Alright, next installment is ready to roll. Unfortunately, this particular chapter might seem a bit on the tame side compared to the previous sections. I don't know if I'd go so far as to describe it as filler, as there are three particular instances that will play major parts in the upcoming story. At any rate, so what if it's a bit filler-ish? A bit of entertaining nonsense helps level out the plot!
Chapter 7- Questionable Sanity
Against boredom, even the gods themselves struggle in vain.
"Let's get you both to the med-lab," Cyborg muttered as he pushed himself up from the concrete. After Raven's departure, the remaining Titans had simply huddled together on the broken rooftop, each trying to come to terms with the catastrophic events they had just witnessed. The night had been a horrific blend of disaster and tragedy, and when the dust settled, what was left? A demolished home, a missing teammate, and an adversary that was no worse off than he had been the day before.
They might well have stayed there the entire night, had Robin not let out a hiss of pain from his broken leg. Cyborg's gaze had lifted, and the numerous injuries on the bodies of his friends filled him with a strange sense of relief. This was a problem he could fix. This was a situation he knew how to handle. Grateful for the opportunity to focus his thoughts elsewhere, he helped Robin and Starfire to their feet and guided them back into the ruined tower.
The much-anticipated distraction hadn't lasted nearly as long as he'd hoped.
Cyborg was the definition of professionalism. His face void of any emotion, his tone short and clipped, his movements slow and methodical, he checked and treated their wounds in a manner that perfectly fit his namesake. But while he was able to school his outward appearance into an indifferent façade, his thoughts were anything but.
Everything reminded him of Beast Boy. When he measured out a syringe of Methohexital, he could hear Beast Boy whining about how much he hated needles. When he injected it into a calm and unflinching Robin, he nearly laughed as he remembered a frantic and shrieking Beast Boy being held down by Starfire so that Cyborg could give him a tetanus shot.
And so it continued. For every action, a memory. Beast Boy complaining about the taste of cough syrup. Beast Boy demanding a lollipop after his latest check-up. Beast Boy trying to sneak an extra shot of Nitrous Oxide before having a cavity filled. Beast Boy. Beast Boy. Beast Boy.
A dry, rasping sob burst out of Cyborg's mouth, and he stumbled away from his teammates and leaned wearily against a wall. It was too much to handle. Across the room, Robin and Starfire could only watch, still fighting to handle their own newly acquired grief. The atmosphere in the med-lab was despondent and hopeless.
That quickly changed when a quiet whistle seemed to come from the hallway outside. It built from a whisper to a roar, as though a storm was approaching from down the corridor. To the Titans' surprise, the door to the med-lab buckled and collapsed inwards to reveal Raven. It quickly became apparent that there was something strange about their usually stoic friend.
It might have been the cloak around her shoulders. Unlike the normal blue, or even the white that she had worn over the past days, this one was colored a pure jet-black, and it billowed and flowed around her as though stirred by an invisible wind.
It might have been the debris field that was currently in orbit around her body. Chunks of concrete, plaster, broken glass, and countless other bits and pieces spun and whipped around her, carried by a whirlwind of magical energy. The sorceress barely seemed aware of it, paying no heed when chunks of the doorway were ripped free and added to her new collection.
It might have been the expression she wore as she lightly hopped over the fallen door and entered the room. Considering the emotional trauma she had endured, they would have expected her to be melancholic and withdrawn, or on the verge of tears, or sullen and lifeless. At the very least, it would be some type of downcast emotion.
Instead, what greeted them was the happiest and most excited face they could imagine. Raven's smile seemed to reach from ear to ear. She looked ecstatic, overjoyed, a perfect picture of happiness. Or she would, if it wasn't for the ominous cloak and the maelstrom of destruction around her. Coupled with the rest of her appearance, the smile seemed borderline psychotic.
"Beast Boy says hello," she announced happily, and as her friends' faces changed to expressions of shock and amazement, the fluorescent lights above them glowed black and exploded.
Silence crept back over the void as the last echoes of Raven's goodbye were swallowed up by fog. Its inhabitants remained still, their moods greatly affected by her words. Malchior dropped his hands and backed away. The conversation had shed light on what direction the future would take, and it was not a pleasant one. It hadn't been difficult to sense the veiled hostility in the girl's voice, nor the hidden threat in her promise to release them. He had no doubts that the moment they returned to the living world, he was going to find himself meeting a very hostile welcoming committee.
