Ok, here are standard disclaimers. I do not own, nor claim to own any rights to the Teen Titans, or any other borrowed characters. I also make no claims towards any original characters I invent for this story.
As some of you already know Tough Times in Jump City was my first 'hit' story. As of this day it has accumulated nearly 19,000 hits and 188 reviews, for which I thank all of you.
That said it's been nearly a year since I wrote Tough Times and when I reread it I have found that it contains some rather serious flaws. Its form and style are rather sloppy, plus I made the mistake of extending the story with an addition that had no business being there, as well as the utterly unnecessary alternate ending.
So I'm going to rewrite this story focusing more on the central plot. This plot will not be identical to the original story and will only share the high level story with the original. The story will resemble original in the way the remake of Battlestar Galactica resembles the original series.
What this means of course is that there will be surprises that you might not be expecting in the story.
One thing I do promise to all of you BBxRae shippers: I will take more time developing their relationship and not simply marry them off in Chapter 4 or 5. I hope that you will find this story to be more coherent and enjoyable.
And if you never read the original … I hope you like the remake anyway (I will leave the original posted).
And now I give you: Tough Times in Jump City: Re-imagined. Enjoy!
Robin stood on the Tower roof, watching the sun rise over the city he was entrusted to protect. The orange light shimmered on the city's modern skyline while its populace was coming to life and preparing to face the new day. Traffic on the bay side avenue was still light but was beginning to pick up as the early commuters were heading off to work. From his vantage point things looked normal, business as usual. But Robin knew better.
An unprecedented crime wave was engulfing his city, a crime wave that was devastating in both its breadth and depth. There wasn't a neighborhood or district that remained unaffected by the maelstrom of lawlessness that was sweeping over the city and Robin was feeling overwhelmed with the situation.
Robin knew that the root cause of the situation was the economic crisis that had the country trapped in what felt like an inescapable vise, which continued to tighten its grip, especially in the state of California. Jump City was considered by many to be the jewel of the Golden State, but it didn't escape the ravages of the 'Great Recession'. The unemployment rate was approaching 20% which was unprecedented and the citizens on the lower rungs of the economic ladder were bearing the brunt of the pain inflicted by the economic downturn that didn't want to end. It was hardly surprising that many were turning to petty crime in order to survive and the city police were overwhelmed dealing with the tsunami of delinquency. The Mayor had placed a great deal of pressure on the Titans to help push back on the epidemic of lawlessness and they had been working overtime in their attempt to contain the wave of crime, but could not keep up with what had become a challenge that was impossible to meet.
What had troubled Robin from the beginning of the crisis was the appearance and rapid growth of violent, organized gangs. In addition to the local home grown gangs there was an influx of powerful drug smuggling crime rings, which appeared seemingly out of nowhere, growing like weeds: quickly and always unwelcome. These gangs appeared to have ties to south of the border drug organizations. Under normal circumstances these gangs would no match for the Titans, but these were not normal circumstances.
There were times when 5 different alarms would go off simultaneously, forcing the team to separate with only one Titan assigned to a mission, which displeased Robin to no end. His long standing rule had forbidden solo missions as they were too dangerous. At first he had flat out refused to take that risk, but as violent crime had escalated he gave in to the Mayor's demands. And the crime had become very violent as the confrontation escalated relentlessly. Soon, military grade weaponry appeared, adding to the Titan's woes. The breadth of the crime spree had made life difficult for the Titans.
In addition to the solo missions the heroes never had time to rest and fatigue was beginning to set in and take its toll. Just months before Beast Boy had narrowly escaped a violent death when a car bomb exploded just yards away from him. He had spent two whole days recovering in the infirmary even though Raven spent hours healing his injuries.
The Titans' luck finally ran out just a few weeks later. While responding to a bank robbery Raven was ambushed. She had been horrifically wounded by machine gun fire, courtesy of a young gang banger who got lucky. She had been set up, their intention had been to murder her and they almost pulled it off.
This had been the straw that broke the Titan's collective backs. While the entire team was infuriated with what had happened to the sorceress it had affected Beast Boy the most. He had been the first one to come to her aid and had seen her attacker celebrate his good fortune. He was the one who rushed her to the hospital and had stayed by her side the entire time she was there. Raven was discharged from the ICU in just a few days and returned to the Tower with Beast Boy, who doted on her until her recovery was complete.
The fact that Raven had been ambushed by an amateur with a machine gun only confirmed what Robin already knew: the Titans were overworked and fatigued. There were days when they would get no sleep as they had back to back missions for 24 hours or more. The only thing that was truly surprising was that no had been hurt this badly before. He had spoken with Mayor about this, saying that the Titans could no longer keep up with the demands being placed on them and that from now on they would resume the buddy system, which meant that the Titans would only be able to respond at most to two simultaneous missions. The Mayor's response had been to ask Robin and Cyborg to come to his office. Robin expected that he was going to give them the hard sell to continue with the solo missions.
