Disclaimer: Teen Titans, as well as the larger universe it inhabits, belongs to DC Comics and DC Entertainment. The only characters here that we own are Bruce Kent Grayson and Jonathan Kent II. We make no profit whatsoever from this story and we are only doing this for fun.
Author's note: Sorry for not publishing a new chapter in so long. Life and other stories have interfered, and I have been in the midst of a dreadful malaise. Alas, some life-changing circumstances were the kick in the pants I needed to start working on fixing said life, and since writing is such a big part of my life, I figured I might as well take care of that, too.
In any event, I am concluding the arc introducing the Flamebird from the future, a.k.a. Jonathan Kent II and presently known as Superboy. If anybody is underwhelmed by how quickly the debacle that could have been Amazons Attack ended, consider it a commentary on how underwhelming and overwhelmingly stupid an idea it was to begin with. Also, "Redwing" and Ravager will still have a role to play in this story, and it will take them right to the Justice Society, for whom I sincerely apologize in advance if my characterizations are not true to form. It's unfortunately been a while since I kept up with their comics, especially in this age of the New 52.
"Titan of the Future"
Chapter 8: "To Reverse"
"What is the meaning of this?" Hippolyta asked.
Artemis glared at Superboy, releasing an arrow aimed squarely between his eyes. For his part, Superboy cut the arrow in half with Hephaestus' Sword. "Look me in the eyes and tell me I'm lying."
Hippolyta looked into Superboy's eyes and was startled to find no falsehood in his demeanor or words. "How is this possible?"
"It's a long story involving time travel," Superboy replied. "That's not the point, though. The point now is that somebody's manipulating all of us. You and DOMA alike are being tricked into some kind of open confrontation that's only going to result in a lot of dead people. How did you find out about Mom?"
"Why should we tell you that?" Artemis asked harshly.
"Because we're trying to save her, too," Nightwing answered.
"It was Circe," Hippolyta answered. "She informed us of what had been done to Diana by the American government."
"And you just believed her?" Donna inquired. "Circe lies all the time!"
"She wasn't lying about this," Phillippus rejoined.
"Probably not, but only because she was responsible for it in the first place," Donna answered.
Hippolyta had a look of dawning horror on her face. "We've been had . . ."
"I'd say so," Supergirl remarked.
"So . . . what do we do now?" Blue Beetle asked. "I mean, we still have to save Wonder Woman, right?"
"Yeah, but it won't be easy," Cyborg replied. "I'm willing to bet Circe influenced some top guys in the government so that it'd go over a little easier."
"And she was counting on having the Amazons fight the government to the death over Diana," the Flash concluded. "But why?"
"Circe is what Circe does," Superboy answered. "But never mind that now. We've gotta save my mother."
"What are you doing here?" Inertia asked.
"I'm here to make you an offer," Bruce replied, sitting across from Inertia while straddling the back of the chair. Rose stood beside him, fixing Inertia with a cold glare with her good eye.
"What kind of offer would that be?" Inertia asked.
"How'd you like to be a hero?" Bruce asked. "Do some good and all?"
"Are you kidding me?" Inertia scoffed. "What makes you think I want to be one of you guys?"
"I'm not saying join the Titans," Bruce explained. "I'm saying join me and Rose. We're on our way to doing something, something to change the world for the better."
"Change the world?" Inertia repeated cynically. "Just what kind of idiot do you take me for? You can't change the world."
"No, but we can at least be your friends," Bruce answered. "And even that can be a start to changing the world."
Inertia paused, as though uncertain of how exactly to phrase his denial of Bruce's offer.
"Think about it," Rose said. "If not for him, then how about me? You can make Bart jealous . . ."
"What makes you think I care about him?" Inertia sneered.
"I was his first crush," Rose answered, smirking. "Think about it. You can rub it in his face that you were able to accomplish something he couldn't."
"And that would be you and I . . ." Inertia trailed off, grinning with mischief in his eyes.
"Something like that," Rose replied, still smirking.
"Then you have me," Inertia said. He looked at Bruce. "So, how about we go on and fight bad guys?"
"That'd be great," Bruce replied, trying his best not to give away how uneasy he was about the tactic Rose had used to get Inertia to join them.
Having given the other Titans the slip, Nightwing now prowled through the DOMA detention center where Wonder Woman was imprisoned. It hadn't been an easy thing to get there, since the facility had been built using a lot of lead, presumably to block Superman's X-Ray vision. That didn't matter now; he was inside and nothing was going to stop him from getting Wonder Woman out.
