In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have started this. I'd promised myself no big projects until I finished my student teaching; given the sheer amount of time and effort I've been known to put into my previous episode rewrites, I have a feeling that this story is going to occupy what little free time I have left.
But alas, my imagination cannot be silenced for long. This particular episode has stuck out in my mind for a while now. Just as with Betrothed, I felt that the idea of How Long is Forever? Ultimately played out a fantastic concept that wasn't given an adequate amount of screentime. Especially given the episodes that had preceeded it. Ideas slowly began to form, and before I'd realized it, I'd written a rough outline for the entire thing—itself a rarity, as I usually start with more of a vague idea of what I want, and then write these things as I go so as to see where the story takes me.
I can't guarantee a masterpiece quite like 1000 Words was, but I can promise a vastly different approach than where the original episode writers had gone. 'Cause that's what I do.
**EDIT: special thanks to reviewer Elihu for correcting some of my atrocious Spanish grammar. Section fixed and updated!
"Sometimes goodbye is a second chance." -Shinedown, Second Chance
The villain known only as Warp gave a victorious smirk as he stood over the five fallen teenagers. Superheroes or not, they were simply one hundred years too far behind both his intelligence and technology. Destiny itself had fortold of their defeat—of his victory.
And less than a few steps away sat his prize: The Clock of Eternity.
Valuable in the present, priceless in the future. Ignoring the defeated Titans, he stared straight ahead as he kept his eye directly on the golden timepeice. His suit pulsated with power as he reached right through the glass that contained the timekeeping artifact, arm shielded by a wave of electromagnetic time particles.
Once the Clock was safely in his grasp, he then took a step back and placed two fingers over the pendant on his chest. A small portal appeared, beckoning the man back to his own time.
"Ta-Ta, Titans," he called over his shoulder with a mocking wave. "I've enjoyed our time together, but I've got a brightfuture ahead of me!"
No sooner did he have one foot beyond the portal, however, when a ferocious battle cry erupted from behind; he barely had time to react before the red-haired alien—Starfire, they called her—dove straight into his chest. The force of the impact sent them both spirling uncontrolably into the time stream.
Almost immediately after, the portal closed behind them.
In the back of her mind, Starfire knew she should have been more afraid then. She had acted in a completely reckless manner in her persuit of the villain, following him into a realm even he could not fully control. Still, she put all these thoughts aside as she concentrated on taking back what had been wrongfully strolen.
Warp was another story; from the very moment they had fallen through the portal, he began shouting colorful obscenities regarding both her intelligence and heritage. He screamed that her presence would do more damage than even he, and how she was powerless to stop what had already been Destined. Starfire ignored every last word, wrestlig back and forth with him for several moments as they each tried to wretch it from the other's hold.
Suddenly, her fingers slipped and pressed against his large pendant. The duo were enveloped in a blinding light, and shooting pain ripped through the Tameranian's body. She screamed, letting go of the Clock as she recoiled back.
The last thing she recalled before loosing consciousness was a sudden gust of chilling air, followed by the sensation of her back slamming into a rough slab of cement.
"¿Quién piensas que es?"
"No sé. Pero esta muy bonita ¿no?"
"No hay tiempo para eso, Más. ¿Qué debemos hacer?"
"M... Pienso que ha sido lastimada."
A pair of male voices loomed over her, trading off hushed whispers in a language that was foreign to her. They didn't sound unfriendly—cautious, perhaps, but more out of concern than ill intent.
"Llama a Señorita Donna. Debemos llevarla a Titan's Tower."
Her ears perked as she recognized the name of her Earth home. Though she longed to sit up and speak with her mysterious rescuers, it was all she could manage to stiffen a low moan and flop her head to one side: "Titans...Tower..."
"¡Conoce la torre!"
"We are here to help," the first voice spoke much louder than before, in heavily-accented English. She sensed him kneel down at her side. "Can you move at all?"
Her fingertips twitched, but little else.
"Do not be alarmed," the second chimed in, equally accented, as he took his place on her other side. A pair of learn arms wrapped themselves around her shoulders. "We will take you to Titans Tower, yes?"
