Ben drummed his fingers on the table, his head rested in the palm of one hand as he watched Robin work. From this angle, he couldn't see the screen, but he did notice Robin suddenly tense.
"What's wrong? Find something?"
Robin didn't answer.
"Robin? Earth to Boy Wonder?" Ben snapped his fingers, trying to get the other teen's attention.
"It's nothing," Robin insisted, going back to pounding at his keyboard. Ben shrugged it off, but he did notice Robin cast a meaningful side glance at Raven. Whatever he was trying to communicate to her, it made her excuse herself to go outside. After several minutes, when she came back all she did was nod to Robin, confirming whatever unasked question he'd had.
"You know, working together means we have to communicate. If you guys figured out what's causing the aliens to freak out, I'd really like to be in on it."
"We haven't figured that out yet," Robin said, once more returning to his computer monitor. Ben sighed.
"Last time I let Gwen talk me into staying behind," he muttered.
"That is the car you think you're gonna beat me with?" Kevin laughed and smacked Beastboy on the back, good naturedly, jerking his thumb at Cyborg as he spoke. "Can you believe this guy? He really thinks that car's gonna take on mine!"
"Keep laughing," Cyborg shook his fist, but the threat was easily identified as a joke. "You ready to start?" Kevin nodded. "B.B., you start the race."
"But that's a girl's job!" Beastboy complained.
"Exactly," Kevin and Cyborg chorused.
Beastboy stood between the cars as Kevin and Cyborg hopped into their respective rides. Their engines revved as they waited for the signal, both trying to psych the other one out. Beastboy lifted his hands, about to start the race…when both his and Cyborg's transmitters went off.
"Ignore it!" Kevin called. Cyborg shook his head.
"Can't. Robin will just keep calling if we don't go. What if it's an emergency?"
"Then Ben would have called me, too," Kevin insisted. "We've got time, it's just one quick race."
"Kevin!" Gwen and Starfire had stopped in to make sure the boys were headed back. Gwen was not surprised to see that Kevin had talked Cyborg into racing anyways, but that certainly didn't mean she was happy about it.
"What? Ben didn't call," Kevin repeated. "So it's not that big a deal."
"Or maybe he figured that since we where both with the Titans it would be enough for just them to be called?" Gwen suggested.
"Okay, that's a possibility, too," he admitted. "C'mon, just let us try this one race, just this once. Please?"
Gwen's eyes narrowed into slits. Kevin seemed to deflate. "You're not going to let me, are you?" He sighed. "All right, all right. Get in the car. We'll go back to Ben and see what the problem is."
"Shotgun!" Beastboy called.
"Aren't you riding with Cyborg?" Gwen asked.
"He said I'm not allowed to change into a dog anymore because I drool on the seats," the green boy answered, chuckling.
"You can't do that in my car, either! Did you hear me?" Kevin called after Beastboy, who had indeed already turned into a dog and was sitting in the passenger's seat.
"I will ride with Cyborg," Starfire said, clapping her hands. "I have not had the shotgun in quite a while!"
"Yeah, great, everybody's happy," Kevin muttered, getting into the driver's seat as Gwen crawled into the back. "You ruin my interior and I swear we'll stop to have you neutered," Kevin threatened. Beastboy seemed to shake for a moment. "That's right, your squeaky little voice will get even higher."
"Kevin!" Gwen chastised. "We need to get going, we don't have time for you messing around."
"Fine…" Kevin sighed. "You know, sometimes I miss the old days…"
"Why did you call them back here?" Ben asked. "We still don't know who's behind the alien dog whistle, where it's at…we're right where we started. Calling them back is going to slow us down."
"I have a theory," Robin said, closing his laptop and studying Ben's face. He refused to say anymore on the subject, only insisting that he'd make himself clear when the others got back.
But their return made all hell break loose. The minute Kevin's foot was through the door, Robin threw a ball that opened midair into a net. It trapped the teen beneath it, and sent a surge of electricity through his body, just enough to make him pass out.
