Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Titans.
Betaed: by Zim'sMostLoyalServant
With special thanks to Chaotic9
"Tut, tut, child! Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it." -The Duchess, Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
"Well, this is… something," Midnight admitted. It had not even been two hours since she had fallen into the city, but it felt like far, far longer just now. She sat in the ruins of a hideout, though one that seemed to have taken her father's love of gears even farther than normal. But then, it wasn't her father, was it?
The laptop before her was the bright light in the decaying ruins of a place that reeked of familiarity entwined with enigma. Stealing it had been natural after all attempts of contacting the Network had failed. More so, when she discovered ARES headquarters was not there.
And never had been, according to the Internet. And the news confirmed it. No HDL or MPA either. Even the supervillains seemed more subdued, with no brewing conflict between a bloated, dubious Justice League in a metahuman arms race with the nations of the world.
"Elseworld, how quaint. And what now?" she frowned. Closing the computer, she rose to her feet, considering her surroundings. On the one hand, this world was a stranger to her, which put her at a disadvantage. On the other though, this world was a Diet to her Original in her opinion, making her the sterner stuff. It was fortunate she made a point of carrying her full compliment of tools.
The logical thing would be to locate this world's Slade and Midnight; surely something could be worked out in either tracking down that incompetent Traveler or-
Her eyes widened, and glancing upward, Midnight narrowed them. Blind and good eye narrowed as she scowled, the feeling strange but somehow knowing what it was. Silent as a cat, she sprang back into the darkness, waiting.
She was coming.
The unexpected was the bane of any operation. Despite the oft-invoked cliché, one by definition cannot expect the unexpected. The most he could do in that regard was design to either withstand anything imaginable, or wisely prepare to change and adapt.
This man adapted. And therefore, the unexpected and failed attempt to contact him was more puzzling than alarming. The code was wrong, but it was his. He had never used the code, but the technology it was confirmed as coming from and the style of data, he recognized the mark of his own work.
A scan of the city confirmed his suspicions. A breach, two of them. Judging by the silence on the part of other empowered groups, it had gone undetected. Unlike them, he had apparently not ruled out the possibility of such distant travelers.
He turned his attention to the blonde girl shown on a monitor, blissfully unaware of his observation, and the screen turned off.
"Sorry Terra, I need to look into something. I suppose you will have to wait a little longer," the masked man remarked.
The hunt was on.
X X X
Slade's lair, Raven thought as she walked into the subterranean wreck. She could still sense the wicked man's measured evil permeating this place. So like the machines he surrounded himself with – powerful, but directed, unlike any other villain she had encountered. Even in ruin, his works could intimidate.
'I never should have told the others,' Raven admonished herself. Trouble, she had sensed it, ripping her from meditation, a flare on the horizon trumpeting its arrival as her Aspects all stepped up in excitement.
The Titan had told her friends she sensed a potential threat, but also that she needed to investigate alone. Of course Robin was the only one who appreciated such sentiment, but not when he thought it put a teammate in danger. He could be such a hypocrite; the fact he would just sadly agree with the accusation only made it worse.
Rage had slipped a bit, back there, but hopefully that showed them this was serious.
She needed to know if the impossible Recognition… really was. And why.
"Here," she said aloud. Her voice echoed in the broken gallery. She was not alone; the other was close. Kneeling to touch the folded laptop, she felt its warmth.
Her shield sprang up, catching the kick before it cracked the back of her head. And it cracked audibly; that got the Titan's attention. Turning and on her feet, a wave of her hand summoned another shield in its wake. An armored fist crashed through, catching her in the face.
Lifted off her feet, she didn't have time to catch herself, only land well.
"Tch, disappointing," a voice spoke. Raven looked up and saw something both familiar and bizarre.
"I should probably be diplomatic, but really, getting to fight myself is too good of a test to pass up. And if you are this weak… well, you could use a lesson," Midnight said, throwing back her cloak and crossing her arms.
'Did Slade clone me?' Raven wondered in shock.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos!"
Raven's shout actually caught Midnight by surprise, especially since she was not expecting to see so many boxes and stones being enscrolled by her counterpart and launched directly at her.
