Disclaimer: I do not own JCA or TT.
Betaed by: Zim'smostloyalservant
A Shadow of the Titans:
Nocturne no Kitsune
Perils of Puberty
Jade Chan, as a rule, was fairly confident in her own awesomeness. That wasn't to say she always managed to come put on top; in fact, she had messed up bad a number of times. Way bad. But even in those cases, she usually had a major role in cleaning up the mess. And the young Chinese girl was confident she had been getting better as the adventures piled up. Better at the martial arts, wiser, better at the odd bits of magic she managed to get her hands on, and just generally ascending the stats or whatever.
So, having to admit she had utterly bungled a golden opportunity was not something she had experience with. Which was why she was paying zero attention to the professor in Innovative Nefarious Mechanics M, and focusing on a drawing of a note she had made on her notebook.
Raven, a Titan, had been right there and she had been able to tend to some of the unconscious girl's wounds under the cover of "even a villain can have some honor". And she had had the plan from the night before. To slip Raven a note if the opportunity arose, or rather when she made an opportunity if the wins did not pan out.
A simple thing, she had decided. Telling Raven she wanted to defect from the HIVE and was willing to tell all she knew and surrender herself in exchange for a no-jail guarantee, and a chance to explain herself. She had written the note, folded it, and when presented with no wish and a Titan…
Had forgotten to actually put the note under Raven's belt.
'Shit, f ck,' were her thoughts on finding the note still on her own person on returning to the HIVE. Which she quickly destroyed with the dragon fire, of course.
How could she have forgotten? As she had defended Raven and walked up, she had been thrilled at the perfect opportunity.
She was Jade Chan; she made mistakes, but she did not mess up like this. So why? And why was it she only seemed to see other chances looking back? Granted, she felt she needed some opportunity to defect. The HIVE kept tabs on them, she was sure, and she wanted collateral to ensure she wasn't just tossed in prison.
Raven seemed to actually be smart, though. And the fact she had an "in" with the Titan had persuaded her to leap. But she hadn't, her feet had remained on the ground.
'That vision, the Queen of the Shadowkhan. Could she be messing with my head?' Jade wondered.
"Failure, utter failure," The teacher announced, putting his hand down on her desk.
"Yeah," Jade agreed. Registering his attention, her red eyes popped wide and she sat up straight, looking into the scowling mustached face of the derby-wearing man in red.
"I am glad at last you now realize your so-called 'belt of awesome' is anything but," he sneered nasally.
"What!? But it met your criteria for enhancing the physical performance of the user," Zhu Chan objected, planting her hands on the table.
"Yes, it did enhance Mammoth's strength and speed, but let us review the… side effects," he sneered on. Yet again, a screen rose from the floor – honestly, were there screens stashed in every other surface in the HIVE just on the off chance the faculty wanted to be dramatic there?
More relevantly, she groaned to herself as it brought up a video of Mammoth facing down Cyborg in a bank wearing her belt. Mammoth picked up a long piece of metal debris of some kind, and…
"Look out people, here I COOOOME!" The villain sang as he twirled his improvised weapon like a cane. Cyborg watched with wide eyes for a few beats as the villain continued the song and dance routine, before raising his canon and nailing him. The screen receded and Jade rubbed her neck, grinning a bit too wide as she felt Mammoth glaring at her.
"So, it made him break into compulsive song and dance at random intervals. It still met-" she was cut off as the professor held up her belt and broke it in half. He tossed the pieces onto the table in front of her.
"You will perform a make-up assignment. You must create an item for beneficial transformation for the user by Wednesday. Fail at this make-up and you will be assigned to a stint in the Pit.
"With Gadjo," he finished, making her suck up the sigh she just made.
"Heheheh," Mammoth chuckled from he next seat over, actually looking a little scary in his bandages.
"Quiet you, this is your fault," Zhu Chan muttered.
"How am I responsible for your lousy invention?" Mammoth demanded.
"You're not. I'm practicing for that test on Irrational Blame Assignment," she murmured, putting her face into the table.
"Oh, yeah, that's a fun class. You can get a pass even if you fail by just making a good argument on why your lousy grade somehow wasn't your fault. Good times," Mammoth grinned.
"Okay, Professor Your-Name-Has-Too-Many-Xs-And-Zs. Tonight, you will be stunned by transformational awesomeness. And even more by my big reveal," Jade chuckled. She stopped as she leaned in towards the beaker.
"Do chuckles count as evil laughs? No, the tone wasn't evil laugh-y, more anticipation or something or other," she counseled herself. That resolved, a brief burst of heat blast ignited a fire under the beaker. In a few moments, the liquid was forced up a tube, into another beaker, changing into an orange color, was poured into a third beaker, and changed color again.
