(I have no stake, financial or otherwise, in the Teen Titans. The characters depicted herein, apart from those which are incidental to this particular story, were created, sadly, by someone other than me. Raven, Jinx, Robin, et al., are NOT mine, and are only appearing in this story at the behest of my Muse, who seems to have developed a taste for energy drinks lately and will NOT leave me alone. Not that I'm complaining. She's cute. -Concolor44)
Late August …
(from the daily log of Victor Stone)
Want to hear a milestone? It's been four months, exactly, today. The last detectable traces of warp energy from the Event faded sixteen days ago, but I only admitted that to myself yesterday. It's just … it's really hard. You know? And I haven't given up, exactly. I haven't! The problem is that I don't know where to go from here.
Kori got back from Tamaran last night. She brought one of their scientists with her. He's supposed to be some kind of expert in Transition Events, but as far as anyone can tell they only happen once every few hundred years, so it's not like he'd have a huge sample size to study, is it? Anyway, he wants to go over the data with me. I guess it can't hurt.
I just miss her so much. She was like the little sister I never had. Yes, I realize I've said this before … several times … but that doesn't make it any less true. The pain hasn't really eased much. And I've probably watched the replay fifteen hundred times, so it's not like I could forget, is it?
Still no word from Gar. I'm afraid this really has pushed him off the deep end. Richard says not to worry, that he's more resilient than he looks, but I'm not convinced. It's been almost a month since he left, and it's like he dropped off the planet. That stupid note he pinned to Richard's door didn't help, either. Damn it. Nobody around to argue tofu-versus-meat. Damn it.
I just re-read what I wrote. Do I really sound that depressed? Screw it. I'm going to go get some breakfast and then talk to that scientist.
(from the diary of Richard Grayson)
Kori's back. Thank God. This has been the longest five weeks of my life. She has a scientist with her who is supposed to be some kind of Transition Event expert. I hope he can make some headway where Victor and the Justice League hit a wall. We really need Raven back. At least with Jinx and Gizmo gone we aren't nearly as busy. I still think that little rat bastard had something to do with the Event, never mind what Victor says.
Two days ago I got the rest of the data back from the Justice League about the attack on the H.I.V.E. headquarters. I finished running the correlation last night, and I'll have to agree with the Batman on this one. I think Gar's responsible. There are too many "coincidences" for him not to be involved, unless some vigilante out there has a tiger, a giant ape, and a spinosaurus under his total control. Let's just say that I can reject that hypothesis out of hand. In any event, Gar seems to have come unhinged.
I don't know how I'm going to break it to Victor – I've been the one reassuring HIM that Gar will be okay. Looks like maybe not. He never had the desire to kill before. He went out of his way to AVOID killing. But the level of savagery he showed when he took the H.I.V.E. apart was … appalling. I can't think of a better term. Half the remains couldn't even be identified.
With Kori here maybe we can get back on some kind of regular training schedule. Neither Terra nor Vic has had the heart for it, and I can't say much more for myself. I can't figure that girl out, though. She insists on patrolling every night, and has made the bulk of the Team's captures for the last two months. She isn't gentle, either. I've been keeping track. Commissioner Thomson wants to meet with me about it; he's been keeping track, too, it seems. He sent me another note yesterday. I should probably stop putting him off.
Aqualad has been making noises about going back to the Titans East. Guess I can't blame him. He really hasn't had much to do, and the other team stays a lot busier than we do. I suspect being away from Argent has something to do with it, too, and I sure DO understand THAT.
Time for breakfast. I'll have to talk with Vic today and tell him about Gar. Not looking forward to that conversation.
(in a Tamaranian space cruiser in geosynchronous orbit with Titan's Tower – dialogue translated from Tamaranian)
"Your Highness, I must protest."
"You may protest all you like. I will not change my mind. These are my friends, and I WILL help them."
"But they are not Tamaranian!"
"For which I thank X'hal!"
"This is not what I came with you to accomplish. You wanted me to look into the circumstances behind the Transition Event. I will do that. But I will not involve myself in the affairs of alien vigilante groups!"
"Raven is grohnnflokk: my soul-sister. Her well-being is my well-being. My fate is tied to hers. Helping her IS helping me!"
"Grohnnflokk! Surely not!"
"Has she sworn the Oath of Return?"
"Then you and she …"
"Of course. It is part of the bond."
"But she is of THIS planet!"
"And of two other planes of existence beside. It is of no consequence."
"But no one not of Tamaran has ever …"
"She is a special case. Now, will you help her?"
"I … I … Your Highness, I … it seems I must."
"Good. I will inform the Titans."
