Disclaimer: I do not own the intellectual property related to the Teen Titans, the DC/Vertigo universe, or especially any material of biblical or Hebrew origin. This work of fiction is not intended as a profitable venture.


More Human than Human

Sebastian Batholomew Blood, eighth prophet of the Church of Blood, worshipped the devil.

Or rather, he worshiped a nigh-unto omnipotent inter-dimensional demonic entity of congealed human sin. It amounted to largely the same thing. You sacrifice some goats, rape a few virgins, take avarice and malice as personal virtues, and affect a revilement of the more traditional Abramic cults.

It was all par for the course.

However, the clandestine worship of Scath had a few... hidden catches. You see, he liked to take an interest. As anyone with a manager with similar tendencies could tell you, that never ends well.

So, twenty some odd years ago Sebastian had overseen the procurement of a girl, let's call her Angela Roth, because that's what her licence said, for the purpose of being his master's concubine. He never asked why, and after she escaped somewhere he was unable to follow and his master let the issue drop he no longer cared. Eventually, he found out anyway. Working with hellish beings, you learn not to ask questions.

So he didn't so much as raise an eyebrow when one of the church's mediums directed him to personally perform an invocation ritual at this specific astrological alignment, in this particular city before the poor sod started vomiting organs.

When you get word from the bottom, you follow it. You don't think about it or dither, you get your cyberneticalyenhanced ass into a cab, catch the first flight to Gotham, check in with the local franchise cult, find an abandoned warehouse, draw the seven pointed star in the circle inscribed with Enochian script, enthral seven people no one will miss, and cut their throats at the appointed time while chanting a language you can barely understand.

If you do it you have your master's favor, along withan enhanced lifespan and mind-bending occult powers, an endless stream of fanatical underlings, and the assurance of your family line.

If you don't you will wish the master lets you die by the end of an hour, so the demons back in hell get your soul.

Brother Blood was, in his own humble opinion, not untalented in the arcane arts and as he orbited the ten-foot diameter circle with its seven limp, bloodless occupants, proceeding slowly to assure that all the black grease crayon and white chalk markings upon the concrete were intact he assured himself of this fact, feeling somewhere in the vast emotional range directly between smug and shitting himself.

Checking the pocket watch he had had commissioned in 1922 that kept perfect astrological time to the half second over a decade, he saw by the seven hands there that he had five minuets to spare until the prime alignment for the final incantations.

Best to be prepared then.

Quickly absconding to the wall and returning with a polished metal attache case and entered the combinations on the two locks. Only one of them was 666 and he considered that a mark of personal restraint. From the black foam interior he removed an almost sheer swache of fabric and unfolded it reverently on the silty floor in the few feet between himself and the magic circle.

It was his most precious possession, the prayer shawl of Christ.

Or at least, that's what his august ancestor had believed when he killed a fellow monk for it, then bartered with Scath to escape punishment and somehow working in a centennial life span and eldrich power. All in exchange for a little sin, a little patricide, and the delivery of all the souls of the little nation of Zandia into his keeping.

Sebastian himself couldn't care less if his shroud was a genuineholyartifact. It was a genuine unholy one. It was the material remnant of the deal between the first Brother Blood and the arch demon Trigon. As such it possessed considerable power of itself and enhanced his abilities tenfold.

It is to precious to risk lightly. he thought as he knelt on the ground with his hand before his breast in supplication, No one may look upon it but me.

To fill the time and set the proper atmosphere he began to chant a guttural latinalitanyof rhyming curses upon the Papal seat composed in one of his more verbose ancestor's stewardship of the title Blood.

At what he had little doubt was the precise moment his watch struck the astrological hour, Sebastian Blood felt the sense of a queer pressure, like gravity had been instantly reversed with him affixed to the ceiling, and like being underwater in a swift and sudden current, but most of all like the millisecond before you're struck by lightning.

And then he was blinded by crimson and azure bolts of nameless power dancing like nightmare serpents within the circle and arcing to the alloys in his cyborg frame before igniting in a magnesium white flash that enveloped the bodies before him and giving his remaining skin a fairly sever sunburn.

Raven's first impression of Metropolis was...

Well, it was clean.

Almost antiseptic.