"Now some crocodile scales, ground up. A few drops of toad mucus. Knuckle of slug, strange but true. And an ear of corn, shucked," Jade sounded off, inserting the ingredients. She poured the resulting contents into a pot half-full of black liquid. The mixture steamed and turned green, bubbling.
"Three live crickets. Two tomatoes. Two square centimeters of silk from some kind of priest's robes. A cucumber. And one cup of broken green glass," Jade added the rest of the items to the pot. Floating back, she shot the pot with low-level heat blasts, heating the substance within back to a boil.
Letting it off, she checked the color, and with a nod levitated it into the refrigerator to cool.
Two Hours Later:
Jade opened the refrigerator and laid a fingertip on the pot. Nice and cold. Perfect.
She carefully tipped the pot, letting some of the dark liquid pour into a simple glass chalice. Once it was full to her satisfaction, thick foam rising in the glass, she put the pot back down. Closing the refrigerator, Jade took a sip from the glass.
Swallowing the small drink, she clicked her tongue and took a deeper drink.
"Ahhh," she smiled through a foam mustache.
"Ha, wait till Gizmo sees this! I can so make my own root beer with magic!"
"Now, time to ace that make-up with the most badass transformational magic this city has seen in three years!" Zhu Chan declared. Setting the glass down, she held out her now empty hand, letting a black staff fly from a shelf into her grip.
Pulling out a flip communicator, she dialed a channel.
"Jinx, I need some trouble for my make-up," she said. She would rather not have company in case a defection opportunity arose, but Blood would not authorize a solo outing. She was starting to wonder if they were taking precautions against defection.
'It was a routine mission,' Beast Boy thought, as the giant green robot walked down the street towards him. It was clearly modeled after Gizmo himself, complete with a painted-on smile. The eyes flashed red as it peered down at the Teen Titans.
"ALL RIGHT LOSERS! GET READY TO BE CRUSHED BY MEGA-ROBO-GIZMO!" The diminutive mad scientist spoke over a PA system. The robot took a thunderous step forward.
"Titans, go!" Robin ordered. Cyborg went down on one knee, took a moment to charge up his sonic cannon, and let loose a blast. It caught the robot mid-step, making it tilt, and keep tilting as the advancing foot failed to find the ground.
"AHHH! YOU STUPID KNU-BZZZZZ!" Gizmo cried out, before being cut off by static as the robot fell onto its back. The robot jerked spastically, electricity visibly surging through its joints before they exploded with pops, and fires broke out across its head and torso. And still more smoke came up from the visible seams in the armor.
"Uh, is that all?" Cyborg asked, still on one knee. Raven shrugged her shoulders.
"Friend Cyborg, you are the explosive!" Starfire cheered, hugging the man from behind.
"Careful Titans, it may be a trick," Robin cautioned. Then a hatch opened, letting more smoke pour out, Mammoth and Gizmo falling out and onto the pavement as the robot continued to explode bit by bit.
"I don't think so, Robin," Beast Boy added.
"I knew I should have beta-tested!" Gizmo punched the ground, only to cry out in pain and curse as he rolled on the ground.
Mammoth grumbled as he stood up and dusted himself off.
"What was that? Three weeks you are all 'Giant robot this, giant robot that'. Now giant robot this?" Mammoth demanded, pointing to the robot just as its eyes burst into flame.
"I think it should be impressive I built a giant robot at all!"(1) Gizmo snapped, still holding his hand.
"So, should we arrest them now?" Raven asked, as Starfire disengaged from Cyborg.
"May I partake in the clapping of them in the irons?" Starfire asked. Robin still frowned at the two arguing villains. This did not seem right. He turned away, looking for – movement in Cyborg's shadows!
"Cyborg!" Robin called. The warning was enough; the other Titan turned, already ready to block the strike as the shadow fell away to reveal Zhu Chan swinging a small staff. The weapon smacked into Cyborg's palm as the large man grabbed it around the tip.
"No dice, little lady," Cyborg grinned down at her.
"Little is a matter of perspective, as you will see," she gave him a grin of her own. Which showed off all of those sharp teeth of hers, to his discomfort. A green aura enveloped the staff and Cyborg's hand.
"No," Raven objected, leaping forward to grab the staff with enscrolled hands. Cyborg's eyes widened when his hand did not respond to letting go of the staff. Raven grabbed the magic weapon, and with a crack was sent flying back. While Starfire caught the sorceress, the green aura completely enveloped both hero and villain.
"Oh crap, magic, messing with my systems!" Cyborg yelled as his robot eye flickered rapidly.
"Relax 'big' guy, this shouldn't hurt a bit," Zhu Chan assured him.
Then light and smoke seemed to explode around them.
"Cyborg!" The Titans called out as the smoke swept over them.