"I...thank...you," she managed, just before passing out once more.
The warmth of what could only have been natural starlight beamed down upon her skin. She inhaled deeply, pressing herself against the soft pillow as she felt her strength returning; though they stung at her still-senstive retina, the strength of the rays felt wonderful.
When at last her eyes recovered enough to blink open, she found herself on a small cot in what appeared to be the resident medical ward. The room smelled fresh and clean, hints of lemon stringing her nose, and the walls were decked out in beautiful patterns of soft blues and greens. Even the equipment looked pristine and relatively un-threatening as it glistened a sparkling steel.
"Hey, you're awake!" A perky female voice came from her left. "Guess it worked after all!"
She turned to see a young girl roughly her age standing in the doorway. Her dark, glossy hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, revealing a healthy tan and thick lashes outlining prussian blue eyes. The clothing she wore consiststed of bold reds and blues—a tight-fitting yet still modest leotard with matching knee-high boots—and gave a distinct 'superheroine' impression.
When Starfire stared silently for too long, however, the girl's smile twisted into a small frown. "You...do understand English, don't you?"
"Oh!" She sat up apologetically, having been lost in her thoughts. "Forgive me. Yes, I have knowledge of your language."
"That's a relief." The girl smiled again, showing off impossibly white teeth. "It's bad enough trying to make sense of the twin's Spanglish, let alone having to speak with someone who doesn't know any English at all." At this, she gave a smirk that told it was meant to be a joke.
Starfire gave a smile similar to those she would often wear after one of Beast Boy's 'puns' before asking, "Please, what did you mean just now when you said 'it worked'?"
The girl motioned to the room's sole, large window. "Sunlight. You were out for nearly half a day before Kon suggested exposing you to the rays to rejuvenate." Placing a finger to her chin, she looked extremely amused about something. "I'll have to admit, I had no idea Tameranians were like Kryptonians in that sense."
"You know of my people?" Starfire's eyebrows rose in pleasant surprise. "Then, there have been other Tameranians aside from myself who have ventured to this planet?"
"Oh, sure." The girl shrugged. "I mean, I've never met one myself in person until now, but it's not like aliens are all that uncommon around here these days."
A thought occurred to her: "Then, this...'Kon'...person..."
"Well, that's what I call him, anyways. And yes, he's an alien too...well, mostly," she added, pausing to stare upward in thought before shrugging. "Eh, it's a long story. He prefers that the others call him by his Earth name, Conner, though you could just call him Superboy if you're more comfortable with that."
"I have heard of the Man of Super, but never the Boy." Starfire tilted her head to the side as she thought back. "Most interesting. Are they of any relation?"
"You could say that," the girl smirked, as if she found the question rather humorous. Without missing a beat, she grabbed a nearby chair and placed herself down into a graceful seated position. "I'm Donna, by the way. Also known to the civilian world as Wonder Girl, and second-in-command to the Boy himself."
Again, Starfire recognized a part of the name—having previously met Wonder Woman—and realized that the girl before her did bear a similar resemblance. It was not just the hair and color scheme, either; Donna posessed the same aura of confidence and almost regal attitude as her older counterpart.
"My friends on Earth know me as Starfire," she introduced herself with a wide smile, deciding that she liked this Girl of Wonder. It had been a while since she met another female with such enthusiasm for conversation.
"Pleased to meet you, Starfire." Donna gave a half-hearted salute jokingly. Resting her arms across her knees, she leaned forward. "Any chance you remember what happened to you, by the way? I heard bits and pieces from the twins about you falling from the sky and some weird light show, but it's hard to get a coherent sentence out of either of them when they get that excited."
Starfire thought back to the two male voices she had heard, realizing that they must have been the 'twins' Wonder Girl kept referring to. Inwardly, she sighed, hoping she would get a chance to thank them before she left.
Her expression then darkened as she suddenly remembered the reason she had needed their help in the first place: "Warp."
"I was doing battle with the villain who called himself Warp." She explained, turning back to face Donna. "He claimed to have traveled from the future in order to steal some sort of valuable Clock. There was a...portal of some kind. Just as he attempted to escape, I followed him through this portal...and that is the last thing I can recall."