And very, very bright.

Too bright. After half a decade in smoggy, rainy, cramped London, Raven felt vaguely like a blind cave salamander under flood lights when she stepped off the train (Dick was on a surprisingly tight budget for a millionaire's adopted son). She was fairly certain she'd been in deserts with less sun exposure. The very building se could see positively shined.

If she hadn't known for a fact via her empathic sense that it wasn't true, the dark woman would have been convinced that the population of the city, to a man, woman and child was insipidly optimistic, just from the view walking out of the train station.

As it was, as far as she could tell, being in the same city as The Man of Tomorrow seemed to have given the local population an almost universal morale boost. So much so that it seemed to change the very nature of Metropolis' genius loci, its collective spirit, in a fundamental way.

If she spent more than three days in the city limits she was going to end up wearing pastels, she just knew it.

Once she had adjusted to the incipient glare enough to stave off snow blindness, which took a good few seconds, she followed Dick to the motor pool and got in the cab he selected after him.

After a few interesting minutes in which she tried to parse what the chatty Indian cabbiewas saying in his hopefully idiosyncratic pigeon of his native tongue, English, and Rastafarian ghetto slang that was indecipherable despite her having an a fluent understanding of two thirds of its base elements, they arrived in the industrial district and paid the fare.

The building was unremarkable for the neighborhood. That is to say large, concrete, nondescript factory space. The didn't appear to be any sign to indicate this was the right building. It was likely assumed if you needed to get into the Steelworks, you'd know how to get in. Which Raven didn't.

"Are we sure this is the right place?" she asked, with just enough of an arch tone to hid her doubt but not to gall, hoping to prompt Dick on how to enter.

He was interrupted by one ofthe loading dock semi-truck access doors set along the building side farther down the block rolling open and a man hopping down the few feet to ground level.

He was a lanky man in his late twenties or early thirties with an affable face, glasses, and short spiky blond hair. Over all he exuded an impression of easy welcome.

"Hey," he called as he walked the distance to the corner where they waited, the door sliding closed behind him. "Are you the Ms. Roth and Mr. Greyson that called about an appointment?"

"Answers that question." Raven mused to herself as Dick returned the greeting.

"That's us." Dick replied, "We're here to see Victor Stone."

"Vic's running a little late in a meeting. Scheduling is tight at the moment and he told me to watch for you two if he wasn't available. Come on in." He gestured for them to follow with a casual wave.

Proceeding to a rust stained doorway in another wall that looked for all the world like a disused maintenance access, the three proceeded into a large, high roofed industrial space subdivided by floor to ceiling plastic curtains.

"We have a presentation on our proprietary nano-tech running now. With Vic being the resident expert in the field, Mr. Irons lets him handle romancing the Biotech firms and trying to squeeze S.T.A.R. Labs for funding."

"Really?" Dick asked, "I've been following his work the last few years, but this is the first I've heard of his being anywhere near market-ready."

"We're keeping this on the down low until we have FDA clearance for use as a medical treatment." Richie elaborated, "This tech is a whole new way to look at surgery and limb replacement. Hell, most developers are working on just applications at the moment. I can make a toaster into a particle accelerator with a roll of tin foil and some salt water, but what he's cooking up is way beyond next-gen."

There was mechanical detritus littering worktables in many of work areas and futuristic machine tools scattered along the walls. Twice Raven felt an atmospheric pulse that inexplicably made her taste purple. It was all par for the course as far as a mad scientists' lair was concerned, even if these one was on the side of the angels.

What did give her pause, once her attention was directed to its floor to ceiling creche by Dick catching sight of it from the corner of his eye, then stopping to stare at it for a moment where anyone not trained in reserve subterfuge by the batman would have been in open-mouthed shock, was a very large piece of futuristic industrial equipment.

It was big. Barely fitting under the third storey roof big. Its main body was an ovoid shape joining two massive clawed arms. The powerful bipedal legs supporting its mass were slightly crouched in that odd state of resting readiness found in the truly mindless. Its green optic gleamed from its breastplate, but thankfully without even machine comprehension. It was also an eye-popping construction yellow.