(somewhere over eastern Jump City)
Narrowly missing a small flock of birds, a sleek spire of rock streaked toward the ground at over four hundred kilometers per hour. Terra had formed sockets for her feet and hands into the basalt, giving her excellent purchase on the obdurate stone. She'd pulled up a windscreen in front of her and altered its molecular structure, pulling some elements out and rearranging the others into a thin, transparent sheet of aluminum oxynitride, a substance both harder and much tougher than bullet-proof glass.
As she neared the street she altered the stone further, forming it into a skin-tight suit of rocky armor that supported her slim body in the sudden, nine-g deceleration she executed immediately before smacking into the ground in front of a heavy SUV. The vehicle, with three men inside who had robbed a jewelry store and were trying for a getaway, ran full-tilt into the stony figure that had appeared so suddenly.
Terra's form didn't move so much as a millimeter. The SUV's front bumper and grill folded around her; the front axle broke in half; the left wheel popped off and bounced down the street; the motor broke loose from its mounts and was forced from the engine compartment into the front seat; and all three men came flying through the remains of the windshield. A small duffle bag came with them, bursting on Terra's chest and spraying jewelry all over the pavement.
Huge gouts of earth popped up out of the street, forming into hands and catching the men before they got terminal road rash on top of their myriad cuts and bruises and broken bones. She instantly wrapped each of them in a tight layer of stone-like material that immobilized them and kept them from bleeding out. She was holding them in an almost negligent manner when the police cars came to a skidding halt nearby.
Ten minutes later, having passed the crooks off to the EMTs and rounded up all the jewelry for the cops, she was back in the sky, looking for her next target … and going through her mind was the same tired refrain that had been playing for four months.
If only I had been faster. Just a little faster and I could have saved her. Just a little stronger and she'd still be here, and the others wouldn't be blaming me. Got to get better … faster … stronger …
(dusk, north of Riberalta, Bolivia, South America)
The man paused, leaning against an immense tropical hardwood and panting as if there were no air left in the world. One hand pressed against his side to slow the flow of blood from a shallow gash. He was getting dizzy, and he suspected at least part of it was from blood loss. But he had to keep running, had to move, had to get away from the mad-eyed thing that stalked him …
Something long and smooth and monstrously strong slammed into his chest, trapping him against the tree and knocking the rest of the air out of his lungs. Despite his ardent desire to do so, he couldn't formulate a scream. More of the slick, scaly length twined around him, pinning his limbs, starving him of breath. Spots danced in his vision. He realized he had minutes, perhaps only seconds, to live.
Then the ungodly pressure lifted and he drew a tortured gasp. When a huge, flat, black-eyed, reptilian head came level with his own, he lost the will even to think. Then the thing spoke.
"Hello, Brother Blood. How … pleasant to finally meet again. We have so much to talk about."
The words came out as if pulled from the bottommost pit of Hades. "… Who … What … are you …"
"Surely you remember your old … acquaintance. How could you forget? We crossed swords a number of times. I am hurt that you would forget such a dedicated nemesis as I."
Brother Blood was having more and more difficulty pulling his thoughts together, but one name did float up to the near reaches of his mind. "… Changeling?"
"Oh, very good! Now. Maybe you can get one more answer correct for me."
The man was willing to do anything the former Titan asked, as long as he would let him go. He said as much.
A dry, rasping spasm erupted from the hideous saurian jaws, and Brother Blood realized it was laughing. "No. I don't think so. Here are your choices: You tell me what I want to know and your death will be quick and clean. You don't, and you will experience pain you cannot imagine. You get one chance. I am not a patient man."
Brother Blood's mouth worked open a few times. "What … do you … want to know?"
"What happened to Raven?"
The captive's blood froze. Raven? He hadn't thought of her in months. "I … I don't know! Why would you think … I had anything to do … with that?"
"Oh, I'm afraid that's the wrong answer. No kewpie doll for you."
The steel-hard bands loosened suddenly, so suddenly that Brother Blood slumped to the ground. He gasped a few times and looked around in fear. What had the shape-shifter meant? Where had he gone?
There was a sudden buzzing in his ear, and he slapped at his head, but it was too late. In growing horror he felt something crawling down his ear canal, and in seconds the thing had chewed through his eardrum and was burrowing deeper into his head. He thrashed on the ground, slamming his head repeatedly with both hands, screaming in fear and pain and despair, for several minutes. Blood began leaking from his ear, his mouth, his nose; then finally, he simply stopped. His flaccid limbs dropped to the earth, his frozen eyes staring into the night, his slack jaw unable to form the scream he so desperately needed.
A minute later, something small and disgusting crawled out of his mouth, dropped to the ground, and quickly morphed into the form of Garfield Logan. Kneeling beside the fallen criminal mastermind, he regarded him coldly and said, "Door Number Two. Little trick I picked up recently. You won't like it much. I severed the nerves that control your voluntary muscles, and left everything else intact. You'll lie here until something comes along and decides you'll make a decent meal. In the meantime, you'll feel everything, every pain, every twinge."
