Chapter 1: Fissures
It was an idyllic Friday afternoon in Jump City. The sun was shining down gloriously, the phosphorescent rays of light danced upon the pristine waters surrounding the city and reflected brightly off of the windows of the many skyscrapers in the metropolitan area. Even though it was early September, it was warm outside; the sort of day that serves as a swan song for summer just prior to the impending autumnal chill. With such nice weather it was no surprise to see the streets of the city fill up early in the afternoon. Some people merely ran errands and went about their daily business while others skipped out of work early to squeeze in one last game of golf or one last trip to the beach with the kids. Truly it was a great day to be alive.
Though nature itself provided a remarkable day for all to enjoy, even harder to ignore was the white and electric blue sports car careening down the Jump City Freeway with its windows rolled down, the radio cranked up, and a green dog in the passenger seat with its head stuck out of the window.
"Beast Boy!" Cyborg yelled loudly, "What part of 'no drooling on the T-Car' didn't you understand?"
The green dog's expression quickly changed from one of absolute joy and merriment to one of disappointment before shifting back into the form of a green-skinned, green haired human with one lower fang protruding involuntarily over his upper lip. He sat with his hands folded lazily behind his head as the wind blew carelessly through his hair.
"Aw, c'mon Cy!" Beast Boy pleaded, "If you knew how fun that is you would do it too!"
Cyborg smiled as he continued to drive down the freeway. It was hard to be upset on such a glorious day.
"I never said you couldn't stick your head out of the window, but I don't wanna be cleaning your drool off of the side of the T-Car! I just waxed it!"
Beast Boy and Cyborg both laughed as they approached their exit on the freeway.
"Dude, how long has it been since we have had time to go to the mall?" Beast Boy asked curiously.
"I know what you mean, B," Cyborg replied, "It's been too long. Between fighting the Brotherhood of Evil, learning of Slade's return, and taking care of business as usual, we haven't had much time to ourselves lately."
"This is gonna be awesome!" Beast Boy exclaimed, throwing up his hands in excitement, "We can go check out the arcade and the electronics store..!"
Cyborg, also eagerly anticipating the joys of the mall, quickly interjected.
"Yeah! The new MuscleCar Turbo Racing game came out yesterday for GameStation XL. We gotta check that out!"
"And don't forget all of the babes at the food court!" Beast Boy said happily, raising his eyebrows and shooting Cyborg a sly wink. Cyborg couldn't help but laugh as he parked the T-Car in front of the mall and rolled up the windows.
"This is going to be fun" he said as he and Beast Boy both got out and began walking toward the front of the mall.
As they entered the mall, they were overcome by the sights, smells, hustle, and bustle. The sounds of cloistered conversation and unbridled laughter enveloped them, as did the sight of thousands of twinkling lights, from the fluorescent storefront signs to the decorative strobes and multi-colored stands of bulbs used to seduce the eye. Best yet was the scent of freshly baked cinnamon rolls off in the distance. Though the food court was on the other side of the mall, the scent permeated the air and proved thoroughly intoxicating. It was sensory overload, and it was exactly what they had been looking for.
Cyborg and Beast Boy walked passed each store front slowly, taking in what each display window had to offer. They even slowly strolled passed the perfume vendors and scented candle stores, which—to most people—proved either overwhelming or nauseating. Cyborg and Beast Boy seemed to be moving in slow motion compared to the throngs of people moving hurriedly passed them. However, what is normal for some is precious to others and to Beast Boy and Cyborg, a trip to the mall—something completely for themselves—was a rare and well-deserved treat.
"Can you believe that people do this all he time?" Cyborg quipped, "They just drop everything, pile in a car, and hang here for hours…Do you ever think about stuff like that, B?"
Beast Boy walked alongside Cyborg silently for a moment. His eyes were opened wide and twinkling from the bright lights flickering on the storefront signs nearby. He had a goofy smile on his face—a mixture of relaxation and contentment—as he took in his surroundings.
"I would be lying if I said I never thought about what a normal life would be like." Beast Boy said pensively, really pondering the logic behind his response, "But then I think about all of the people we have saved and all of the good things we have done…besides, I don't think I would have ever met you, Robin, Raven, and Star if I had a normal life."
