It all seemed routine to Beast Boy when Raven brought news concerning Cyborg. True, there was a tinge of unnaturalness about the way Cyborg contacted the sorceress but such events were to be expected in their line of work; maybe some new villain had managed to destroy the metal man's communicator or something. But as the Titans followed Raven towards the outskirts of the city, a cold dread filled the changeling which devolved into an icy intensity as Raven led the team closer to their destination; a familiar-looking warehouse.

"We're here," Raven announced as she, Starfire and Beast Boy landed on the ground. Robin followed a second later in his motorcycle. Getting off his vehicle, the Boy Wonder joined his team as they entered the structure together.

The warehouse was just as Beast Boy had left it; spotless, cavernous and quiet.

"This place feels too quiet. Stay alert, Titans," remarked the leader. Reaching a hand into one of his utility pouches, Robin took out his own communicator and switched it on but was cut off by his pale-skinned teammate.

"I told you, Robin. The signal won't pick up," said the sorceress irritably. However as soon as she said that, the communicators on each Titan began to beep rapidly. Cyborg's locater beacon had suddenly activated. Giving his teammate a questioning shrug of his own, he gestured to the team to separate into pairs with him and Starfire naturally teaming together. It did not take long for the search to head in the right direction.

"Well at least we know we're at the right place; the T-car's here," exclaimed Robin.

True enough; the vehicle was parked at the center of the warehouse almost as if it was being paraded in a showroom. Its size appeared enlarged amidst the emptiness surrounding it.

"And there is friend Cyborg. Beside the pillar," yelled Starfire excitedly as she pointed towards the said direction. "Um, why is he standing like that?"

Cyborg was standing still with his back facing them. His arms were to his sides and he seemed to be looking downwards towards the ground. At that moment, his friends grew increasingly concerned for his welfare. He did not seem to be awake. It was as if he was sleeping and the rest of his cybernetic body had shut down along with him.

"Anybody else feels that we're in a Blair Witch movie?" remarked Raven as the team approached their teammate in a cautious manner.

"Yes, I concur that friend Cyborg's posture closely resembles a scene in that nausea-inducing motion picture but I do hope that we will not be dealing with a witch who is over an earth-century old," replied Starfire thoughtfully.

"Relax, Star. It was just a comment," said the empath wryly. Turning to Beast Boy to see how he would react to the remark, she was disappointed and somewhat worried to see the serious look on her boyfriend's face. He did not seem to have heard anything from anyone. His eyes had a focused look to it; something so rare in the carefree person she knew.

Before she could ask him what was wrong, the changeling rushed forward towards best friend.

"Beast Boy, wait!" shouted Robin but he paid no heed.

Rushing up all the way to his friend, the young man could not ignore the strange feeling that his animal senses were detecting. His best friend looked unharmed yet, not unscathed.

"Cy, buddy?" asked the changeling as he patted his friends shoulder. "Wake up, man. C'mon wake up."

Cyborg's eyes remained a blank stare as he looked straight ahead but after a particularly sharp smack by Raven on his head, the metal man seemed to snap out of his trance.

"Ow! What gives?"

"I could ask you the same thing, Cyborg. What happened? Why are you here?" interjected Robin before Beast Boy had a chance to say anything.

Cyborg scrunched his nose and rubbed his head as he tried to remember.

"Well?" asked the team leader again as he tapped his foot impatiently.

"I don't know, Robin. I really can't remember," muttered the metal Titan. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he saw that it was Raven. The empath had a concerned look on her face as she examined her friend closely.

"Did you remember calling out to me with your mind, Cyborg?" asked the empath.

"I did? When?"

"No more than twenty minutes ago."

As the rest of the group checked on Cyborg, Beast Boy looked around the warehouse restlessly. Unconsciously fiddling with his wrist communicator, he realised that a diode was lit on the device. Eyes widening, he realised that he was being contacted. Looking back at the Titans, the changeling knew he could not activate the hologram without risking being found out when he felt a tiny pebble impacting his neck.

Looking around, his eyes finally rested on the overhead steel girders supporting the warehouse roof and opened his mouth in disbelief; crouching low and partially hidden in the shadows was a Reaper operative. There was no doubt that something had happened to Cyborg and the Reapers had something to do with it. The changeling could not discern who it was beneath the facemask and balaclava but he had a idea who it was. The girl behind the mask merely raised a finger to her lips before disappearing back into the shadows. Somehow, she had managed to remain undetected even from Raven's powers.

Frustrated and deeply troubled, Beast Boy returned his attention back to the team. He noted with disgust that Robin was still questioning Cyborg. From the looks of it, Cyborg himself was trying his best to remember but apparently, Robin was not satisfied.

As if he ever is...

