A/N 6-29-13: Welcome readers new and old! Well, I'll have you guys know it didn't take me three months to update this time. It took me four. As always thank you for you support, kind words, and even threats. No, I'm not planning any new writing projects at the moment; real life is real and obligatory. I hope you enjoy the read!
Chapter 85: Newsworthy
A voice murmurs through her dreams. A whisper kindles an old half awareness. She drifts to the border between sleep and awake, for a name, her name, permeates the darkness. Even as she wakes a piece anchors to dreams and sleep. She will forget all by morning. If the dimmest fragments of memory linger, they will be dismissed for a dream.
Half-roused and brimming with yawns, Jinx shifts pulling the covers tighter over her shoulder and burrows deeper into her warm nest. One arm leaves the bundle and waves about in the air. Searching fingers curl around their prize, a small hand mirror. Jinx blinks at the glass surface and the face within.
Bleary eyes crack open and squint at glowing numbers hovering over her nightstand. "It's three in the morning. What's going on?"
Tiredness aches in the hollow spaces in Jinx's head, scratches at the back of her eyes, and weighs down her eyelids. The focus to keep her eyes from drifting shut causes Jinx to miss certain details. She might notice how West's freckles stand out like brown stamps against his skin, the dark shadows smudged beneath his eyes, or the lingering haunted look in his stare. However, she does notice the messy hair and the slight hitch and catch in his speech.
"I'm sorry, Jinx."
His words tug her out of her doze. Brows puckering, Jinx scowls at him. Half asleep with half her wits about her, yet she manages to respond.
"For what, the wake-up call?"
"That too. But I won't be able to talk for a few, for a while. Busy. Big project came up."
"Did your classes start already? Told you. Shouldn't major in physics. 's complicated."
A small smile cracks West's dour image, and a mirror image spreads across hers. Jinx buries her head back into her pillow, and lets the half-crooked smile grow.
"Sort of, the project needs a lot of…research. I'll survive. Somehow. I didn't mean to wake you."
" 's cool." She yawns and willfully admits defeat in the struggle to keep her drooping eyes open. "Talk to ya later, West."
Thousands of miles away West watches Jinx's eyelashes flutter shut and her head sag into her pillow. The image in the mirror tilts and blurs. Before the image disappears, his smile twists and West tears his eyes away.
He tilts his palm and watches the mirror slip though his fingers and shatter on the ground.
Whenever Jinx thought of the phrase Titans in Tokyo she immediately thought, Titans? Tokyo? Sweet, vacation! Can I come?
But, alas, some things were not meant to be. Jinx traveling to Tokyo included. Cyborg still needed to finish designing a sixth compartment for the T-sub, so that halted any Jinx in Japan adventures. Other ill-fated dreams included Robin letting the Titans visit a foreign country for fun. Hah, as if. Nope, shortpants remained the same determined workaholic. No fun until the heroics are done. And the heroics never ended.
But Jinx blamed Robin's recent uptightness on recent events. Events which led to a four am wake-up call. Robin needed Jinx to hold down the fort in Jump, and help repair the Tower while the Titans tracked a lead to Tokyo
Jinx gave Robin a pass for the attitude and wake-up call. Some idiot had attacked the Tower, Robin's home, and struck at his team, not to mention whatever damage the city sustained during the initial encounter. The only other button the fools could have pushed would have been targeting individual team members.
For once Jinx didn't mind missing out on a Titan field trip. Hexes and snark mixed with a grim Robin led to pyrotechnics. The Titans would be much better for Robin. Jinx would just heavily suggest for Starfire to turn up the sunshine and cheer around Robin. That usually dragged him out of his funks.
But first hearing the news at four a.m. that the Titans had left Jinx with an empty, battle damaged tower and a lengthy to do and to watch list, and with the Titans an hour from Tokyo at the start of the call? Not fun. Robin had promised help. Back-up, he called it, to keep her from terrorizing the city.
The Titans East loaned out Mas and Menos, the promised help, and for the first long day Jinx and the twins patched over the immediate damage and kept the ceiling of the main room from collapsing. They finished the patch jobs shortly after the sun sank beneath the horizon, and the last of twilight faded into night.