"Interesting." Donna folded her arms and sat back, blowing an invisible strand of hair. "I've never heard of any Warp guy before. Where are you from, by the way? I mean, your Earth home."
"I have resided for the last year in the City of Jump with my fellow Titans," Starfire explained with more than a hint of pride. "Though I was not aware there is another Titans Tower aside from ours. Please, in what town are we?"
Donna's face twisted into a look of confusion. "Umm...this is Jump City."
"Most Glorious!" Starfire clasped her hands together, oblivious to the odd looks her new friend was giving her. "We live in such close proximity to one another. Our home is located on a small island in the center of water. Are you familiar with it?"
Donna took even longer to answer this time, and when she finally did, her words were slow and carefully chosen. "I am. In fact, you're...in it right now."
It was Starfire's turn to look confused. "But...that cannot be." Her eyes darted around the room—warm, but unfamiliar. "This does not look like our medical ward, and I am certain Robin would have informed me if there were other—"
"You know Robin?" Donna interupted suddenly, eyebrows raised.
"Oh, yes!" Starfire exclaimed, momentarily distracted from the situation at hand. "He is my best friend and the leader of our team."
"The Teen Titans, am I correct?"
"You are. However..." Starfire's voice trailed off as her mind resumed processing information. "You said that your Boy of Super is team leader."
"He is. Only for the last couple of years, though. And even then, I've only been here for roughly a year and a half myself."
Starfire's brows furrowed together. "You must be mistaken. Titans Tower was only constructed just under one Earth revolution ago. How could you have been there—no, here for so long?"
"And why do you insist that the leader is someone other than Robin?" She proceeded to ignore Donna's quiet pleas for her to listen, not liking the knowing look the girl had on her face. A theory of her own was beginning to form. One she did not like. "Is he not here?"
"Oh, he's here alright. Out in the main living room with the oth—"
"I must speak with him at once!" The Tameranian girl exclaimed, lifting herself off of the medical ward cot and heading straight for the exit. Donna's cries of protest fell on deaf ears as she flew out of the room, on the way passing by an extremely muscular boy wearing jeans and a black t-shirt.
"Hey!" He squeaked, instinctively ducking. Starfire remained in earshot just long enough to hear him add, "Donna, what the heck's going on?"
She did not have time to explain herself, however, as her focus remained on finding the main living room. Navigating the numerous hallways was almost too easy, a fact that did not help to ease her growing concerns. When she eventually came upon the enteranceway, she lowered her feet to the ground and walked the last remaining steps into the room.
The sight that greeted her caused the Tameranian to gasp audibly.
Sitting on the couch, where she would normally have found Beast Boy and Cyborg, were two young boys who were neither green nor part-robot. They looked around twelve or thirteen years old, with matching outfits of white and red. A pair of yellow tinted goggles shielded their eyes, and identical locks of red hair stuck out from beneath their hoods. The only way she could differentiate between them were the different symbols on their chests: a 'plus' sign on one, and a 'minus' on the other.
They shouted at one another in the same foreign language Starfire had heard of her rescuers, in a manner not unlike that of her missing teammates.
"Victoria!" The 'minus' boy exclaimed suddenly, jumping up from his seat with both fists pumped in the air. It was then he finally noticed Starfire standing in the doorway, watching. "Ah! Hola, señoita. You are feeling much better now, I see."
The second twin also stood and leaned atop his brother's head for a better view, smiling and waving as if her presence was a perfectly normal occurance. Unable to resist, Starfire found herself sending him a half-hearted wave in return.
"Glad to see you're up, Miss." A deep baritone came from the kitchen area. "We were starting to worry about you."
She turned to see a slightly older boy dressed in blues, black and yellows: a blue trenchcoat worn over a black leotard with an odd yellow lightning-shaped symbol across his chest. He also had on a white mask that contrasted rather nicely with his dark skintone. Blue shades rested atop a mop of black hair styled in a way she had never seen before. As the boy strolled back into the main room, he took a huge bite out of what Starfire vaguely remembered being called a "hero" sandwich.
He, too, did not seem particularly alarmed at her sudden appearance.