The girls stood by silently as they watched the tacit interrogation. Starfire had an uneasy look on her face while Raven stood slightly further away, her hood drawn over her head hiding her facial expression. Nonetheless, it was obvious that she was not liking the situation either. Strangely, Beast Boy noticed that the usually vivacious empath was keeping to herself instead of standing up for Cyborg.

Is Raven okay with that?

"This so weird...I really can't remember much beyond getting into the T-Car and driving out of the tower. After that everything's a's like seeing something behind frosted glass," said Cyborg guiltily.

"That's not good enough, Cyborg. What if your systems had been compromised by some assailant? You could put all of us in jeopardy because of your-..."

"Robin, that's enough."

Everyone eyes widened and stared at the changeling who had uttered those words. Disbelief and indignation written as clear as day in their faces, even Raven. Beast Boy looked at every single one of them in an uncharacteristically quiet and defiant gaze. More so, he stared at the Titan leader.

"Don't you start with Cyborg, Robin, and say something that you'll regret later. C'mon our work here is half done. What we need to do now is to get back home and check out if Cyborg had been attacked in any way. It sounds like his memory has been wiped. There's nothing here in this warehouse. We should leave."

Robin's eyes narrowed at the changeling's outburst. Nonetheless he swallowed his pride and began putting on his helmet in silent agreement with his teammate's decision.

"C'mon, Titans; you all heard the green bean. Let's go home."

Without another word, he got back to his motorcycle and drove off. The remainder of team looked on with looks of apprehension before following suit in the T-car.

The ride back was one of the quietest ever in Raven's opinion. At least verbally. Her head still throbbed from the emotions emitted by her teammates in the car. It was filled with conflict and doubt. Worry and trepidation. She looked at Beast Boy who was sitting in the front with Cyborg. The empath could not see the look on his face and his mind was a jumble of feelings and emotions that ran around his head like lines of code. She was troubled with this turn of events, not just for Beast Boy but for the rest of the team as well. Starfire sat quietly beside her, looking out of the window absent-mindedly.

The events of late have been trying to the Tamaranian. A happy and cheerful person, she had probably been the most affected besides Raven. The smallest things seemed to affect her to a degree larger than it would to a human be it positive or negative.

"Starfire, are you alright?" whispered the sorceress to her friend.

The princess turned slowly towards the empath and smiled softly. Taking hold of her hand, Starfire gave it a reassuring squeeze before letting go and returning her gaze outside. The ride continued on in an uneventful manner.

Until the ground shook violently followed by a deafening explosion which flung the T-car spinning through the air.

Alarms blared throughout the Enclave. Almost immediately, a flurry of footsteps followed. The Reapers hurried towards the Operations Room; every one of their faces a visage of grim determination. When they arrived, their leader was already waiting for them; equipped and ready.

"C'mon people, get settled down. Val, where's Sky?"

"Haven't seen her, Ruka."

"It's alright, Number 2," said Corax as he switched on the room's hologram projector. "I sent her on an errand. She'll be back shortly."

Coincidentally, the doors opened to reveal the said brunette who walked in briskly. After saluting her commander, she joined her team.

"Welcome back, Skyler. I trust the mission went well?"

"It did, sir," replied the Reaper neutrally.


Returning to matters at hand, Corax diverted the Reapers' attention towards the hologram image; it showed a small portion of Jump City. Painted in a hazy blue light, the city was contrasted with the presence of an anomaly that snaked the entirety of the area from below it. Represented in a blood red light, the anomaly seemed to snake through a small but sizable portion of the city like veins. The image aroused disturbed reactions from the operative; even causing Andy to let out an audible gasp as she unconsciously put a hand to her mouth. Around her, the rest of the girls fidgeted uneasily or looked on with even more worrisome looks on their faces. Corax allowed his team a moment to regain their composure. The faster they could absorb the gravity of the situation the better.

Finally, Haruka blurted out.

"I thought we neutralised the carrier that day, sir," exclaimed the girl as she stared at her leader. "This was supposed to be a recruiting mission."

"As you already know, they seldom limit their potential Achilles' heel to a single organism. What we thought we destroyed WAS a carrier but there is more than one it seems," explained Corax calmly.

The looks of shock grew even more pronounced among the assembled operatives.

"This is eff-ing bad. They took Zha'Dum two years ago with the remains of one carrier. We lost many of our team on that one campaign and now you're telling us that we've got more than one of those things in one city on that rock? What about the whole damned planet?" cried Shay as she kicked the chair in front of her in frustration. Andy, who was sitting beside Shay, tried to comfort her but the red head batted away the arm that tried to wrap around her shoulders.

"They destroyed whole worlds with almost no effort while we lose more and more with every engagement. Sierra, Jannah, Tyler..."



"We have lost many and I will make it clear that they will not be the last," cut in Corax. "Logan was the best among us, even me. But his sacrifice was not in vain. He gave us all hope. Hope that there is a dawn despite the darkest night and for that, his memory will always live on," he added.