Today was the day they would visit the Mayor. The Boy Wonder made his way back into the Tower, as he had to prepare for the meeting.
Robin was sitting at his desk in his office, staring at the Excel spreadsheet on the screen of his laptop computer. As far as the general public was concerned Robin was a swashbuckling superhero who kicked bad guy butt and made it look easy. The truth however was that he had other duties, one of them being managing the Titan's finances, which is why he was staring at an electronic spreadsheet.
The offending worksheet was the budget sheet and it wasn't pretty. No matter how he rearranged the budget entries, massaged them or modified them the ugly truth remained: the Titans were broke and it was his fault. Had he been stricter with the budget earlier in the fiscal year he might have been able to avoid the predicament he was now facing: he had run out of money. Budget overruns had never been a problem in the past as both the state and city governments had always covered their costs, no questions asked. Unfortunately this time it was different, very different. The public treasury was exhausted as tax receipts had plummeted to previously unseen lows. There were no private sector grants available either as the private sector was hurting even more. Robin knew what this was going to mean: budget cuts and borrowing money.
The computer chimed, reminding Robin that it was time to head to city hall to meet with the Mayor. He gathered his budget printouts and headed out to the garage. As he made his way he passed Beast Boy who was walking with Raven to the common room to share a late lunch.
"I'm off to see the Mayor." He told the pair. "Glad to see you're out of the wheelchair Raven."
Robin entered the garage where Cyborg was waiting for him in the new T-Car. The previous T-Car had been destroyed two months before during a response to a bank robbery pulled off by a combined team composed of the Hive-5 and the local Crips. Gizmo had demolished the T-Car with some of his custom miniature missiles, just moments after Cyborg had ejected to safety. Cyborg himself had almost been hit by a bazooka shot during the same robbery. It had cost $400,000 to replace the T-Car and Robin was convinced that replacing the car had been a mistake.
Cyborg drove the state of the art vehicle out of the Tower's garage into the access tunnel that connected the island with the mainland. The morning rush hour had passed and Cyborg guided the T-Car to the city's downtown district. Robin had his titanium briefcase on his lap as he stared forward, as if in a trance, his eyes not focused on anything. After several minutes Cyborg cleared his throat.
"What's buggin' you man? You've been sitting there like a statue."
Robin turned to Cyborg with a slightly confused expression on his face. He then frowned as it dawned on him that he had spaced out. He never spaced out, at least not before now. He was worried, concerned about their situation. Fighting psychotic villains or monsters that oozed pus was not an issue for him. Balancing budgets, that was another matter.
"Our budget is almost exhausted Cy" Robin told the bionic Titan "Our expenses this past quarter got completely out of hand."
"So? What are they going to do?" Cyborg replied "We're indispensable. They need us. They just have to allocate more funds."
"I don't know Cy. Money's really tight for the city right now. They've been cutting non-essential expenses left and right."
"Can't Bruce help us out?"
Robin shook his head "He's been funding the Justice League for years and since the stock market crashed he's been strapped for cash. We're going to have to tighten our belts Cy." He sighed before continuing. "We shouldn't have replaced the T-Car. We're almost out of cash. I really wish we had that 400K now."
The T-Car pulled up to the new, gleaming civic center that had just been built a few years before when the economy was healthy. The city had sold $200 million in bonds to finance the modern structure. The local media had turned hostile to what they were now calling "Kristof's Folly" as the city was struggling to make the scheduled interest payments on bonds. Robin recalled how just a few years before during fatter times the media were excited about the new civic center. He also remembered that the local newspaper, the Jump City Tribune, had endorsed the project and recommended that voters approve the bond sale.
Robin knew that people had short memories and he wondered how short the Mayor's memory would be. Would he conveniently forget all the times they had protected the city, battling with Slade, Brother Blood and all the other supervillains that the local police were unable to deal with?
City hall was guarded like a fortress as they pulled in. An officer clad in full SWAT dress guided them to a visitors parking spot and escorted them into the building where they were handed off to another officer who escorted them to the mayor's office on the top floor. The building still smelled new and it was immaculate. As they were guided through the building they were met with hostile glances by city hall staffers, who would look away when Robin turned to face them. There were no amicable greetings or friendly banter as there had been in the past. The silence was deafening.
"What's their problem? " Cyborg grumbled "We put our butts on the line every day for them. You'd think they might show some gratitude."