"What. Was. That?" Gwen demanded, the manna flowing to her hands. "We're on your side, and now you're attacking us?!"
Ben started to reach for his omnitrix, but Robin held out a hand. "You guys don't understand! Kevin E. Levin is a wanted criminal - there are still several warrants out for his arrest. They're on different planets, but I was reading his file and some of the things he's done…"
"We know all about that," Ben said, blinking. "Heck, I spent a lot of my summer after fifth grade trying to keep him from killing me."
"You…knew?" Raven's eyebrows went up.
"Well, yeah," Ben admitted. His nonchalance on the subject surprised the entire Titans team, but neither he nor Gwen seemed to see the problem.
"So you were completely aware that this was the same Kevin Eleven you used to fight?!" Robin asked incredulously, "And you just…trusted him? Just like that?"
"Eh, we had one fight the first time we saw each other after a while, but we worked things out," Ben explained. "Really, he's a good guy now. He did his time and everything."
"His collective crimes add up to about fifty years in jail!" Robin had his hands on his head now, trying to wrap his mind around the whole situation. "He doesn't look that old to me!"
"The Null Void is different than regular prison…a lot worse," Gwen offered. "He did his time there."
"How do you know you can trust him?" Robin insisted.
"We just know," Ben said, sharing a look with Gwen, who nodded her agreement. "If you can't accept that Kevin's on our team, then I guess we're not working together anymore."
"I can't risk that he's going to put the mission or my team in jeopardy," Robin admitted. "Titans…let's go."
"But…" Beastboy started. Robin paused, waiting for him to speak up. "What about Terra? She betrayed us, and we forgave her for it…What if he's like her?"
Robin considered. "He might be, Beastboy, but we can't take the risk that he isn't. We don't know him well enough to figure this all out. I'm sorry," He apologized to Ben, "But you understand, right? Team leaders have to make choices."
Ben nodded. "Yeah. I won't hold it against you…but just so you know, you're wrong."
"I hope I am," Robin admitted. "He'll come around again in a few minutes. Let's go, guys," he tucked his equipment under his arm and headed out of the house, the other Titans following.
"It was nice to meet you. Please, I will be dropping on you in the future, all right?" Starfire said before exiting.
"That's 'dropping in'," Cyborg's correction was half hearted. He closed the door behind him, the cousins both going to Kevin's aid now. Raven was the only one to think Robin was in the right, and normally the others would have called him out on it, but the mission took precedence over the new friends they'd made.
"I still think he's wrong," Beastboy whispered, just loud enough for Cyborg to hear. Cyborg nodded his agreement.
"Robin, Beastboy and I were with Kevin part of the afternoon. He didn't try to attack us and he was…friendly,"
"In a weird way," Beastboy added.
"Anyways," Cyborg continued, "I think you might be wrong about him."
"I could be, but for right now, that's not what matters. We need to find whoever's behind the aliens going rogue and put a stop to it. And it'll be harder if we don't know that we can trust our teammates," Robin insisted.
"I guess," Cyborg sighed. "But it still feels wrong…"
"I want my designs back," the man insisted again. Slade crossed his arms and turned his back to the man. "I designed this to take down Ben Tennyson, not so you could have some fun with aliens! What is your plan here, anyways?"
"Not for your knowledge, I'm afraid, my dear Doctor…Animo, was it?"
"Your machine is imperfect. So long as your prey can still return to his human form, it is easily beaten. My usage for it is much better…I'll tell you what, doctor, I'll help you get rid of your pest and in return you allow me the continued use of your machine."
Animo considered, before nodding. "All right. But what exactly are you doing?"
Even from behind the mask, it was clear that Slade was smiling. It made a shiver run down Animo's back (a much harder feat since he'd returned from the Null Void). "Sit down, Doctor. I'll explain the whole plan…and what else I need you to do for me."