'Okay, she has much better control and mastery of her powers,' Midnight admitted as she moved to the side to avoid one rock, then back-flipped to avoid a box, and so on.
She was also surprised at those words – Azarath, her sword and shield. To think another version of herself would invoke the name of their treacherous homeland. Was it to mock them?
Raven was impressed at seeing the agility of her clone. Granted, she would have expected that Slade would have trained this double, but she had never considered herself to have such physical potential. On the other hand, only recently had she been given martial arts lessons by Robin, and only for self-defense.
Still, she could resolve this problem by launching more projectiles, and then she would use the opening to trap the clone.
Midnight stopped a little to catch her breath, but in the next second she saw multiple projectiles being sent in her direction, and she admitted to herself that she couldn't avoid all of them.
'And I don't want to show my weapons, not until I'm closer to her, so what to do? Maybe…'
Midnight stopped evading and phased through the projectiles with her own magic, launching a true counter attack. She may not have the impressive control that her double had, but it could make a difference.
"You are not the only one with tricks!"
Midnight's shout echoed as her good eye glowed white, her magic flowing around her like black mist. It made contact with Raven's own magic, but instead of trying to overpower each other, both magics suddenly disappeared, which made all the projectiles fall hard to the ground.
"What?" Raven asked, for once unable to mask her amazement.
"What, how did that happen?" Midnight mused, equally surprised, but her mind quickly began trying to analyze and figure out what had happened with their powers.
"I don't know how you did that, but it won't save you a second time," Raven said seriously, her hands and eyes glowing again and grabbing the projectiles once more.
But Midnight did the same as her counterpart, and like before the projectiles fell to the ground. The Ravens in black and blue looked at each other in confusion, trying to understand what was happening.
"It doesn't make sense. Even if you somehow inherited my powers, they should be too weak and underdeveloped to be able to cancel my own," Raven said as she stared at her counterpart.
"Cancel?" Midnight asked, a sudden realization coming to her as she looked at her hands.
"Not if it recognizes us as the same magic. I imagine that you know that magic is so unique that you can neither imitate someone else's magic nor even use the magic of a person truly against them, yes?" Midnight asked, smirking at her counterpart.
"Precisely my point – not even identical twins truly have the same magic signature, so the same should be true for clones," Raven said.
Midnight frowned deeply at her statement.
"And who says I'm a clone?"
That caught Raven by surprise. Could it be…?
"You can't be one of my Aspects, so that means…"
"It took this long to figure it out, Midnight? How disappointing," Midnight rolled her eyes, actually expecting some sort of recognition from her double.
Raven raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"Midnight? My name is Raven, not Midnight," she replied.
Now it was Midnight that was caught by surprise, even though she only demonstrated it by raising her own unseen eyebrow in a questioning manner.
"Since when do you use your first name?" Midnight asked.
"Because I don't need to conceal my identity, unlike Robin," Raven responded.
The mention of Robin made Midnight narrow her good eye, partially in anger but also to analyze her double. She could see this version of her did not narrow her eyes at the mention of Robin's name, nor did she try to repress any building anger. Either she was even better at concealing her emotions than Midnight, or in this world she and Robin were not enemies.
Now that she took a better look at her double's clothes, she realized that they were the same as any Azarathian – covered arms, bared legs, and even the cape was of the same color as the one she had when she was a child. It was like a teenage version of her kid-self.
"I don't know how Slade was able to bring another version of myself into this world, especially an evil version, but that doesn't change your situation. With both our powers useless in this fight, we're at an impasse. All I have to do is keep you from escaping until the others arrive," Raven said as she narrowed her eyes, determined and ready to stop her double from fleeing the scene.
But Midnight scowled at this.
"You should speak of our father with more respect. I am guessing from your weakness and tone, though, that you were ungrateful for what he gave you," Midnight growled. She was pleased when she felt Raven's control slip just a bit, anger – no, Rage – spiking for a moment.
"I see. Well, I guess secrets will have to come out, they will need to know what they are dealing with," Raven muttered.
"You seem to be laboring under a delusion. About your claim that we are at an impasse…"
Suddenly, Midnight moved with such speed that Raven was practically caught flat-footed. Before she could react, Midnight kneed Raven in her stomach, making Raven fall back as she tried to grasp for breath.
