Author's Note: I wrote most of this out a long time ago, as a rough draft, but then set it aside and didn't go back to it for ages. There was a lengthy spell of car trouble and associated money trouble which messed up my daily routines for weeks. By the time my life was feeling more normal, I somehow wasn't in the mood to work hard on my fanfic projects immediately. I started spending more time catching up on my reading, and watching TV shows on DVD, and so forth. I wouldn't call it "writer's block"—more a case of "writer's lassitude."

("Lassitude sounds so much better than "laziness," don't you think? More poetic. Any fool can be lazy, but being lassitudinous takes special skill! For one thing, you have to know how to spell it!)

Incidentally: This story presumably takes place before Season Five, when the Titans spent a lot of time running around handing out communicators to every teenage hero they could think of.


Chapter Five: Wannabes!

3. Batman occasionally runs into people who have snazzy costumes and not much else in the way of qualifications—but they want to be superheroes anyway. We'll probably hear from some of those. Granted, some may actually have qualifications; it's very hard to tell from a letter. There's no perfect rule for responding to every possible type of wannabe, but my advice is: If it sounds like they don't have any powers in the first place, then it's probably not smart to encourage them to risk their necks fighting real villains who won't pull their punches.

(Sure, Batman and I break that rule, but he trained for years and years before he started doing it for real. By the time I came along, he was able to give me crash courses in all the important things he'd learned along the way. And he and I have very strong motivations for doing what we do—we know the risks and we accept them. We don't just think it's a videogame where you can "pause" or "restart" any time you're close to death.)

(Quoted from Robin's guidelines.)


Dear Raven: I just luv that whole Goth thing you have going for you. Who does your hair? How do you get that exact shade on your face and legs so that you practically look like a nosferatu?

P.S. Where do I go to study sorcery so I can throw people through the air whenever they aggravate me—just like you do?

Carla Cadescu

Raven sat back and pondered. First, she got the terrible feeling that the young writer didn't realize Raven's pale-gray complexion was its natural self, rather than reflecting a heavy reliance on pancake makeup. Second, nobody "did" her hair, not in the sense Carla probably meant; violet was its natural color, and aside from having a barber chop it off above the collar every once in a while, Raven didn't see any need to spend money on fancy coiffures.

As to the part about gaining the powers to let you be a butt-kicking sorceress . . . Raven considered saying: Dear Carla, if you want to follow in my footsteps by having frightening amounts of mystic potential just waiting to be trained, then you have to start nine months before you're scheduled to be born, by making sure your mother mistakenly becomes intimate with a demon lord. This guarantees some heavy-duty magic-using capability will be encoded in your genes. Next, make sure your mom gets custody of you and takes you to Azarath for a reasonably healthy upbringing—but since it's already a tad too late for all that in your case, I recommend you junk the whole idea.

No, no, no. She wasn't going to say that. On the other hand, she had no intention of budgeting the time to personally test every wannabe-sorceress for mystic potential. That wasn't her job!

Come to think of it . . . whose job was it to sift out the serious candidates from the wishful thinkers? You never knew where those genes would crop up. She made a note to inquire later. Someone in the Justice League ought to know about these things . . . but if any fool solemnly advised her to forward such letters to the faculty at Hogwarts, she was liable to lose her temper!


Dear Beast Boy:

How did you learn how to turn into all those neat animals? Is there some magic word you need to say? Like "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"? Just think of how I could scare my sister by suddenly being a big spider dangling right in front of her face when she's brushing her teeth! Or making the noise of a rattlesnake from under her bed! Or maybe turning into a skunk when people I don't like are hanging around!

Then, after I'm big enough, I could be a superhero like you! Mommy says I won't be old enough for at least another ten years, though.

Yours,
Todd Carpenter

Beast Boy frowned. The spider idea was just gruesome. Absolutely out of the question. No self-respecting shapechanging superhero would ever do that to a girl when she was brushing her teeth. Too easy to get squished, for one thing!

The "hidden rattlesnake" idea was pretty cool, though. And the skunk idea had real possibilities. Somehow, he'd never considered attacking his enemies in that fashion! Maybe that would break Mad Mod's concentration the next time the crazy Limey was trying to hypnotize him?

Regretfully, he typed out a quick answer to tell his admirer that there was no magic spell or other convenient way to make you a loveable green shapechanger.


Dear Cyborg:

Just how does a guy become such a high-tech superhero? I'd love to follow in your footsteps!

Gil Tremaine

Cyborg scowled. Then he started dictating an absolutely honest description of how he had ended up in the "superhero" line of work. Voice-recognition software took it all down.

"Well, first you get roughly half of your body mass destroyed in an accident. Then you wake up to discover that your brilliant scientist father has replaced that with high-tech substitutes when you weren't looking. Then you sit around feeling sorry for yourself for awhile because on the one hand your social life is suffering miserably now that you look so freakish, and on the other hand you'll never be allowed to compete in the Olympics now that you've got all those 'unfair advantages.' (That's a laugh!)

"So you mope around for months, getting most of your fresh air after dark and in a hooded sweatshirt so you aren't quite so conspicuous, until by sheer good luck you wander into the middle of an alien invasion which gives you legitimate targets to hit. And if you're very lucky, the invasion just happens to attract some other weirdos as well, and even one of the aliens turns out to be reasonably friendly, and the result is that before you know it, you've been roped into signing up with the newest superhero team on the block and reporters actually start wanting to interview you about things other than 'How does it feel to have so many of your body parts replaced? What do you intend to do with your life now that your dream of Olympic gold medals has been shattered?'"