By then, Shay was too consumed with emotion to continue. The last name she uttered stuck an emotional chord which her team was all too familiar with. Andy reached for her again and this time, Shay did not resist. As the rest of the Reapers looked on silently, the girl slowly regained her composure. Shrugging off her teammate's arm nonchalantly, the combat specialist cemented a cold persona and stayed quiet for the rest of the briefing.

Corax resumed without missing a beat; expecting the Reapers to do the same.

"As all of you can see, they have permeated at least 5% of the entire city. That doesn't seem a lot to an inexperienced operative but we all know statistics can be deceiving. The Scourge compound each other, increasing exponentially until finally exploding into the atmosphere to spread all over the planet."

"Like a cancer," growled Skyler. Her hands balling into fists.

"Indeed. The most effective way to eradicate'em is by orbital cleansing but of course, such pyrrhic methods are always done as a last resort and never completely successful. The next best thing but also the hardest would be to nip the problem at the bud. This has been done albeit at...substantial costs."

No one but Andy and Corax saw the flinching on Shay's part.

"So we go in. Identify the carriers and neutralise them. Plain and simple," remarked Valerie with conviction.

"In favourable conditions...yes. But we all know the Mind never does the same thing twice," commented Skyler.

"Are they entrenched enough to have bred a Mind, sir?" asked Felise.

"At 5%, anything's possible and besides, different strains work under different conditions," replied Corax.

"So what's the plan, sir?" asked Haruka simply.

"A Type 1 'blooming' has been detected in the city. The resulting shockwave would have caused additional damage and infestation by spores. They might not be an immediate threat but it is likely that smaller creatures like rats may have already been infected. We need to find the Mind while it's still dormant and destroy it before it can mount an effective resistance to our anti-agent."

"What about the Titans, sir? They would surely be involved in one way or another," said Skyler. Adding hesitantly, "And Garfield has not returned."

"Then he will undergo his baptism under fire sooner than expected. All the same, his eyes will be opened by the end of today," answered the leader simply.

"And the Titans?"

"They will survive the onslaught. But I highly doubt that they'll survive intact. I know we didn't."

Switching off the projector, Corax turned to look at his girls.

"Girls, take off your masks."

When it was done, the man shook his head in disapproval.

"What's wrong, sir?" asked Haruka worriedly.

"I said take off your masks."

The looks on the teams' faces belied the confusion they were feeling at the moment. Sighing tiredly, Corax turned to face the wall with his hands behind his back.

"Girls, this is going to turn out to be our toughest fight yet. If we succeed, this planet and many others would be safe from extermination or worse. But we already know that don't we?"

The girls nodded hesitantly. They watched as their leader and father figure walk with a thoughtful expression on his rough yet kindly face. For a moment, all six girls saw a different man in front of them. Not a feared warrior or a loving guardian, but an old man who had lived a fruitful life. Yes, he was fit and muscular but it was there in his eyes; the maturity and weariness of a person fully aware of his own mortality.

It was almost foreboding.

"Sir?" asked Felise. A hint of worry exuded in her voice.

Corax looked at the girls and smiled. Deciding that he would live on at least a day longer, he resumed his role as the leader.

"I have much to say but we have urgent matters at hand. Reapers, we have a planet to save. Gear up and prepare for deployment."


Beast Boy opened his eyes groggily. Wherever the explosion had come from, it was strong enough to have had flung the T-car upside down into a building. He vaguely heard the sounds of screaming civilians who were unfortunate enough to have been caught in the blast. Looking at the driver's seat he saw Cyborg just coming to. His bionic eye flashing intermittently as his systems try to fix itself.

"Raven? Star?" croaked the changeling as he craned his neck to look back.

It was Starfire who answered him.

"I am fine, friend," replied the Tamaranian shakily.

"Raven. What about Raven? I can't see her," said Beast Boy frantically.

"She is still unconscious but I do not sense any visible sign of grievous injury other than scratches and bruises," reported Starfire as she cradled the empath in her arms while attempting to exit the wrecked vehicle. Finding the vehicle door jammed, she used her strength to just break the door open before floating out.

Still struggling to release his seat belt clasp, Beast Boy growled in annoyance as he removed a glove from his right hand. The fingernails morphed into sharp claws which cut through the belt cleanly. Changing his hand back and putting his glove back on, he kicked his own door open and scrambled out.

"Star, take care of Raven," shouted the changeling as he ran to the other side of the T-car to help Cyborg out.

"I will. Render aid to Cyborg," shouted the Tamaranian back before returning to tend to the pale sorceress.

Wrenching the door open, Beast Boy peered inside. He was visibly relieved to find the metal man already freed and attempting to free his imposing bulk out of the cramped wreckage.

"Hold on, man. I've got 'ya," said the changeling as he hooked his arms beneath the cyborg's metal armpits and slowly dragged his friend out.