DOMA guards began pouring in to stop him. "Hey, you guys," Nightwing greeted them. "Sorry, but I don't have time right now. I've got someone important to see."
The guards raised their pulse rifles, ready to fire at a moment's notice. "Ok, since you came all this way . . ." Nightwing remarked. "I guess I can stick around for a while."
That was the last thing they should have wanted, as Nightwing implacably carved a path through his opposition. With a combination of dazzling acrobatics and precisely timed hits, he brought them down one by one. Heedless of the pile of unconscious guards he'd left in his wake, Nightwing strolled to Wonder Woman's cell.
"I really must commend you on getting this far," a sultry feminine voice greeted him. "I see the Bat has taught you well."
"Circe," Nightwing growled, whirling to face her while throwing an explosive wing shuriken at her. Circe merely turned it into a living bat that then disappeared in a flurry of smoke.
"Really, Nightwing? You thought you could take me down with that?" Circe asked mockingly. "You're quite handsome, but it seems you've inherited his habit of biting off more than you can chew."
Nightwing smirked. "Nah, I just counted on that drawing your attention enough for this." He swept out of the way of the cell door, making way for Wonder Woman to walk out.
"Hello, Circe," Wonder Woman greeted.
"You have a very clever boy toy," Circe commented. "Or is he available?"
Wonder Woman cracked her knuckles, ignoring Circe's commentary on Nightwing. "So you're behind all this. What have you done with Sarge Steel?"
"Oh, you figured out that wasn't really him giving the orders?" Circe mocked. "Oh, well."
"Be serious, Circe," Wonder Woman insisted, dashing to Circe and pinning her to the wall with her elbow. "Where is the real Sarge Steel?"
Circe laughed. "You think I'd tell you that so easily?"
"We already know who your imposter really is," Nightwing answered. "You can either tell us what he's done with the real Sarge Steel, or we can make you tell us."
Circe let out another laugh. "You have quite the sense of humor, Nightwing. No wonder the ladies love you so."
Nightwing's determined expression didn't shift for even a moment. "Enough games, Circe."
"But I like playing games!" Circe taunted as she began bombarding both Nightwing and Wonder Woman with bolts of mystical force, bolts that Wonder Woman deflected with her bracelets. Nightwing used his own acrobatic skills to evade Circe's blasts.
"I'll find Sarge! He's probably still somewhere in here so Everyman can use him to maintain his disguise!" Nightwing shouted to Wonder Woman.
"Then that leaves me to worry about Circe," Wonder Woman replied as she deflected another mystic bolt from Circe.
"Pretty boy won't go very far," Circe mocked. "But it is fun to see him try."
"Nightwing is more resourceful than you think," was the retort from Wonder Woman as she closed in on the immortal sorceress for a fierce uppercut.
Circe just smirked despite the force Wonder Woman had put into her blow. "Oh? Care to tell me how you've fallen for another mortal . . . and the son of the man you once had such an endearing crush on, no less!"
Wonder Woman didn't answer in words, but responded by binding the demigod sorceress with her lasso. "Oh, Diana . . ." Circe purred with a mocking undertone. "You must love doing this to people . . . Ever try it on that Superman fellow? He surely seems like a hard man to tie down, but what fun must he be when you do get him tied down!"
Wonder Woman's eyes flared, and the next thing she knew, Circe was alight in golden flames coming from the lasso itself. "Yes!" she cried out near-ecstatically. "The cleansing fire of divine truth! Who knew that all I needed to do to get that power to show would be to tease you about loving that big hunk of space alien manhood! You really are transparent!" She laughed.
"Quiet!" Wonder Woman shouted, using her lasso to slam Circe into the wall. "You've drawn my fellow Amazons into a suicidal war, you've turned my comrades here into pawns in your sick game, and for what? What is your game, Circe?"
"You wanna know?" Circe taunted. "Lean closer. I'll tell you."
"No," Wonder Woman declared. "You'll tell me like this."
"But it's so juicy, Diana!" Circe taunted, her voice ironically mellifluous with wicked mischief.
Wonder Woman let out a low angry growl and pulled Circe closer. "I will ask you once again. Tell me. What is your game?"
Circe used her position to lean over to whisper in Diana's ear, which caused Diana's eyes to widen. "You . . ."
"Oh, yes . . ." Circe whispered throatily. "Me."
Nightwing hadn't had an easy time locating Sarge Steel. Having to go through his men, who believed they were taking orders from Sarge when they were really taking them from Everyman, was not exactly fun, especially since he didn't want to hurt them much. They were just being tricked, after all, and didn't deserve the kind of brutality that a less empathetic person would dish out to them. Eventually, he had gotten past them to find the real Sarge Steel . . . only to get clocked in the back of the head by Everyman, who was still using Sarge Steel's form.