But Midnight had other ideas, as she moved her left leg and kicked Raven, forcing her to the ground.
"I don't need my magic to deal with you, Raven. But don't worry, I have no intention of killing you, or any need of it for that matter. So, like I promised, here is your free course of Fighting 101," Midnight said coldly, though still betraying some excitement for some reason.
She jumped and readied herself to bring her armored heel down on Raven, but the downed dark sorceress rolled to the side, avoiding the attack. Midnight recoiled the kick to land ready, and looked at Raven, who was able to pick herself up and fall into a fighting position, one that Midnight recognized as similar to Robin's.
"So you do have some training. Let me guess, Robin?" Midnight asked in an amused tone.
From that attack, Raven quickly realized that this version of her was far more versed in martial arts than she expected, perhaps on the same level as Robin. In order for her to be this good, Raven guessed she had been training for a long time, much longer than her self-defense classes with Robin.
In other words, she was undoubtedly outmatched. The only thing that Raven could hope to do was to delay her until the Titans could track her com signal. But as Robin told her once, a fight in which someone is clearly at a disadvantage seems to last forever. Still, Raven had to find a way to keep this "Midnight" busy until her friends arrived; she couldn't leave another version of herself on the loose, either for fear that she'd unleash her powers in an uncontrolled manner, or maybe even her "father" (or perhaps this version's father?) would decide to use this to advance the prophecy somehow?
Letting out a calming breath, Raven stepped back and enscrolled nearby rubble, sending it up and away from them. It collided above them, jamming together, blocking out almost all the light. Darkness engulfed Raven as she phased out of sight.
Midnight stepped forward, not even glancing about the rubble falling around her.
"Not running. No, I see your thoughts. Because I might have held to such a strategy once as well. Faced with only defeat in a heads-on battle, and unable to retreat, you seek indirect combat. Ambush, strike, and fade under the cover of darkness.
"You harness the darkness better than I do. Mine is more primal, stronger perhaps, but not nearly so versatile, a single sword and shield against precision tools of darkness," Midnight admitted, strolling through the beams of light piercing the ruin.
"But, for all that control, you stink of daylight. When Mother cast me out, Father took me into the deep and dark places. There I learned; there I was shaped in the place where light is only artificial and the darkness, when absent, is always pressing to rush back in.
"By the time he allowed me to live in the day again, it was almost sickening," Midnight recalled. With the last word, she reached out into the darkness with a serpent's speed. Darkness shattered again and revealed her chokehold on Raven's neck.
Grabbing her with the other hand, the armored villain tossed the hero into a pile of broken gears. Raven recoiled at the impact. Midnight rushed up, driving her back into the rusty metal with a knee to the chest and then an elbow on her shoulder.
As Raven fell back to the floor, the rubble shifted, falling back to the floor with a rumble, restoring the former light. The villain took several steps back, smiling as Raven picked herself up, breathing hard.
"The darkness is your tool, but it is my old friend. It will give you nothing against me.
"You know what? Since I have plenty of time to kill and I really don't want to end this so soon, why not try to attack first? I will only evade or defend, nothing else," Midnight said in a cold tone that still highlighted a cocky manner.
Raven raised an eyebrow at this.
"Aren't you underestimating me too much? I am you, after all," Raven said, unsure if she should be annoyed by the double veiled insult or deciding to take the handicap that her counterpart presented to her.
"No, you are simply what I could have been, and no offense, but if you are like this, having to rely on others to save you from me… well, it makes me glad to not be you," Midnight said, smirking cockily.
That made Raven's annoyance against her double spike, and she attacked, trying to punch her counterpart. But Midnight avoided it with a simple side step. Again, Raven tried to punch Midnight, and when that failed she opted to a kick. Again, she failed.
"You are putting so little energy into those punches. And you should move that foot to the left more before you try to kick your opponent in order to actually strike them," Midnight commented. This reminded her fondly of training with her father, though naturally these lessons had been learned when she was much smaller.
Raven had to actually bite her lips, tying to hold back Bravery and Rage, as both Aspects were yelling to be unleashed on this enemy. Even if this version could cancel her powers, she didn't want to risk a rampage of her powers, even against such a foe.
