A Xenocide Production
AN: This is an updated version of MG. I've decided to turn it into my own little chaptered fic, of which I hope will only be 5-6 chapters long. I'd like to be able to boast at least one complete chaptered fic. Note extensive reworking and addition of some scenes.
Summary: Every bird must someday die. Fly away, little robin.
Disclaimer: I cry myself to sleep each night in the hopes that the copyright gods will hear my prayers and grant me Teen Titans. I'm considering converting.
Prologue: Split Personality
There is one thing that they will never discuss.
No matter how close they are, no matter how strong the bonds of family may be, it is something that they clasp closely to themselves, almost obsessed with the unspoken rule of silence.
It was something that they never dared to speak of, and so they kept it locked up in that dark place where secrets are whispered but never spoken.
It hangs over their heads each day, and every waking moment it murmurs in the depths of their consciousness, a slumbering beast that they dare not call attention to, lest it waken.
It bleeds into the long silences between them, when they merely sit and stare at each other, almost unwilling to reach out and connect with another person. Thankfully, these silences are few and far in between, and they do everything in their power to ensure that kind of painful awkwardness never gains a foot hold in their home, whether it be by playing a videogame at louder than comfortably acceptable levels, ensconcing oneself into the depths of the white noise of a book, keeping the mind and body strong and sharp with strenuous training, or carefully immersing oneself in a foreign culture.
It was something that they breathed in each day, a faint taint in the air that permeated their being. It crept into the dark corners of their minds and lay there, festering and slowly growing beyond their means to control. It was intangible, yet it grew so powerful that one merely had to extend one's hand to feel it writhe in the air between them.
It colored their interactions with one another. It chose their words. It dictated their movements. And it planned out every moment of their lives.
They all have their ways of avoiding the discussion and they've perfected the motions they go through to do so. They are a well oiled machine of selective ignorance and they know it.
Robin, the eternally stoic and cold protégé of the Dark Knight, can no longer deny the existence of this glaring fault in his team. Truth be told, even he did not want to face the truth of things, which went against every instinct that his mentor had instilled in him.
His training had taught him to be ruthless, calculating, and unflinching. His team had taught him to be warm, relaxed, and human. These two integral natures inside of him warred for dominance, and as the years went by and the battles grew deadlier and fiercer, Tim could not refute the sound logic that Robin presented to him.
Robin knew that sometime, in the far flung but ever nearing future, the Titans would engage an enemy that was stronger, faster, and smarter than them. And when that day came, they would be dethroned as their namesakes had been before them by the younger, upstart gods.
It would come.
Someone would make a mistake. A finger would slip. Someone would be a fraction of an inch too late. Or strength might fail them at a crucial moment.
So he trained them. He beat into them the desire to survive, the will to fight, and a sort of quiet desperation to make sure that the person standing next to them made it through each battle relatively unscathed. It was a mantra that each spoke in their own heart, driven by the steady beat of the heart of the team.
Then came Terra. Terra was the first blow that shook the foundations of their faith. Though faced with surmounting evils and atrocities committed in the shadows of their City, the Titans still had not lost that sense of innocent naiveté, the belief that good would always triumph over evil, and no one could tarry so long in the dark that they could be brought about to see the light. The death of Terra shattered that belief into a thousand granite pieces and scattered the dust into the quiet places of the earth. On that day, the Teen Titans became merely the Titans, as if to mark the passage from childhood to the dark, solemn halls of truth and adulthood.
They trained even harder, pushed each other to the brink, determined to hold on as tightly as was humanly possible.
But despite all the training that Robin could give them, the day would come. And when it came, it would be the end of everything.
The end began with the sound of labored breathing.
The Tower is a dark and lonely place at night. Night deepens the shadows, enlarges the gloom, and builds up the towering strawmen of nightmares that haunt the dreams of children.
Only the Infirmary was lit; pale, alien lights that weren't comforting or warm. Harsh fluorescence illuminated five faces, one of which lay deathly pale in a bed, clothed in medicinal white robes. Silence, that thing they obsessed over and coveted so, blanketed them so thickly it was tangible. The sharp tang of defeat, guilt, and misery lay on the tip of every tongue.
Robin's voice was cold with fury. "Why wasn't anyone watching?"
Four heads studiously refrained from meeting the whites of his eyemask, which never left the form that lay so still before them.