He lifted Brother Blood's right hand and examined it, then proceeded methodically to break each of the fingers, repeating the exercise with the left hand. Then he stepped on each knee and pulled up on each foot until the joint broke. At no time did the man on the ground react in any way.
Changeling scanned the ground for a few moments until he found what he was looking for, bent, and scooped up a small beetle. This he placed on Brother Blood's face, waiting until the insect oriented itself, crept over to one of the man's open eyes, and settled in to feed.
Then Garfield Logan morphed into something large and leathery and very, very dangerous, and took to the skies.
(in a pocket dimension not too far away)
Raven shuddered again and again as her lover's tongue made its slow and careful way down her spine, around the curve of her ass and into her innermost parts. Panting heavily, she turned on her side, raised one leg high, reached down and grabbed the other girl's hair, pulling her face hard into her soaking wet slit. Her lover obliged happily, her tongue now concentrating on the tiny, stiff pink pearl that ached for her touch.
Jinx repositioned herself, grinning as she worked two fingers deep into her lover, curling them up to seek and find the small washboard area of her G-spot. Raven's back arched, her head now hanging off the edge of the altar as she felt her orgasm building once more. "… oh shit … oh god … damn, Jinx, honey … oh … damn … oh, that's good … oh … Jinx … OH … HONEY … OHHHHH!" Her hips bucked into the pink-haired metahuman as the climax overtook her, her hot, sweet-salty juices drenching Jinx's smiling face.
Jinx wiped at her mouth and shook some of the moisture off. "What was that, Sweetie? Number fourteen? Fifteen?"
"… *pant* … wasn't … *pant* … counting … oh … damnation … feels so GOOD …"
"Then I guess my work here is done, huh?" She quickly sat up and scooted away.
Shadowy black tendrils reached for her and pulled her back down to the altar. "Oh, no you don't." Raven reached around behind her for something, then extended a slim hand, which held a long, ornate dagger. "You AREN'T done."
Jinx gave her lover a pretty pout. "I thought it was my turn."
"Cut it out. You're stalling."
Jinx gave a humph and said, "Party pooper." But she took the dagger.
Raven leaned back on the smooth stone, draping her arms out to either side, a lascivious grin on her face. "Bring it, Babe."
Jinx reversed the blade expertly, raised it high, and plunged it hard into Raven's chest.
(in Titans' Tower, the next day)
Robin, Cyborg, Terra and Starfire all stared at their visitor with their jaws hanging open. "She wants WHAT?"
Dr. Fate, standing at the end of the long table, gave a slight nod of assent. "She wants to stay where she is. She does not WISH to return to Earth."
Starfire stood suddenly, slamming the table hard enough to crack it. "That can NOT be! Why would she not wish to return to her friends? What is keeping her away?" Robin noticed the crack, making an automatic note to himself to get another table. (They lost MORE conference tables that way!)
The enigmatic figure in the golden helm clasped his hands behind his back. "Much of that is hidden from me. Nevertheless it is true."
"Why didn't you tell us about this before now?" Cyborg asked.
"I did not know. I had only just recently learned of the Transition Event, having spent most of my time in meditation and study in Xanadu. It was only upon returning to Earth and seeing the changes wrought that I turned my arts in that direction." He was pacing now, seemingly agitated. "As you may not know, Raven and I have a connection."
The four Titans looked at each other, then back at Dr. Fate, and shook their heads. "What connection?"
"I studied for a time at the Temple of Azarath."
Four voices spoke in unison: "AZARATH?"
"Yes. She and I use many of the same spells and meditation techniques. You may think of it as sharing a channel on the airwaves. Each of us has a unique modulation, but we all work on the same frequency, and that is how I can know that she is content where she is. In my meditations I have traveled far on the astral planes, searching for her. But she is not there. She is elsewhere. Exactly where, I cannot say. Yet I can feel her, sometimes, and catch random emotions. She is … happy."
Starfire sat back down, the very picture of dejection. "Then how … how will friend Raven ever return to us?"
Terra, of the four, seemed the least upset over this news. Her head was bowed, her face in a thoughtful cast. If she's happy there, if she doesn't want to come back, if nothing bad is happening to her … then maybe I didn't fuck up as badly as I thought. Maybe … maybe I'm not … a bad person. Maybe it'll be all right.
Dr. Fate continued, "The other impression I have received – though I must say that this is a rather weak impression – is that she has some sort of job to do, something she must finish. But I have no other particulars, and what I DO have is hazy in the extreme. She is very, very far from here."
Robin leaned forward. "Is there any way we can help her?"
The golden visage turned his way, silent for long moments. "This I do not know. However, I will study upon it. I get the feeling that the answer to that question may be important."
Cyborg rested his head on a metal fist. "This is thirty-one flavors of fucked-up, man."
Terra punched him in the arm. "Word."