Robin squinted, peering into the smoke. Movement caught his eye, the movement of someone short. He struck out, not wanting the stumbling Zhu Chan to have time to recover from whatever just happened.
"Ping?" Robin wondered, as his staff collided with metal. A bit of the smoke cleared, and he saw at his feet… something that did not make sense. Even by Titan standards.
"What the heck are you doing Robin! And why are you so big!?" Cyborg demanded as the other Titans gathered around.
"Uhh, I pass on that question," Beast Boy said.
"Friend Cyborg, you are small," Starfire told him. And that he was, cybernetics and all reduced to a preteen package. Cyborg pressed a wrist button, ans a round mirror popped out of one of his arm; which he used to take a look at himself.
"Ahhh!" he yelled, dropping the mirror.
"This is different from the last time I got big," a deep, echoing voice called from the smoke. It sounded almost like two people talking in sync, with one voice lightly higher in tone. It grabbed the attention of the mini-Cyborg, the other Titans, and the HIVE.
A gust of wind cleared the smoke from the street, the last wisps of purple fume clinging to the crouching, black-clad figure. The figure stood, Zhu Chan's cloak now reaching only about halfway down its back, revealing a larger version of the robe. Red eyes smoldered through the hood's shadow, two long, narrow, white horns curving out of the darkness to point at the sky.
Throwing her arms wide, the half cloak and hood were thrown back in one motion, black smoke trailing from her hands.
"Wow," Beast Boy whispered, looking at his archenemy. Not only was she taller than Cyborg had been, her figure was as feminine as his had been macho. Though he noted it was more in the Catwoman school, outfit wise, as everything was actually covered. Still great, though.
'Wait, where does this fall since she was a kid sixty seconds ago?!' Beast Boy panicked mentally.
Taking a deep breath, Zhu Chan closed her eyes, whose pulsing glow still shined through as she ran her smoking hands over her admittedly beautiful face, smiling as she traced her horns from the edge of her hairline to their pointed tips. The smile revealed a lot of very sharp teeth, more so than usual.
"This feels incredible. It seems I shortchanged you, Cyborg - I was just aiming to steal age, but it looks like at this point just growing older makes me stronger," Zhu Chan chuckled, twirling the black staff in her hand.
"You two get out of here, the comedy routine is over," Zhu called out, turning to regard the stunned villains. The now younger villains bristled at the order, but nodded when the blue woman casually ignited her free hand into red flames.
Robin did not bother focusing on the fleeing villains and their loot. Priority belonged to the unknown threat level of Zhu Chan, and getting his seemingly depowered teammate to safety.
"Raven, get Cyborg out of here," Robin ordered, reaching into his belt with one hand.
"No Raven, I would rather you stayed. I have something to discuss with you heroes, and it seems I have the edge, too. Hey!" Zhu Chan's mocking tone gave way to a shout as a green hawk smacked into the back of her head.
With seeming ease, she grabbed the bird out of her hair and tossed him aside, straight through a phone booth to slide along the ground. She saw the blue-clad sorceress rising into the air with the struggling, cursing mini-Cyborg.
"Not so fast, we need to talk!" Zhu Chan announced. She reached out her hand and saw the air blur as her telekinesis seized them and pulled her closing fist back toward her chest.
They shot at her like a cannonball. With a startled cry, she pushed them back harder. They flew across the street after seeming to collide with solid air in front of her, and burst through a wall out of sight.
Robin's staff came down on top of her head as he leapt down in front of her. Eyes flared as she saw red, and struck him in the chest. As his torso burst into flame, he was hurled back as well.
Blinking, Zhu glanced around at the four seemingly down for the count Titans, or at least where they had disappeared through.
"Uh, wow," she whistled.
Then starbolts started raining down around her.
Brother Blood frowned as he read the report and looked back down at the now older student standing under the spotlight beneath the tribunal. The only thing visible the chamber of judgement were the elevated bench holding the tribunal, and the hive crest on the floor where the most recent student to be judged stood.
"So, you defeated all the Teen Titans, and then fled when the police arrived?" he inquired.
"Well, yes, I mean, that is tradition in this world, right?" she laughed nervously, running a smoking hand through her hair.
"Why did you not neutralize them?" he demanded.
"Uh, I wanted them to live with the cruel mercy of knowing I not only defeated them but can do so at any time," Zhu Chan told them.
"Admirable, but not policy. Normally I would send you to the Pit for such a lapse, but I would rather you be free to explore these powers," Blood told her, the other two tribunes muttering agreement.
"You may go. But be warned, as your power grows, so to do the HIVE's expectations of it," Blood told her. The blue woman rose from the seat and bowed. Which turned into a face plant, her horns scratching the HIVE crest on the floor.
"Do work on that center of gravity," Blood chastised as she rose up, levitating and rubbing her horns irritably.