"Didn't you read the paper this morning?" Robin replied. "The mayor announced this morning that he's reducing headcount at city hall by 20%."
"Ok, I get the picture. He's gonna tell us to make do with a budget cut. I can sell some stuff to raise some money."
"We'll go over the new budget tonight with the team; we'll find a way to make ends meet." Robin replied in a weary voice. "We might have to sell the T-Ship."
Soon they reached the Mayor's office, which in addition to having a receptionist as a gatekeeper had a contingent of 6 burly and heavily armed body guards protecting it. Robin sighed at the sign of how low the overall situation in the city had fallen.
The receptionist, a middle aged civil servant with a harsh expression looked up from her paperwork. She narrowed her eyes as she made them wait.
"You're late." She commented dryly as she rose from her chair. "Follow me."
The two heroes followed the harsh prune as she led them to the large cherry wood doors that led into the Mayor's office, which she opened with an ease that did not match her diminutive form. It was then that Robin noticed the standard issue Jump City PD pistol that was holstered around her waist.
"Robin and Cyborg have arrived for their appointment." She announced.
The Mayor was seated behind his desk, poring over various reports. He tossed aside the papers in his hands and swiveled his chair in their direction.
"Gentlemen, please have a seat. Thank you Sergeant that will be all."
The plain clothes police woman turned and began to walk out of the office, but not before making eye contact with Cyborg's lone human eye. She gave him an unfriendly smile before she walked out of the office, closing the door behind her.
Robin was the first to break the ice.
"That's a lot of muscle you have here Bill."
Mayor Kristoff opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out an unopened bottle of single malt scotch, along with 3 glasses.
"No thanks Bill, we're both still under 21." Robin replied preemptively.
"Like anyone would care." The Mayor answered him as he poured himself a shot.
"So what's the occasion?"
"Crime," He replied. "lots of crime."
He drank his shot in a single gulp.
"Do you know how bad it is Robin, let me tell you…"
He poured himself another shot.
"I had to send my family away to relatives in the Midwest. There were three attempts, three Robin, to kidnap my family. Never mind the daily death threats that I get."
"Yes Bill, I know, Raven was gunned down, remember?"
"How's she doing? Sure you don't want a snort?"
"She's improving. And no, I'm positive neither Cyborg or I want any whiskey."
The mayor gulped down his second shot, after which he put the bottle back into his desk drawer.
"I'm gonna cut to the chase. You kids have been great. You saved the city several times from thugs like Slade and Brother Blood. But I have a problem. We're not fighting Slade; we're fighting ordinary hoodlums, lots of them. What I need right now are cops, lots of cops. Right now I don't need any superheroes."
"So what are you saying Bill?" Cyborg asked uneasily, afraid that he already knew the answer.
Kristoff sighed heavily.
"I'm letting you kids go. Believe me, I didn't want it this way, but we're low on funds. I can't afford to continue bankrolling the Titans. Do you have any idea of how much you cost the city?"
"85 million a year." Robin replied in a hollow voice. "So how much can you give us? I can come up with a new budget."
"Nothing. I only have 40 million of that 85 left, and I'm going to spend it on more cops. I'm sorry Robin; I didn't want it to be this way. I'm under tremendous pressure from the citizenry to get more cops on the street. Believe me; once the economy improves I'll restore your funding."
"And what will you do if Slade or Brother Blood make an appearance?"
"That's a chance we'll have to take."
"Without a budget we can't even keep the lights on in the Tower."
Kristoff looked uncomfortable with what he was going to say next.
"You're going to have to move out. The Tower is city property and we have an interested tenant who is willing to sign a lucrative lease."
Robin stared incredulously at the Mayor. His office was opulent and elegant beyond description, as was the entire civic center. No expense had been spared.
"You're kicking us out of the Tower? And just where are we supposed to go?" The Boy Wonder snarled.
"I'm sure you'll manage."
"How long do we have to move out?"
"Three months. Look Robin, I'm no happier about this than you are. It's just the way it is."
Robin and Cyborg stood up simultaneously.
"We'd better start making preparations." Robin said in a distant voice. "What about our credit cards?"
"Cancelled, I'm afraid." Kristoff replied. "And the team checking account is cancelled as well. Sorry."
As they made their way back to the T-Car Robin tossed his now useless spreadsheets into a nearby trash can. It was getting late in the afternoon and he felt his stomach growl. It was then that he remembered that it was his turn to prepare dinner. He thought about calling back to the Tower to trade with someone until he realized that would be either Beast Boy, Raven or Starfire.
"Cy, we need to stop and pick up some pizza for dinner."
The Boy Wonder pulled his wallet out and discovered to his dismay that all it contained was a now useless credit card.
"Cy, do you have any cash on you?"