More punches, more kicks, all avoided with seeming ease, but Raven was actually getting closer to Midnight, to the point that one punch was about to collide with the girl's face. However, a hand caught her punch with no effort at all on the part of Midnight, who gave a predatory smile. And then punched her in the face, making Raven fall to the floor again.
"I thought… you said that… you wouldn't attack," Raven said as she stood back up.
"I lied. Did you expect anything else?" Midnight asked.
"Actually, no. You really are Slade's apprentice – I assume that he was the one that trained you, right? Your version of Slade, that is," Raven said as she glared at Midnight.
"Of course he trained me," Midnight replied, puzzled.
"The cold, uncaring persona. It's so like him," Raven said.
That made Midnight frown slightly.
"Well, at least it's a better than being in constant battle with my Aspects, like dear old Mother wanted. And don't deny it, I can actually sense them trying to get out from under you. Look at me, do you feel anything like that, Raven?" Midnight asked.
Raven concentrated, and to her surprise she felt nothing, really nothing. Even Robin let his emotions flare, but this "Midnight" was not letting out any emotion. The only one she remembered who could do that was Slade, the few times she did try to read him.
"How… how is that possible? It's almost like you have no emotions," Raven said in amazement.
"Oh, I do, I just learned to control them, rather than lock them up to fester and grow out of control. Unlike you," Midnight replied.
"I have control over my emotions," Raven retorted, frustration in her voice as she ran and tried to hit her double.
'So predictable,' Midnight thought as she evaded every attack.
"No, you simply suppress them, denying any feeling, any expression. Tell me, Raven, does that actually work? Is it worth that fine control to be unable to draw off those natural passions? To constantly be a henpecked warden of your own mind?" Midnight asked curiously as she backed away from a fuming Raven, gaining some distance.
"My powers don't explode, do they?" Raven asked in return.
Midnight laughed softly.
"I commend your effort, but you can't lie to me. You know why? Because I know that you have been trying to hold back when you could have tried more lethal ways to take me down. You are holding back your emotions, which in turn holds back your power, which I admit you have a better grasp of than I. Yet, they do manifest on occasion, am I right?" Midnight asked in a cold, calculated manner, surprising Raven, since it was mostly right.
"Heroes don't kill, I don't kill," Raven replied decisively.
"Ah, so that is the way of your rebellion? How does that work? I really cannot see heroes so easily accepting one whose powers come from darkness," Midnight asked knowingly.
"Your surprise is expected, Jewel of Darkness, daughter of Trigon," Raven spat under her breath. Midnight heard and cocked her head.
"Trigon?" Midnight asked evenly.
Midnight adjusted something on the back of her right gauntlet, and a dark wire began to spool out onto the floor. Raven was surprised to see a whip take shape in Midnight's hand.
"You know what, Raven? It's time that we end this before they arrive. I also want to meet your friends, you know," Midnight said, surprising Raven.
"You knew that I was..."
Raven was interrupted as the whip moved in her direction, almost striking her, but fortunately she was able to avoid it.
'I can't believe that I am saying this, but Beast Boy was right, who uses whips?' Raven asked herself.
"But first, one last question?" Midnight thought aloud.
Midnight was able to launch the whip at Raven's right hand, enrolling the tip on her arm. Still, Raven grabbed the whip with her free hand, ready to pull back against Midnight.
What she didn't expect was Midnight to take another whip from her belt, and with her other hand use it envelope both her feet. Before she could try anything, Midnight pulled both whips, which made Raven fall to the ground.
"Pathetic," Midnight muttered as she pulled both whips back from the downed Raven.
Raven was preparing to stand up again now that she was free from the whips, but something moved in her direction, something fast. She cried out as the whip lashed across her back, carving through her cloak and leotard to leave a laceration across her back.
"This fight is over, Raven, and I am really disappointed in how it was fought. On the other hand, it was actually therapeutic, somehow. Now that I know what could have been, whatever doubts that I had left are truly lifted. I am completely sure of my path now," Midnight said with actual satisfaction and… happiness? Yes, she was actually satisfied with herself; Raven could feel that her double was allowing that emotion to course through her spirit.
"So, the question. That man you mentioned, is that the name of our biological father? I was never told anything of who, or what, he was," Midnight admitted.