"Is it just me, or is everyone watching me?" Zhu asked Jinx as they walked down the halls to their next class. Well, Jinx walked, Zhu was hovering along, her feet just slightly off the ground. Which, Jinx admitted, made her look even more badass.
Though she knew, from trying and failing to help, that Zhu was only doing it because her new body could not take two steps without falling over. And her books were in a bag slung over her shoulder because stuff in those hands kept bursting into flame at the slightest emotional high.
"You went from shrimp to giant in a day, and look like a complete demoness badass. You expect them not to stare?" Jinx rolled her eyes, looking up at her teammate.
"Well, yes, but it doesn't seem like just those stares. The guys in particular seem focused," Zhu whispered out of the side of her mouth.
"Oh, I can tell you that. I just assumed you knew," Jinx smiled a catty smile.
"Well I don't, so spill," Zhu snapped, glaring at her. Jinx almost missed her step; those on-fire eyes, they were quite intimidating. But she rallied, getting her grin back.
"Well, the fellas are a bit distracted by those… two things you grew," Jinx laughed. Zhu Chan narrowed her eyes, and then stopped her hovering to frown.
"My horns might be awesome, but that is no reason to stare," she muttered audibly.
"…Yes, they are so interested your horns," Jinx affirmed, rubbing her eyelids.
"Little Shadow!" Gadjo called. Both villainesses stopped in their tracks, reluctantly turning to face the imposing villain the hallway crowd was parting for. Though, Jinx realized, looking between the two, he wasn't quite so imposing next to the Super Zhu Chan.
"Though not so little anymore, eh? Nice horns," Gadjo laughed, coming up to them.
"Thank you, they are long and sharp," Zhu grinned, running an index finger along one.
"Can I touch them?" Gadjo asked.
Smoke poured thick from the double blast as Zhu bared her fangs at the hole in the wall down the hall Gadjo had been blasted through.
'Maybe horns are the attraction thing for her species?' Jinx wondered. Then Gadjo rose and stepped back through the hole. His shirt was blown away and his hair was a mess, and partially on fire, the carpet of chest along with the regular hair smoldering a bit.
Smiling, he reached behind his back. Jinx took a few steps behind Zhu. If Gadjo was going to actually use a weapon…
He pulled out a fifty and held it up.
"Do. That. Again," he said.
Later That Day:
Jade shook her head, as she floated through the bank, about twenty bags stuffed with cash, gold coins, and the like floating behind her. This was so easy the police hadn't even tried.
And the Titans were running late. She had enough power now she was pretty sure Blood couldn't come after her if things went too far south. And with a little restraint, she would be able to subdue the Titans and tell her piece. The whole curbstomp fight would just be water under the bridge.
Besides, she was pretty sure that after that second blast, Gadjo was getting psyched up for a serious fight. And Blood was creepier than usual. And the staring… it almost made her want to cover the horns or something.
Stepping out onto the bank's front steps, she looked around and saw no Titans around.
"Oh come on! Did the heroes up and run away on me!?" She demanded. A green fist pounded her into the stairs, the moneybags dropping to the stairs and spilling open. The fist cracked and shattered as a fireball burst through it. Shaking her head clear, Jade stood up, blinking concrete fragments from her blazing eyes.
"Impressive. Guess I don't have to hold back after all," a man spoke.
As Jade watched, a man floated down to land on the street. An African-American man with short-cut hair, green eyes, a strong build, wearing a black spandex uniform trimmed with green, and the logo of the OH CRAP.
"Jon… Stewart," Jade pulled the name to match the face.(2)
"That's right, and you would be Zhu Chan. Robin said your threat level had jumped. So here we are, punk," Green Lantern said as his ring flared.
"Aaahh!" She screamed, throwing fire at him and running back up the stairs. A green hammer swept the fire aside and caught her in the backswing, sending her into a building. Covered in an aura of green, the senior Leaguer flew after the villainess.
Later, Braga, Portugal:
Zhu Chan sat at a bus stop bench, ignoring staring locals as she spoke into her HIVE communicator. The city traffic ignored her, but the pedestrians kept stopping to stare. One of thm even tried to talk to ger before she bared her teeth at him. Of all the languages she knew, she landed in a country that spoke another.
It would only later occur to her they may well have spoken at least English if she had tried speaking to them in that language. Though to be frank she was not interested in small talk.
"Of course I ran away. That was freaking Green Lantern! No, wait, what?
"I didn't want to come to Portugal! Heck, I ended up in Hong Kong when I fled through that shadow. To get away from him.
"Yes, I couldn't do that before. But it's too much – I keep overshooting the Americas entirely.
"…What did you think I was trying to do?
"Hey, don't you hang up. Bus? I'm on the other side of the freaking Atlantic and the League has me on its heavy hitter list!
"Hello? Hello? Ah, crap.