"How could this happen?! We've trained day in and day out to prepare for this eventuality and not one of you even SAW her go down!?" Robin's voice was a razor, slicing deeply into their skin with each vehement utterance. He was right, they all thought. Absolutely right. Why didn't we see? It was all there right in front of us and yet here we are, watching one of our own struggle to breath in and out.
Eyes were glued to the unsteady rhythm of the chest.
"It just happened, man." Cyborg said quietly. "Nothing we could have done about it."
In and out.
In.....a stuttering pause....and out.
"Things don't 'just happen', Cyborg. We train so things don't JUST HAPPEN." Robin was on the verge of losing control. He never yelled in anger. Never belittled a teammate in the heat of the moment.
A small, elfin lad slowly raised a hand to comfort the leader. "Dude, we're not perfect. Even she would admit--"
"She knows we're not perfect, Beast Boy. There's a hole the span of my hand in her chest." The withering retort and cold glare stopped Beast Boy's hand just shy of Robin's shoulder. It hovered a moment, then brought itself back down to rest on the railing.
"I do not think that you are perfect either, Robin."
Robin stiffened and drew his mouth into an angry line. Cyborg and Beast Boy watched; in and out...in and out.
Emerald eyes met his and held his gaze for a few moments. There was no warmth where there usually was, only pity and perhaps a touch of fear. Robin looked away first, whirling towards the exit.
His cloak whispered softly against the metal doors as they closed on his heels.
Robin was alone with his thoughts.
The elevator hummed quietly as it rose up through the depths of the Tower, towards Robin's quarters. The Tower was big enough so that each Titan could choose a room to his or her liking without having to worry about convenience or design. Cyborg chose the laboratory to be his quarters, mostly because it was one of the few places in the Tower that he could securely recharge his internal power source without fear of being attacked when vulnerable. It was also just up a ways from the Infirmary, unofficially his domain as well. Beast Boy had once lived on the top floor with both Raven and Robin, but since Terra had come and gone, he had moved to the same floor where her room still resided, empty and full of the smell of the desert. Raven and Robin preferred the top floor, each for their own reasons. Raven liked the privacy and solitude it mostly afforded her, though the others had had an unwelcome tendency to knock on her door whenever they pleased. Robin was similar to Cyborg in that he chose his quarters based on need and convenience. Whenever the main computer sounded an alarm, he was closest to the command center, and thus, was always the first Titan to respond. Batman had literally beaten vigilance into Robin and it was not such an easy thing to forget.
The doors opened and Robin whisked out into the corridor, stalking angrily down the brightly lit hallway.
His thoughts churned with rage and fear. Fear over the crumbling of this team he'd worked so hard to build into an effective crime fighting force. Anger over the obvious low regard the other Titans seemed to hold for each other's safety.
He reached the door to his room and almost kicked it when it didn't slide open fast enough to suit him. It closed behind him and he was left in a relatively dark room, with only two lone lamplights and the faces of his enemies peering out from crumpled newspapers to keep him company.
Face expressionless, he strode to his Wall of Faces and began once again the ritual of reading off the names of villains the Titans had faced and triumphed over time after time.
The H.I.V.E. Academy students: Jinx, Mammoth, and Gizmo.
Blackfire, Starfire's darker and decidedly less "nice" counterpart.
Brother Blood, a Headmaster of H.I.V.E. and one of Cyborg's biggest foes.
Red X, Robin's own alter ego in a foolish scheme to draw out his own arch enemy.
And of late, Slade, the Titans' most cunning, relentless, and tireless adversary.
Of all these enemies, each a challenge that some in the Justice League would have had trouble dealing with, a Titan had been felled by a group of small time crooks; bank robbers.
The person who had pulled the trigger had been a mere boy, the scared nephew of the ringleader. Raven had been behind him, to his right, as he had tried to talk the thieves down from violence. They'd somehow gotten ahold of some illegally modified Sounder 375s, courtesy of the Powers Corp. He hadn't seen precisely what happened, but the next thing he knew, Beast Boy was screaming for help and the boy had been blasted through a row of desks by Cyborg's sonic cannon.
Robin turned to see a scene he had prayed to whatever God would listen that he would never have to see. Raven lay sprawled awkwardly on the cold linoleum, blood pooling beneath her, soaking into her uniform and hair, and welling up between her pale lips. Time slowed to a crawl and Robin instantly divined every minute detail of the pale sorceress' features; from her dull amethyst eyes to her marble laced skin, from the blood founting from her wound in time to her erratic heartbeat to the crimson stain clashing with the white floor.
