Gremlinvasion, a Teen Titans Musical
Kid Flash and Jinx looked back and forth between each other, a thoroughly KOed Control Freak, and a cute little ball of brown and white fluff.
"Do we… do we kill it?" Jinx asked hesitantly.
"Oh, come on, it's so cute! It's almost as cute as you."
She grinned. "I know, but it belongs in a movie. And his remote's trashed so we can't send it back. Isn't it, like, an abomination unto nature or something?"
Kid Flash shrugged. "Dunno, but I guess we can't just leave it around. Who knows what it could do to the local environment."
"Good point. D'you feel like a pet?"
"…I'm not sure I'm responsible enough to take care of another living thing," he admitted, causing his pink-headed girlfriend to laugh.
"That is so true. I mean, look how bad a job you do with me. Let's just send it to Robin and his minions. I mean, they've had a ton of encounters with this fat dweeb. I'm sure they know how to clean up after him by now."
"If you say so," Kid Flash acquiesced with a shrug. He expected Jinx was really suggesting it just to aggravate the other Titans, but that was fine with him. Who knew, maybe the critter would make friends with the mutant silkworm or whatever it was the main Titans team kept around. Anyway, how much harm could the thing do, on an island with so many super-powered and super-competent people?
The ball of white and brown fluff cooed and churred, dark puppy-esque eyes sparkling with complete innocence.
Beast Boy's wake-up call for the day was a red and yellow blur swooping in front of his bed and dropping a lump of something soft and warm on him.
"Present for you!" the familiar blur announced cheerfully, barely slowing down enough for the words to be audible. And with another whoosh that left a trail of cold air in its wake, it was off again.
Sighing and figuring he wasn't gonna get any more sleep for the day, Beast Boy yawned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He really hated it when Kid Flash did that. They needed to get doors with real locks on them or something; the guy had no respect for privacy. And being invasive was only funny, Beast Boy figured, when it was himself doing it to Raven.
His brain went from sleepy to alert in gradual stages. First, he thought about how nice it was that Kid Flash had dropped something warm and fluffy on him this time, instead of something cold and wet, which was more often what happened. Then he realized that the warm and fluffy thing was breathing, and gave it a little pet reflexively. And then his brain woke up just enough for him to wonder if petting some unknown fuzzy blob was maybe not the best idea. At least, until he'd figured out if the thing had teeth, or tentacles, or poison stingers.
So, very carefully, he turned the thing around several times, his level of alertness increasing slightly with each rotation, until something finally clicked and he recognized what he was holding.
An ecstatic grin curled his lips.
"Dude. Dude, you're a… and dude. Dude, the… dude, it's just, like. dude. Dude, dude. DUDE! This is so sweeeeeeeet. It's not even my birthday or anything! Dude!"
The little fellah grinned back identically, except its teeth were a lot smaller and adorable-er. One ear quirked itself, draping over an eye in a vaguely pirate-ish way.
"I dub thee," Beast Boy told his new pet in a solemn whisper, "Mister Dudestein Dudeington Dudesworth the Third. Because that is the only name that properly expresses your crazy level of super awesomeness."
Then he bounced up, deftly caught Mister Dudestein before he fell to the floor, and ran to excitedly wake up all the other Titans without considering the consequences. Thinking about consequences was for the weak and indecisive. And those without sweet radical new pets!
"ROBIN! ROBIN! DUDE, ROBIN!"
Feeling a random muscle on his face twitch persistently in irritated rhythm with the sound of Beast Boy's fists pounding on his door, Robin climbed to his feet with a cold dignity, straightened his mask, and opened the door.
"What?" he asked with a deadpan expression and a doom and gloom voice that would have made Raven smile (or at least nod) in approval.
Robin mentally swore before he even focused his eyes on what Beast Boy was holding up so exuberantly. Ever since the B word had been restricted to once a month per green-furred changeling due to Beast Boy's excessive usage of the word, Beast Boy had saved it up for only the 'coolest' of events. And Beast Boy's definition of cool did not match his. Oh no, not at all. Whatever it was this time, it was definitely going to be annoying.
"Is that alive?" he asked suspiciously, peering closer at the faintly mobile ball of brown and white fluff. Suddenly a pair of eyes and tiny little hands peeked out at him, and he jumped back a little. "GAH! What is that?"
"You don't recognize it?!" Beast Boy sounded almost accusing, as if it were a crime to not know what the thing was automatically.
Robin looked closer. It was some kind of animal, clearly… a very fat lemur, maybe? With unusually large ears? And a hairless muzzle for a mouth?
"Did you steal another animal from a criminal?" It was the most obvious premise for what was currently serving as an excuse for waking him up ten minutes ahead of schedule.
"No, dude, Kid Flash gave 'im to me!"
Another thought but unspoken profanity. Some people should never be in the same room at the same time, and as far as Robin was concerned Kid Flash and Beast Boy were two of them.
"His name is Mister Dudestein Dudeington Dudesworth," Beast Boy went on excitedly.
"The Third," he added seriously after a moment.
"Great. Are you sure it's a he?"
"It's a he," with the kind of adamant certainty Beast Boy rarely employed unless he was one hundred percent wrong about something. But Robin didn't care enough to give the creature a… exam… so he let it slide. "C'mon, I wanna show everyone else. I bet Cyborg'll know what he is, 'cause he's cool like that."
Against his better judgment, Robin followed. Mostly because he figured that since he was already up, he might as well enjoy Beast Boy waking everyone else up, too. What was that saying about misery and company again? "I'm cool," he protested in a mildly wounded voice. "I trained with Batman! That makes me cool by default, right?"
"Naw, but your hair does," Beast Boy replied absentmindedly. "But your dorky shoes totally cancel your hair out. You should get some like mine… oh, Cyyyyyboooorrrrrrg!"
Knock, knock, KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.
Robin grinned a little even as his teeth rattled in his mouth.
"Wakey wakey, we've got FRESH JUICY SAUSAGE WRAPPED IN DEEP-FRIED BACON!" Beast Boy yelled, immediately sticking his tongue out with a gagging expression afterwards.
Cyborg was better at keeping his composure in an unexpected wake-up call than the rest of them. For one thing, Cyborg didn't get bed head. Robin envied him that a lot. But not quite enough to consider shaving himself bald.
When Cyborg didn't have a clue what the little cooing creature was any more than Robin had, Beast Boy stamped his little foot in outrage.
"You both suck! And I know Star and Rav don't know, 'cause it's Earth culturey. Uuuggh."
"So why don't you tell us what your little monster is so we know whether to get it spayed, released into the wild, or frozen in carbonite?" Cyborg suggested reasonably.
Beast Boy clutched Dudestein protectively. "You can't do that to my little baby!"
"Wasn't Silkie yours?" Robin asked pointedly. "But now Starfire seems to doing most of the work taking care of him."
Beast Boy looked guilty. It was a low blow but a fair point to make, and a little guilt only helped his teammates be more diligent in the long run, Robin thought. Guilt was good for the soul. It kept everyone on their best behavior.
"I spend time with him," he mumbled sulkily, gaze drifting to the ground. "I spend lotsa time with Silkie. I'm his dad, so I give him his… you know, discipline and stuff."
"Bean sprout, you couldn't discipline a dog trained to want discipline after carrying a box of discipline to you in its mouth," Cyborg opined with condescending affection, and Robin nodded in agreement.
"Okay, fine, I'm a bad parent! Is that what you wanna hear?!"
"You're not bad, Beast Boy, it's just-"
"And how about you learn what this little guy is before you decide whether or not I'm qualified to take care of it, huh? Is that too much to ask?"
"No," Robin and Cyborg chorused, forced into a fight they didn't really want to be part of. No one should argue before breakfast, even teens. It was just wrong. Almost like a sin or something. So instead of pushing the issue more, they just meekly followed Beast Boy into the main room while he gathered the girls together and dragged everyone down for a proper presentation of the latest biological weirdness. For some reason he didn't want the main lights on, which made it harder to see the critter, but even through the gloom those admittedly cute black eyes sparkled. It was like looking at a pile of fur with two marbles shoved into the middle of it, and for some reason, Robin felt a sense of foreboding, looking into Dudestein's eyes.
It was too adorable, that was the problem. Nothing that cute could be safe. The whole thing reeked of a trap to lull the unwary…
Or maybe he just needed coffee.
"This," Beast Boy said with great levity, "is a mogwai."
"Mogwhat?" Raven asked after a moment of silence, being, as usual, the one to ask the obvious question.
"Mogwho?" Starfire asked, yawning sleepily. Her brain was clearly not all awake yet, but to Robin the drowsy expression and carelessly disarrayed hair only made her look even prettier than normal.
"Mogwai," Beast Boy repeated, with a lot of emphasis on the second syllable. "Kid Flash gave 'im to me, so we know he's safe!"
Without turning to look, Robin could feel Raven's eyes rolling.
"He's from those sweet Kremlin movies. Which apparently none of you heathens has ever seen!"
"Kremlin?" Robin asked, wrinkling his forehead. He had a feeling Beast Boy was making one of his special little mistakes again.
"Yeah, like those little creatures that sabotaged submarines in World War III!"
"There were only two world wars, Beast Boy," Robin said very, very carefully, feeling a vein in his forehead throb. He looked over at Raven in sudden sympathy. She had to go through being the sensible one to deal with Beast Boy's… Beast Boyness… all the time. Being the leader, he was more used to just ordering Beast Boy to stop being Beast Boy rather than trying to reason with the shapeshifter on his own level. It was almost physically painful.
"Okay, I guess it was one of the other ones, then. Anyway, they went around causing subs to crash'n stuff…"
"You're making suuuch a good case for us to keep it," Raven interjected drearily.
"But the kremlins aren't anything like mogwai! Mogwai are totally different! They just show up in the same movie is all."
"Are you sure you don't mean gremlins?" Cyborg asked, looking like he'd been puzzled over the idea for the last few moments. "They sabotaged Bugs Bunny's plane one time."
"I saw that cartoon, they didn't look anything like that little midget guy! No way, they were kremlins, dude."
"Alright then," Robin said, more to keep the conversation going forward than anything else. "A mogwai was in a Kremlins movie. Why don't you tell us a little more about mogwai, Beast Boy?"
"Well, as you can see, they're totally cute! And they're cuddly, too!" Beast Boy handed Dudestein to Starfire, which was to Robin's mind a cursedly good tactical move. Starfire immediately fell in love as the little beastie cuddled in her arms, for all the world like a hairy but well-behaved baby. "Can you say 'Starfire,' Mister Dudestein? Can you? Say 'Staaaarrrfiiirrreee.'"
"Stah-fi-yuh," the creature piped up with a tiny (but, of course, cute), voice, to Robin's amazement and complete dismay. Prying the thing away now was going to be incredibly hard. Where had Beast Boy learned those kinds of sadistic, sneaky psychological tactics?
Oh, wait. He'd taught the team a two hour long lesson on the psychology of the enemy last week. He slapped a hand over his face. The problem with making his team better was that it made them better at working against him, too, when they felt like it!