Cyborg nodded in agreement.
"I kinda remember what life was like…before." He said with a bit of sadness in his voice, "A normal life…no responsibilities, no obligations. It seems so long ago now…It seems so trivial now."
Both Cyborg and Beast Boy fell silent for a moment as they continued walking through the mall, approaching the electronics store. While they both loved fighting villains and making the city—and world—a better place for mankind, a taste of normalcy was always bittersweet. It was great to shirk the responsibility of heroism for a while, but it was also difficult to give up the freedoms average people enjoyed on a regular basis.
Their somber mood evaporated as soon as they reached the electronics store in the mall. Both Beast Boy and Cyborg stood in awe as they gazed at the storefront window. Large flat-screen, high definition televisions, premium surround-sound stereo systems, game consoles hooked up to 60" LCD TV screens, and a plethora of technological treats laid out before them. It was hard for Beast Boy to resist, and even harder for Cyborg not to drool on the displays.
After browsing through the store and playing with almost every display item available, Cyborg and Beast Boy emerged from the store with the item they had originally set out for: MuscleCar Turbo, the next generation racing game designed especially for GameStation XL. There was just one thing left for them to do…head in the direction of the wondrous scent of cinnamon buns, which would surely lead to the food courts and a congregation of hot chicks to fawn over.
The walk to the food court from the electronics store was considerable, but when hunger strikes, it is difficult to ignore and impossible to reason with. It wasn't long before they had made it through the lines and sat down at a table, Cyborg with a large plate of loaded beef and cheese nachos and Beast Boy with a cinnamon roll and a large soft pretzel with cheese.
They sat in silence at first, just enjoying their food and their surroundings. It wasn't long before a few passersby noticed the two Titans in the food court and casually stopped to pull out their camera phones to snap a quick souvenir photo.
"Well Cy, that is one definite perk of the job." Beast Boy said happily while dipping a piece of his pretzel in cheese, "Oh Yeah! Celebrity status!"
Beast Boy played up the moment by posing for a few of the amateur paparazzi who were snapping pictures. Cyborg could only laugh…after all this was Beast Boy at his best.
The whole day had Cyborg's head spinning. The time away from the rest of the team, doing things normal people would do without a second thought, and thoroughly enjoying every moment of it.
Beast Boy's spectacle also caught the attention of some attractive girls sitting in a corner booth. The smiled and waved at the two heroes, hearts a-flutter. Just as Cyborg and Beast Boy were about to approach the girl's table to get to know them a bit better—and to possibly get some phone numbers out of the deal—an alarm in Cyborg's arm went off. The alarm startled Beast Boy who nearly tripped over his own feet as he walked in the direction of the flirtatious girls in the corner booth.
"Oh no!" Beast Boy exclaimed exasperatedly, "What is the alarm for?!"
Cyborg's heart also sank a little. After all, he was having a really good time hanging out with Beast Boy and doing something normal for a change. Cyborg let out a feeble sign and shut off the klaxon.
"It must be quarter after four already." Cyborg said feebly, "Robin wanted us back by five for combat training, remember?"
Beast Boy felt as though someone had punched him in the gut.
"Oh Boy!" Beast Boy exclaimed sarcastically, "I can't wait! There is nothing better on a Friday afternoon than to have lasers shot at you while you run through an obstacle course!"
Cyborg held in a laugh. He really wanted to let it out and get one last good laugh in before returning to the realm of reality, but he knew that combat practice, like so many other things, was a necessary evil that came with the territory of being a superhero.
"Come on, B," Cyborg said in a deathly serious tone, "We gotta get back to the T-Car. Rush hour is about to start and if we get caught in it, Robin will probably punish us for being late."
Beast Boy hung his head a little, shrugged his shoulders, heaved a sigh, and waved a solemn goodbye to the girls in the corner booth. There was work to be done, and even though he was the most carefree of the Titans, he was never one to shirk his responsibilities to the team.
Cyborg and Beast Boy hurried through the mall on their way out, a complete 180 from how they acted earlier in the afternoon. There was no time to stop and take it all in now. Duty called and all that mattered was getting back to the Tower on time to avoid a scolding from Robin and the extra hours of physical training that accompanied being tardy to a meeting, debriefing, or training session.