Beast Boy watched as Malchior backed away, apparently deep in thought. Now, he knew from experience that interrupting someone's retrospection brought nothing but trouble. In an attempt to keep from annoying the elder dragon, he decided that he'd better find some way to occupy himself. That plan quickly fell apart when he came to one upsetting realization.
'Aw man, there's nothing to do around here!' He paced around Malchior, widening his circle with each pass, trying desperately to think of something to do. One circle, two circles, three. He switched from two legs to four, even went into a handstand and walked on his claws for a time.
'This sucks! It's like waiting in a doctor's office, but there aren't even boring magazines or a fish tank.'
He continued pacing, wondering just how long it would take before they were released. Thanks to the passage of time, it could be months! Hell, it'd take a day or two for Raven to go and refill her tea!
'Wait, Raven!' Beast Boy halted in his steps, a grin forming on his reptilian face. 'If she can curse people into the book, maybe she can send other stuff in here too. Maybe she'll send over the Gamestation…' His thoughts drifted off to the possibilities of introducing Malchior to video games…
It was the showdown of the century; the two competitors stood side by side, hands gripping their instruments of destruction. Because of their massive size, the living room of the Tower was unavailable for this event, so they had commandeered Atlas' coliseum. The red and gold robot was currently sulking in the corner, nursing his battered armour from when Malchior had punted him into a wall.
Set into the stone walls of the building was a giant television, more than twice the size of the average drive-in movie screen. Between the dragons sat a gigantic coffee table, arrayed with all the necessities for a healthy gaming session, albeit in dragon-sized proportions: A bowl of popcorn as large as a swimming pool, two 1800 gallon cups of soda, and a vegan pizza almost twenty feet wide.
Down below them, the Titans were seated in their favorite couch, necks craned upwards to watch the festivities. Robin, his usual tri-colored outfit swapped for a referee's uniform, pulled a microphone down from… somewhere.
"LAAAAADIIIIIEEEESSS AND GEEEEEEEEENTLEMEEEEEN! Welcome to tonight's main event! In this corner, visiting from his mystical prison, the Saurian Centurion, Malchior!" Robin paused as massive cheers and applause rang out from the empty seats. "Umm, okay. And in this corner, hailing from our own Jump City, the Mean, Green, Lovin' Machine," Even in Beast Boy's daydream, Robin still rolled his eyes at the nicknames. "BEAST BOY!"
With a quick glance at the two contestants, he continued. "Rules are simple, gentlelizards! No spawn camping, no unplugging the other player's controller, no screen-cheating. Any questions?"
The two dragons raised their controllers, eyes locked on the screen.
Robin let out a frustrated sigh at being ignored. "Of course not. Begin!"
The stadium erupted in noise as the sounds of combat boomed out of the massive television. The two dragons leaned forwards, claws frantically tapping buttons and moving joysticks. They bobbed, ducked and weaved alongside their virtual avatars, as though trying to subtly influence the outcome with their actions. It was a glorious battle, but as the final shots were fired, only one could be the victor.
"Woohoo," Beast Boy shouted as he threw up his claws in triumph. "Who's the man? I'm da man! I mean, I'm a dragon man! Or maybe I'm just a dragon…But I'm still BEAST BOY!"
Malchior watched in confusion as Beast Boy began frantically playing air guitar, still singing at the top of his lungs.
"Is he always like this?"
"BURNINATING THE COUNTRYSIDE!"
Down below, the Titans were desperately trying to block out the wailing cacophony. Only Raven was brave enough to remove her hands from her ears to answer him.
"Usually it's worse. At least now he's not dancing."
"BURNINATING THE PEASANTS!"
Malchior groaned and snatched the bowl from the table before stalking towards the oblivious Beast Boy.
"AND THE BEAST BOY COMES IN THE NIG-"
Wielding the bowl with both hands, Malchior struck. It was dead on target, a home-run swing that sent Beast Boy flying headfirst into the walls of the coliseum, smashing a dragon-sized hole into the rock.
The Titans scrambled to avoid the downpour of popcorn as Beast Boy dizzily lifted his head from the rubble.
"Who's number… o…n…e…"
Snapping out of his musings, he smacked himself on the forehead at the obvious problem. 'That wouldn't work; there'd be nowhere to plug it in! Stupid inter-dimensional prisons don't come with power outlets.'
Admirably resisting the urge to cross his arms and pout, he returned to the task at hand. Unfortunately, everything was quickly ruled out. Books? He was too large to turn the pages. Gym equipment? He doubted they could find a treadmill big enough, and Cyborg's weight machine might as well be a five pound dumbbell.