Completely on auto-pilot, Robin spun into a crouch, letting fly two birdarangs from his hand. Robin noted with grim satisfaction that the two birdarangs embedded in the palms of the leader and third henchmen ensured that they wouldn't be handling a gun anytime soon. If he was as accurate as he suspected, they'd probably only regain sixty percent mobility in those hands.
It was a small price to pay for the near murder of a Titan, Robin reckoned.
In between Raven's incapacitation and her transportation to the Tower, Robin's memories were a haze of fog and flashing lights. He knew the routine of handling the authorities and the red tape that accompanied them by heart, having done it often enough in Gotham and the City by now. By the time Cyborg had her stabilized and they had gathered in the Infirmary, he was angry.
Angry was a mild understatement. He was filled with a cold, controlled rage that someone on his team, a team that he had sweat and bled to form, something that was just as much a part of him as his own beating heart very nearly got killed as a result of someone's negligence or incompetence.
"I should have been watching," he muttered.
The macabre wall of faces jeered him in silence.
Slade's picture in particular seemed to be mocking him, amused at his feeble attempts to be a leader and a protector.
Still the same, prideful bird as ever, aren't we, Robin?
An eye set in a metal mask flashed in amusement from the newspaper.
Robin grit his teeth, hissing, "Shut up."
Throwing a tantrum like a small child won't make the demon girl's hole in her stomach any smaller. I like to think that I taught you better self-control than that.
Robin's hands curled into fists at his sides, the leather squeaking softly. He squeezed so hard that the tendons on his arms stood out in basque relief and his hands were trembling.
You shouldn't be angry that I speak the truth, dear boy. If you had been watching, if you had been paying attention, you could have saved her. But you were far too focused on talking, on being weak.
You've gotten soft.
Soft laughter echoed in Robin's ears.
"Shut the FUCK UP!"
He reached up and tore Slade from the wall, ripping him to pieces and wishing he was tearing the man's throat out. The bits of paper floated to the floor like so much snow and yet, he was still shaking with rage.
The laughter didn't stop.
Snarling incoherently, Robin tore down the faces of his tormentors, gathering them in huge wads of paper and savaging them with fervor. Rage unabated, the paper barely had time to fall from his hands before he reached out and snatched the small ceramic lamp on his nightstand, ripping the cord from the wall and hurling it at the door on the far side of the room.
It shattered with a loud crash and ceramic littered his floor with a satisfying tinkling sound.
Panting heavily and sweat pouring down his temple and back of his neck, Robin's anger left him and he felt hollow, less than a whole human being.
He tiredly surveyed the carnage and pinched the bridge of his nose. The lone lamp remaining did little to cast light on his shadowed form.
He had lost control.
"Fuck," he whispered.
Of the four, only Starfire stayed with Raven through the night. She sang a soft lullaby about the love of a mother for her child in her native tongue of Tamaran, which somehow seemed foreign in the heart of the cluster of concrete, technology, and steel.
The Tower is a dark and lonely place, after all.
The raven is the link between life and death. It perches in the shadows and dines in the twilight. It gorges on the eyes of the dead and mocks the blind with raucous calls.
The raven does not deal in absolutes. It lives in a world of eternal dusk, where neither light nor darkness reigns. The raven is neither good nor evil. It simply is, though some have come to learn that the raven's neutrality doesn't mean that it is equally affable to those who dwell in darkness or light.
Raven knew quite well the persona she was donning when she took the name of such a nefarious bird. In truth, the raven was what she aspired to be. Neither good nor evil, light nor dark. If she should lean towards either, she would unleash a hell upon the universe worse than Satan's dominion himself; Trigon, her father.
So, by donning the dark cloak of neutrality, she hoped to save the universe, her world, and her friends.
And now, on the verge of death, Raven was fighting the most titanic battle of her life.
Rage was the personification of her father. It was one of the most powerful emotions that she struggled to control, and it sensed weakness while she lay near death. Rage was also Trigon's key to Raven. If ever Raven were to give in to her Rage, Trigon would be able to take control of his daughter and use her as a gateway to Earth. Having such a tenuous hold on life, Raven's mental prison that she had fashioned for Rage was weakening, rust eating away at the cold iron and links weakening in the large chains.
The once tranquil sky of her mindscape bled to red and it took the combined strength of all of her other personas; Bravery, Timidity, Happiness, Wisdom, and Rudeness, to maintain Rage's prison.
But slowly, ever so slowly, crimson seeped into the cracks of her mind.