"Saw my baby, did you?" Richie asked with more than a little pride when he saw the two former Titans' distracted pause, "That, my good man, is the GLM heavy construction master/slave robot. The core design is all mine, but Mr. Irons assisted with the metallurgy for the exoskeleton and Vic remapped the neuron reader after my initial build was too clumsy to weld. It can follow action you can think of now, as you do it. In five years, this will render every on-sight building machine obsolete save the specialized gear, like cement trucks. Caterpillar is beating down our door to get at the patents."

"I have to say, Richie, I'm impressed." Dick said. Raven, for her part, could hear the gears grinding in his head as he tried to figure out what he was going to do when, most definitely not if, he had to take one down. Commercially available giant robot handed out to an industry that hired a significant number under the table, with a fair number of ex-cons and "union" connections? That wasn't a recipe for disaster at all.

Then again, the same could be said for any bulldozer.

Richie, having properly gloated over his newest creation of science gone mad, directed them to a door set into the far side of the factory space from where they entered.

"This is the presentation room, they were wrapping up the technical stuff on the development and construction of our nanite hive when I stepped out, so by now they should be on to application. Or, as I like to call it, the good part." Hand on the doorknob, he turned with more than a bit of theatrical flair and said, "Stay toward the back of the room, and prepare to be amazed."

Though he was the better part of a century old and a bit of an old hand at magic, demon summonings, and all manner of eldrich things, Sebastian was still rather impressed despite himself with the sheer spectacle of... whatever this was that was entering into the world.

This was for three reasons:

First, The random discharges of energy near both the high and low end of the visual spectrum indicated a lot of wildly fluctuating power was being poured into this manifestation. More, by any rate, than his paltry few sacrifices would generate without considerably more ritual to amplify them. So the thing on the other side was throwing good money after bad to end up here.

Second, the bodies inside the seal were being dissolved by the dancing snakes of energy that leaped between themselves and the seal, leaving a column of air enclosed within its boundriessubstantially thicker, and somehow very greasy. And that meant aether, or kaos or firmament or whatever you cared to call the proto-material before it became matter or energy or time or love or whatever, so this demon was damn well not going to be banished back to its home hell plane the same way it came. It was staying because it was forming a body from the native material of this plane.

Third, his patron demon and this newcomer had some connection, possibly an alliance. There was no other way to send instructions to one of his seers except through his master. It had to be damned impressive to work with Scath without being destroyed summarily for entertainment purposes.

It might offer some advantage to be in this thing's good graces, should such a place exist, not least so that he could stab this thing in the back should he get a chance.

All in all, he had only one option as a self respecting Satanist of his standing. He needed in on the ground floor.

He quickly dropped to proper groveling position, a deep kowtowing bow with his leg muscles loose and ready to spring away should he need to dodge. It was a good position to be in when meeting demonic emissaries, whose egos were literally legendary. With his forehead resting on his palms upon the shawl, he made an ironic tableau of Muslim prayer that might tickle the hell beast's fancy.

"Oh great and sinister master, I, your ignorant and unworthy servant, pledge myself to your service." He debased himself, on the grounds that it was far preferable to acting like a jumped-up tit and being disemboweled by some cthonic horror. Once was enough. "I was not expecting your magnificence, we were only told this was a moment of portentous stars, and to perform a simple summoning."

By the end of his rather sincere sounding apology, the unsubstancein the air above the seal had coalesced into an opaque sulfurous miasma. Whatever was coming through had arrived. From the obscuring smoke came what sounded like the giggle of a girl-child. Blood was very glad for the thick curtain of brimstone in the air just then, because any demon that giggle like a little girl is going to be highly unpleasant even for its species, and he wanted to get in some quality sucking up before it saw him and decided to sponge paint the walls using his internal organs.

"If your greatness would see fit to take me into your service, this humble servant would dedicate himself to your aims, so long as they align with those of my master." He was very sure not to look up, because his peripheral vision showed the smoke to be dissipating. And he definitely heard another little girl giggle. This did not bode well.

He was not looking forward to seeing the monstrosity making that noise, and him a man whose weekend to do list regularly include reminders to seduce the innocent to vice and ritualistic manslaughter and more, man butchery.

He kept his head down in his own self-defence.