In the end, he was forced to abandon the idea of Raven airdropping him any supplies. He sighed and lifted his gaze to the roiling fog above him. Normally if he was bored, he'd fly down to the park and skip rocks, or lie in the grass and gaze at the sky. Fat chance of that happening now. No rocks to throw, or water to skip them over. There weren't even clouds to watch, or a sunset to anticipate!
'I HATE THIS PLACE!'
Succumbing to his mounting frustration, he occupied himself with cursing at everything responsible and relating to his own predicament. He cursed Rorek, wizards, Mumbo-Jumbo, books in general, the printing press, fog, Seattle, and countless other topics and tangents. Before long, however, his temper cooled, and he was forced to once again acknowledge his own boredom.
'Oh well,' he mused. 'At least that kept me busy for awhile. I bet it's been at least a day or so; maybe Raven'll be back soon!'
He turned to look for Malchior, only to see the dragon still lost in thought. Beast Boy's jaw dropped. Barely any time had passed at all!
'But, but, it feels like it's been forever! How am I supposed to know how much time's going by?' He looked around frantically, hoping to find some way of measuring the length of their imprisonment.
To the left: mist. To the right: mist. Above, below, in every single direction. Beast Boy's feelings of dismay began shifting into panic as the homogenous gloom seemed to press inwards. Luckily, he was a Titan, a superhero. His reaction was calm, cool, and perfectly justified based on their situation.
"AAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH! I GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE!"
The sudden, echoing scream nearly caused Malchior to fall over as he was jolted out of his thoughts. He whipped around in concern, only to see his fellow inmate shrieking in terror and pushing his arms out in random directions, almost like he was trying to escape an invisible box.
"I CAN'T MOVE! I CAN'T BREATHE! THE WALLS ARE CLOSING IN!" Beast Boy was gasping in huge gulps of air, sure that any minute now he'd be choking on the dense fog that coiled around them. His eyes darted about, looking for any chance of escape. It was only with the arrival of a timely fist to the back of his skull that he was snapped out of his hysteria.
Malchior sighed in relief as the younger dragon lay sprawled out after his strike. It was a crude method, but at least it had been enough to snap the boy out of his panic.
Beast Boy looked up as his breathing slowed. He chuckled in embarrassment, rubbing the bruise on his skull. "Sorry about that. It was, um, cabin fever?"
"Are you finished," he asked wryly, looking down at Beast Boy in amusement.
Beast Boy tilted his head, as though carefully pondering the question. Finally, he grinned.
"AAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHH!" Before Malchior could respond, he let loose with another deafening shriek, this one directed right into the older dragon's face. Malchior stumbled back, holding his claws against his ears before toppling over. He grimaced as the ringing faded, directing a poisonous glare at Beast Boy.
"Okay, now I'm finished," Beast Boy declared.
Beast Boy laughed as the larger dragon clambered to his feet. The guy sure was fun to tease. Following suit, he propped himself up on his forelegs, only to pause in confusion. He looked down at his claws. Just as with the rest of the void, beneath him was nothing but fog.
"But then, what are we standing on," he murmured. He tapped his fist down, making contact with an unseen something. His confusion deepened.
"This place makes no sense at all," he complained. "Fields of mist, invisible floors, give me a break!"
Now that he was aware of the fact that he was literally walking on thin air, he had to say that the feeling was pretty damn unpleasant. He wanted something real under his feet, at least so he wouldn't feel like he might go plummeting into nothingness at any moment. His thoughts turned back to the Tower, to the large rock he would sit on at the water's edge. His 'thinking rock' as he liked to call it. He wouldn't mind having it here now. He remembered the shape, the texture of the stone beneath him. His stomach clenched as he was suddenly lifted upwards, as a cold, smooth object materialized beneath him.
At Beast Boy's sudden yell, Malchior rolled his eyes and turned around. "I thought you were finished with… that… nonsense," he said, his eyes widening in amazement. For lying underneath a very surprised Beast Boy, was a large grey stone.
For a moment, neither spoke. They just stared at the rock in slack-jawed amazement, as though it was the most interesting thing in the world. Sadly, considering their place of residence, it probably was.
Finally, Malchior spoke. "Where… did that come from?"
"It wasn't me, I swear! I was just minding my own business when suddenly this rock jumps at me from out of nowhere! I've never seen it before in my life." Beast Boy crossed his arms, too busy defending himself to put any thought into how or why his thinking rock had suddenly popped into existence.