"And I just gave her a new coat too," grumbled Cyborg as he was helped out.

Rolling his eyes, the changeling got his friend back onto his feet.

"Damn and three doors busted? This is just perf-..."

"Dude, will you shut up about the car? We've got a situation here just in case you haven't noticed," growled Beast Boy as he fixed a glare onto the metal man.

"Okay, okay...fine," grumbled Cyborg.

"You okay? Anything else broken besides your brains?"

"Why you, I'm good. What the hell happened?"

"I don't know but we need to regroup. Get Robin. I need to see to Raven."

Without waiting for a reply, the changeling rushed towards the female Titans. By then, Raven had already woken up but she was still dazed and confused. Her eyes darted about anxiously as she searched fervently for her boyfriend.

"Starfire, where's Beast Boy? Is he alright?" asked the empath.

"He is well, sister. Do not worry...oh, and there he is," said Starfire as she directed Raven's gaze towards the changeling running towards them.

"Friend Raven is awake, Beast Boy. Is Cyborg in a safe state? Is Robin alright?" asked Starfire as she relinquished Raven over to her green teammate.

"I'll take care of her," said Beast Boy as he held the sorceress close. "Cyborg is trying to get through to Robin, Star, but I need you to fly overhead to find out what caused the explosion. Look out for Robin too."

Starfire nodded.

"I will do that, friend."

Without delay, the Tamaranian shot off into the sky.

Now that it was just the two of them, Beast Boy looked down at the young woman in his arms. Raven still wore a dazed expression on her face. She must have hit her head a bit too hard from the explosion. Nonetheless, she was able to discern who was currently holding her small frame, shielding her from the threat that was likely still apparent in the vicinity.

"You okay, Rae?" whispered Beast Boy as he rocked her slightly.

Blushing slightly at their close proximity, she nodded while giving him a reassuring smile.

"I am now."

Risking a very public show of affection knowing that no one was around to witness it, the changeling gave his girlfriend a small kiss on her nose.

"Since when were you the corny one?" asked the young man with an amused grin.

Returning the grin with a shrug and a smirk of her own, the sorceress wriggled herself free from Beast Boy's arms. As much as she had enjoyed that tiny bit of affection, duty called.

And not a moment too soon as Cyborg approached them with a serious look on his face.

"Guys, Robin's not answering his communicator. We have to assume he's in trouble too. I've got a lock on his locator beacon so we better get moving."

"What about the perpetrators who did this?" asked Beast Boy, motioning to the destruction around them.

"They could still be around and we need to help those people there," added the Titan pointing towards the injured civilians.

"Whatever it is, B, we need to ensure all of us are alright before making a move," replied Cyborg as he triangulated his tracking systems to better detect their missing teammate.

"I know that but it could also mean that whoever who did this anticipated this scenario. They could still be here and we need to act fast before they make another move," argued the changeling.

"Enough," interrupted Raven as she took out her communicator. "We aren't accomplishing anything by standing here and arguing. I suggest we split up...Star?"

The auburn-haired heroine appeared on the screen.

"Yes, Raven?"

"Have you been able to locate Robin?"

"Not yet and so far I have not seen any unusual activity to indicate the presence of our assailant. Raven, I am most worried," answered the Tamaranian with a frown.

"It's alright, Star. Just keep searching for him. Cyborg will be helping you. In the meantime, Beast Boy and I will be helping the injured until proper help arrives and then we will look for whoever who did this," said the empath as she tried to reassure her friend.

"Thank you, friend. May you and Beast Boy succeed in your mission."

"Don't worry, Bright Eyes. We'll find Bird Boy in no time. He's a tough guy. He'll be fine," said Cyborg.

Starfire smiled warmly and nodded before switching off the link. As she kept the device, Raven sighed while looking at her big brother figure.

"Good luck, Cyborg. Look out for Starfire. Her powers depend on it," said the sorceress.

"You have nothing to worry about, Raven. We'll all be fine. I'm just worried about the both of you going toe to toe with whoever it is," replied Cyborg.

"I'll make sure nothing happens to Raven while I'm breathing," remarked Beast Boy confidently as he moved himself closer to the girl. "C'mon, let's get this done."

Nodding, the Titans went their separate ways.

Chapter 17! things are definitely getting tense. action around the corner and an insidious threat bigger than probably slade himself. i can't guarantee Robin's safety but u noe im always game for any suggestions abt his fate. thnx to all you readers. please keep on reviewing because while this is my story i am still one mind among many and dun we all work better in numbers.

thank u all who have kept favouriting and putting my stories on alert. it makes me happy knowing ppl still read 'change'. all in all i hope this chapter has been an enjoyable read.

until the next update!

-spartan585 ps: this is especially dedicated to my friend theforceisstrongwiththisone. thank you.