"The tiny mog who is wai spoke my name!" Starfire trilled, delighted out of her sleepiness, a grin lighting up her face. She tickled Dudestein's chin. "Mister Dudestein, can you speak the moniker of 'Robin?' 'Robin,' Mister Dudestein."
"Let's not get sidetracked here," Robin cut in hastily before he had to hear everyone else's name done in sickeningly cute toddler-ese. "Beast Boy, you still haven't told us anything about this mogwai."
"Well, they're really smart and gentle and stuff. But the most important thing are the three rules. One, don't let him near bright light after they've had a snack. And I just gave him a Skittle before I woke you guys up, so we've gotta be careful. Two, don't let him get wet before two am Eastern time."
"You've still got a finger up," Robin said after a moment of Beast Boy looking pleased with himself.
Beast Boy blinked. "Oh yeah… three… uh… oh yeah, I remember now! Three, you can't let him covet his neighbor's llama."
"That's from the Bible," Cyborg complained, then paused. "I think."
"Whatever," Beast Boy said, waving the comment aside. "So, if we keep him, he could be a real asset on missions and stuff, 'cause he could help keep the tower safe while we're on missions! 'Cause he's smart enough to use computers so he can activate the defense systems and communicate with people!"
Cyborg leaned over towards Starfire and poked Dudestein's hands suspiciously. "His hands look too chubby to type with. Or paws. Whatever you wanna call 'em."
"They're totally hands."
"Trust me, dude, I know these things."
"And that's about all you know," Raven muttered.
"Why shouldn't we do those things you mentioned?" Robin asked insistently.
"Because when you do, it makes kremlins turn into mogwai and then they divide until there's like none of them left."
Four other people were in the room besides Beast Boy. Four reasonably smart and well-educated people. Statistically, someone should have been able to understand him. But no one did, really, so no one knew what to say to get him to give Dudestein up. And Starfire didn't even want to give him up!
"We don't know if he'll get along with Silkie." It was just about the last excuse he could think of that might have some sway over his excessively compassionate girlfriend. He didn't want to make her upset again. Not because he couldn't go without any for a little while, but because makeup makeouts with a Tamaranian were painful. He had a scar from the last hickie she'd given him!
Beast Boy was unphased. "So let's find out!"
They eventually found Silkie munching contentedly on a five hundred dollar piece of electronics equipment. To Robin this seemed more of a sign that they shouldn't have any pets rather than that they should add to the menagerie, but dare he try and convince Starfire of that? Noooo.
Silkie looked up at the fur blob cradled tenderly in Starfire's arms, glistening eyes going wide, and then he immediately squirmed back into a corner, not taking his eyes off the intruder.
"Oh, my little bumgorf is merely shy," Starfire mitigated the situation while Robin was busy looking significantly at Beast Boy. "He fears that our new guest will somehow take his place in our affections! Do not worry, my sweet Silkie, you will always be our most precious family pet!"
"Silkie," Dudestein said clearly. "Bumgawf." He smiled and held out a tiny hand as if to shake with Silkie.
Silkie took this as a sign to back further into the corner, looking as though he wished he could melt through the wall. Then he ate a hole out of the wall and was gone, leaving Robin sighing and mentally calculating the all too common repair expenses.
"Isn't animals bein' scared of things s'posed to be a bad sign? Like dogs barking at ghosts, and stuff."
"That's just movies, Cy," Beast Boy said dismissively, never mind that Dudestein was apparently something from a movie.
The argument continued for some time, but ultimately, no one was willing to tell Starfire they had to put a seemingly helpless, harmless, and above all cute creature like Dudestein out into the wild. Even after they got the full story out of Kid Flash through communicator, the best the Tamaranian and changeling could be haggled down to was keeping Dudestein around until Raven figured out a spell to send it back to wherever it had come from originally. If she came up with nothing, then they would find a new home for Dudestein with a loving and understanding family that didn't ask too many questions about which species of lemur Dudestein was. Dudestein seemed amiable enough throughout the ordeal, seemingly content to cuddle up to whomever was holding him, and otherwise sit calmly and watch and listen, occasionally parroting a choice phrase from the conversation in baby talk. He appeared to be content to eat whatever was put before him, and did so with slow, careful gestures that were a far cry from Silkie's (or even Cyborg's) sloppy eating habits. And to their delight, he was even familiar with the toilet! While not exactly a pet as such, Robin got cautiously comfortable with the idea of Dudestein as a sort of quiet, tiny houseguest by time evening fell. Even Raven was won over when the little furball politely put a bookmark in one of her novels when she was done reading for the day.
As everyone headed off to bed for the night and Robin closed up shop, Dudestein lingered on the couch, yawning.
"Wobin," he said suddenly, and Robin turned, mildly surprised. It was the first time Dudestein had actually said something of his own volition instead of mimicking someone. Seeing that Robin was looking, Dudestein went on. "Ni-ni," he piped sweetly, waving his tiny chubby fingers.
Robin grinned despite himself, waving back. "Nite nite, little guy. You be good, and try not to scare Silkie too much, okay?"
Dudestein nodded genially, yawned again, and curled up into a ball, cat-like.
What a cute little thing. Robin would almost miss him when he was gone.
The next morning, Raven woke up to find her room completely infested with tiny maniacal green scaly monsters.
"I knew anything that cute had to be pure evil," she said calmly into one cackling hideous face. "I knew it."
Never mind that she had been lulled into relaxation the previous day, just like everyone else. Never mind that there was not, as of yet, a concrete connection between the monsters and the creature. Never mind that Starfire had been more of a force for keeping that thing than Beast Boy had been. Never mind that Kid Flash had given Beast Boy the creature, and never mind that Jinx had been the one with the idea to give them the creature in the first place. No, all this was irrelevant to Raven, because she took great comfort in the familiar old foundation fact: this was all Beast Boy's fault. And knowing that was the only reason she wasn't completely freaking out right now, because those monsters were eating her books!
"You have until the count of three," she told them coldly because even book-destroying monsters deserved a little warning before being annihilated by darkest magic. "One."
One of the monsters turned and raspberried its tongue at her, bits of shredded Byron wafting through the air.
She shrugged. Fine. If they wanted to be rude about it….
And then she telekinetically opened her door and launched the half dozen midget reptiles through it with such force that some of them left a few scales and a pale green paste on the frame. Their shrieks were something between a human scream and a piggish squeal.
She slammed the door shut behind them and reached for her communicator, only to find it wasn't in its usual resting place. It took her a moment of searching to notice all the bits of metal and yellow plastic scattered around the floor, reduced to tiny warped shards and splinters.
Great. Oh well, there was always telepathy….
"Azarath, metrion… OW!"
Reeling in half-blind pain, she caught herself on the edge of her bed before she fell, skull throbbing. Trying to reach through the tower into the mind of Robin had been like walking into the middle of the loudest rock concert ever from a dead-silent room. There were so many minds... all chaotic and savagely emotional, worse than Beast Boy's, like a spoiled child with the instincts of a large predator. Beyond that, they just felt different in a way no other mind had felt other than Dudestein's… a peculiar flavoring tinge that had been mildly unpleasant, like vertigo, in Dudestein but was amplified by the quantity and lack of discipline she was now sensing. They didn't belong here, any more than Dudestein did… not in this tower, not in this city, not in this universe. All her mental senses were screaming at her at the sheer wrongness of it, the out of placeness of it, and she couldn't focus past it all to get to Robin.
This was bad. If there were so many of those tiny humanoid reptiles all around the tower, then it was a serious threat. Any one of them was hardly dangerous, but in large numbers… she had seen those sharp claws, the pointy teeth, the muscles rippling beneath black, green and tan skin. They weren't harmless like Dudestein. And was even Dudestein harmless? There was so much they didn't know!
There was a loud THUD, followed by a multitude of tiny demonic giggling.
Raven blinked and looked over at the door.
THUD. Giggle, giggle, giggle.
The door was denting inwards. Alarmed, she shielded herself with dark energy, wishing she had some proper projectiles… there was no way she was damaging more of her books! Her poor, poor sweet mutilated books.
THUD. Giggle, giggle….
Smirking, she opened the door with a flick of her hand, and watched as nine of the monsters charged inwards full force, falling all over each other in confusion. She wondered where they had found a Medieval style wooden battering ram, scaled down precisely to their size. It was uncanny.
"I don't care what you are or what you can do. You're not eating the rest of my books," she told them grimly, ready to make a first and last stand with her room as her Sparta.
With a grin creasing its wrinkled, pointy face, the monster furthest back slowly deliberately stretched a viciously-curved claw towards a book fallen askew on the floor. Its orange-red eyes seemed to dare her to do something about it as the claw inched closer and closer.
"If you touch that you're going to be in big trouble," she warned it.
Like a child mocking a parent, it only tapped the cover of the book quickly. Seeing that she wasn't causing him to burst into flames or anything from the offense, he cackled and tapped it again, and again, in quick succession.
"Why you little…" she snarled, floating closer, hands raised and charged with magic to teach it a lesson.
As soon as she got close, though, the others darted off and spread out around the room. Whirling frantically, she watched in bibliophilic agony as some of the monsters started ripping out pages and making origami. Sexually explicit origami.
"JUST BECAUSE CHARLES DICKENS WROTE THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN TURN IT INTO A… WHAT YOU'RE TURNING IT INTO!" she snarled, outraged, grabbing one of the nearest offenders by the neck with a band of telekinesis and squeezing until it coughed, gasped and drooled. Then she flung it aside heartlessly and made a grab for another one.
But whenever she targeted a single monster, the rest busied themselves messing with her things! They got bored with the books eventually, but that was bad, because that meant they started getting interested in poking around her magical reagents and tools and priceless artifacts. One of them looked into her mirror and somehow the reflection cracked it! The monster only laughed merrily.
So thoroughly enraged by the destruction of her haven was Raven that it was quite some time before she thought to check on the others….
Starfire was more concerned about her friends than her possessions, and floated the hallways close to the ceiling, throwing starbolts at anything small and cackly that moved. Unfortunately they were good at dodging, and also, she soon learned, at leading her around in circles. Precious minutes were wasted chasing after the strange unpleasant green creatures before she realized that they were small, quick, and destructive enough to hide pretty much anywhere and then pop out from somewhere else. They used the interior walling as much as the actual hallways, and she heard the skitter of scaly clawed little feet all around, left and right, front and behind, above and below. There were so many of them! Why had the alarm not gone off? What had happened to their defenses Cyborg spent so much effort on?
That was another thing she learned not quite as quickly as she would have liked. Nothing mechanical seemed to stay unharmed around the beasts for more than a few seconds. They found ways to rewire, jam, gunk up, and otherwise hinder both the sturdiest and largest, and most delicate and tiny of machinery and electronics, always to destructive and generally explosive ends. Her one comfort was that for all their mischief and wicked laughter, they could not harm her; Tamaranian endurance vastly outclassed their ability to cause injury. They realized this themselves, of course, which led to the diversionary, time-wasting, aggravating tactics they employed against her. She was reduced to watching them destroy her home around her, and forcing them to flee… only so that they would renew their efforts in another section of the tower. She couldn't be everywhere at once!