"…Then who do you call father?" Raven demanded.
"Slade of course, the man who raised us," Midnight snapped impatiently.
That shocked shout came from a voice that echoed from the tunnels, a voice that both Ravens recognized. One was actually glad to hear Beast Boy and her friends coming to help her, while Midnight frowned in annoyance, and anger.
The Titan boys leapt down, surrounding Midnight, while Starfire descended between the two doubles.
"Raven is Slade's adoptive daughter! That explains so much!" Beast Boy exclaimed.
"I am not!" Raven denied.
"Guess that explains how pathetic you are," Midnight commented.
"Put down the weapon. I'd rather not fight even the evil version of friend Raven," Starfire said.
"Well, this hardly seems fair. For you. My world's – a darker world's – Titans barely defeated me. And I have been training for a rematch ever since," Midnight smiled, a second whip unwinding from her left gauntlet.
Then, to everyone's surprise, familiar armored ninjas started raining down around them. Black, with orange half-circles on their masks.
Drawing laser blasters, the android force opened fire. The Titans and Midnight scattered.
"Slade!" Robin yelled furiously.
'Father?!' Midnight wondered frantically as she phased through a pile of rubble and out the other side.
As if the thought was a spell, she came out face-to-face with a very familiar armored man. Stopping in her tracks before him, she breathed a sigh of relief as her shoulders untensed.
Her eyes had no time to even widen as he struck her unarmored lower face with a high-powered taser.
Midnight awoke with a jolt, a literal jolt spasming her body. The pain was manageable, and she quickly realized that while she still had her armor on, her face was unmasked. Glancing around, she saw she was suspended in the air, her hands and feel pulled into an X. The extremities were covered in metal clamps, with white energy forming a halo around them as marks glowed on the metal with the same light.
She tested the bonds thoughtfully, and admitted they were good restraints.
"They were made to hold Raven, so they should hold you. For awhile, at least," her father admitted as he stepped into the faint light of the binding spells, holding her mask in his left hand.
He looked at her. And through her. The villain cringed, averting her eyes. He did not look at her like that, ever-
"You're not my father. You're this world's Slade," she realized, the situation returning to her.
"Quite. And how fortunate for my other self, it would seem. To acquire such a powerful apprentice. I admit I never truly considered Raven; magic is a useful tool, but it seemed too bothersome in her case," Slade admitted.
"I need your help," she told him.
"Interesting. But first, how about a story or two? How did you come to call my double 'father' and come here to beat up little Raven and take her lunch money?" he asked. She had hoped he would release her first, but caution made sense.
So, in brief, she told him of their meeting, her training, and life under him. And then how Warp had dumped her into this reality.
"I need to find that time traveler. With your help I can-"
"I see little reason to release you, much less offer aid," Slade admitted. Midnight blinked at him.
"You know far too much. Secrets I never planned on revealing to any apprentice. There are some differences, but altogether too many of my secrets are in that head," He explained. Stepping closer, he reached out with his free hand, and gently wrapped his fingers around her covered neck.
Midnight started to sweat, easily visualizing the choke-out, the swift crushing of her windpipe. Or using the strength she knew and could feel now to snap the vertebrae.
"My other self must have some magnificent check on you. Subliminal programming, an implant to destroy your mind if you betrayed him? Whatever method, it must be grand and worthy of me, to let you have so much that you would believe he trusts you.
"Killing you now would be the most efficient option. Ensure the sanctity of my secrets. But with a little tweaking, you could be quite useful to me. Perhaps…
"I will think on it. And in the meantime, any attempt at escape is permission for me to end you," Slade told her. Releasing her neck, he let her mask fall to the ground with a clang of metal on stone.
Her eyes shut in relief, and they opened to find her alone.
"Th-that wasn't him," she muttered to herself.
She started to test the bonds, taking her mind off of those words. The magic was solid, but she realized with time she could pull the left hand chain free and use it to weaken the right leg bond enough to-
"Well hello there, young miss," Warp greeted her with a smile. Midnight opened her eyes in surprise as Warp stepped out of another portal.
"You," she growled.