To Everyman's surprise, Nightwing just laughed. "Do you have any idea how many guys have tried doing that to me?" he asked. "My head's a bit harder than you punks think."
Everyman smirked. "Nightwing. The real big cheese of the superhero community. The guy everybody loves and looks up to . . . yeah, I've heard all about you. According to some people, you're even bigger than Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman combined."
"Thanks for the flattery, but you're not delaying me at all," Nightwing answered. "Though you're free to keep going if you think stroking my ego's gonna help you."
Everyman growled. "I'm gonna chew you up . . . and then I'm gonna be you! Imagine all the women I could get!"
Nightwing just looked at Everyman askance. "Really. The guy who's got more clout in the superhero community than Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman combined according to you, and all you can think to do with it is get women?" He shook his head derisively. "You are so small-time. No wonder Circe could rope you that easily."
Everyman's borrowed face twisted into a snarl and he lunged at the man who had mocked him, only for said man to casually leap and flip out of Everyman's range. Landing gracefully behind Everyman, the acrobatic hero twisted around for a spin kick to the shape-shifter's solar plexus that knocked him to the ground. With Everyman down for the moment, Nightwing moved to the real Sarge Steel, who looked like he had seen better days, to say the least, and began to cut him out of his restraints.
"You'd be amazed what a razor wing sharpened to an edge no thicker than a molecule can actually accomplish," he quipped. As he was about to completely free Sarge Steel, he could see Everyman rising behind Sarge, reverted to his original form. Without much fanfare, he reached past Sarge and punched Everyman hard enough to knock him unconscious. He turned back to Sarge Steel. "You good to go?"
Sarge Steel gave Nightwing a deadly smirk. "What do you think, kid?"
"I'm getting a radio call from Nightwing," Red Arrow said. He paused to listen more closely. "You got Wonder Woman out?"
"He freed Diana?" Hippolyta repeated.
"Sounds like it," Cyborg replied. "And I bet Circe's getting all she can handle and then some."
"And Sarge Steel is free, too," Red Arrow added. "Guess that means we're not going to see an all-out throwdown between the Amazons and the U.S.A."
"How fortunate for them," Artemis scoffed.
"What do we do now?" the Flash wondered. "As much of a relief as this all is, it feels a little anticlimactic."
Hippolyta gazed curiously yet warmly at the new Superboy. Now that she looked more closely upon him, she could see that while he did resemble a younger Superman, his eyes were a lot more like Diana's. "What is your name, young man?" she inquired.
"No, young man, your given name," Hippolyta amended.
Superboy walked up to Hippolyta and whispered it in her ear. "Jon Kent."
"That is his birth name?" Hippolyta whispered. "Kent?"
"Yes," Superboy admitted. "The name of his parents here on Earth."
"He has parents?" Hippolyta wondered. "He actually lived as a simple man when he had the power of gods?"
Superboy smiled. "If it wasn't for my paternal grandparents, my father would have been a much different man. It's because of them that the world has a Superman to protect it instead of trying to rule or destroy it."
Hippolyta chuckled slightly, which puzzled the Amazons and anyone else who couldn't hear the whispered conversation between her and her grandson from the future. "Wonder what he said," the Flash dryly mused.
"Must have been really good, getting her to laugh like that," was the comment from Phillippus, who had a cryptic smile on her face.
Hippolyta smiled slowly at Superboy. "I suppose it is no wonder that your father and mother were drawn to each other . . . and still are, no matter how they would protest if anyone voiced that aloud. Kindred spirits are like magnets to one another."
"A magnetism joke, Grandma?" Superboy groaned. "Please. Your sense of humor is 3,000 years out of date."
"Whelp," Hippolyta grunted, though there was no real anger in it, just amusement at what a mischievous imp her grandson was. Not much different from Diana in her youth, the Amazon queen privately mused.
"Should we not see to it that our Princess is freed as the scion of the Batman claimed?" Artemis inquired archly.
Hippolyta's expression hardened. "We should . . . and have our own chance to confront Circe for luring us into a foolish course of action that would have only ended in our demise."
Wonder Girl and Supergirl both smirked ominously. They hadn't liked their divided loyalties between the Titans and the Amazons, and to know that Circe had set off what could have been total disaster for both sides . . . oh, they were looking forward to getting some payback of their own.
Donna cracked her knuckles, sounding out the common thought on the Amazons' minds. "Let's give Diana a hand with Circe."