Once outside, Cyborg and Beast Boy piled into the T-Car and hit the freeway. Unlike on the ride to the mall, the windows were rolled up, the music was turned off, and both sat in stone-cold silence. The only sound which permeated the interior of the T-Car was the sound of the engine humming melodiously as Cyborg shifted from one gear to the next.
"Not exactly the ending to the day I was hoping for." Beast Boy griped, breaking the silence. He folded his arms casually across his chest and gazed longingly out the window. Though the day was coming to a close, it was still beautiful outside and with a few hours of daylight left a number of activities appealed to him, especially when contrasted with the stark prospect of combat practice, an exercise which tested everyone to the point of physical exhaustion.
Cyborg continued to steer in the direction of Titan's Tower. The T-Car, humming merrily with every shift of the gears, now cruised onto the Jump City Bridge. Once over the bridge, the tunnel to Titan's Tower was but two exits away. It was now ten to five and traffic on the bridge was beginning to back up. Cyborg began to wonder whether or not he and Beast Boy were going to make it back on time. Cyborg continued to drive as Titan's Tower came into sight.
In this light, the Tower cast a massive shadow on the glinting water surrounding it. It was truly a magnificent sight, even if they did have combat practice once they arrived. Cyborg's reverie was cut short, however, by the sound of screeching tires and horns bellowing up ahead. Soon those sounds were followed by screams of panic and horror. Though he could not quite see what the commotion was all about, he knew his purpose was to restore order and that is what he intended to do.
"What's going on, Cyborg?" Beast Boy asked, shaken by the horrific sounds echoing from further up the bridge.
"I've got no idea," Cyborg replied curiously. He opened the passenger side window and glanced over at Beast Boy. "How about you take a look?"
Without pause, beast Boy transformed into a hawk and flew out of the window to get a look at the road ahead. Cyborg hoped against all hope that it was something minor, not only for the sake of the people involved in the commotion ahead, but for his and Beast Boy's sake as well. Tardiness was criminal to Robin and losing track of time at the mall was hardly a sufficient excuse.
Cyborg continued to cruise down the bridge with the flow of traffic. His mind raced as he did not know what awaited him further down the road.
"C'mon B," Cyborg said to himself quietly, "Just come on back and tell me that it is just a broken-down car or someone with a flat tire…"
Cyborg's palpable uneasiness was in evidence as the loud chime of his communicator nearly caused him to short-circuit. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before flipping open the communicator. It took a moment for the static to clear, but when the picture came into focus, he saw Beast Boy standing atop a bridge abutment a little further down the road. He looked panicked; clearly the situation was more dire than originally anticipated.
"Cyborg!" Beast Boy shouted urgently, with a look of horror draped across his face, "You need to stop all of the traffic headed this way! The Bridge is OUT!"
Cyborg could barely breathe. He frantically thought of ways to stop the horde of rush hour commuters from plummeting to their deaths, but he had almost no clue how to accomplish such a feat.
"I'll take care of slowing down traffic, B," Cyborg said intrepidly, "We need the others…and quick!"
With that, Cyborg reached under the steering column of the T-Car and flipped a hidden switch. The switch activated the ejector seat, causing the roof to retract and Cyborg's seat to shoot into the sky.
As he rocketed into the sky strapped to his driver's seat, he began to think that this was a really bad idea. Before a second thought crossed his mind, Cyborg cut himself free from his seat and began to drop from the sky. Beast Boy, who saw the exhaust fumes from Cyborg's ejector seat transformed into a pterodactyl and grabbed ahold of Cyborg.
"BB," Cyborg yelled at the top of his lungs "drop me about a hundred feet in front of the gap in the bridge, I'll stop the cars."
Beast Boy flew with great speed toward the monstrous gap in the bridge, swooped down, and dropped Cyborg gently to the pavement below before transforming back into his human form.
"There are a few cars balancing on the edge of the hole in the bridge. There are people stuck inside." Beast Boy said, trying to keep his composure despite feeling overwhelmed by all that was going on around him, "I've got to get them out before this gets any worse."