After traversing several floors, she came across two monsters who were not familiar enough with her to run. They seemed to be very… occupied with what they were doing. Staring with initial confusion turning rapidly into horror, she noted the tiny but familiar costumes on them… a tiny Robin costume and a tiny her costume, sized just right for the two monsters! And though their attempts at speech with each other were all but unintelligible to her, the tones and especially the gestures used were familiar enough. They appeared to be… courting one another! Their ears perked and red eyes turned in her direction once they realized she was watching, and then they renewed their efforts, even more dramatic and passionate. Only their actions were extremely impolite, almost insulting, Starfire felt!
"That is not how a Tamaranian princess woos her friend who is a boy," she objected angrily as the Starfire-monster started licking around the edges of Robin-monster's mask suggestively, tongue wiggling like a snake. It only got worse from there, and Starfire's cheeks went red. "I would never do that with Robin! ...unless there was a great deal of the chocolate and perhaps a non-synthetic diamond involved," she added thoughtfully after a moment. Then she cringed at how it progressed further, into vulgarity so low… she had never even thought of such things before! How dare they! She floated down to the floor just to stomp a foot in anger, unintentionally leaving a small hole in the metal. "I demand you cease this inaccurate and dishonorable display of physical affection between myself and my friend who is a boy immediately, little green monster creature people!"
The two stopped, peering at her contemplatively. Then the Starfire-monster shrugged with a quacking croak, and with the most casual gestures, tore the mask off of Robin-monster… along with about half the Robin-monster's face and its eyes. Robin-monster screamed in agony, and Starfire screamed in sympathy, and Starfire-monster just laughed and triumphantly held up the mask dripping with green gunk, eyes glued to the eyeholes by gore. Starfire-monster handed her the obscene trophy and then trotted off, jumping over its former partner and skipping off into the distance, giggling shrilly.
Horrified and feeling awful for the mutilated thing, Starfire gently tried to put the mask and the accompanying half-face back onto the Robin-monster, not knowing what else to do, but the monster writhed and shrieked too much.
"Please hold still, fake monster Robin!" she cried desperately, trying not to hyperventilate. The green stuff was getting all over her. "You must let me help you so we can put your face back and then friend Cyborg will stitch you together again, I do hope!"
Suddenly, a long metal pole smashed through the ceiling and directly onto the maimed monster's head, crushed it thoroughly. With a shriek, Starfire jumped back, flinging a starbolt instinctively as a small dark shape slid down the pole. The shape whirled, dodging the bolt easily, landing just in front of the now dead Robin-monster in a dramatic pose.
It was another one of the monsters, this one in a monster-sized Slade outfit. Starfire gawked.
"Dun dun DUN dun dun dunnnnnn," the monster said, the sound muffled through the mask but still intelligible. Then it tried to scratch its head, realized the mask was in the way, and half-pulled the mask off to scratch properly with one arched claw.
Starfire used that moment of distraction to shoot dual beams of energy from her eyes straight into the thing's chest, and watched it fly howling down the hallway with a warrior's grim satisfaction. Then a little monster dressed like Terra scampered by, following after the Slade-monster and making exaggerated sobbing sounds that were interrupted constantly by its poorly restrained giggles.
She stared after the scene in dismay and bemusement. Never before had she encountered an enemy like this. What manner of strange abominations were these creatures?
As fate would have it, the member of the team most affected by the invaders was the one to come into contact with Beast Boy first. Little monsters clinging to him from every possible inch of metal and skin didn't keep Cyborg from tearing Beast Boy a new one while Beast Boy helped him get uninfested.
"You tofu brain, you were talking about gremlins, not kremlins! From the movie Gremlins!"
"It was an honest mistake dude! Now hold still, I'm gonna bite the one on your butt off with saber tooth tiger fangs."
Wincing, Cyborg held still and trusted Beast Boy, something he would ordinarily never do, but desperate times called for desperate measures. One chomp later he only had five gremlins left clinging to him and doing their level best to mess with every piece of circuitry and wiring he had going on.
"And you're not s'posed t'let mogwai eat after midnight 'cause they turn into gremlins, or let mogwai or gremlins get wet ever 'cause they multiply that way, or let them get into bright light 'cause it kills 'em!" Cyborg continued to yell, venting frustration. Everywhere he turned, some personal piece of work of his very own two manly metal man hands was being destroyed now. "We could've prevented all this if you had the memory of a green bean casserole!"
"I'm sorry, dude, please forgive me! How did you find out all that stuff, anyway?!" Beast Boy went orangutan to grapple with the gremlin clinging to Cyborg's neck. The gremlin lost, and went flying with a scream that sounded suspiciously like 'Have mercyyyyyy!'
"I spent ten minutes on the Internet Movie Database site while fighting for my life, that's how!" It had been the most frantic internet surfing of Cyborg's whole life. Thank God he'd had the site bookmarked or he might not even be here right now!
"Dude, dude! I've got it! If light kills 'em, why don't we just undo the defensive lockdown thingy and let light come in from all the windows?! Or turn all the lights on inside really high?!"
"They ate the lighting system and its three backup systems," Cyborg grumbled, plucking a shin-gnawing gremlin off him and blasting it away with his sonic cannon. "Along with all the other stuff of mine they've ruined! I guess I could override the lockdown, but I'd need Robin's authorization at the console!"
"So let's go find Rob!" Beast Boy grunted before turning into an armadillo, curling into a ball, and rolling himself around, knocking gremlins all over like bowling pins in moon gravity.
Finally, the area was more or less clear, although there was still a lot of creepy reptilian giggling in the distance. Beast Boy wiped his sweaty forehead fur, panting. "I hope the others're okay. And Silkie. And Dudestein."
Cyborg gazed at his best but not entirely sane friend incredulously. "Are you crazy, man? Dudestein's one a' them!"
"No way! Dudestein's nothing like them! He's polite and cuddly and nice!"
"He was fooling us, man, face it."
"No way," Beast Boy insisted stubbornly. "I won't believe it till I see it."
Cyborg hoped his buddy wouldn't be let down in the rudest way possible, but given the sense of humor the gremlins seemed to have, it seemed pretty likely.
And then a screaming Robin ran past them, and Cyborg, for one, was not at all surprised. He charged up his cannon, and waited patiently for a horde of monstrosities to roll into view for target practice. There had to be a ton of them, if Rob was fleeing, but forunately the sonic cannon had a wide dispersal setting for just such target rich environmental occasions.
"Retreat! They have all my explosives!" Robin's voice drifted urgently to them from further along the hall.
Cyborg paused and thought it over. "Did he say all his explosives?" he asked Beast Boy, wanting to make sure he'd heard that right.
"Yeah. How many does he have, anyway?"
And then they got to find out firsthand, as dozens of gremlins swarmed into view, cackling and throwing lots and lots of ominously beeping devices.
"Oh fudgesicles," Cyborg said, and then decided that Robin had had the right idea.
Noisy explosions followed behind them, along with the demonic giggling of reptilian midgets, but they didn't stop, they didn't slow, and above all else they didn't look back. Every explosion made Cyborg wince in sympathy with the sound of crumpling architecture. But buildings could be rebuilt. Beast Boy and Rob couldn't, and if the explosions took off the wrong half of his head he was as much a goner as any fleshy person would be.
Without warning, a hand yanked him into a cubicle. Startled, he almost fired, but relaxed when he realized it was just Robin, hiding with Beast Boy in a shady spot. It seemed to work; the smoke from the constantly applied explosives was enough to distract the gremlins from seeing that their prey had stopped, and the mob of green just swept past them.
"So what's the plan?" Cyborg whispered to their tactical foundation while patting himself all over to make sure everything was still there.
"We need Raven to get my weapons away from them," Robin said grimly. "It's either that, or just wait until the they use it all up. I've tried contacting her but they stole everything electronic in sight. Do either of you have intact communicators?"
Twin glum headshakes answered that question.
"Man, you're lucky I'm even here right now, Rob. These things're gremlins... you know, like the kind that supposedly messed with planes in World War II? These guys'll mess with anything with a spark in it. But I think I know how we can get rid of 'em."
"I'm totally open to suggestions right now," said Robin, who was looking almost naked without his utility belt or staff.
"These're the gremlins from that movie BB got all wrong-"
"I said I was sorry!"
"-and they're highly allergic to sunlight. As in, it melts them into goo. Now, the tower's on lockdown status right now, but if you can give your authorization for overriding it at the terminal, we'll be able to let sunlight stream in from all the windows. There'll still prolly be a few hiding in dark places, like the basement, but they'll be contained that way, so we can squish 'em." Personally Cyborg hoped there wouldn't be many in the basement. It was scary down there.
Robin frowned. "Should we be seriously considering killing them all? I know it looks like an out of control epidemic from inside the tower, but they are contained inside the building as far as the rest of the world's concerned. And I'm not sure if massacring them all is really a humane solution, even if they are horrible little creatures that don't belong in this universe."
"Killing monsters doesn't count as killing, dude," Beast Boy said like it was an obvious fact of life, the same as gravity. "They're monsters. What would you do with Dracula if you didn't wanna pound a slice of nasty meat through his heart?"
"Not that kind of steak, little man," Cyborg corrected his buddy absentmindedly. "But you've got a point. I mean, what else are we s'posed to do with 'em? Raven wasn't even sure she could send one furry little helpless puffball home. I think askin' her to teleport a whole army of uncooperative hostiles is a bit outta her league."
"I know, but still-" Robin went on.
A gremlin dressed, weirdly enough, in a gremlin-sized Starfire costume peeked in, smooched Robin on the lips (leaving a cartoonishly huge lipstick stain), and then ran off, teeheeing in a grotesquely effeminate way. Robin froze, mouth and eyes both wide with horror.
"Did... did that one just..." he stuttered.
Beast Boy and Cyborg both nodded silently, equally disturbed.
"And... and in Starfire's..."
They nodded some more.
As if to serve as a final reminder so the horrible event could never, ever be burned from their memories, the Starfire-gremlin ran back, somehow ripped off its underwear without taking the shorts off or destroying the underwear itself, and tossed it on Robin's face, where it draped itself crookedly. And that was how they all learned about the Tamaranian equivalent of a thong. This time, the gremlin exited by ripping a hole in the wall and skittering inwards along the interior and out of sight, sounding like it was causing more damage as it went along.
Cyborg was pretty sure of what was going to happen next, as dictated by the laws of comedy, which were in some ways stronger even than the laws of physics. So when they were enveloped in a familiar green illumination and Starfire's voice called out to them from behind, he was prepared enough to stifle his smirk. Mostly.
"Friends, I am joyous to find that you are all unharmed! But friend Robin... why is it that you are wearing my underwear?"
Robin, of course, an awkward kind of guy with male-female relations at the best of times, was completely paralyzed in mortification. Cyborg took the opportunity to snap a picture for posterity.
"We Earthicans do that sometimes as a gesture of trust and stuff!" Beast Boy rescued their poor leader with unexpected quick-thinking. "Remember that time Cy put my boxers on his head?" That situation had, in fact, been completely due to an accidental dirty clothing avalanche and Cyborg simply hadn't noticed the boxers till five minutes later, but Starfire had her own way of interpreting things, and they didn't always have the time to explain every little thing to her.