"Flattering as the constant adulation and bowing is, we won't get much done if you prostrate yourself all night." The voice speaking was female, which he honestly hadn't really expected, but markedly older and more mature than the tone of the giggling. Self assured, and a bit sardonic, its tone nevertheless lacked the bitter contempt most demon-spawn held for mortal servants. Blood risked his sanity and raised his gaze to the speaker.

What had come through the inter-dimensional portal from an unknown hell world was an attractive if rather superior looking young woman of about 20. She wore a light pink tank top, low slung jeans with a wide studded belt, and shin high boots. She looked down on him in more ways than the purely literal from all of five feet and four inches tall. He had not anticipated this.

"Yes, er...my lady." Brother Blood replied as he climbed to his feet in a slight state of shock.

"Well, at least you take instruction." she mused, more to herself than anyone else. Running her eyes up and down, no doubt noting his cybernetic enhancements. Looking over her shoulder into the still-smoking circle she called out, "Hey Sam, are you sure this is our contact? No-one said he was half Ipod."

A hereto unknown tic manifested itself in the corner of his left eye.

As the noxious gas cleared, Sebastian could see several other figures in the summoning circle. Most of them were very indistinct. One looked like a small, near adolescent child, another was six foot and then some and wide across the shoulders. Unfortunately this was the one to step forward.

He was every bit as large as his silhouette implied, and was muscled like the rather less civil sort of barbarian hero. His skin was a uniform rather ruddy color like a bloodhound's roan, and his long, dark hair was wiry rather than smooth, so that one would almost call it fur. He wore little, just a black leather vest, belted black jeans and motorcycle boots with hanging chains.

As he came to look over Blood like the girl had done, Sebastian noted his features were quite brutish. His jaw was almost too square, his brow too heavy, his nose hooked and squashed and broken. Only his dark eyes belied this ogreish impression, they glittered with native and malicious intelligence.

"Are you Brother Sebastian Blood, eighth of that line and that name?" he asked in a rather scratchy baritone

"I am." he replied

"And have you sired your successor?"

That was a question he rather he not been asked, especially with the family history of death by patricide. Still, he wasn't immortal, just long lived. He had little choice but to continue his bloodlineorbe... punished for breach of contract as his life came to a close. His offspring, the little larva was not old enough yet for solid foods. Still, that the topic was thought at all ralavent was not encouraging in the least.

"Er-Yes, master Samuel." And he flinched at the slow shifting of that brutal face toward anger at his reply.

"My name," the dark man said in a merciless tone that bordered on terminal finality, "is Samael." The old man's eyes went wide with fear and an imperceptible misting of terror driven tears. It was not a name called upon lightly.

"Not that Samael." the girl corrected her large comrade, lightly slapping his shoulder in annoyance way of rebuke. "His mother had a flair for the dramatic, is all. Which this one seems to have inherited."

She threw and arm around his neck, which dragged the much taller man down considerably, but he mad no move to shake free of her irreverent handling.

"We call him Sam to prevent confusion, given the circles we run in."

"We?" Blood asked curiously

"Our siblings." she said, carelessly waving her free arm at what he saw was a circle of five adolescents ranging from a twelve year old girl with hip length brown hair in an orange jumper and white stockings, to a rather oily eighteen year old with a hungry, rangy look to him and furtive green eyes. Despite there different features, coloration, ages and bearings, there was some indefinable commonality between them, the same subtle menace. Some whispering of his unconscious mind recognised a resemblance he couldn't quite quantify, just there, along the line of the brow.

"Of course my lady I can see the resemblance." he differed.

"I just bet you can." the young woman dismissed, before changing subject and miens, going at once from sarcastic to haughty as her brother spoke.

"Do you wish you be of service, Blood?" the dark and sinister man asked, finally slipping from his sister's grasp.

"Yes, Lord Samael. Of course my lord." he bowed his head in diffidence, which may have even been genuine.

"Then let us make..." he paused, as though savoring his next words before releasing them "a deal."

It had been a long time since either Titan had seen Victor Stone. Raven hadn't seen him since she left the team, and what with secret identities, Dick hadn't seen him either since the last time the JLA called them both for a crisis. That had been about two years ago.