"What are you staring at!?" she demanded, flaring her eyes at the local children who had stopped to take pictures of her.
Two Days Later, Back At The HIVE, Student Bar:
"So I take it you got the hang of it finally," Jinx said. They were sharing a booth in the student bar, Jinx nursing a mixed drink while Zhu was tearing into two platters, one of barbecue chicken, and the other various metal and plastic discards squirted with barbecue sauce.
"No. The last time, I ended up in Saint Louis. I decided that was close enough and clung to bus undercarriages to get back to Jump. At least it was easy to get food in route," Zhu grumbled.
Jinx wondered if Blue was referring to real food, or garbage? As disgusting and disturbing as the panivore's eating could be, Jinx admitted it could be useful. She wondered if Zhu could eat sand and rocks to survive in a desert?
"That would explain the smell," is what Jinx said out loud. Zhu looked down at her filthy costume. It was smeared with brown and black stains, no doubt from her method of travel.
"My horns are sharp – I disabled three buses by accident and had to beat a hasty retreat. I think I gave one bus driver his first gray hairs coming out.
"I need a shower," Zhu sighed, slumping back in the booth.
"Hey now, you might be off to a rough start with the whole power upgrade, but this is a good thing. I mean, you fought Green Lantern one-on-one. True, it was mostly running away screaming, but it's a start," Jinx reassured the taller woman. The blazing eyes flared as Zhu Chan leaned forward to glare down at Jinx over the table.
"Start? Start?! The Titans were bad, but now we're talking about heroes that singlehandedly defeat interstellar conquerors and the a-hole gods of old. And can team up to punch out an apocalypses!" she grabbed Jinx, lifting her out of the seat to shake her in frustration.
"What next? Superman blindsiding me at Mach 7? Getting tied up by Wonder Woman in my sleep? You turning into the Martian Manhunter out of nowhere? Batman lying in wait in the toilet to ambush me?
"I'm too young to worry about Batman in my toilet!" Zhu pleaded as one of Jinx's hair rings came loose from the shaking.
"Okay, okay! I see your point," Jinx agreed quickly. Zhu dropped her back into the seat with a thunk and slammed her face into the table. The horns punched right through the wood.
"Oh don't worry too much. These things happen, sometimes," Jinx said, reaching over to pat her teammate's shoulder.
"Here, let's take the edge off of it. You strike me as an ale drinker. Waiter! A bottle of that Belgian ale for my friend here," Jinx called.
Eight Minutes Later:
At a young age, Jinx had earned better than to try and help people. It only made things worse, and they hated you even more afterwards. While the hate was not showing at this time, things had definitely gotten worse, Jinx thought, looking at the mostly full bottle of ale across from her. Which vibrated, cracked, and shattered at the noise filling the air.
"HHHHAVKKAYAJJJJJHHHCCCXZZZZZCX!" Zhu sang, or rather shrieked, into the karaoke mike, holding herself up by gripping the wall and microphone stand.
"One drink… is alcohol her species' other kryptonite? I've seen her eat poison with no problem, but a sip of alcohol does this? Maybe she is just a totla light weight with drinking" Jinx demanded of the world.
The bouncer had tried to stop the air pollution that was Zhu's shrieking; there was now a hole in the wall roughly his shape. Jinx glanced up from the table when someone walked up. Bumblebee stood there, looking very irritated. She held out a spread of ten and twenty dollar bills to the witch.
"Jinx, we all pitched in. It's yours if you shut that demon diva up," Bumblebee said over the shrieking.
"She is overpowered and drunk, no way! I'll just leave," Jinx snorted, getting up.
"If you don't, we give Gadjo the money and job," Bumblebee smirked. Jinx paused, and looked to the booth the dark haired Roma was eating his pies at, seemingly unbothered by the noise.
"Fine," Jinx snapped. Getting up, she took a measuring look at the blue "singer". With a nod to herself, she went over to the bar and made her request of the bartender.
The pink-haired witch took a deep breath as she stepped up behind the crouching Zhu. Who was still singing, despite the lowering posture.
"Sorry, better this than the alternative," Jinx whispered, lifting the baseball bat over her head.
She didn't typically fight with weapons, but she knew it was a good swing, with a clean hit over the dome.
The baseball bat broke on her head, the impact jarring Jinx's grip lose. Rubbing her hands, Jinx watched as Zhu stopped singing and glanced back at her blearily.
"Did you hear something?" the horned woman slurred. With that question asked, Zhu Chan fell forward from her crouch, lying on the floor in an undignified position with her rump sticking up into the air as her horns caught in the floor.
She started to snore, loudly and deeply.
"Well, that worked, I guess," Jinx declared. After a moment's consideration, she grabbed one of her teammate's feet and started to drag her across the floor with some effort.