Confusion melted into 'understanding' and goodwill on that cheery orange face. "Oh, well then, perhaps I should acquire some of your boxers in turn, Robin! I do not think I would wish to wear Beast Boy's... they are a little of the smelly."
Beast Boy started sniffing himself, looking wounded, while Robin took charge of the situation. Robin and Cyborg were to head to the main computer, while Starfire and Beast Boy would find Raven and together work on minimizing the damage the gremlins caused before they were all melted into a fine paste, a concept Robin suddenly no longer appeared to have any objections to. Beast Boy lingered a second after Starfire's departure, though, grinning at Robin.
"So, did I just earn forgivingness for all this kremlin stuff, or what?"
"Totally," Robin replied without an instant's hesitation. "No extra chores or training once this is all over."
"Sweet." Beast Boy went 'blue' jay and fluttered off.
"He's getting smarter," Cyborg commented thoughtfully as they started to sidle towards the nearest stairwell. No way in heck were they risking the elevator.
"Why does that make me feel nervous?" Robin asked absently, eyes scanning shadow after shadow.
The nearest computer with access to security was in the main room, so that was where they went. They crept through hallways and down stairs, and for some reason were less troubled by gremlin mischief the closer to their destination they got. Within one floor of the main room, the only 'attack' there was was a gremlin surfing dangerously down the stairs on a cookie sheet, shrieking and swaying and generally not posing much of a threat to anything but itself. A few seconds after that, they had an especially loud scream and a painful clang-thud. Neither of them winced, as they were both good at holding grudges when they wanted to be. And they sure wanted to be now.
When they got to the room, they learned why the gremlins had been bothering them less and less: the little monsters were busy watching tv.
They had raided the fridge and were busy eating or food fighting with everything from inside it, including the containers and other non-edibles. The room was a mess of stains, grease, blue fuzzy mold, and squished foodstuffs. On the large monitor that served for both television and central computer, Scrubs was playing (instantly identified in a whisper by Cyborg, who was a fan). Whenever a character the gremlins didn't like showed up on screen, they booed and jeered and threw things. When a character they liked showed up, they cheered and waved their little claws in the air.
There were at least a hundred of them that could be clearly seen.
"Do you have anything that, you know, explodes or freezes a large area or any of that? Even just one" Cyborg whispered at Robin.
Robin shook his head. "They stole it all," he whispered back. "Even if we had the others here with us, I'm not sure we could clear all this out without damaging the computer or the screen."
He took a moment to wonder where one of the gremlins had gotten a red and white striped popcorn bucket, which it was currently using for a helmet. For all he knew it was a sign of dominance and respect in gremlin society. And then he started wondering about the other little details… they had all kinds of little accessories, just like the Starfire-gremlin, that should not have technically existed as far as he knew. The size of any particular item appeared to be related to whether it would be funnier as a gremlin-sized item being used by a gremlin or a human-sized item being used by a gremlin. Likewise, their ability to withstand physical violence was astonishingly inconsistent. As they mauled and abused each other good-naturedly and seemingly without any speck of a conscience about it, sometimes they would be able to take ludicrous amounts of mutilation and still stumble around, croaking and cackling, and other times they'd just fall over with startling immediacy. He even noticed that sometimes they had bones inside, a proper skeleton, and other times… not! And there wasn't much time when they weren't hurting each other, because every new scene and commercial was seemingly a cue for the gremlins to mimic and act out what they saw, only with great exaggeration and very bad acting ability. The lawnmower commercial was particularly… messy. And a scene in the Scrubs episode where the white protagonist fantasized about his black friend Turk being made of living chocolate resulted in a form of audience participation that was purely and simply unspeakable.
"They're creating their own props," he breathed in realization. "And… and warping the fabric of reality around them!"
"I'm not sure now's the time t'go all Raven on me, Rob. I dunno if you'd survive the resultin' psychological stress."
Robin smirked, for the first time feeling like he had a real, solid handle on the enemy. "Listen, Cy… I think these things function by the rules of drama and comedy. Look at them… not only do they love watching tv, they love acting it out, too! And if physics don't accommodate that, they just mess with physics!"
Cyborg nodded slowly. "Okay. I get you. Like Roger Rabbit, right? Stuff just works different for them. How does that help us, though?"
"It helps us," Robin explained patiently with an ever-growing smirk, "because I have a Plan." He paused. "A Plan that you are not to mention to any of the other Titans. Ever."
"So I can only assume this is gonna be either suicidal or humiliating, right?"
"Both, Cyborg. Both."
"Well, alright, what're we waitin' for?"
Beast Boy was an immense help in cornering small green monsters. While they still ran from her, he lured them in by posing as a tiny adorable bunny… and then, while their attention was focused on doing something unpleasant to the 'helpless' little animal, Starfire blasted them with a rapid barrage before they spotted her hanging behind. It was a tactic that required precise timing and even more precise accuracy, but she was happily up to the task.
"I wonder, friend Beast Boy," she mused aloud while gingerly stepping over some bubbly gremlin corpses, "why they do not all react the same to my attacks. Some of them explode, while others melt…"
"They're super adaptable and mutate a lot. We should be glad we haven't see any talking ones with wings and electric zappy powers."
Starfire nodded in fervent agreement after thinking it over. The creatures were unpleasant enough when she only had the vaguest idea of their emotions and intentions. She was certain that understanding exactly what they were saying would not be an improvement.
A metal pole smashed through the left wall, driving all the way into the opposite one just inches from Starfire's face. Despite knowing that it (probably) couldn't hurt her, she shrieked and jumped instinctively, raising one green-glowing hand.
Sliding through the new hole with a speed that was probably supposed to look elegant but only ended up looking silly, claws curled loosely around the pole, the Slade-gremlin appeared, hanging in the middle of the hallway. It would have been intimidating if its feet actually touched the ground.
"Dun dun DUN!" it croaked, seemingly completely untroubled by the fact that Starfire had already sent it flying on its way once before. The black-fringed twin holes in his suit where she had blasted him smelt faintly of burnt bacon.
"That's just tacky," Beast Boy commented, frowning at the gremlin that now hung between him and Starfire. He kicked it experimentally. Instead of any of the numerous clumsy and painful things Starfire had expected to happen to the Slade-gremlin, it instead used the force of the kick to execute a shockingly perfect head over heels twirl in the air, landing on its feet with uncanny balance.
"Dun," it told Starfire grimly, taking one step forward.
Uncertain, Starfire floated back a little, charging up her other hand as well.
"You remember what happened the last time you confronted me, yes?" she asked it.
"Dun DUN," it said, taking two more emphatic steps. She retreated a little more.
"Dude, Star, just blast it already!"
"Please, I do not wish to destroy more of you than I have to," she tried to bargain, voice quietly solemn. "You appear to have some capacity to reason, yes? Cease your actions of futile hostility, gremlin who is pretending to be Slade, and we shall find a way to send you home."
"Dun DUN DUN." Three more steps.
She crossed her arms, planted her feet, and charged up her eyes instead. "That is ENOUGH, Slade-gremlin! I am no longer yielding to you! If you advance even a single step further I promise you that you will regret it!"
Terra-gremlin appeared behind Beast Boy and started throwing small rocks at his crotch, which understandably occupied the entirety of his attention.
Slade-gremlin whispered something, very faintly, holding still for a change.
Her forehead wrinkled up. "I am sorry, Slade-gremlin, can you please speak louder?"
It whispered once more, louder but still unintelligible. She leaned down a bit.
"Just a little louder, please?"
She leaned down more.
"DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!" it screamed at the top of its lungs, throwing down one of Robin's explosives. It beeped twice, almost reluctantly, and then exploded. Caught by surprise, Starfire fell with the Slade-gremlin down to the next level.
She found herself in a vast room whose purpose was uncertain now that it was mostly destroyed and filled with gremlins in a variety of costumes.
They appeared to be arrayed in a sort of court, diagonally running off to the sides from a central point in front of her. In that spot, Dudestein the mog who was wai sat on a Lego chair throne, with a Lego crown on his head. He was trying to prop his huge head on one tiny hand boredly, but it wasn't working very well and his head kept falling off to one side. But he perked up as soon as he saw her, eyes sparkling and mouth opening in a cute big grin to match his cute big head.
Slade-gremlin gestured theatrically towards Dudestein, and knelt. All the gremlins around tried to make every sort of sound every large crowd had ever made, all at the same time.
"Are you sure this is going to woooork?" Cyborg sang nervously, grabbing a cane and top hat off of the nearest gremlin and tapdancing in. He was one bad mofo of a tapdancer if he did say so himself, but he wasn't sure if the gremlins cared. But it wasn't like he had a better Plan, so even a stupid Plan was better than no Plan at all... but he reserved the right to complain!
"They like things in television and movies, so we'll give them a musical," Robin sang with hilarious solemnity, matching Cyborg's steps with concentrated precision. "And musicals are almost never interrupted in the middle of a song, so we're probably safe!"
"I like how you threw that probably in there," Cyborg sang sarcastically in a mockingly high pitch, pirouetting over closer to the computer. They had to work their way over to it, but not be too obvious... it had to be showy, diversionary. "I think we need a little more booyah in our singing, the dancing alone won't do it," he added as some of the watching gremlins, growing bored (and that was apparently a very dangerous thing for a gremlin to be), started booing and throwing rotten vegetables pilfered from the fridge.
"We need a plot," Robin sang hastily, dancing in such a way as to avoid a sudden irate claw swipe. The audience was definitely getting restless. "Something with meaning! I'll start! You see, we were given this strange little gift by Kid Flash..."
"And though we were wary, we soon figured out Dudestein was a blast," Cyborg broke in cheerily. "Although I'm not sure flash and blast really rhyme but whatever, just go with it," he sang quickly under his breath in a lower tone. The gremlins giggled and clapped, to his relief. They liked self-mockery in their musicals. Great. He could self-mock all day long if it kept their slimy little claws off his circuits.
"But then he made a bunch of gremlins and we don't know what to do."
Robin tripped over some debris that looked an awful lot like training equipment from the gymnasium, but Cyborg caught him and recovered the dance by maneuvering it into a tango, the only thing he could think of where one partner dipped the other.
"Except dance around like goofballs while inside we cry boohoooooo!" he sang sonorously while gazing deeply into Robin's eyes, because, well, that was what you were supposed to do in a tango, as far as he knew. Robin looked tremendously uncomfortable.
"Because while it, uh, seems strange to us... we... we think we have a hold," Robin sang on stutteringly, transmuting the tango into a less close contact country dance with spinning and twirling.
"On... on how their psychology works, and so we must unfold," Cyborg continued, stammering at the start but getting a better idea of the line as he went on.
"A Plan of enormously theatrical proportions!" they both sang out together, then pausing to stare at each other and wonder how they managed to think of and sing the exact same line at the exact same time. Cyborg shrugged and bowed, and after a second Robin bowed too. The gremlins threw roses and howled, spindly arms waving in the air.
"I think they want more," Cyborg muttered to Robin hastily.
"Well, I'm at the computer, can you keep on distracting them while I open up the tower?"