Inside the brownstone of the Justice Society of America, the heroes assembled in the meeting room heard a knock on the door. "Who wants to get that?" Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern of Earth, sardonically asked.
"Might as well," Alan's shadow-manipulating son Todd Rice, a.k.a. Obsidian replied with equal dryness in his tone. Moving through the shadows of the brownstone, he reached the front door and opened it. "Who are you, and why are you dressed like Superman Red?"
It was none other than Redwing, wearing a dark red suit with silver accents, a silver scalloped cape with red lining, and a silver S-shield on a dark red background. Flanking him were Ravager and Inertia, neither looking all too enthused about being there.
"Name's Redwing, and I'd like to speak to the Justice Society."
"Who are your friends?" Obsidian asked.
"This could be a problem . . ." Obsidian murmured.
That was how Redwing and Jay Garrick, the original Flash, came to be staring each other down from across the round table. Surrounding them were the other members of the Justice Society, all of whom were on guard against any potential trickery on Redwing's part or that of his associates. It was Jay who broke the tense silence.
"I suppose you're to thank for Bart Allen still being alive?"
"Yeah," Redwing admitted. "I am."
Jay's expression softened somewhat. "Thank you. The boy is like a grandson to me. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if he'd died."
"I know what that's like," Redwing murmured.
Jay's gaze turned to the blond doppelganger of Bart Allen, garbed in a black-and-green version of Bart's Impulse costume. "So you're him. Inertia. Bart's brother."
"Clone," Inertia amended irritably.
"You don't have to define yourself like that," Jay said. "As just a thing. You're just as much a person as Bart, and you deserve to be treated as such, no matter how you were born."
Inertia snorted. "You remind me of that Max Mercury."
"A wise man," Jay commented.
"Just who are you, anyway?" the notoriously busty – and mighty – Power Girl interrogated Redwing.
"Hi, Mom," Redwing answered. "Nice to see you, too, even if you won't know me for a few years yet . . . if ever . . ."
"Mom?" Power Girl repeated. "Are you joking? If so, it's not funny."
"Power Girl as a momma," Ted Grant, the original Wildcat, quipped. "Now that's funny."
Redwing looked at Dr. Mid-Nite. "I'll give you a sample of my DNA and you can test it from there. You'll see I'm not lying."
"How do you plan to do that?" Dr. Mid-Nite asked. "If you are Power Girl's son . . ."
"Where's your bathroom?" Redwing asked.
Ravager palmed her bandana-masked face. "Oh, mother of . . ."
"This is the guy we're letting lead us?" Inertia groaned.
Dr. Mid-Nite escorted Redwing to the bathroom and waited for him to produce the DNA sample he needed. In the meantime, Ravager and Inertia were stuck with the rest of the Justice Society of America. This fact elicited an annoyed huff from Ravager, who had embarked on a staring contest with Cyclone.
"You look like Candyland threw up on you," Ravager spat.
"You must be Ravager," Cyclone answered, unfazed by Ravager's insult. "I like your costume. You really know how to work chainmail – and it's not even one of those chainmail bikinis like they have in all those fantasy stories where everyone's supposed to be a seasoned warrior and yet the women run out practically naked and . . ." She trailed off when she remembered she was in the same room as Power Girl, infamous for not only her massive bust but also for the cleavage window that so highlighted it. "Anyway, is it safe for you to have your neck exposed like that, because unless you have a healing factor like your dad . . ." She stopped again at Ravager's scowl. "I'm sorry . . . you two must not be on speaking terms these days . . ."
Stargirl placed a hand on Cyclone's arm to stop her. "Sorry. She does that. A lot."
"I see," Ravager curtly responded.
"She reminds me of someone I know," Inertia commented. "But he wasn't half as cute."
Cyclone blushed, while Ravager tried to punch Inertia in the shoulder, only for him to flash out of her reach and behind her. "Sorry, babe. You know you're still my girl, right?"
"Not yet," Ravager retorted.
Jay scowled at Inertia. For all that he looked like Bart Allen, he was most definitely unlike Bart Allen. Bart was impulsive and had a devil-may-care approach to life, but Inertia seemed to just not care about toying with people, particularly the hearts of sensitive girls. It wasn't that Cyclone couldn't take care of herself, but being who he was, Jay couldn't help but feel a certain protectiveness that kicked in around the young people in his charge.
Wildcat growled, and it wasn't the werecat Tom Bronson doing it, it was his very human father Ted. "Punk . . ." he muttered.
Inertia just eyed Jesse Chambers, currently Liberty Belle. "You know, I liked you better when you were Jesse Quick."