Help would be nice, but she was not about to ask any of these guys, she thought, dreading the journey to dump Big Blue on her room's floor.
Next Morning, Titans Tower:
A salvo of fireballs exploded against the tower walls. There was no visible damage, and Jade rubbed her temples, almost feeling the purple bags under her eyes.
"Oh, my head. This had better work. This was not quite worth an A+," she groused. She smiled as a door opened and the Titans charged out, including the little mini-Cyborg. Perfect.
"What was the idea siccing Green Lantern on me?" she demanded of the heroes.
"I'm not risking my team for pride. You changed the game, not me," Robin said, drawing a birdarang.
"Yeah, my bad that," Jade admitted.
"I'm glad you came. It was hard as heck to get used to this size, but I'm about to show you that even at this size Cyborg is still-" the little Cyborg squeaked as Jade tuned him out. It was his horrible little voice; someone oil it before her head burst like… some head-bursting thing.
"Uh, enough of this!" Jade roared, baring her fangs. Reaching out with her right hand, she interrupted Cyborg's speech with a telekinetic grab. Raven grabbed him back, until she had to raise a shield against a heat beam eye blast. The little mostly-metal man flew through the space between the two, and Jade pulled the black staff out from behind her back.
When he smacked into her grip, she hit him over the head with the staff, knocking him out. And thrust the staff into his limp hand.
Once again, power burst around them, kicking up dust and smoke.
"Not again!" Robin and Raven cursed.
"Hey, stop focusing on Cyborg! I'm your archenemy, remember!?" Beast Boy shook his fist at the cloud.
"Remind me how dumb you are again?" Raven groaned.
"Should we not do something?" Starfire asked.
"We can't charge in – who knows how powerful she might be this time," Robin scowled.
The smoke dispersed, revealing a big again Cyborg rubbing his head as he sat up on the ground.
"Uh, what happened? I'm sick of that former kid, where's my upgrade? Hey, I'm back!" he exclaimed when the sight of his hands let him realize he was back to normal.
"Me too, I'm fun-sized again! Good things do come in small packages!" Jade cheered, perched on top of a large brown rock.
"You wanted this to happen?" Cyborg asked, confused. She ignored him, breaking the staff over her knee and tossing the two halves into the air. Cocking a fist, she threw an explosive blast at the pieces. They exploded like firecrackers with confetti, to his pleasure.
"I'll never build anything from instructions posted on the Internet by old Englishmen again! Well, let's never do this again!" Jade waved to the Titans, before jumping backward, letting herself fall into the shadow of the rock.
"Uh, did we just win or did she?" Starfire asked the other confused Titans.
"Interesting," Raven remarked, glancing at the spot Zhu Chan had disappeared from.
"Ideas, Raven?" Robin asked.
"We should call off the threat upgrade. If Zhu Chan is back to normal, it could allow the HIVE Headmaster to call in a heavy hitter of his own if we call in a top level Leaguer again," Raven told him.
That wasn't all, and he probably guessed it, but it was just a sneaking suspicion. Time would tell if it felt like it.
"This is unfair," Jade grumbled as she inspected the array. Her lab floor had been cleared enough to make room for a somewhat upgraded astral projection array she had painted. The book said chalk was too easy to mess up accidentally, so unless you wanted to be sneaky, use paint left to dry, or ideally carve it into the floor.
"Penalty assignment, I'm sure! Like he would actually care about a deliberate downgrade. Besides, it was overpowered with suck! Couldn't even walk in the darn thing. Though the horns were awesome," Jade admitted, rubbing her now smooth brow.
"Uh, you really are annoying, Queenie. I should be glad to rid of those, but I can't quite be. Bet that growth spirit gave you a boost too, letting you keep hero-blocking me.
"Well, it's going to be like chess. Take as many pieces as you want, 'cause I'll win anyway, but for now," Jade said to herself. She took a seat in the middle of the array and assumed the lotus position.
Blood had not been pleased with her unauthorized outing. Or with the fact his tailing surveillance had made it clear she deliberately depowered herself. So now that she had made it clear she was not committed to being a heavy hitter, she needed to prove herself in a more subtle aspect of villainy.
Specifically, dream-walking. Or else, was implied in the assignment.
Jade wondered if she should have stuck around at the Tower to make her case. But no, coming right off curbstomping them, her chances would not have been good. Besides, they had come out expecting to fight Super Zhu; had she given them time to find their feet, they might have stomped her before anything could be said.
Still, she realized the fact she had been able to power herself up and depower Cyborg would make her a bigger threat. She had hoped an upgrade and captive audience would let her defect, but instead she was back to square one.
Well, tomorrow was another day for trying to get out from under the jerk in the white robe. Now to reprise her role as a dream-walker, and without a talisman even, cool.