With that, he transformed into an ape and rushed to the aide of the trapped civilians in the green sedan and blue pickup truck which teetered dangerously on the edge of the Jump City Bridge. He was all that stood between the innocent bystanders trapped helplessly in their vehicles and a two hundred foot drop into the rocky riverbed below. With great care, Beast Boy placed his large hands on either side of the sedan and gently pulled it a few feet away from the precipice. The occupants quickly scurried out of the sedan and toward a more stable part of the bridge.
Meanwhile, Cyborg had his hands full trying to prevent oncoming traffic from careening into the abysmal depths below. The T-Car, which kept rolling down the road even after Cyborg had ejected, was the first car to approach him. As it was now unoccupied, and clearly of high craftsmanship, Cyborg made the decision to sacrifice his car to save the approaching drivers. With a little effort, Cyborg stopped the T-car, lifted it up and slammed it on its side, right in the middle of the road. Oncoming motorist immediately took notice and began to slam on their brakes. Two tractor-trailers were amidst the oncoming chaos and also slammed on their brakes, but Cyborg could tell that there was no way they could stop in time. He acted quickly and began to sprint toward the first tractor-trailer, ramming into it with brute force and sending a shockwave through it that nullified its momentum. The second tractor-trailer was headed directly toward Beast Boy, who was still trying to get the last of the frightened drivers out of their cars. Cyborg leapt over one car and hurdled another before grabbing onto the second semi's trailer. He then stiffened his legs and buried his heels into the unforgiving asphalt as he strained with all of his might to bring the mighty machine to a grinding halt. Sparks, smoke, and debris flew up from beneath Cyborg's heels as he slowed down the large semi-trailer. Eventually, between Cyborg's monumental efforts and the truck's own braking system, the vehicle came to a complete stop just a few feet from the fifteen foot gap in the Jump City Bridge.
Cyborg put his hands on his knees and took a few deep breaths. Even being part machine, such an effort took a lot out of him. Beast Boy, having saved the last of the trapped motorists from imminent danger, transformed back into his human form and stood by Cyborg, waiting for him to catch his breath.
"Either today is 'Surprise Demolition Day' or we just stopped a total tragedy" Beast Boy said, awe apparent in his voice.
Cyborg quietly nodded in agreement. The whole scene was a chaotic mess: People were angry, shocked, confused, or disoriented; Cars, trucks, and buses were strewn all over the bridge as many drivers lost control of their vehicles while trying to quickly stop and avert the danger which laid ahead. Worst yet, the Jump City Bridge, located on the city's freeway, was now in shambles. The asphalt was ground down and ripped up from where Cyborg had dug in his feet to stop the second semi-trailer and twisted hunks of twisted metal debris and glass were strewn across the bridge's four westbound lanes.
Cyborg took a good hard look at the gaping hole in the bridge. He stood silent for a second to two before his communicator once again startled him with its telltale chime. Cyborg looked over at Beast Boy with a stern look on his face.
"We have to be on the lookout" Cyborg said in a very abstemious tone, ignoring his communicator for a few more seconds as he continued to stare at the gaping hole in the bridge.
"What exactly are we looking for, Cyborg?" Beast Boy replied curiously
"Who…or whatever did this to the Jump City Bridge." Cyborg replied calmly, "This wasn't an accident and it sure wasn't construction. We're gunna have to find out what did this before it redecorates the rest of the city."
Beast Boy nodded in agreement as Cyborg flipped open his communicator, finally bringing the incessant chiming to a halt. Robin's voice came in loud and clear over the communicator.
"You're late, Cyborg. This better be good." Robin said coldly, trying to mask his agitation.
"BB and I ran into a little problem on our way back to the Tower." Cyborg said, clearly understating the severity of the incident, "You guys should really get down here and check this out for yourselves. We think that something or someone with trouble in mind is on the loose."
"Alright," Robin replied unwaveringly, "Raven, Starfire, and I will be there in a couple minutes."
With that, the transmission ended. Cyborg stood near the edge of the cavernous hole in the Jump City Bridge as a cool breeze blew by.
"I don't like this at all," He said pensively, "Something about this just doesn't add up…"
Cyborg and Beast Boy both stood amidst the destruction, waiting for their friends to arrive and hoping against hope that the devastation of the Jump City Bridge was to be the only black mark on this otherwise perfect day…