At night the twins promised to return bright and early the next morning and left for Steel City. Jinx spent a quiet evening logging the repairs and sifting through the instructions left behind.
Jinx woke with the echo of a scream ringing in her ears. Her chest heaved, and her lungs sucked in bellows of air. Damp sheets stuck to her skin, and goosebumps prickled on her shoulders.
Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Jinx squinted at her alarm clock and pouted at the time. 6:30 am, too early, but Mas and Menos would show up at 7 am sharp. Chirpy, cheery brats, yet oddly endearing in their own way.
With a moan, a groan, and a put upon sigh, Jinx threw off her clammy sheets and slid out of bed. The Tornado Twins were coming. Showered, dressed, and half-way out the door Jinx paused. A nagging itch danced across her palms. Sketchbook tucked under her elbow, Jinx padded along the corridors to the kitchen. Day two without the Titans. She had a million and one things to do today, but somehow she knew half would be blown off in lieu of drawing.
Before Saico-Tek diverted Robin and his Merry Titans, Robin had been obsessing over finding patterns in various crimes across the nation that might impact Jump City. In fact, if Saico-Tek hadn't blatantly rampaged through downtown, damaged the Tower, and angered the Titans, Robin and Co. would still be in Jump attempt to divine order out of chaos.
But the Titans had to leave, so along with repairs, Robin tasked Jinx to monitor the results of an algorithm tracking a string of break-ins and robberies. The common tie? Tech, high-tech equipment, expensive software, and all stolen from distinguished heads in the technology world. Jinx's eyes skimmed Robin's notes and hypotheses. In fact, if the pattern continued, then Star Labs or even Wayne Enterprises had made the list of potential targets.
Not that she had to do anything about this. Jinx was babysitting. For a few days the Titans needed her to watch the Tower, and hex whatever hapless fool tried to take advantage of the Titans absence, again.
She really should just magic herself a way to Japan.
Jinx narrowed her eyes. Patterns in chaos, the stores and companies Robin tagged ranged through California. Wayne Enterprises had a local branch in Jump, and Star Labs was close only a city or so away.
Software, circuitry, miscellaneous components, and some fancy-smancy capacitor. She really needed Cyborg working on this.
"Buenos días, Jinx!"
"Ah…" Spanish, Jinx fumbled for the shreds of her vocabulary, knowing what followed.
"Bien. Gracías. Y tú, err tuus, um…ustedes?"
Mas and Menos broke into huge smiles. Yes, Jinx slaughtered their precious español, but the two seemed to appreciate the effort. Then again they were used to gringos after joining Titans East. But they understood her and found ways to be understood.
"Ok, I'm working on case files. The new window is coming today, so I need you two to cover all the furniture with sheets. Sí?"
A gust of wind replaced the grinning pair and knocked Jinx back into her chair. Blowing her bangs out of her eyes, Jinx chuckled. Speedsters. She turned back to the files and frowned. The size, range of the robberies, and the shape and bulk of some missing equipment suggested a group, something organized. The first robberies started ten days ago and continued over the span of the last week, so whoever they were, they were building something.
But the who's and what's of the case paled in comparison to the How. Starting a week ago the robberies changed. Frown all accounts and available evidence a ghost seemed to be making off with the stolen items.
No tampering with security, no one entered or left any of the scenes of the crime, nothing. All video evidence sowed the purloined item resting in its rightful spot and gone the next moment.
Another gust buffeted Jinx's face. Hopping up and down the twins chattered and pointed at the window. At the city docks a crane and its platform inched across the bay. Jinx saved the files and spent the next two hours supervising the installation of the new window panel and monitoring the workers activities. Mas and Menos zipped about moving electronics, covering furniture, and tracking any awestruck stragglers. Lunch saw the Tower cleared of workers and the new window panel installed.
With a newly installed, shiny window and a Tower filled only with Titans, Jinx clicked through the security settings and glanced between that and the open window with Cyborg's instructions on how to integrate the window into the existing security parameters. Normally, Cyborg would be babbling away talking live from Japan, but any attempts to raise the Titans had failed to go through. But Jinx had checked the international news earlier and found an interesting headline: Giant Lizard Attacks Down Town Tokyo: the Tokyo Troopers Triumph Once Again! The article referenced the minor assistance of the Teen Titans. The rest gushed about Commander Daizo, and the city's gratitude to him for founding the Tokyo Troopers, protecting the populace and so on and so forth.