Cyborg grinned and cracked his knuckles. "Oh yeah, my man. Not a problem. Now for an ENCORE..."
He cleared his throat, and burst into singing of profoundly operatic levels, arms spread in an exuberant pose.
"THE HILLLLLLLS ARE ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE... WITH THE SOUND OF MUUUUUUUUUSIIIIIIIIIIIIC!"
Staggering along with tears streaming from his eyes and his gloved hands clutching protectively between his legs, Beast Boy cursed Kid Flash, Control Freak, Dudestein, the gremlins, and anyone else who might've been responsible for sicing a demonic little reptile Terra on him. Another rocky projectile sailed his way and, swiftly agile in the way only the terrified and paranoid can be, he morphed into a meerkat, dodged to one side, then scrambled forward to take cover in a doorway, morphing back after a few seconds to pant and wonder if maybe he shouldn't just turn into an elephant and charge. But then, elephants were big animals, with big... targets for rock-throwing. Nothankyoudude he was not risking it.
"Will you stop busting my balls?!" he whined at his unseen tormentor. "It's bad enough that you're dressed like her! Why can't you be a normal freaky monster thing and attack normally?!"
He heard the whirring sound of a drill accompanied by wicked giggles, and swallowed.
"Okay, I take it back! You can be a weird ball-busting Terra imposter! Seriously!"
What was he doing?
Chasing after a Terra-gremlin like it was the most important thing right now... like he didn't have other responsibilities and stuff. Being intimidated by it like it was actually worth being scared over. This was all, what was that word Cy used sometimes? Junk? Sunk? Bunk, that was it. This was all totally bunk. He was practically a man now! He was a hero!
"Terra doesn't control my life!" he yelled with self-righteous fury, one fist shaking in the air. "I don't care about her anymore!" Except he did but the gremlin had no way of knowing that, so nya. "I'm so totally over her it's not even funny! You hear that?! I don't care anymore!" With that proclamation to bolster his courage, he cheetahed off. Hopefully Star hadn't gotten too far. She had to've overcome her peacemaker instincts around that Slade-gremlin by now, right?
He was alarmed, upon backtracking, to find a large hole where Starfire had once been. A variety of gremliny noises drifted into the hallway from it. Beast Boy crept closer, shifting from housecat to snake to chameleon to hummingburd nervously. Hovering with a ridiculous amount of wingbeats per second, he peered his little birdy eyes down to see what could be seen, and was greeted with a nightmarish sight.
Oh jeez, she's captured and it was all his fault!
They couldn't hurt her, could they?
...unless they still had some of Robin's stuff....
Was that Dudestein on a Lego chair in the middle?
Hearing a skittering sound behind him, he rotated in air just in time to see a big mallet swung by Terra-gremlin smash into him. With a headache the size of ten Texases, he spiralled downwards, dazed, landing on Starfire's shoulder and thinking some very bad words that hummingbirds weren't supposed to know.
"Beast Boy, I am so glad you are unharmed!"
Beast Boy morphed to normal just to express his outrage.
"Unharmed?! UNHARMED?! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT MY JUNK FEELS LIKE RIGHT NOW?!"
There was a little pause while they stared at each other and then both decided to just ignore what he had said for both their sakes.
"And what is Dudestein doing surrounded by all these gremlins?" Beast Boy demanded, eager to get off the subject of what was between his legs and how it was holding up. "Are they, like, worshipping him like the yellow robot and the Ewoks?" Too late, he realized she wouldn't get the reference but she seemed to get the idea anyway.
"Our poor friend appears to be held captive. He is on a chair and has a circlet, but it is impossible for him to move!"
It was true, there were so many gremlins around intent on not going anywhere that Dudestein couldn't budge his furry butt from his seat. He didn't look like he was in control or anything, either. He looked bored and tired, like a parent whose kids had been very naughty and worn all the adults out.
"So you're one of the good guys, Dudestein?" He wanted to believe it.
Dudestein nodded, smiling a cute (as always) little smile. "Dooshtein goo guy."
"Can you tell these guys to stop wrecking everything? Or get them to leave us alone, or anything like that?"
Dudestein looked around incredulously at the crowd of gremlins who were busy doing chaotic and dangerous gremlin activities (one of them was attempting to eat Starfire's foot, which apparently just tickled her a little because she was giggling and wiggling her toes), then back at Beast Boy. The expression on his face was distinctly Raveny.
Beast Boy grinned and rubbed the back of his neck. "Okay, I guess that was too much to ask for. Can you speak to them though?"
"Awesome! Now we just need to figure out what to tell them..."
He slumped. How could you reason with a bunch of green, animalistic, totally illogical pranksters?
...after about a minute, his brain caught on to the similarity and he got pissed at himself for still not having any ideas.
Dudestein was gesturing at Starfire, who floated over delicately, constantly assaulted by gremlins and constantly throwing them off with saintlike polite gentleness. Beast Boy, tired morphing every five seconds to avoid the latest gremlin 'joke,' turned into a flea and watched curiously, unnoticed.
The fuzzy wuzzy Lego monarch planted a tiny peck right on Star's lips, a weird, almost perverted gleam in his eyes. But all an outraged Beast Boy could think about was how lucky the little chubby jerk was, to have the guts to just smooch her like that when every other guy on the planet who'd ever seen her had been too awed by her super model looks to do more than dream about it! You couldn't just take kisses like that! There was a whole dance and song routine! There was dates and candles and candy and stuff! And Robin would kick Dudestein's butt when he found out, too, probably. What was the little guy up to?
Raven was a pragmatic, logical, disciplined... ruthless and enraged monster-annihilating machine of demonic doom.
She treated it like a game of Battleship. Go from section to section in careful order, slicing, dicing, strangling, and blowing up anything that was messing with the innards or outards of the tower. She started at the very top of the tower, and worked her way down floor by floor, making sure nothing got by her regular wall-ignoring patrol loops to re-infect cleansed areas. There wasn't any thought of mercy. No, not after what they'd done to her books. Her poor, sweet, innocent books.
Whatever they were, she was determined to be their grim reaper. And it troubled her that she couldn't identify them at all, which only increased her suspicion that that brown and white furball with the stupid Beast Boy-given name was at the root of it. It was a little worrying, not having contacted the others, but she put herself at relative ease by telling herself that they were probably just as busy as her, cleaning house from the bottom up most likely. It was a big tower, and she was glad she could levitate, teleport, and float through things.
It was the sounds that were the worst part, by far. Just suspecting the kind of related damage being done to their home without knowing until she actually saw it... and seeing was pretty bad, too. The shrill tear of metal, the shattering crashes of glass and porcelain, the fizz-pop of electricity fooled around with. Sometimes, even worrying loud, deep booms that sounded suspiciously like the gremlins had somehow gotten into and figured out how to properly use her powdered manticore liver. At least they couldn't do anything with any of her wands or rods. One gremlin had eaten the box of magical tools and distintegrated on the spot in an agonizingly slow way that would probably have even Raven with nightmares for the rest of the week (except for the eyes, they'd been left to stare blindly upwards from the floor). On the other hand, Beast Boy probably would have done the same thing eventually, so maybe she should be happy the gremlin got to it first. If she could actually bring herself to admit she was happy to have Beast Boy around, which was an iffy thing most of the time.
Then she came to a particularly damaged hallway with a large hole in the middle of the floor. Down that hole were Starfire, Beast Boy, the furball, and far too many gremlins.
And to her complete and utter horror, the gremlins appeared to be preparing to mount a musical number.
"Dreadfully sorry about that," Dudestein told Starfire cheerfully, "but I overheard about your unique linguistic transferral abilities and this is the easiest way to convey information. I am much more intelligible to you than previously, yes?"
Starfire shut her mouth, then opened it again. "Errr, yes, Dudestein, you are most eloquent! Can you tell us how to defeat your wicked gremlin brethren now?"
Beast Boy looked himself... which was to say, he looked confused. "You two can understand each other now?"
"Do you remember my explaining of the Tamaranian species' evolved ability for linguistic transferral, friend Beast Boy?"
"It is why I kissed Robin the first time?" she added, blushing at the memory. She'd been so brash about it at the time, when she hadn't even known what it meant in human culture. A wasted opportunity, truly, but at least she had made up for it.
"Ooohhhh yeah. And that was how you learned English! So, Dudestein taught you mogwai-eeze?"
"I believe it is so!" Starfire looked around at the gremlins with increasing nervousness. "Friend Dudestein, why are they preparing musical instruments?" The one in particular that stood out was a gremlin with cymbals who clanged them happily and without any sense of rhythm. Another one kept sticking its head between the two cymbals and pulling it down just in time to avoid the clash every time, giggling. The instruments weren't all human, either, she also saw a set of Tamaranian galdoblorp pipes, dwarfing their tiny green user.
"You have perhaps noticed that my, ah, socially-challenged kin have a talent for mimicry," Dudestein said, gesturing with his tiny arms at the various gremlins in costumes. "This goes beyond a mere hobby interest. You see, Starfire, gremlins have no culture of their own. They exist by absorbing the popular cultures they are exposed to and making those cultures their own, in a crude, simplistic way. While horrendously immature, they learn and adapt quickly, and what the progenitor mogwai knows, they all share an instinctive, subconscious knowledge of. From me, they have basic interest in human society and popular media. From the Titans themselves, they have acquired a specific interest in the superhero-supervillain dynamic. What my colleagues, if I may dignify them with the term, are preparing to do is a merge of popular culture with your superhero team."
"Will it be dangerous?"
"Dude, I can't understand what he's saying, translate for me!" Beast Boy whispered, fidgety at not being able to follow along. She smiled and patted his head. He was cute when he was impatient.
"Dudestein is speaking of the motives of our enemy," she whispered back gently. "Please do not interrupt, this is very much of the complicated. I will do more of the explaining later."
"Everything they do is dangerous, of course," Dudestein answered with a condescending smirk at the gremlins, ignoring the aside. It was a strange expression on his cute little face. "If only because they are competent at being incompetent, and have no grasp whatsoever of the value of dignity or life. However, if you play along, you may be able to get through it quite unscathed. They are like easily bored children. Keep them entertained and all is well. But should things slow down, they throw tantrums... and, well, this is the result." He waved a tiny hand to encompass the whole trashed room. The gremlins were now starting to play, a varied battle of sounds that reminded her of her home planet's music. But Beast Boy must not have liked it, because he started groaning and covering his ears. "They don't really have a plan, you see. Gremlins don't plan. They just have ideas, feelings, urges. Right now they have the feeling that the Teen Titans need a... well, a musical episode."
"A musical episode?" Her forehead scrunched up. "Do they think we are one of the shows of the television?"
Dudestein smiled mysteriously. "Well, they have an instinct for these kinds of things. Every good serial story needs one wacky, crazy, zany musical adventure in it, and they've decided now is the time for yours. If you fight it, they'll keep on fighting you. But if you cooperative..."
She brightened. "We will be able to satisfy their urges for entertainment and defeat them! We may not even have to turn any more of them into horrible green goo, which I confess has been making me feel very aqua!"