He was both the same, and very different than they remembered him. Physically, as was to be expected, he as very much the the man they had known. His frame and features were the same, but as they were essentially locked intohis rather developed sixteen year old dimensions, that was no surprise.

But he was aged, around the eyes a little, and carried himself... heavier somehow, heavier in years. The ways his applied hologram mirrored his living features, (and clothed him an a nicely tailored slate grey suit) gave him a gravitas that his calm, so unusual for a teenager, had hinted at. And he spoke with a deep chested baritone that was nothing if not confident.

The gathering within the room seemed to be somewhere between a academic lecture, a corporate press conference,(without any reporters in this case) and a stockholder's meeting. Victor was currently giving a discourse upon the Steelwork's latest development.

"Our technology is a quantum leap in the art of human organ replacement." Dr. Stone said from behind his podium, responding to a question not heard the the former vigilantes entering discretely through a side door of a small, darkly lit auditorium. "Engineered with the help of Dr. Ray Palmer, the foremost expert in nanobiology and engineering, each nanobot is active only when in the range and under the influence of the core hive mind."

As he spoke, his eyes lost focus, just slightly. If you didn't know of it, it would have been imperceptible. But the Titans in the room knew he was using his internal HUD to activate some external device. This bore out when the screen behind him, which until then had show what looked to be a nanobot, all insectile angles forged of chemical engines and quantum programming, to show a generated graphic of a human brain...with some additions.

"While I am fully aware that cybernetic enhancement is far from commonplace, rest assured that the implants are based upon the interface designed by my father, a system that has run through torture-test conditions for over a decade with no failures. Our equipment is, admittedly, less ambitious.

"Once the artificial limb has been crafted by the colony from undifferentiated cell cultures and surgically attached, the hive-mind takes command. This system is designed to constantly broadcast a signal directing the swarm in all activities, but without certain criteria being met, those being catastrophic injury, the system is only allowed to accelerate the healing process and facilitate control of the limb.

"What assurances do we have of the system being secure?" asked on of the lab coats in the audience "Any system using radio waves is susceptible to interference, interception and pirate signals. What measures are being taken to ensure The nanomachines in the patent's body won't become a danger?"

"The system used a combination of a biometrically encoded carrier wave and an artificial hormone structure to relay instructions. The lack of either disables the nanomachines, and they're coded to respond only to the hive signal, with which they are in constant contact. Any interference would at worst trigger a reset, which will only be initiated once both the chemical and broadcasted instructions are received.

"In addition, the frequency channel we use for the transmission is both currently unused in any known application and exstremelyshort range, to the order of two meters before it disperses to background radiation at a geometric falloff rate. It is very intense within that field, however, to the point of overpowering anything within it form any other system is in short, as secure as can be made for a prosthesis short of actually running wire through the patient. Next question."

"Dr. Stone, a number of your earlier prosthetic design included meta-material synthetic tissue and bone structures that would give greater than human strength and durability." This from a woman in a burgundy pantsuit that thought he recognized from a few Wayne Industries product demonstrations from years earlier. She worked for DARPA if her remembered correctly. "What applications for those technologies are to be made available?"

"Those technologies were developments based upon my fathers work and incorporated the earliest prototypes of my control system and nanomachine maintenance systems." Vic awnsered, but seemed rather put out by the question. "Unfortunately the modifications, even for a single limb almost universally required reinforcement of the skeletal structure up to and including the spinal column to prevent inducing further injuries. As such, the risk was too high to use the procedure on the heavily injured, and any proactive use for the military had ethical implications and issues of liability that mad it more practical to mothball the project and use the data for the formation of this system."

At his he seemed to have satisfied the majority of his audience's immediate concerns, so he finished his lecture.

"If there are no more questions..."

"It is quite simple." Samael began, noting Brother Blood's wary incomprehension, "We require your experience, connections, and abilities, being new to this plane. And you, presumably wish to be more powerful, to live longer, and all the usual temptations mortals covet. Correct me if I am mistaken."

As Blood refrained from resounding, he continued.

"With such being the case, and my siblings and I regrettably having some...concerns regarding, not your capability or competence, but rather the arbitrary limits that have been placed upon your mystic abilities. I would change this, should you allow me."