Typical hero worship.
Jinx closed the browser and arched her back into a neck cracking stretch. The ache pounding beneath her forehead accompanied a restless energy insisting she had spent far too much time staring at a computer screen. Well, patrol didn't start for a few more hours, so it wasn't like she had anywhere to be.
Sketchbook in hand Jinx retreated to her room. Her fingers itched.
A unicorn family. Unicorn crime fighters lurking in the night and striking terror into criminals. Horned pegasi, or would those be flying unicorns?
A study of fabric textures and folds. A watercolor which failed at replicating a particular pair of dark blue eyes. A study of light on freckles. More freckles, more skin, a study in male adolescent facial expressions…
Jinx threw her sketchbook across the room and listened to the page crumpling thump. She had not turned into a sap. She certainly wasn't pining. Curling around her pillow, Jinx sunk into a huddled slouch and tucked her face into her knees.
So she might miss West a tiny bit, but how dare her mind betray her with doodles of, of romance! Hugs, holding hands, going on dates, sparring together, ruffling his hair, or just playing with it really. How soft would it be under her fingertips? She really wanted to drool over his abs and see if they were as defined in real life as his suit suggested. Maybe an afternoon of cloud watching in the park? They could go swimming! And she could stare all day.
Ears burning, Jinx smacked sweaty hands against her inflamed cheeks and groaned. So she missed West a lot. Heck, she couldn't find her hand mirror lately. Even if she wanted to talk to West, she couldn't and while talking on through the mirrors was awesome, she wanted more.
Dates, a part of her mind chimed in. Long walks spent talking and holding hands. Dressing up and eating out together. Hanging out and discovering more about what West cares about and finally weaseling a first name out of him. Oh, and definitely make him to tell her how pretty she was.
Jinx banged her forehead into her knees. Not helping, really not helping. Besides, West was busy. Once he quit hiding from his shadow and settled into his new life, they could figure something out. Long distance dating shouldn't mean much to the fastest guy alive, and Jinx didn't have any strong reasons rooting her in Jump City. She could branch out and find her own city to watch over.
Jinx giggled and buried her face into her pillow. For a moment she basked savoring the bubbly happiness glimmering though her emotions.
A pulsing light filled the room. Jinx tumbled over herself rolling off her bed and stumbling across the room. The crystal ball waited; light ebbed and faded on its surface. Jinx plucked it out of its cradle and peered into the misty depths.
"Hey Zee. What's up?" Top hat and work clothes. "You seem grim."
"I have bad news."
Jinx sat on the bed. Zee never just had bad news. Bad news usually entailed a book of dark magic breaking its bonds and releasing a demon, so she needed to visit the Batcave for a few days. Bad news meant Zachary broke into the kitchen after hours and tried a new cooking spell, so don't bug Maria and stay put until the architecture spells repair the structural damage and the foundation. Bad news meant she couldn't scry anymore.
A whisper in her head and the echo of a scream.
"What's the damage?"
A tight smile appeared on Zatanna's face, but her voice remained level, professional.
"The Brotherhood of Evil has escaped custody."
"But weren't they—?"
"Following extradition it was decided to be inhumane to leave captured criminals in cryogenic stasis. Following relocation the Brotherhood of Evil and their compatriots were defrosted."
Right, because leaving them on ice forever was too easy.
"Mallah, Madame Rouge, and General Immortus have escape custody. Several other participants in the Brotherhood's previous operation have disappeared as well."
For a moment Jinx cradled the crystal ball palm. Her eyebrow twitched.
"Of all the incompetent—!"
Zatanna allowed Jinx a moment to rage. To decry the lack of foresight involved; of course this would happen. Had no one anticipated this? Had they so quickly forgotten their prisoners' power and far reaching influence? Of course not, the ingrates practically let them waltz free out of high security prison. Never mind how they'd been cut off, isolated, and hunted unable to tell friend from foe.
Finally, words escaped Jinx, and she fell sputtering back onto her bed and fumed.
"The twins won't like this. Menos still has nightmares of being frozen alive."