"Blue, Miss Starfire," Dudestein gasped as she picked him up and hugged him maybe just a little too tight. She loosened her grip and he sighed. "And I believe we had better start nowwww," he sang in an incredibly rich, smooth tenor. She was amazed at what his tiny lungs could do! Of course she supposed Beast Boy was hearing it differently. At least the changeling was looking delightedly startled instead of pained now, though. "Because the natives are getting restless, you see," he went on singing, hopping down to the ground and prancing forward dancingly. "And though I can't rhyme for the life of me, perhaps you can do better, and unlock these cruel fetters... of boredom and drearineeeeeesssss!"
"I have no idea what he's saying," Beast Boy muttered, eyes huge and fascinated, "but this is so awesome."
The gremlins started booing and throwing things at Beast Boy, and Starfire knew what had to be done.
"You must sing it, friend Beast Boy," she sang... being very, very careful to keep to note combinations that she had learned were reasonably cordial to Earthling ears. "Even though you may be loathe to... um, employ... such... suuuuccchhh..." She hesitated, brain blank for more lyrics, and the gremlins started getting raucous again.
"They want us to sing?" Beast Boy sang with such perky excitement that it was impossible to not grin. "Then I'll sing, and I'll sing, and I'll sing my freakin' lungs out 'cause I love to sing it's super awesome cool rad to the max!"
Hesitantly, Starfire inspected the audience, then looked back at Beast Boy. They seemed really happy. Maybe it didn't have to rhyme if it was done with enough enthusiasm? That was it. They were just like children, they wished for passion and action in their diversions, not well thought out words!
"Then sing for us, friend Beast Boy, and do a little dance!" Dudestein suggested.
"He says to keep the singing and do a little dance," Starfire sang in translation in a lower tone.
"A dance like this? Or this? Or this or this or this?" Starfire could not recognize any of the 'dancing' maneuvers her friend used save for the last one, which was a clumsy bodily spin taken from the broken dancing. Some of the gremlins started imitating it, and inevitably managed to spin themselves violently into each other and random objects. "Oh, they like thaaaaat," Beast Boy sang with an animal grin, rubbing his hands. "I totally understand these dudes! Sure, they may be a little rude, but all they wanna do is have fun!"
A little pause. The gremlins seemed to be waiting expectantly for more. Unfortunately Starfire couldn't think of anything to continue with, she was too impressed with Beast Boy to even keep up with his... well, not talent, but enthusiasm!
"On the bun?" he sang hesitantly.
Gremlins booed and one of them, snub-nosed and cross-eyed, pulled out a flamethrower.
"Sing better!" it croaked, hoisting the weapon menacingly.
Starfire blinked. Mogwai and gremlin language were apparently the same thing. Well, at least she wouldn't have to kiss a gremlin to understand them. Eww.
"Sing better, sing better, sing better than best," the other gremlins started chanting as musically as their vocal chords allowed. "Sing better than best or die with the rest!" Some of them cackled and held up smoking gremlin skeletons. Outraged at the petty threat and their lack of solidarity with each other, Starfire strode right up to the cross-eyed gremlin and blasted the flamethrower to trash with a sharp downward slap of her glowing hand.
"How dare you say such things," she half-sang, half-hissed, eyes glowing with righteous fury. "Have you no morals? Have you no manners?! Have you no knorfka to teach you right from wrong?!"
"I don't think they do," Beast Boy jumped in. "I don't think they care. Like Thunder and Lightning, they need to beware... of burning themselves with their own stupid jokes!" He stuck his tongue out at them. "And th-th-th-th, that's all, folks." He turned into an eagle, snatched up Dudestein in his talons, and flew up through the hole in the ceiling where the gremlins couldn't follow. Bewildered at his sudden (if admittedly stylish) retreat, Starfire flew after him, the angry boos and shouts of gremlinkind loud in her ears.
"Friend Beast Boy, why did you flee? We were singing well were we not?"
"Dude, I cannot keep doing that with just you for backup! We need a whole band or something! It's hard to keep thinking of things to sing!"
"Dudestein will sing with us!"
"Indeed, but he cannot understand me," Dudestein reminded her, "and therefore cannot follow my lyrics to make a pleasing song. You cannot just follow one verse with a completely random one, there has to be pattern and rhythm."
"I can't sing along with a dude when I can't understand what he's saying and you can't translate all the time, it breaks up the music," Beast Boy said at the exact same time.
There was an ominous scurrying of many, many clawed feet.
Beast Boy swallowed. "They're gonna come up here and get us if we don't sing the right thing, aren't they?"
"No," said Raven's raspy voice, "because I'm going to teleport us all out of here. But if you start singing again I swear by Azar I will leave you to the mercies of the little green monsters!"
Three hugs at once was apparently too much for poor Raven, and after exactly one second of enduring it she phased through them all and floated back several feet before solidifying again.
"We are sorry, friend Raven, we are merely very glad you are unharmed and-"
"They trashed my books," she growled. Starfire saw a telltale glint of extra red eyes in the shadow of the hood. "And you were singing, and I don't even want to know why. Come on, let's get out of here."
"We were merely attempting to-"
Raven held up a hand. "Stop. Don't want to hear it."
"But dude, if you sing with us, we can-"
"There is not enough money in the world to bribe me to sing alone in a locked room, Beast Boy, let alone with you!"
"But... it's just like karaoke!" he protested, fake tears in his eyes, hands clasped in pleading. Starfire awwed and almost pet him as though he were in cute little infant feline form.
Raven was, as always, immune. "I don't like karaoke."
Beast Boy was speechless.
But only for a little bit.
"Don't like... don't like... what's WRONG with you?! What's the matter Raven, huh!? You don't like singing and fun? Everyone else here does!" He threw his arms into the air in a gesture of complete helplessness. "Fine, whatever, I guess I should be used to your total unability to have fun by now."
"Inability," Raven corrected with a lecturing tone as she covered them in dark energy. "I don't suppose you guys know where Robin and Cyborg are?"
"How was I supposed to know they hate Julie Andrews?!" Cyborg hollered as he and Robin ran up the fourth flight of steps, hoping the gremlins would get tired before they did. It didn't seem likely. On the plus side, at least the little freaks had run out of all the good rotten veggies and fruits to throw... they were down to old potatoes, which didn't have the desired splattery effect no matter how hard you threw them. But they still hurt!
Their savior turned out to be a wall of demonic telekinetic energy, rising up to block the gremlins off as Raven and the rest of the team emerged from the ceiling, covering in similar energy. Some of the gremlins tried to bash or gnaw through the barrier, while the rest scattered to satisfy their instincts to wreak havoc everything in the tower that wasn't shielded by a telekinetically-gifted superhero.
"You're welcome," Raven deadpanned at her deadpanniest.
"I am so glad you are on our team," Cyborg told her, tearful with gratitude. He really, really hated those gremlins. It seemed like they'd been created by a cruel universe specifically to mess with him and everything he'd ever rewired, tuned up, oiled, and fixed together. He couldn't take a step anywhere without seeing something he'd worked on that they'd reduced to smoking ruin, including the stuff that wasn't suppose to be able to smoke.
"Why are you covered in asparagus and tomatoes?" she asked, then held up a hand. "Wait, nevermind. Like everything else about today, I don't want to know." She let the wall drop cautiously as the last of the gremlins, bored, scampered off to seed chaos elsewhere.
"They like musicals, but not Julie Andrews," he explained. "I don't get it."
Starfire and Beast Boy's faces brightened in a way that Cyborg recognized as delighted and hopeful. When they both did that at the same time it was usually a sign of something really strange but also really cool going on.
The conversation that followed was only half as confusing as Cyborg was afraid it'd be.
"The computer is still the important part," Robin stated at the end when all information was conveyed all around and and Plans related. "If we can disable security and get the windows open, we can corner them easily in the areas without bright light. Raven, can you teleport us and shield everyone while we get through security?"
"But... but that means we won't get to sing," Beast Boy protested, ears drooping.
"I can do anything that doesn't require me singing and prevents Beast Boy from doing it," Raven said with a rare trace of enthusiasm. Peering closely, Cyborg even spotted a tiny smirk aimed in Beast Boy's direction. Ah, good old-fashioned teammate rivalry. Better than tv.
He chuckled and started to pat Beast Boy on the back consolingly, but stopped after halfway through the first pat.
"Hey man... are you growin' a hump?" he asked suspiciously.
Beast Boy turned around to display Dudestein, clinging to his back like a backpack.
"Awww. That's so cute!" Cyborg cooed. "Hey, sprout, get on my shoulder and we can have a triple teammate tower thing goin' on. It'll be almost as fun as singin'."
"DUDE! YES, AWESOME! Come on, Dudestein, you're movin' up in the world!"
"I don't understand why you do that when you know Beast Boy and that... thing... are going to shed all over you," Raven commented, bubbling them all in energy in preparation for a teleport.
They had been through enough of Raven's teleporting trips to be able to maintain something like calm and concentration in the middle of them now, even if it was really disorienting. And Cyborg suffered the least, having technological senses that weren't as affected by the discrepancies between sensation, hearing, and sight that teleporting caused. So he simply replied while they were floating in that hazy nether dimension that was involved in moving to point c from point a without moving through point b in the process.
"String bean don't shed as much as you'd think, his fur's pretty short. And Dudestein deserves the view. Our lil innocent buddy here's a guest, he deserves the red carpet treatment till we figure out how to send 'im home if you ask me."
"How do you know it's innocent?" Raven asked, the only sign that she was in the middle of a great big magic trick being her white-flaring eyes.
"Dudestein's not an it or a thing, Raven!" Beast Boy said angrily, and Starfire nodded in curt agreement. "He's a boy mogwai and his name is Dudestein Dudeington Dudesworth the Third, and he's been super cool to us so you could at least use his name!"
"Oh come on! You won't sing, you won't say Dudestein's name... why're you being such a female dog?!"
Cyborg would have cowered behind something if there had been anything to cower behind.
Since there wasn't, he had no choice but to 'stand' (it was a little hard to tell if he was standing, falling, or flying) there and take it as the dark world around them surged with reddy-red-red, the color of super-angry demons, half-demons, and for all he knew quarter-demons everywhere. Four red eyes glared at them all from the sky like multiple Saurons looking for rings that the Titans just happened to be in possession of.
"You may not have HEARD me the first time I MENTIONED it, but they RUINED ALL OF MY BOOKS!" Raven thundered with a distorted, booming voice that could put grown men down on their knees begging for mercy.
Unfortunately for her, Beast Boy had somehow acquired partial immunity to her tantrums due to overexposure.
"Yeah, and we're sad for you and all, but we'll buy you new books! There's only one Dudestein, and he's a living dude and he deserves the same respect as any other living dude, dude!"
Seemingly overwhelmed with confused fury at being stood up to over something so trivial, Raven's concentration on the teleporting went askew and the Titans found themselves nauseous and headachey in a succession of three wrong rooms before they finally landed where they were supposed to, safely enclosed in a bubble of magic in case nay gremlins were around.
"Apologies for the technical difficulties," Raven growled lowly, not sounding sorry at all. "Now can you please open the windows so we can get this awful day over with?" she begged of Robin. At least, as close to begging as Raven generally ever came.