"Me. Sorry for the delay. Had to repair my suit, and by then you were already locked with the Titans. Don't worry; even Slade's surveillance technology is woefully out of date compared to the loop my wireless hacking is feeding his systems.
"Ah, but of course," Warp chided himself. His shoulder cannons popped up, and with four blasts popped open the bond cases holding Midnight. The strike was precision, she noted; her hands only tingled slightly, and that could be from the confinement.
She kneeled to grab her mask, never taking her eyes off the smiling time traveler in golden armor.
"So you're helping me now?" she demanded.
"History demands it. You are quite volatile, and the laws of dimensional magnetism dictate you will be drawn into either conflict or harmony with your double.
"I have thoroughly studied this era to prepare myself for each potential encounter, and there is no mention of an evil twin of Raven. Given your power, this means your role was only one anomalous encounter. A disquieting visit, lost and perhaps forgotten in this era of flash, pomp, goodness, and menace.
"And since I am confident you would escape from Slade, the only possibility is that history dictates me putting you back where I found you," Warp explained.
"The Solid Timeline Theory?" she inquired. Wrap frowned at the question.
"Not a theory, a fact. Whatever happened, already happened, and will always happen. Now come along – I could always fulfill my duty by dropping you in that void," he scowled.
"Heh, your corpse would fall with me forever, hopefully being less talkative," Midnight remarked, stepping into the portal with him.
Jump City, Five Minutes Before Midnight's First Arrival:
They stepped back into he museum, the Clock of Eternity sitting comfortably in its exhibit.
"Go ahead and take it – two would only lower the value in my future," Warp said. Midnight took the clock with the expected ease, and decided to ask a question she had been thinking on her way over.
"Why didn't a Warp from my future show up here?" she asked.
"Well, considering what little I have seen of your world, this future will be a little… warmer than my own," Warp admitted. He stepped back to the portal, before Midnight asked another question.
"It's history to you. What happens to that other Slade?" Midnight asked, holding the clock close.
"Oh, he gets killed by his apprentice," Warp answered.
"What!?" Midnight shouted. But Warp's portal was already closing behind him. Midnight was alone in the dark, and she wanted to go home very badly at the moment.
Mod adjusted his suit as he looked up at the blank screen before him. It was a cut of his youthful suit that fit his actual age, and sadly was currently defragged for this meeting. He hated not having some tech on his person, he did.
But his patron was insistent, and this relationship was his best hope to get back what he had lost someday.
The icon he had been waiting for filled the screen. The meeting had begun.
"Evening, guv'nor! I'm afraid the operation went rather bust on us," Mad Mod admitted.
"I know. You not only failed to condition the Titans as our sleeper agents against the League, but you failed to extract data on the White Glove from Jinx," his employer stated.
"Ah, but we did confirm she is indeed a Glove infiltrator, didn't we. And next time, I will be ready to stop her from opening the ole scuttling valves, I will. I'll peel her psyche like an onion, and get you every last detail and a drooling drone of a Jinx for a bonus!
"And speaking of drool, I also discovered Beast Boy is quite susceptible to my Hypno Screens. A real model student for reprogramming. If we target him in isolation, we should be able to turn him in no time flat," Mod reported happily.
"You are a distasteful individual. But the report is appreciated," the boss stated.
"'Ey now, you knew what you were getting," Mod pointed out.
"Yes, and you will not target the changeling in isolation. Robin is a Bat Disciple; without him under control, he will spot the alterations too quickly for our purpose. All of them or Jinx.
"The White Glove and this Slade are unknowns, and the Glove seems to be infiltrating the three great factions. A possible fourth power is unacceptable. We cannot seize the world if it ends, Mad Mod.
"You will succeed next time, or it will be you playing part of the dispensable drone," the screen declared.
"Ah, right," Mod fingered his collar, "Not to worry, next time will have 'em all wrapped up like widgets, with a pretty bow and everything for ya, guv'nor."
The screen went blank, which may have meant his employer was no longer listening. Even so, Mad Mod remained silent as he wiped his face off with a hanker chief and made an exit.
Bloody Hell, he hated working for Yanks.
Somewhere in Texas:
Terra sat in the culvert pipe, back against the curving metal and the backpack holding her possessions beside her. The water was low, at least a foot from the tips of her eaten up shoes.