Exhaling slowly, she began the chant; eyes closed, she did not see the array begin to glow with power.
"Huh, a lot more sluggish without the Sheep talisman to help," Jade muttered as she drifted through the air. Her body was semi-transparent, or rather her corporeal form was, and the world around her, instead of being clear, was gray-scaled and distorted like she was looking through choppy water. Only the people she passed showed clearly, and they were too bright. And not just because of the outfits.
"Now then, where to begin?" she thought, eying the nearest dream cloud. Well, it wasn't really a cloud, but that was the closest thing she could describe it as.
According to the texts, the clouds drifted to the undisciplined mind, though remained tethered by a something-or-other cord only experienced projectionists could see.
Brushing the edge with the back of her index finger, she got a clear picture of the occupant.
"Jinx? Well, let's see what pink-eyed witches dream of," Jade grinned. Sticking her hand into the not quite substance, she felt a sucking tug, and then with a jerk was pulled inside.
She was flying, fast and free, until she hit a tree.
"Ouch," Jade groaned, pulling her face out of the pine. To her lack of amusement, she saw a rather unflattering likeness of her face now imprinted on the bark.
"I do not look like that," she huffed, dusting her robes off. While scowling, a squirrel swam past her, water wings and all. Taking in her surroundings, she noticed many of the trees were upside down, and a pair of bear lumberjacks were gluing trunks onto stumps while monkeys screwed limbs into sockets on other trunks.
"Oh, one of those kinds of dreams. Jinx, you around here?!" Jade called out.
BOOM BOOM BOOM.
"The math test! Run!" one of the bears roared. Getting onto all fours, the animal ran as a massive paper loomed above.
"Does she hate math, or is this just another weird thing?" Jade asked. Just then, a gray blur appeared in front of her. Jinx had arrived, riding a giant gray cat wearing dark goggles. The witch herself sat atop it, wearing identical goggles and a shiny black jumpsuit, and holding a very oversized bazooka.
"I will stop it with my unicorn launcher!" Jinx declared. Cocking the weapon like a shotgun, the head and forelegs of a cartoony blue unicorn with glowing eyes popped out of the barrel.
"Hi!" it said cheerfully.
"Die, GPA!" Jinx declared, squeezing the trigger.
"Boomagain?" Jade asked as the giant paper blew up very dramatically.
"Onward, to the pudding," Jinx commanded her feline steed. The two leapt out of sight, and Jade watched them go and made the exit hand sign.
Mammoth's dream seemed a bit more stable from the get go. A farmyard, an excessively generic one at that… well, generic American farm, she supposed. Though it did not smell like any of the farms she had ever been to, it smelled like… baked goods?
A racket of chatter drew her attention in time to jump on top of the nearest cattle fence as a group of little kids were pulled in on a wagon. The wagon was being pulled by a smiling horse with big blue eyes.
After taking a good look at the horse, Jade watched the kids, all dressed in those little sailor suits, pile out of the wagon and gather around the barn door.
"WHAT TIME IS IT?" A voice boomed somewhere, startling Jade.
"Farmer Mammoth Funtime!" the kids cheered. And with those bizarre words, the barn door burst open to country music, letting Mammoth – dressed in overalls, a red shirt, and wearing a slightly-tattered straw hat – dance out to their cheers.
"Uhhh?" Zhu cocked her head. This was far more than she wanted to know about him.
"Hey kids! And looks whose visiting – the little blue girl from the city!" Farmer Mammoth proclaimed, leaping over the little crowd to stand next to her and lean on the fence.
"…Oh, I get it! You're having a nightmare!" Zhu slapped her forehead.
"Of course it's a nightmare, I should have gone for the death penalty. Save me!" Mammoth pleaded, falling to his knees before her. Then the creepy little kids swarmed over him like piranha.
"Come on, Farmer Mammoth. It's time to sing the Happy Cow Song!" they cheered in sync.
"NNNOOOOOO!" Mammoth screamed as the happy sailor suit children carried him away.
"Don't worry, it'll all be over in a few hours! Assuming time isn't relative!" Jade called after him.
Really, she felt an obligation to enter Gizmo's dream, to hit the whole team up for dreams. Still, knowing him, she braced for the impact of it being some technological horror or deadly sci-fi cliché.
Instead, she found herself standing on a fancy tile floor, in what looked like one of those restaurants that was so fancy people paid for atmosphere rather than food. Or was it that they didn't mind paying robbery prices for bad food because the atmosphere was so good? High dining – not her field of study, thank you very much, world.
She found Gizmo at a table among other tables with faceless gentry murmuring to one another over candlelight. His table proved to be behind a tiered fountain flanked by small statues of that Warp Trek series he obsessed over. Apparently the nerd factor still leaked in.
Gizmo was wearing what she guessed was a formal jumpsuit, and staring dreamily at a robot girl.