Robin started typing, and gremlins started poking around the bubble, getting more and more interested and creative as it refused to yield. Some of them even started to crawl on top of it. But Raven held it firm without too much trouble while the rest of them had nothing to do but stand there being nervous. Aware of an opportunity to mend fences, Cyborg nudged his little green buddy significantly and hoped his friend would take the hint.
"I'm, uh, I'm sorry I called you a female dog just now," Beast Boy apologized to Cyborg's immense relief. "I didn't mean it."
"That's fine," Raven said curtly, not looking at him, obviously not interested in talking about it.
"...but you really should at least be nice enough to say his name..." Beast Boy added, and Cyborg stifled a groan. Maybe he'd be picking BB's internal organs off the ceiling today after all.
Then Starfire butted in to gang up on Raven, and by Cyborg's standards that just seemed mean. Star's concern for the wellbeing of all living creatures definitely included cute little Dudestein, which was making her go on the offensive and ally with Beast Boy again. Poor Raven didn't have a chance if she wanted a semi-civil atmosphere in the tower once the gremliny crisis was over. And while he was real sympathetic for poor put-upon Raven, who was just stressed and grumpy and wanted to be left alone, was he gonna stand up to the combined self-righteousness of Starfire and Beast Boy? Nosireebob! He was Switzerland. Totally and utterly Switzerland. Both of them had stubborn streaks a mile long, even if BB didn't show his much.
"Fine," Raven finally spat out, visibly grinding her teeth while gremlins crawled all over the magic sphere protecting them all like it was a set of monkey bars. "Just this once. I'm suh... I'm sorry," she said stutteringly, clearly pained to have to use the S-word, "if I insulted you, Duh... Dude... stein... uck." The 'uck' was a sound of complete revulsion that was normally reserved for people who were about to throw up. Cyborg sighed and shook his head. That girl just set too much stock on her dignity and everyone else's. You couldn't live with Beast Boy and Starfire and be dignified. It was impossible. Too many bad jokes and hugs were involved.
What was taking Robin so long? It shouldn't take him this long to override the security, Cyborg realized. He leaned over and peered at the terminal where Robin was typing frantically and mumbling rude things under his breath.
"What's the holdup, man?" he asked their noble leader softly while the rest of the team was busy being melodramatic.
"Those little monsters did something to the computer," Robin told him in his tightest, blankest mission leaderiest voice. "I think downloaded a virus. Or used it to make a virus. Or something. I'm trying to work through it to get to the security override, but... the interface is jumping randomly between Windows XP and a Linux plugin, and sometimes the mouse controls reverse themselves, and half the keys are typing what looks like Vietnamese..."
Grimly, Cyborg shoved his leader out of the way. This was a job for the tech guy. "I shoulda known that they'd mess with this, too. Why not? They've trashed everything else I've cared about, except you guys." Cracking knuckles partially jammed with the mush of blackened bananas and green cherry tomatoes, he set out to fix the unfixable and do it in record time. Just another day as a superhero, alright.
"Can you hurry up?" Raven asked five minutes later in a strained voice that Cyborg knew was trouble. "The longer I hold them back, the more of them come in and start trying to break through... it's getting hard..."
Cyborg spared a glance around to see that the room was indeed packed with the cackling monsters, and hurriedly locked his eyes back on the screen, fingers moving like lightning.
"They really did a number on the system. I'm reversing the damage just as much as I need to to get to the security, but it's gonna be a little while longer," he told her emotionlessly, knowing she would appreciate professionalism over sympathy or worry right now. "I'm moving as fast as I can. Just do what you can. And if the gremlins get through, we'll deal with it."
Two and a half minutes later, the gremlins got through, and Cyborg had the added joy of trying to complete one of the toughest computering jobs of his life with the background noise of a fullscale battle royale going on in the same room. It was almost as thrilling as it was terrifying. He was glad he was physically incapable of wetting his pants.
"This is not working!" Starfire shouted after kicking one of a thousand monsters in the mouth. It grabbed a fallen tooth, glared at her maliciously, and threw it at her. It didn't hurt physically, of course, but she felt a little bad about it emotionally. They were such childish creatures, it made her feel bad to fight them even when they were trying their utmost to harm her and her friends. "We cannot hold them all back from friend Cyborg forever, there are too many! We must try the distraction of the singing if we are to prevail!"
"Never!" Raven snarled, decapitating five gremlins with a single black-energized swipe of her hand. She did not feel emotionally bad about hurting them.
"Why won't you sing with us?!" Beast Boy sang at Raven plaintively in the middle of the fight. Gremlins all around him stopped, some of them even somehow pausing in midair, defying physics to avoid interrupting Beast Boy's musical moment. He had much more enthusiasm than talent, if Starifre was any judge of Earthling standards, but that was really a benefit as far as their audience was concerned. "What're you scared of? It's not like the gremlins'll bite your head off!"
Robin picked up the cue, haltingly at first, but quickly adjusting to it as the gremlins around him starting to quiet down as well. "Except they, you know, they might bite her head off," he pointed out in song. "I hate to nitpick, but they're pretty mean critics, and we can't blame her for not wanting to put herself out there..."
Starfire knew her moment to slide in had come. The entire room of monsters was calm now... well, as calm as they ever got (no more than a mere five things were being thrown through the air at any one time). So she floated over to Robin and took his hands in hers, smiling a little at his expression. She knew exactly what to do, she had seen many of the Earth musical performances. There had to be dancing with the song.
"They are petty, and foolish, and mindlessly cruel," she sang, helping Robin along into a series of steps she understood was an Earth waltz. Tamaranian dancing would have been more fun for her, but perhaps less so for him, and might have roused their onlookers to violence again with its physical fervor. "And to sing without fear is the act of a fool. But not for the danger our audience shows, nor for the risk of it coming to blows... for there... is a deeper... danger..." She leaned teasingly closer to him at that last part, and held him captive in her grip of proper dancing pose, amused at how squirmy he became.
"What sort of danger would that be?" It was more of a squeak than a song, but it seemed to work with the flow anyway.
"The danger of opening your heart," she sang to him warmly, dropping his hands and floating away to play coy and let someone else take the lead of the song, if any of her friends were inspired.
"I think you need to explain, Star, even though Raven looks kinda pained, Star," Cyborg surprisingly tossed in absently, not looking away from his work, a sly smirk on his lips.
"No, dude, I get it," Beast Boy came in, walking in front of them as though there was a stage there. "She means... that you just can't SING without feeling a THING! There's no way to do it and still be true to it, you gotta let go and be free! So come on, miss Raven, why don't you be brave and sing us what's on your mind?"
"Not. A. Chance," Raven said slow and distinct, wrapping herself tight in her cloak.
"It is isn't that hard, you see," Starfire sang to her gently, gesturing with a hand. "I will start first, you see... I come from a planet where glorglogs eat flarmul, and glikfakrks dream nice dreams of pliqsuul... and though I dearly miss all of those things, I have learned, you see, that Earth has glorglogs and glikfakrks of the heart!"
"I have no idea what she just said," Beast Boy entered in once more. "But I'm sure it was really meaningful and deep. And speaking of deep, we all know I'm SUPER deep, beneath all my cute green fluff! So I don't need to sing it, so howzabout YOU, Raven? Why don't you show us your stuff?!"
"If I even have stuff, which I seriously doubt, it is strictly off limits and forbidden to be exposed to open air on pain of death."
The worry that Raven was putting herself in danger was abated by how the gremlins were starting to react. Starfire watched them carefully, and they seemed to enjoy the battle between the song and Raven's raspy muttering as much as anything else. Rather than being hostile towards her, some were even encouraging her in their own... gremliny... way. Some of them were putting on hooded blue cloaks (probably stolen from Raven's own wardrobe), and beginning construction of a Raven Fan Club sign with a great many badly-crayoned crows on it. Raven's stubbornness was actually enhancing the performance! They were certain to be able to continue until victory was theirs now... if they could just continue thinking of lyrics....
Robin came in again, grinning mischeviously. "Why don't YOU show her?" he suggested to Beast Boy with a dramatic finger point. "YOU'RE not that deep. In fact I can't blame most girls that think you're a creep!" Back away from the rest of them, still typing frantically, Cyborg let out a guffaw. "If you've got depth in your soul, then let's see you lose your control and open yourself up to us. You have to set a good example if you want Raven's trust!"
"Mister Mask talks about bein' open!" Beast Boy sang back aggressively with a predatory gleam in his eyes. "I hope that he's really not hopin' I'll tell somethin' bad I did last week and get punished without bein' caught! 'Cause this dude is not just any dude, dude, he's gonna sing this song smart and... and..." He stammered to a halt, out of lyrics.
"Whatnot," Robin said lowly, while gremlins started winding up impromptu vegetable catapults.
"...and whatnot!" Beast Boy finished with a relived grin. "Instead I'll just sing some of my life before you guys, a life that wasn't so nice though God knows I tried... but eh, maybe I should've tried harder."
He went on into a song of his childhood in a place called Upper Lamumba that was shockingly honest and emotional. Caught up in the magic of music he sang of how a green monkey had bitten him to turn him into what he was today, how his parents had drowned in a river, and of the many hardships he faced before he joined the Titans. It was more openness than any of them had expected to ever hear... more than they had ever heard Beast Boy tell them of his past, and Starfire wondered what a strange but wonderfully special person he was, to feel better about singing it in the middle of a mission, with countless little reptile monsters listening. The rest of them had no part for the moment; the light of the spot was truly on Beast Boy and Starfire would not have interrupted him for anything in the world or out of it. By the time he was done, she and Cyborg were trying not to cry and failing, and half the gremlins were blowing their noses noisily on polka-dotted handkerchiefs. Robin and Raven seemed totally speechless, subdued by a moment of painful honesty that they probably were unprepared to match. As odd as the scene was, Starfire could honestly think to herself that she had never been prouder of her teammate.
Raven still refused to sing, when he made her another invitation at the end. She actually turned away, unwilling to look in his eyes while denying him again. Starfire was saddened but not surprised. Everything about this was artificial to Raven. She revealed her true self in brief, subtle moments, gone in an eyeblink... was it no wonder that the concept of singing one's heart in front of a mob of enemies was anathema to her? Perhaps she was even simply afraid that nothing she could sing would do justice to the changeling's song as a followup. Beast Boy would not see it that way, though. Beast Boy would not understand... he tried, but he almost never did....
"Come on, Raven it's totally your turn," he sang on heartbreakingly.
"I'd rather not."
"It's your song to sing, your candle to burn!"
"I'll forgive you the strained rhymes. I know you're doing your best in the heat of the moment." It was said in a tone of remarkable good humor for Raven, and it would have really been amusing if it had been said at a less serious moment.
"Why won't you sing?!" Beast Boy demanded.
"It's just not my thing," she replied dryly.
"But it's totally sweet!"
"And not my kind of treat."
"I bared my naked soul to you!"
"There's no part of you I want to see naked! ...and no, I'm not making that rhyme with your stupid line, so stop looking at me like that!"
"Please, dear friend Raven, just one small-sized verse," Starfire tried, tenderly. "If you do not do this, the mission may fail!"