In a small moment of black humor, she thought of the hostile invasion of the crimson as the Red Aviary, intent on caging the raven in a bloody mist.
Quite soon, she'd be peering through her cage into four crimson eyes.
From her early days on Azarath, Raven was taught that her emotions were the key to her powers and Trigon's influence over her. The monks in the temple and her mother, Arella, taught her how to control her emotions at a very early age. They indoctrinated her in meditation, astral projection, and the mental disciplines she would need to keep her demonic father at bay.
After being forced to flee Azarath from Trigon's invasion of her home dimension, she made her way to Earth with the last of Azarath's combined power. It was her mother's and the monk's hope that Trigon would be unable to traverse the perilous distance in between the dimension in which the Temple of Azarath resided in and the dimension in which Earth resided in. Trigon, for all of his great and terrible strength, could not rip a hole in between dimensions as the combined powers of Azarath could.
While Raven was safe from her father's physical grasp on Earth, she was vulnerable to him through her blood. A prophecy was spoken long ago of how Trigon, Destroyer of Worlds, would initiate Armageddon through his daughter. Determined to refute the prophecy, she conditioned her mind into a formidable force that not many on Earth or any other dimension could match.
In order to organize her mind, she split her power into six distinct selves, versions of herself that were separate yet part of her at the same time. They took form of some of man's most recognizable emotions. Rage, naturally, was Trigon's avatar in Earth's dimension and his key to taking control of Raven.
And through her, the world.
"I'm afraid we're fighting a losing battle." Wisdom said calmly, pushing her glasses further up the bridge of her nose.
Raven and her other selves were on a small island in her mindscape, one of the few strongholds that Raven had left. An azure bubble kept the crimson at bay, but periodically, a tendril would snake out and test her defenses.
"Whaddya mean, 'a losing battle'!? We're kicking Rage's butt!" Bravery punctuated her words with a few jabs in midair.
Timidity shivered and hugged herself. "It won't be long till Rage consumes all…"
"It's nice to see that someone has a better appreciation of the gravity of the situation." Wisdom noted wryly, shooting a derisive glace at Bravery's actions.
Rudeness merely grunted and Envy scowled, wishing she had Wisdom's clarity of mind.
Raven was silent, arms folded across her chest. This was how she made decisions of great import; calling a council of her emotions.
Bravery huffed at Wisdom. "All we need is little more brute strength and we can put'er down for good!"
"Hey dumbass, have you forgotten that we've got a hole in our stomach?" Rudeness sneered, scratching her armpits vigorously.
"What did you just call me!?!"
"You heard me, blockhead. The only thing between your ears is an extra muscle to lift with!"
Timidity shrank into her cape, away from the open hostilities, while Envy and Wisdom shook their heads in disgust.
With that simple admonishment, the other personas fell silent.
"How long do we have?"
Wisdom hesitated. "At this rate, mere hours. Our body is mostly stabilized but we're so weak that Rage is terrifyingly close to breaking through the prison. It's taking all we have in addition to Cyborg's ministrations to keep us alive and Rage imprisoned."
A chill swept through them all and a small breeze, reflecting Raven's small thrill of terror in her mind, sent their cloaks gently flapping.
"We can't win this time, can we?" Envy asked bitterly.
Raven was thoughtful for a moment. "No, we can't. But there is one last thing we can do."
The other emotions paled at bit at her words, realizing just how desperate the situation was if Raven was considering her last resort.
"That will be risky," Wisdom warned, "almost foolishly so. Do you have faith enough in your friends to chance the release of Trigon?"
"Faith is not the issue. They are capable, so long as they work together."
"As well as we do, yeah?" Rudeness muttered.
Raven had no answer to that. In silence, she dispersed them to their tasks.
She glanced at her flickering shield one last time and sank down into a lotus position, preparing for a deep meditative state.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos..."
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos…"
In the early hours of the morning, with the sun still below the horizon and shadows still held the Tower in their grip, Raven lay deathly pale on a bed in the Infirmary. Starfire was seated beside her, having fallen asleep with her upper torso on the bed.
At precisely 4:25 AM, Raven's eye flashed open and her mouth opened in a soundless scream.
Six flashes of crimson light flickered from her eyes in rapid succession, dissipating into the air almost instantly.
And at exactly 4:26 AM, Raven ceased to breathe and her heart ceased to beat. Shrieking alarms from the Infirmary awoke the Tower's inhabitants to a reality far worse than the one they had escaped into sleep from.
Let me know what you think.