In such a large world, connections among individuals can often be overlooked, or completely unnoticed. Strangers who seem to have no similarities with one another might well be connected in the larger scheme. In this case, most would be skeptical upon first viewing the tall, severe businessman as he pushed open the door of the Climpson & Son's coffee shop. How could he possibly be connected to the Teen Titans?
Indeed, there was nothing overtly distinguishing about him. If one observed him as he settled himself into a seat and placed his order, they would see a fairly unassuming individual. A handsome, if unremarkable face, blue eyes that showed little warmth or passion, unremarkable, if unusually long lightly-colored hair. No, there was nothing to suggest that his story could somehow relate to that of five teen superheroes.
The one thing they did have in common was an extremely bizarre sight directly before them.
While the three Titans watched an unusually excited Raven tear her way into the med-lab, and as two perplexed dragons gaped at a mysterious rock, this particular Englishman was sitting directly across from the most garishly dressed and obnoxious character he had ever laid eyes upon.
This… thing quickly introduced himself as 'Moddie' before launching into a nonsensical tirade that seemed to alternate dialects between sentences, ranging from Suffolk to Yorkshire to Cockney with no reason or warning. It was an altogether horrible way to start one's morning.
'Of all the coffee shops in all the towns in all the world… you had to walk into mine,' he mused bitterly, half-heartedly listening as the old maniac ranted about his upcoming scheme against some people he called the 'Titans.'
"And sure enough, soon as the little snots see my 'ypno screens turning their 'ole city into a right English spot, that Robbie's gonna fall right into my trap, an' once ee's out of the picture, the rest of those little sprogs'll be rounded up in time for tea!"
Mad Mod let out an annoying cackle before falling back into his apparently villainous monologue. To the other man's relief, however, a high-pitched rendition of God Save the Queen began to play from the older man's coat pocket.
"Oop, one moment old bean, have to take this call, won't be a tic" he announced before flipping the phone open and beginning another equally annoying conversation. The businessman stifled a groan and quickly pushed himself away from the table. He was turning to leave when Mod's surprised exclamation caused his blood to run cold.
"Cor, are you havin' a laugh? A sodding dragon jus' up and pops outta their Tower? Well, what 'appened to it then? Blimey, that's a cracking banger, innit? Two dragons goin' at it like they're the Marquess of Queensberry or summat? An' that Raven lass sucked 'em up into a book…"
Mod's conversation was suddenly interrupted when his new acquaintance lunged over the table and grasped him by the collar. Mod looked up into the man's face, noting with apprehension that his formerly dull eyes now seemed to burn an electric blue.
"What did you just say about dragons," he hissed, giving Mod a rough shake for emphasis.
Struggling to keep his voice steady, the older man quickly mumbled out the story. From what he had been told, a giant black dragon had suddenly burst through the roof of the Titans' home, and then the shapeshifting member of the team transformed to fight him. The man's jaw clenched, his eyes taking on a brief hint of panic before his grip tightened.
"You said that this girl pulled them both into a book. Are you sure," he snarled, his face looming inwards.
Mod nodded frantically, unwilling to cross the stranger any further.
The man seemed to relax, absently running a hand through his white hair as he released his grip and drew back from the table.
Mod watched nervously as the man closed his eyes and collapsed into his chair. The former panic had left him, and he seemed to be contemplating something, as if a difficult decision had to be made.
"This Raven, where can I find her?"
Mod gulped as the man's eyes snapped open. They seemed colder now, more determined, like a sheet of ice had settled over them.
"Sh.. she's in Jump City, California. They live in a, a big building shaped like a T. Can't miss it, guv."
The man gave a brief nod and leapt to his feet, striding towards the door. Mod watched as he pushed past their waitress, his coffee long forgotten. Eager to forget the whole encounter, Mod happily snatched up his mug, listening as the woman called after the strange, white-haired man.
"Mr. Knowl, you forgot your coffee! Mr. Knowl?"
Cut, print, that's a wrap, break for lunch. Hope you all enjoyed the chapter, even if various conundrums have been revealed. Raven's appearance and actions? Very mysterious! A rock appearing out of nowhere? ALSO mysterious! An Englishman hauling ass out of a coffee shop? Not exactly strange, but in the context of this story? Quite mysterious!
On a bit of a tangent, I find it hilarious that FF's spellchecker thinks that 'leapt' is not a correct word, yet doesn't see anything wrong with most of the slang words used in Mod's dialogue.