She snorted. "Not even if I had time to rehearse," she rhymed carefully and bitterly. "In fact, I'd much rather burn in... heck."
"I can order you, you know," Robin sang sternly. "If it's for the safety of the team!"
"Oh no, extra chores for disobeying an order. The horror."
"No need," Cyborg broke in with his regular voice for the first time since the song had started, grinning. He tapped one more key with great emphasis. "We're done. It's over. Who's yer daddy, Ravy? Who's yer Cyborgy daddy who just save you from naked soul monster audience karaoke?"
"Cyborg, I'm VERY grateful, but think about who my father is and then think about what you just asked me."
"Oh. Yeah. Oh well. Wave bye bye, gremlins! Time to go melty like cheese in a Philly cheesesteak!" he hooted out at the monsters, as the metal panels keeping the windows blocked began to rise up.
Remembering that the gremlins were not the only ones vulnerable to bright light, Starfire quickly picked up Dudestein and set him underneath a table where he would be safe from the sun's rays.
"There you go, my little friend. I am sorry for your brethren, but at least you will be safe."
"Your concern is appreciated, but I'm quite safe regardless," Dudestein replied with a strange twist in his voice. "Look out a window."
It took a moment for her, and for the rest of the Titans, to realize the situation outside because of the lack of change inside. In fact, the lack of change of lighting was exactly the problem. The panels were raised, the windows should have been letting in great amounts of sunlight. But there was just a dingy grayness that was barely any brighter than the dimness of indoors.
The sky was completely clouded over.
Dudestein walked out from where she had so carefully placed him, laughing softly and twirling his Lego crown in his fingers. "You should have checked the weather first, you silly little teens," he sang with a voice that put the rest of them to shame for its clarity and expressiveness. "And I know it's disingenuous of me, but truly it seems... that I was in need of a way to keep my kin well! And so I had you dears put them under your spell, so that when the time come they would escape and swim... and spawn infinitely more, countless gremlins! As I told you, sweet Starfire, and I told you quite true, my brethren do not plan... but mogwai certainly do! And now we shall rule all the world through chaotic upheaval, and by the way, in case you haven't figured it out yet... I... AM... EEEEEEVVVIIIILLLLLLL!!!!!! Hahahahaaaahaaahaaaahhhhaaaahhhh!!!!"
The glass windows didn't last very long. Gremlins started swarming out in such great numbers that it seemed that they took half the inside of the tower with them, soon carpeting everything in sight on the small island. All headed towards the sea, instinctively, all cackling their mad, hyper, sadistic cackles. Starfire wouldn't have been able to count them all even if her eyes hadn't been blurry from tears of anger and shame at the betrayal. She had trusted and cared for Dudestein! And even now, even now, he just looked so adorable that it was hard to believe that he would do anything of this nature!
The mission took precedence over personal matters, though. As did Robin's panic-ridden orders.
"TITANS! WE CAN'T LET ANY OF THEM REACH THE OCEAN! IF THAT HAPPENS THEY'LL MULTIPLY ALL OVER THE PLANET! DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO, BUT STOP THEM FROM GETTING IN THE WATER!"
Putting her aching heart aside for a warrior's discipline, Starfire soared through the hole where there had once been a window, and started laying down thick layers of green energy death wherever she saw something cackly and scaled moving.
Robin had thougt he'd been in hard fights before. He'd battled enemies both powerful and cunning, walked straight into traps and somehow come out alive, endured psychosis-causing drugs, electrocution, Joker's laughing gas, and Batman's uncompromisingly tough tutelage. None of it compared to what he was facing now, what his team was facing down. For the first time, he'd given them a mission he suspected to be truly impossible. There were hundreds of gremlins, possibly thousands! All boiling out of the tower from all sides with one goal in mind: a nice, friendly, apocalyptic swim. Only possible because he'd been stupid enough to forget such an obvious aspect of the environment as the weather! At least it wasn't raining, so they weren't immediately screwed. On the other hand, perhaps instant failure would be kind compared to this task he'd set his family on.
There was no time to worry about nonlethality, no time to back each other up, no time for anything except taking down a target and then immediately looking for another target to take down. He was proving the most ineffectual due to the lack of weaponry; his martial arts was effective at defending himself, but the take one down at a time routine hw as managing simply wasn't fast enough, a mere drop of water in the onrushing stream. So he knew the other Titans would be doing much better and still struggling, and that knowledge caused him to start doing things he'd never done before, things his years of training had discouraged and buried. Risky, clumsy, brutal things, berserker fighting tactics designed only to maim and kill and KO without any concern for the wellbeing of the fighter. There wasn't time to care about whether he got bitten, or clawed, or stabbed with some of the Titans' own cutlery! No time to be tired, either. He could allow himself to hurt and be exhausted when it was all done. One way or another.
It was the kind of battle that seemed to last an eternity even though it was probably quite brief. The same sort of desperate importance that skewed his perception of time when fighting against Slade, when every word the man spoke seemed to stretch Robin's whole perception of the world into a cold, icy hell of futile violence. This time, the individual enemies were completely laughable, but the raw numbers were far beyond anything even five superheroes should have been called upon to fight. Too many, far too many. Even Superman and the Flash working together couldn't manage a mess like this. The world would forgive the Titans for failing.
But Robin wouldn't forgive himself for ordering the Titans to fight to the last and then allow himself to do anything less, and so he fought, negligible chance of victory be darned.
In the end, somehow, covered in slime and other fluids that didn't bear too much thinking about, Robin lived to see that negligible chance of victory come to pass. He had no idea what insane heroics his comrades in arms had done to cause it. He would have to ask them afterwards. After a shower, and a nap, and a meal. It seemed impossible, and for almost a minute his dazed brain didn't really grasp the situation as he just stared blankly at the corpse-covered island, looking and looking for another moving target and bewildered to not find any. Then the meaning of it hit him, and with that all the pain and weariness he'd suppressed through adrenaline came rushing in too. He almost collapsed on the spot. He probably would have, except he saw Starfire's silhouette in the distance, near the shore. He limped towards her instinctively, needing to bask in her strength and warmth.
Then, with horror, he saw the second silhouette near the shore: Dudestein. Only a few feet away from the water, and striding ever closer on his stumpy little legs. Jolted by the nightmarish visions of a gremlin-infested world, Robin gave Starfire an order he'd never thought he'd give.
He ordered her to kill.
"STARFIRE! TAKE HIM OUT! NOW!" he yelled, feelings his ribs protest burningly as he did so. He couldn't get there fast enough. He had no projectile weapons. There was no time for subtlety, no time for Starfire to try and subdue, not when so much was at stake... there was no time, no time!
The mogwai halted to look up at Starfire, hands grasping each other in a pleading gesture, eyes all sparkly and wet.
"But... I cannot! He is too... too cute!" she wailed.
"THIS ISN'T THE TIME TO BE SO... STARFIRE, STARFIRE! IF HE GETS INTO THE OCEAN THE WORLD IS DOOMED! KILL HIM!"
The trembling of her hands was very noticeable because they were lit up with globes of energy that flickered and trembled to match the hands holding them. Dudestein just stood there, apparently figuring that passiveness was his best hope for survival. "I... I..." Starfire stammered uncertainly. "I CANNOT!" She lowered her hands and her head, weeping.
Feeling as though it were a scene from a nightmare, Robin watched helplessly as Dudestein resumed his march towards the sea. He ran stumblingly to try and stop the worst from happening, but he knew he was too slow, too slow. There wasn't enough time, and Starfire wasn't going to do what had to be done. Gremlin apocalypse, here we come. It would be like a zombie movie only way more annoying.
Chuckling in glee, Dudestein halted at the very edge of the shoreline, stuck one foot out with mocking deliberateness, wiggling the toes, then letting it move down to the water, closer and closer.
Like a jack in the box, Silkie popped out from underneath a small pile of dead gremlins, slimier than ever but still perky. He arced through the air with a neatly lunging pounce, landed precisely on Dudestein, and swallowed the little mogwai whole. It happened so fast that Dudestein didn't even have time to look up, let alone cry out.
After a long, strained pause, Silkie burped out a brown and white hairball, then looked at Starfire with a vaguely apologetic expression.
Robin closed in on Starfire, and hesitantly put a hand on her shoulder. She twitched but kept staring at Silkie.
"So... Silkie saves the day, huh..." he said shakily.
"Apparently it is so," she replied in a monotone, twitching again.
They both looked at Silkie for a long, long time.
"That was actually a little creepy, I think," Robin said finally.
"I must agree."
He sighed and hugged her, and she let him.
There was no way they were gonna be able to fix up the tower by nighttime, so they all decided to just let it be a total wreck until tomorrow. Everyone wanted to eat and shower and sleep. The only problem was, most of their food had been eaten (they ordered pizza... and boy was the delivery man weirded out!), and the showers were broken (they used washrags to get sort of kind of semi-clean), and the beds were all torn up and nasty. Beast Boy was delighted to discover that his room was the only one in the whole tower to be mostly unharmed! The door was ripped off, but other than that it was fine, so they hung a drape in the doorway for a little privacy. Raven thought it was because even gremliny little monsters couldn't stand the smell. But for whatever reason, he was the lucky one, and he did have a bunkbed, so he offered to share with one of the others. He'd thought maybe Cy would take up the offer, but Cyborg insisted that he didn't need a comfy bed so someone else should take it. And then Robin insisted that he was fine on what was left of the couch, so one of the girls should take it. And Raven refused to admit to wanting a nice soft bed, so somehow or other Beast Boy ended up bunking with Star.
Secretly he was a little pleased that they didn't even think to be worried of him peeping on her or anything like that. Especially since he wouldn't, he was way more mature than that! Unless it was like an accident or something. A dude couldn't help accidents. But mostly it just felt like a sleepover, and that was how he treated it. Except they were both way too tired to do any of the fun sleepover stuff like making shadow animals or telling ghost stories. Instead, they talked haltingly, awkwardly, about Dudestein and all the gremlins. Somehow it seemed right that that little jerk had died in a totally goofy way. It fit with the whole silliness of the gremlinvasion, as Beast Boy was now calling it. Silly bad guys should die in silly ways, just like Bob the evil tofu alien. Except, he was really pissed and a little depressed that after all the hard work he'd gone to with Starfire to take care of Dudestein, that the little guy had turned out to be a traitor. That was kinda one of those bitter things to swallow. Bitter pills, yeah. And the more you swallowed the more bitter it got, you never got used to it.
"S'just like Terra," he mumbled, staring up at the bottom side of the bunk Starfire was stretched out on. "Me and you try so hard to be all nice and stuff, and Raven's the suspicious one, and Raven always gets to be right. S'not fair. I just get so sick of her being right all the time. You know?"
Before Starfire could reply, though, a quiet voice started singing through the curtain covering the doorframe. Self-conscious and delicately rough, it took a few seconds for Beast Boy to even recognize it.
"It's natural to dwell over things that went wrong... but you have to recall that all along... there've been many more times when love was returned... so don't feel too sad for the times you get burned."
Starfire and Beast Boy sat up and looked towards the doorway in mutual astonishment, but Raven was already gone.