The water just flowed downhill, seeking that direction, unable to make any other choice. That was the opposite of her life; she had struggled to keep her ability to choose, to not have her life dictated to her. To live free in the so-called land of the free.
But now she found herself contemplating the button.
It had turned up in her camp the night after she left Jump City, accompanied by some money and supplies. A simple disc, about the size of her palm, and less than the width of a finger. Made of black metal, it had a sliding panel that revealed a red button inside.
Slade had left it; there was no note or explanation, but she couldn't think much less look at the device without the image of that masked face appearing in her head. Pushing this button was saying yes to his offer.
He wanted to use her, to make her his minion. That would not be freedom. To smash it or throw it away would be the smart thing. But she hadn't, and it wasn't out of fear of the man, she could admit now, as the night set in.
She had been keeping her options open. Because it seemed more and more like only a matter of time until she ran put of places to run.
Terra could think of a direction to go, to lay low and then try again. But how much longer could her luck hold?
Slade was right; she didn't have control. And she had made no progress on her own. She would either keep rolling the dice or have to live like a hermit somewhere. Exile or eventual persecution as a monster, a walking disaster.
Really, the Titans had been her last hope. But even Beast Boy had betrayed her. To protect his friends from the danger, he had broken her trust. Which meant they would betray her again when they eventually found out all she had done. They would not choose her, given the choice.
They might be friends, but they would take away her freedom and give nothing in exchange but empty words of comfort at best.
Slade wanted to buy her freedom. He would take it, but give her control. And with control, perhaps she could be free? Even from him one day, if he proved to be a bad boss.
But even if she went that road, it would be a long time before she could hope to rebel. He would no doubt make her do terrible things, crimes that would burn her bridges to anything but the dark side of the world.
But she would no longer be a slave to her own power. Destined to be alone, with the song of the earth her only enduring companion. She had already done so much harm by accident, would it be so much different to do it to honestly help herself?
Terra raised the hand that was not holding the opened disc, a faint yellow glow around it. A rock the size of a baseball smacked into her palm as she caught it.
"Smash it," she told herself.
Her thumb pressed down on the button, the rock falling from her hand and banging on the metal before sliding beneath the flowing water.
Flowing water, bound to follow its course to the end. She wished she were crying for her choice. Some affirmation of regret. Instead, all she felt was relief; it left her feeling light and more than a little fearful of herself.
Setting the now blinking device on top of her pack, she pulled her legs into a hug, waiting for her new master to come and claim her.
Jinx was awake so late it was early. She was not pleased by that, especially sitting on her own bed in her favorite black and purple nightgown. The alert for trouble could come at any time, thus a normal sleep cycle was a luxury she did not take for granted.
And tonight she should have been happy at the prospect of Midnight vanishing through some guy's portal. Hopefully she fell into a world of exploding heads or something.
But no, here she was, anxious with insomnia at an ungodly hour.
All because of that stupid dream. And it wasn't even a nightmare keeping her up.
Her eyes drifted to her Superman poster, and what was hidden behind it. Okay, admittedly it was a nightmare of a sort. She had known things were bad, but this was worse.
On at least two huge counts.
With a little growl, she got up and walked over to the door, taking a moment to step into her new white slippers. If she couldn't sleep, she could at least catch something on Pay Per View, with the big TV to herself.
The hallways seemed the same as ever, despite Cyborg briefing them on the new security, and Batman of all people combing the tower. She was glad he had kicked her and the non-Robins out for that evening. Batman was scary awesome, and the scary came first.
Besides, the less she was around the world's greatest detective the safer she was.
She was surprised to see the screen in sleep mode, though the familiar snoring gave it away. Beast Boy was laid out haphazardly on the couch, cuddling a game controller like a teddy bear.
"Ugh, dream of the devil, eh?" Jinx mumbled. Still, she sat down by his head and lifted it to place a cushion under it.
'Admit it, there is no rail to take around the crash. Once it happens, it happens, and that will be that,' Jinx thought, looking out at Jump City.
Normally, this would be a moment where she would wonder if it might have been better… better for her patron to have let her fall. She had been ready then, had nothing to live for.