Jinx had nightmares too. Nightmares of standing alone in a barren world with the knowledge, it was all her fault. Nightmares of dark dragons and falling into an abyss of endless screams.
"Robin and the Titans are in Japan. I guess heroes never get a vacation after all.
"Well, thanks for the update Zee, but I have to initiate lock-down, tell Titans East and the Honoraries to be on their toes, and maybe see if Cyborg can triple our firewall."
"Nicole, I'm not done."
Jinx winced. "Zee, I'm in costume. Is this connection even secure?"
Zatanna had the cheek to wink at her.
"The Justice League is working alongside Interpol to recapture the escape criminals. Many of our reserve members have volunteered, and the Doom Patrol has pledged cooperation with the League. Batman is coordinating the main search."
A spark lit in Zatanna's eye. She tipped her hat back and a wide tooth-filled grin slid across her face.
"It's been a busy week."
"It's been a week?"
The smile disappeared.
"One week? They've been—for a week—and you're only telling me, us, the Titans, you know, their targets, now?"
"Watchtower is downloading a list of escaped criminals and potential problems on to your servers as we speak."
"The actions of the Brotherhood of evil against the teen Titans are unacceptable. The League," Zatanna said, "will not stand for another reoccurrence."
Jinx sucked in a breath and squashed her temper. Calm, control, she had self-discipline, dangit.
"The Teen Titans are perfectly capable of looking out for ourselves. We've gone global, faced the Brotherhood before, and we can face them again."
"But you shouldn't have too. Jinx, you and your generation are our future," Zatanna said. "One day the world will look to the Titans for their hope and protection. And the Brotherhood attempted to annihilate you. The League won't stand for an encore performance. I'm personally tracking down the Amazing Mumbo."
The oddest tingling flush surged through Jinx's spine leaving prickling aftershocks behind.
"Oh really?" she said. "The Amazing Mumbo? Blue all over, cursed wand, with the enchanted hat?"
"The very same."
An odd fluttering accompanied the tingling swell, and Jinx finally placed the sensation, giddiness. Two identical smiles, wide, tooth-filled and utterly vicious, gleamed.
"Well, now," Jinx said. "Isn't that something. When did this start?"
"The first alerts were kept quiet after the first escapes. After Madame Rouge escaped custody a week ago, Interpol and the League were officially contacted. The Brain is still in custody and heavily guarded, but Mallah and General Immortus disappeared within days after Rouge. The League is investigating the prison breaks as well as tracking other prominent members of your rogues."
Jinx snorted. "Typical, the League focuses on the A-listers like, and the rest of the escapees will just slip off the radar."
Jinx slumped a stubborn exhaustion clung to her back. Robin would need to be told, and he was still chasing leads in the land of the rising sun.
"So a partial criminal escape from high security prisons. Where did they stick them, Arkham? Expect a subsequent rise in criminal activity from minor, reoccurring pests, and the Leagues has a grudge and are tracking down the worst of the escapees. Also, despite the Titans impressive work locking up the whole bunch, the League and most of the world still consider us kids; therefore, as children, we don't need to know about relevant prison breaks. That sum it up?"
Zatanna tipped her head. "That's about right."
Zatanna's infuriating I'm amused with my former student smile appeared. Ugh, patronizing grown-ups.
"Thanks for the heads up Zee. Been helpful." She dropped the sarcasm. "I'll stay smart, 'kay?"
Zatanna nodded, and her image disappeared from the crystal ball. Jinx sighed and slumped back on her bed. The breaking news on the hero scene would occur with Jinx holding down the fort in JC. The mountains of work loomed ahead of her. Reading the list downloaded straight to the Tower's servers—didn't they have firewalls? Telling, the Titans, Titans East, and all the shiny, new Honoraries without causing a public panic. Cross reference the escaped criminal list with current crime rates and patterns from the last week correlations.
She hoped Control Freak was still wallowing in solitary. That dork had nearly caused her three dramatic villainous breakdowns by sheer annoyingness. Like she didn't have enough to worry about with the new window, the cheerful twins, and that ghost running around.
Jinx blinked. Somewhere a light bulb lit, but Jinx couldn't have cared less. Revelation had occurred.