"Like I care what you like," Liberty Belle retorted acidly.
"Your sharp tongue wounds me," Inertia answered melodramatically.
Rick Tyler, Hourman, scowled at Inertia behind his mask. "You don't seem to care very much for personal boundaries, do you?"
Inertia shrugged nonchalantly, just before Dr. Mid-Nite called in over the intercom. "Everyone, come in. Terrific and I have news for you about our mysterious new hero."
Thus, they all went in, with Inertia speeding through first. "So what's the what, Doc?" he asked.
"His story checks out," Mister Terrific replied. "Mid-Nite and I went over his DNA with a fine-tooth comb. No doubt about it, the half of his DNA that's Kryptonian came from you, Power Girl."
Power Girl looked utterly discombobulated, and that was saying a lot for a woman who seemed as unflappable in spirit as she was in body. "My dad had the same look when he found out you were pregnant . . . or so you told me," Redwing remarked.
"Who . . . is your father, anyway?" Power Girl asked.
"That's the other half of his DNA," Dr. Mid-Nite replied. "The human half came from Richard John Grayson, whom we all know better as Nightwing."
"World's Finest . . ." Stargirl commented.
"That's awesome!" Cyclone exclaimed. "Superman and Batman are like in-laws now!"
"Not now," Redwing corrected. "20 years from now, give or take."
"How the hell do Nightwing and I get together?" Power Girl asked.
"Why spoil it?" Redwing rejoined. "Besides, I tell you too much about the future, who knows what it'll do? Might end up not even existing at all, or I might be one of those temporal strings that gets cut and left adrift in the sea of reality."
"You're surprisingly cavalier about this," Mister Terrific wryly mused.
"Have to be," Redwing responded. "It's either that, or go stark raving mad and with my kind of power . . . I can't let myself do that."
"I would also like to talk to you about something," Mister Terrific said to Inertia.
"Why?" Inertia asked.
"Your DNA might be the key to stabilizing Bart's," Mister Terrific replied. "Since you two are near-identical, barring the modifications made to your genome."
"Why would I help him?" Inertia scoffed.
"Because he'd do the same for you," Ravager answered. "That's the kind of guy he is."
Inertia was about to say, "His problem," when he felt himself filled with the presence of Barry Allen. It was all around him and seeping throughout the entire room, soothing lightning spread throughout the entire area he was in.
"Do you want to do this, Thad?" Barry asked. "Abandon your brother? Abandon the second chance you've been given? There is no reason for you to go on hating him . . . not when there is still so much for the two of you to do together."
"Together?" Inertia echoed. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"The Speed Force will need him, just as it will need you," Barry continued. "You will have to work together as brothers if you wish to survive the coming crisis."
"If I help him, will you stop haunting me?" Inertia asked. "Because I really don't want you dropping in on me while I'm having my fun."
"I will always be with you, Thad," Barry replied. "You are as much my grandson as Bart is. Your blood is as much Allen as it is Thawne. It is up to you which side you accept."
"Cryptic crap," Inertia grumbled. "I'll save Bart's ass just so I don't have to deal with you for a while."
Barry chuckled, his electrically glowing form fading out into lightning that rushed through and out of Inertia and the Justice Society's med-lab. "What was that?" Jay asked.
"You felt it, too, old-timer?" Inertia asked. "Thought I was the only one seeing . . ."
Liberty Belle cleared her throat to get his attention. "If you don't mind, Dr. Mid-Nite was about to tell you something he and Terrific found in Bart's blood."
"The rapid aging from his trip into the Speed Force to stop Superboy-Prime, his absorption of the Speed Force in its entirety, and then having it expelled from his body and redistributed into its original form – it's caused his body to start breaking down," Dr. Mid-Nite replied. "He won't notice it at first because he'll be too busy reacquainting himself with his powers, but it'll come crashing down on him, and the more he uses his powers, the worse it'll get. As his twin, for lack of a better term, your blood will be able to counteract his physical degeneration, but he may end up reverting to the age he should have been."
Inertia smirked. "Guess I can hold it over his head that he owes me his life."
Liberty Belle started toward Inertia, fully intending to give the dark speedster a piece of her mind when Hourman stopped her. "If that's how he has to justify it to himself, it hardly matters," he advised her. "He'll get his attitude adjustment later."
Liberty Belle calmed somewhat, but the scowl she aimed in Inertia's direction told him it was far from over . . . as did the slug in his arm from Ravager. Unfazed, Inertia eyed Dr. Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific. "Let's get this party started, huh?"