"To what end?" the satanic monk asked, wary enough to risk seeming impudent, rather than except a hellspawns' gifts at face value. He was surprised when it was the girl who responded.

"Even with whatever after market mods you've fitted into yourself, our sources say you don't have the physical chops to pull off what we need. We're talking tossing around cars here, but we still need someone with brains and some magical know-how.

"So, instead of hiring someone like that who we might not be able to trust, or giving some poor schlub what we want and enslaving him, we elected to invest that time and energy in you. Someone bankable."

After a moment of consideration, in which he did not contemplate debasing her of that fantasy despite it inaccuracy, preferring his limbs where they were, Sebastian asked the only question that rally mattered since they said the word "deal".

"What are your terms?"

"Simple enough," the the dark and sinister man said. "we increase you destructive magics, your durability, and your life span will be extended...shall we say twenty years? Our fee will be that you do as we bid until our current mission is fulfilled. A little fetch-and-carry work, some research, a few murders. Nothing too heavy."

Blood was no fool. This deal would only come once, that much was apparent. And it was unlikely he had any real choice but to help these teenage hell spawn. They were allied to his master, and if he didn't agree now, being ordered to assist without the offered help would be... undesirable.

The offer was advantageous. Too much so. There was likely a catch, there always was with demon's deals.

On the other hand, he was already Damned.

"I accept your terms, master and mistress." He said with the subservience of a vassal addressing his patron. "What is thy will?"

"Well, that is more like it." the snide comment came from the petulant young man in his late teens Blood had noted before. The older demon kin ignored him.

"First thing's first." the young woman asserted.

"Indeed. To seal the deal and claim your boon, you need only to take my hand" Sam match action to words, offing his hand to Blood. His eyes seemed...hungry.

But his was no time for misgivings, the self dammed have no salvation.

Sebastian gripped the outstretched hand and felt a discharge of demonic magic like 20,000 volts of electricity ground itself in him and burro deep into the heart of his shriveled soul, in the core of his mystical power. Within the part of him that allowed his will to bent reality, he felt a pressure build. His gift swelled like a blister filled with oily pus as corrupt energies flloded him, and his identity strained to accommodate until something finally broke.

He was screaming. And then he was falling.

Once the last scientists, CEOs, and government employees had departed, Richie gave the two former titans his leave and Vic was free to talk to two of his best freinds.

"Raven, Dick, good to see you. What brings you two to my humble workshop?" he asked with every appearance of somewhat weary affability.

"Well the world is in danger, its unintentionally my fault, and we need your help to avert the apocalypse" Raven reported with little irony and an absolute straight face. As an after though she added, "And I go by Rachel now in civvies."

"It's her father." Dick added as a clarification.

"Well, except for the name that was about what I was expecting." he said, "Actually this is pretty nostalgic. I feel ten years younger."

"You might feel ten years younger, but you look like an linebacker going to court. " Dick interjected, "Cot the hologram Vic, PR is one thing, but we're all family here."

"Yeah, alright man." Vic relented, touching a ring on his right middle finger. Abruptly his skin in several areas became titanium and ceramic, though he was still wearing the suit. Idly Raven wondered where he got it tailored to fit a four foot mantle across his shoulders.

"So, what are the details." he asked them.

"Sketchy. Rae knows the details, but her...employer isn't letting her disclose anything except as need-to know. Until we have the whole team, that's not us, apparently." Dick explained. "Kori is flying in on Friday and Gar is MIA. Once we find him we can hash out the details."

"I'm sorry I can't tell you more. I am... not permitted to disclose what I know until I have a commitment to fight Trigon. And if anyone deserves to be the first to hear this, it'd be Gar." Raven said with an uncharacteristic amount of self-confidence. "It's the least I owe him."

"You got that right." Vic agreed, disapproval for the long ago hurt she dealt his best friend radiating at a low burn, like a banked fire. Raven felt the subtle hostility of the grudge easily enough, and didn't blame him. It was a horrible thing she had done to Gar.

"So are you in?" Dick asked, changing the subject to try and forgo useless open conflict.

"Like that's even a question." Vic scoffed, "But there are issues."

"Like?" Dick pressed.