Only two others resided in the room, seated so that they faced one another in a corner of an extremely large window. The girl looked extremely gaunt and withdrawn, with shockingly white hair and a black patch over her left eye. A large cloak shielded the rest of her body from view. She stared out the window blankly, head resting lazily against the reflective surface, either completely oblivious to or apathetic to the Tameranian's presence.
But it was the last person who caught Starfire's eye. In the sea of strange faces and costumes, his familiar ensemble stood out in welcoming reds, greens, blacks, and yellows. His back was still turned, however, as he seemed to be talking with—or, rather, to the white-haired female.
"Robin!" She called to him.
Upon hearing his name, the boy stood up and turned around.
Starfire took to the air and flew over to him, relief washing over her.
...until she landed and got a better look.
The hair and skin tone were right. The costume was right. The opaque mask covering his eyes was right. But the person beneath it was not. Robin had been thin and lean, yes, but nowhere near as small and young-looking as the boy standing before her now; he couldn't have been older than fourteen, two years Robin's junior. Most importantly, his face was all wrong. He was all wrong.
"You are not Robin!" She gasped, stepping back in shock. "Why do you wear his costume?"
Not-Robin's eyes widened as he got a good look at her. "S-Starfire?"
She did not seem to hear him. "This...this is all wrong! Who are all these people, and why are they in Titan's Tower?" More to herself than anything, Starfire retreated further as she continued to take in her surroundings. Tears were beginning to pool in the corners of her eyes. "What is happening?"
"Starfire, listen—" he began, and tried to approach. He stopped when she visibly flinched away from him.
"Do not come any closer!"
"Wait!" He tried again, but she continued to ignore him. Turning away, she moved to take the air again, when: "Kori, wait!"
Starfire froze. There had only ever been one person—on either Earth or Tameran—with whom she had shared that particular moniker. Her breath catching in her throat, she blinked the water from her eyes and slowly turned back around to face the Not-Robin.
"How do you know of that name?" she asked him softly.
"Robin told me. The Robin you knew."
"The Robin I...knew?" she repeated slowly, not liking the past tense of his statement.
The other three boys in the room were watching them intently now, eyes wide. The twins looked scared to even breath wrong at that point, though the older boy was brave enough to risk taking another bite of his sandwich as he eyes remained focused on the display before him. The girl remained oblivious to all around her.
"You see, he doesn't go by that name anymore." 'Robin' braved another step forward, thankful when Starfire remained still. "He told me about you, Kori, not long after you disappeared that day during a battle with some villain named Warp. Shortly before he passed down the mantle of Robin to me...just under four years ago."
Though she didn't need oxygen to live, Starfire felt in that moment like the breath had been stolen from her very lips. Her chest tightened as her heart pounded against it, so loud she wondered if the entire room could hear it. She felt her hands start to shake as uncontrolable waves of disbelief washed over her. She swallowed audibly.
Four years? She had disappeared four years ago?
A fierce cry broke through the silence just then, startling nearly everyone in the room. The dark-skinned boy's sandwich was lost as the twins gave simultaneous shouts of surprise, throwing their hands up in the air as they fell backwards off the couch. The discheveled trio turned to see their leader standing in the doorway, glaring heatedly at the Tameranian girl. He looked to be in some sort of battle-ready pose, eyes narrowing further when she said nothing back.
"Okay, I want to know what is going on right now." He huffed. "Why did you take off like that, and where—"
"Oh, cool it, Kon." Donna appeared from behind him, casually strolling up to the boy. As she passed, she smacked him upside the head just hard enough to visibly jar him. "Now, put those away before you hurt something." She added, motinoing to his clenched fists.
While the self-proclaimed Boy of Steel struggled (and failed) to maintain his masculine composure, Donna calmly strolled over to where Starfire stood, still recovering from shock. She took the girl's hand gently into her own and offered as comforting of a smile as she could.
"Come sit down, Starfire." she spoke, and motioned to the couch where the twins still sat; with one simple wave of the hand, from her, they vacated the area instantly. "I have a feeling we have a lot of explaining to do.
TO BE CONTINUED...