smiled. "All this time, when he could have had anyone he wanted, he denied himself the one he wanted most. What a fool."
"Nightwing is not a fool," Starfire retorted, her tone growing hard. "He is an intelligent, thoughtful, and meticulous man."
"And that's part of the problem. He thinks too much, lets his fears and his doubts get in the way of what he feels, what he knows in his heart to be true. But, I cannot deny what you said, for I know that to be true as well. He is . . . without a doubt, the strongest human I have ever met."
"You admire him."
"Do you love him?"
Morrigan chuckled. "I don't do love."
"When you spoke of being unable to make someone love you, you said that with longing in your voice," Starfire brought up. "As though you hungered for something more than merely the life energies of those you took to bed. Do you deny that?"
"No, I do not."
"Morrigan. If Nightwing is not unwilling . . . would you accept a tripartite relationship with us?"
"A ménage a trois." Morrigan smirked. "I think I am going to like you, Starfire."
Starfire smiled back. "And I you."
Outside in the monitoring room, Changeling pouted. "How come Nightwing gets to have two beautiful women willing to share him?"
"It's like Morrigan said, he has the sexiest ass known to womankind," Jinx remarked.
"Nightwing's ass is not that great," Flash grumbled.
"How would you know?" Jinx asked, a wicked glimmer in her eye.
"I've known Nightwing for years," Flash replied. "I knew him way before there ever were Titans. He is not that great."
"Jealous, honey?" Jinx asked, half-solicitously, half-tauntingly.
"Yes, I am jealous," Flash admitted petulantly.
Jinx leaned up to whisper in the Scarlet Speedster's ear. "You can do things Nightwing could never do for me."
"Like what?" Flash murmured quietly.
"That vibrating thing you do . . . I have no idea why women aren't all over you for it." Jinx snickered. "Of course, if anybody comes near you without my permission . . ."
"I prefer not to brag. A little appreciation would just do nicely."
Jinx chuckled. "Would you like it if I showed you my appreciation? Right now?"
"Get a room, you two," Cyborg grunted good-naturedly.
"Sure thing," Flash replied, and flashed to his room, carrying Jinx with him.
"Thank God we soundproofed the walls," Changeling remarked.
"Not as much of a blessing as you might think," Raven answered.
"Why's that?" Changeling asked. Then he paused to think. "Oh. You can still sense them going at it."
"Yeah," Raven confirmed.
"And I can feel the vibrations," Cyborg added.
"Yeah, soundproof walls don't work much with animal-keen hearing," Changeling admitted.
Jericho shrugged and gestured toward Nightwing, Starfire, and Morrigan. "Well, at least they're getting along better than they're used to," Raven remarked. "Although she still feels kind of off to me."
"Is that jealousy or is it territoriality?" Changeling asked. "Because I can understand both."
"I'm not jealous," Raven denied. "And I am not feeling an urge to stake my claim here."
Jericho looked at Raven slightly askance, an eyebrow raised in silent amusement. Raven simply looked at Jericho with a warning stare. Cyborg and Changeling looked at each other and shrugged. The world wasn't ending, Nightwing was safe, and they were all back together. Things could be a lot worse than this. Of course, they probably would get a lot worse than this, but that was what Titans were for.
End Notes: There you have it, chapter 4 and the brief reemergence of Demitri Maximoff. If you're wondering about Nightwing's "special vision," it was inspired by the "Mystic Eyes of Death Perception" seen in Shiki Tohno of the visual novel-turned-anime Tsukihime. As for how he was able to keep up with the Flash when the Flash should have decimated him, when he goes deep enough into his powers, he is slightly out of phase with the timeline, which enables him to see the immediate past, present, and future simultaneously and thus further augments his reaction time. Cyborg's self-repair program is crafted from nanomachines, which is how it can also fix up his organic parts. You will get an explanation as to how Cyborg, Jinx, and Changeling being Darkstalker reincarnations affects their present lives and abilities, and . . . you will see Baby Bonnie Hood, although her incarnation may very well surprise you. Don't forget to let me know what you thought of this.