"My work here is at a critical point. I'll need a few days to clean up the details so it can sit for a while. Besides that I have to get my affairs in order. I haven't exactly been dong a lot of long term missions lately." he paused, then finished at double his usual talking speed, trying to keep them from focusing too much on what he was saying. "AndIneedtotellmygirlfriendI'llbegone."

"Girlfriend huh?" Dick asked, with a shit-eating grin on his face. "Anyone we know?"

"No. And she doesn't like the whole superhero thing either." Vic said, indignant. "Her name is Jessica and its serious enough for me to not want to fuck this up because some perpetually constipated demon decided he had a mad-on for the world this year."

"Okay man, no need to get bent out of shape." Dick soothed

"I'm serious." Vic said, looking at Raven now. "I don't meet many women who are cool with the whole suit-of -armor thing in a long term relationship. I like this girl. She likes me. What she doesn't like is her peaceful normal life being disturbed by kidnapping attempts, ninja assassins, alien robot war machines, and anything else that ii drastically hazardous and unusual for anyone but us.

"So please, I know you can't promise she'll be safe, or anything. Fine. But you can give me the time I need to tell her what's going on, and that we'll do whatever we can to keep this off her doorstep. And another thing-"

"Victor!" Raven interrupted as he took a breath to perpetuate his rant.


"It's not a problem. We have time. For now." raven assured him. "My father's operatives haven't begun their endgame, yet. We're good."


"Really. Take your time. See your girl. Get everything in order."

The mind of Brother Blood was as dark as the depths of Tartarus, .and he slept without dreams. He knew only oblivion, but had he been able to listen properly, from his damadged, healing rest, this is what he would have heard.

"Is he out?" A feminine voice shaded with both curiosity and disinterest. The girl from before.

"Yes. The process of imbuing that sort of power is very stressful. He won't awake ere dawn." Male, low and brutish; oddly precise diction.

"Will he be able to do the job?" a boy in his late adolescence, not yet a man. His tone is husky and arrogant.

"He will. He's gambling we won't get him killed or actually succeed in letting father loose. He's planingbothsides against the middle with his life at stake and hell waiting. He'll be conscious of our scrutiny, and won't risk us offing him as a traitor. He'll perform." This from the sly young gentleman Blood had noted before.

"Question is, will he do a good enough job not to tip off our bitch sister?" A young man with a grudge, who seemed to spew a bit of bile with every syllable like a vat of boiling acid.

"So long as we don't have to do the leg work until miss goodie two shoes shows up I don't give a damn if he draws attention. Let them think he's up to something. We arn't going to tell him enough to be betrayed properly." This girl was unconcerned and laconic at their ruminations, in fact neglectful would have been a better word.

"Tiffy! Can we somewhere to sleep now? I'm tired and hungry, and this place is dirty and cold and covered in blood." A child this time, high pitched but nearly sexless. Just a hint of girlishness to its innocent petulance.

"Alright Sara. We'll break into a house somewhere." The first voice again, this time with a tone of taxed patience and competence. "Somebody leave a note for Blood on where and when to meet tomorrow."

A/N: Well this was much too long in the coming. No excuses, it is what it is. I only ask if you like what you see the to tell me so, that I might summon my enthusiasm and actually write/type what I have in my head.

I ask you to bear with the typos and errors. that is fro the most part the rather evil formatting of the editor on this website, which seems to forget alterations entirely when it feels like, and sees certain syllables as words no matter where they show up.

I finally get around to introducing the primary villains this chap, but still nothing major plot-wise. Sorry, that's next time.

Alot of cameos here at the Steelworks. yes, that was Gear, a few years on. And the GLM? the golem robot from that one episode of Batman Beyond. I figured it would fit with Gear making it, what with the precedent Back-Pack and the neural interface reversed engineered from Braniac. Dr. Palmer is of coursethe Atom, and Dr. Irons is Steel.

I have some other ideas for Steelworks, which we will come to in future chapters. Cyborg has been a busy little bee, and I intend to breach at least one of the great questions in the DC universe: "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"

Also, If you care to check out Raven's family tree on wiki, you can tell who I intended the new villains to be. Rest assured, I have made heavy changes to their characterization, as I found the idea good but the execution lacking.

Next up, villain activity,ill-advised experimentation, and BB makes his debut.