He stared at the words on the screen. Maybe a little bit too sour? He'd set that one aside and look at it again tomorrow or the day after, and decide if he really wanted to send it.


Dear Starfire:

I heard on the radio that you are a Vegan. Me too! Small world, isn't it? I had no idea any superheroes lived the Vegan lifestyle!

Starfire frowned as she glanced down to the foot of the letter. She was fairly certain a girl with the name of "Bette Kane" was not from Tamaran or any of the other worlds which orbited Vega. She shrugged that away for the moment; then resumed reading from where she had left off.

I'm pretty good at the old hand-to-hand combat—black belts in two disciplines!—and a great gymnast and all-round athlete, if I do say so myself.

"Yes, you certainly do," Starfire murmured.

I've even got a red-and-gold costume designed; very splashy! Goes well with the name I've picked out: Flamebird! But I've been thinking I need some sort of extra edge. Is there any guaranteed way to duplicate those nifty starbolts of yours? Secret extraterrestrial mineral supplements in the diet, perhaps? BTW, do you know any tricks to greatly augment human strength without making me look like I'm obsessive-compulsive about bodybuilding? The "female wrestler" look just isn't me!

Starfire frowned. Raven's powers derived from demon blood; Beast Boy's came from a risky experiment which saved his life when he otherwise would have died; her starbolts came from a similar source—except the intentions behind that experiment hadn't been nearly so affectionate—and Cyborg's body had been largely crushed. This Bette Kane sounded very proud of what she could already do with her highly trained body; it was most doubtful that she would want to have her arms and legs amputed and replaced by hard metal machinery.

She wrote out a brief reply: I am sorry, but I do not know of any safe and reliable way of gaining superpowers. Sometimes people are born that way and sometimes it happens by what you Earthlings call "the freak accident." I think most of the people who experience such freak accidents suffer terribly or simply die. If there were a sure way to gain such things without too much pain and risk, do you not think millions of people would have already done so? Would not some of your corporations be advertising that they could sell such abilities for fixed prices?


Dear Robin:

My daughter is a great acrobat and the finest archer you will ever see. I call her—I mean she calls herself—"Arrowette." I think she'd fit right in with your team. Do you have any sort of intern program for evaluating people's strengths and weaknesses for a few months? She'd be willing to work without salary, as long as room and board and medical coverage were all provided. By the way, you live on the West Coast—do you have many Hollywood contacts? I never see you doing guest roles on any TV shows, but it stands to reason you must get offers. Or perhaps you take off your mask and disguise yourself before walking in front of the camera?

Robin blinked. This wasn't going the way he had expected. The letter rambled on and on in the same vein. It was signed:

Bonnie King-Jones

Robin took a deep breath and then read it all through a second time to confirm his first impression. Mrs. King-Jones (or Ms. King-Jones, or whatever she might call herself; there was no mention of Arrowette's daddy) apparently felt that the most important aspects of a superhero's lifestyle were garnering lots of good publicity, arranging lucrative licensing deals, networking with the high and mighty, seeking opportunities to do small parts in TV episodes while angling for a movie deal, and perhaps even fighting the occasional criminal! (But she mentioned that last subject only once, very briefly, so Robin felt confident it was at the bottom of her list of priorities for her child.)

Of course he had heard of "stage mothers" before—he'd read that Ginger Rogers's mom had still been right beside her, calling at least some of the shots, when Ginger was in her sixties—but somehow he had never realized there might be a woman who was fixated on turning her little girl into a money-making celebrity superhero. This was just ridiculous!

(Heck, if Robin's own mom and dad had still been alive, he'd have felt no need to consider the superhero lifestyle in the first place. They certainly wouldn't have pushed him in that direction!)

Furthermore, he hadn't even realized the word "Arrow" possessed—much less needed—a feminine form. After all, the female Titans didn't call themselves "Ravenette" and "Starfirette." Presumably the girls figured they were obviously feminine enough without needing to attach any cute French suffixes to their names just to prove it!


Author's Notes:

Bonnie King-Jones and her daughter Cissie King-Jones were regulars in the "Young Justice" title back around the late 90s and early 2000s. Although I didn't realize it until years after I first read about them in a comic book, Bonnie had actually appeared in a few "Silver Age" comic book stories back around the early 1960s. Apparently she worked alongside Green Arrow as "Miss Arrowette," a supporting character who was trying to imitate his example as an archer superhero . . . and then she just faded away into limbo for over 30 years before her teenage daughter ("Arrowette") was introduced as a new superhero in the comics of the 1990s. As far as I know, mother and daughter never got so much as a cameo in any animated series. But if they did live in the timeline of our beloved Teen Titans series, it would have been perfectly in character for Bonnie to write that letter.

In the comic books, Starfire's homeworld of Tamaran orbited the star Vega. On that basis, Starfire can reasonably be called a "Vegan." (I explain this because I don't think "Vega" was ever mentioned in dialogue in the TV episodes.) I decided one of her correspondents hadn't paid much attention to context—just heard that single word and fixated on it, working on the theory that its only possible meaning was "a type of vegetarian."

Speaking of which: There is a "Bette Kane" in the DCU who operates under the name "Flamebird." No powers, but she apparently started superheroics in large part because of a crush on the original Robin (Dick Grayson). Back around the early 1960s she was actually known as "Betty Kane, Bat-Girl" in the comic books, but that part of her career has long since been retconned away into oblivion. To do her justice, the girl in the comic books is bright enough to avoid making the "Vegan" mistake which I inserted as a joke here, so let's just assume this is a younger, more naïve version of Bette, with a shorter attention span!

The other correspondents I made up, as I usually do.