Now, even though it was all a lie, she had more than one thing she did not want to lose. And even though knowing she would have to lose it all was torture, she didn't wish for it to have never happened.
"I guess the only thing to do is enjoy it while it lasts. And I won't let this ruin everything before it has to be ruined," she told the snoring Beast Boy.
When Cyborg woke him up on the couch in the morning, Beast Boy had the strangest feeling he had missed something very important. Though when he brought it up at breakfast, Jinx would dismiss it as him having unlocked some code while half-asleep only to forget it.
A comment which would lead into an argument of his game addiction getting out of hand, the strange feeling swiftly forgotten.
Between Dimensions, Somewhere Between Intent And Consequences:
The blue box sat on its side in the white void, letting two men enjoy a spot of tea sitting atop it. The Doctor was relaxing with a cup held loosely in one hand, while the Gentleman sat properly straight and held a saucer in his other hand.
"Hello Falcon. Enjoying the void?" the Doctor asked. The imposing man stood on nothing before them, arms crossed behind his back, scowling a bit more than usual.
"You two, you interfered," he stated coldly. The Doctor smiled, sipping his tea.
"More a tweaking than an actual intervention, which is why you are here alone, right? Barely within the rules is still within the rules, isn't it?" the Doctor pointed out. The Gentleman placed his cup on the saucer and wiped his mouth delicately off with a cloth before speaking.
"Hardly meddling, certainly less than you loosing a rogue on the girl."
"You created that anomaly, knowing Warp would be taken in by it. And predicted these results," Falcon muttered.
"Yes, but only predictions, educated guesses really. We facilitated an experience; what happened was the result of the situation, but even more the choices rooted in the free wills of those involved. And the funny thing about people, they can surprise even the most well informed with unexpected good or bad sense," the Doctor corrected.
"To what end? Did you expect encountering a heroic baseline version would overturn years of commitment to darkness? If anything, it seems to have reinforced her commitment," Falcon demanded.
"Overturn, no. The purpose here was to create opportunity."
"For what?" Falcon demanded.
"To realize that destiny is an option.
"She never considered herself capable of being a hero. But now she has seen for herself that she could be one. A comrade to those she considers her foes. And saw a side of one man she has been willing to pretend doesn't exist or curb the sharp edges off of," the Doctor supplied, finishing his tea. He let go of the cup, letting it hang in the void as he pulled out a napkin to wipe his lips.
"She may not have liked what she saw. And it won't do much on its own, especially in the short term; that girl is stubborn.
"But it will get her thinking, she can't help that. And when people start thinking in ways they haven't before, who knows where they might end up? Especially when they realize, 'no choice' is one of the great big fat lies," the Gentleman finished, producing a teapot with a red floral print to refill the Doctor's cup out of thin air.
"Heh, well, as you said, it changes nothing. You've made your move and wasted it. I assure you I will not waste mine. My pawn will tear her apart, and with her destroy any possibility of Omega penetrating that line. Enjoy your tea," Falcon bowed, before fading into the void.
"The way that young man talks you would almost think we are enemies," the Gentleman remarked.
"Well, he has gotten worse since his wife left him," the Doctor pointed out.
"Yes, it could never have worked out I suppose, but they did balance each other out to some extent. And she would probably make matters worse in her own way if she realized what was going on here," the Gentleman pointed out.
"I can't really do anything more on this, I'm afraid you will have to fly solo if you intend to do more for her," the Doctor admitted.
"Of course, thank you for this much, a gentleman should never impose on others, especially with self-appointed duties," the other Council member answered.
It has been a long time. I wager many of you thought it was gone. Merry early Christmas.
It was not easy to come back. One part was time, but another was crossing over with canon. If Chaotic9 had not written a rough for the fight for me to then tinker around the block, cut, and augment, it would likely have come back in 2014 instead. After this, maybe give his works a look; he is good and getting better.
And so we pass and complete this little escapade and the Terra Arc truly can begin in earnest. One bonus to this delay is that I was able to finally iron out Terra's role in its entirety. While I liked the old plan, it seemed a bit too forced, needlessly complex. This new fate for her, while similar, feels far more natural, and incidentally a tad darker.
Merry Christmas, expect more presents on the 25th, though not from this story. Long days and pleasant nights to all!