"Well, I should really be more surprised," Jade said to herself, leaning against the fountain. While unmistakably feminine, from her shape to her wire/hair reaching her shoulders, his date was unmistakably a robot. It would never pass for human and did not even seem to try to. It looked like a robot that happened to also be a teenage girl.
"You are such a fascinating inventor, Gizmo," the date told him, her glowing white eyes closing slightly. Gizmo smiled at her and her facial motor whirled, also smiling.
"I want to show you what I have, under the hood," the robot winked at him. And opened up her gown, revealing her chest.
"Hey!" Jade objected, throwing up a hand while Gizmo girl-shrieked and sparkled.
'Wait, what?' Jade thought. Yes, he really was sparkling as he looked at his date with starry eyes. Actual starry eyes, with stars.
"A pan platform, backwards compatible gaming system! You really are perf-AHHH!" Gizmo's tearful words gave way to a scream as heat blasts exploded the robot girl's head.
"Nothing personal Gizmo… Well, okay, that was personal. It just disgusts me to see you that happy," Jade called out, before making the exit sign. She snickered as she left the crumbling dreamscape behind.
Jade reached Blood's dream, apparently unseen as the dream Blood focused his attention on the screens in front of him, grinning like the cat that swallowed the canary.
She had only tried him to see if she could, and surprisingly she could indeed. The mental walls and traps had been easy to bypass once she noticed there were shadows in his mind. Apparently, that had been a blind spot even to a guy like him. Good to know, very good to know.
Him enjoying himself by dreaming about killing all the students with sadistic high-tech death traps? Not so much.
She had seen the dream-Zhu Chan get crushed into paste by a ceiling trap, and now dream-Gadjo was the only student to step into the winner circle and collect his prize.
Gadjo's dream had been fun. Just a boxing match with Gadjo in boxer shorts, fighting a cybernetic, red-eyed kangaroo that had been smoking a cigar. A very close and cool fight, which ended when Gadjo punched the cyborg's head off, making pies rain everywhere.
This Gadjo was also demanding his sweet reward.
"Hey, Blood! You said there would be pie at the end!" Gadjo demanded.
"Oh, so sorry my Roma pupil, the pie you see, was a lie," Blood chuckled. He pressed a scary looking red button, and the winner's chamber was flooded with fire. As Brother Blood laughed maniacally, Jade scowled, then gave a fang-filled grin. Reaching out to grab onto the dream, she decided to spice it up a bit for the jerk.
The sound of ripping metal turned Blood around on his swivel chair of evil. A hole had burst in the steel floor, a floor filled with a very charred and very, very angry Gadjo.
"You lie about pie… then by Gadjo YOU DIE!" the psycho roared, pulling himself out of the hole and tackling the stunned headmaster in one motion.
Chuckling to herself, Zhu Chan left Brother Blood to his nightmare, slipping back into the shadows.
Arriving back at her own sleeping body, still slumped a bit, and snoring in the lotus position, Jade found herself hesitating to cancel the spell.
What would happen if she dream-walked her own body? She decided to find out as she dived into the blue brow before her.
"Wow, pretty," Jade commented, seeing a sky overhead like the northern lights. Under foot was the ground, or ice? No, a mirror, she realized. She frowned at the reflection looking up at her. Split straight down the middle, human and Shadowkhan, in the ninja duds, except for her bare feet.
"I guess I'm dreaming of colors?" she commented, walking along towards what looked like a chokepoint in the dancing lights. Getting close, she noticed something flitting about the intersection, as the pattern of lights subtly shifted.
"Well, this is unexpected," Jade admitted, kicking off the ground to hover up.
Tarakudo closed one eye to squint at the light patterns as he mentally seized one of the streams.
"Okay, so move it a tad from there, to here. That takes care of that initiative, but it could dial up impulsiveness dangerously. No more explosions, thank you very much," the King of the Shadowkhan muttered as he realigned the blue stream.
"And that should deviate some trust and positive expectations from the capes, and to the witch. But don't want too much to go there…"
"Tarakudo," A too-familiar voice called behind him.
"Oh," he cursed, turning around to face Jade.
"Well, I must say this was not planned," he admitted.
"I'll say – of all the villains, why am I dreaming about you?" Jade complained.
"…Dream, yes, and what a crazy dream it is!" He said, yanking hard on some streams. Mushrooms sprouted, the size of Packards, in all the colors of the rainbow, as it started to rain ducks in little top hats.
"And look, I'm a basketball with a mustache!" he shouted, morphing into just that and bouncing away in the air.
"Eh, random craziness is getting boring. I'll just go to real sleep," Jade sighed. She cancelled the spell, disappearing, and the bouncing ball turned back into the Lord of all Oni.
"That was close. And now I've got to get this mess cleaned up before she wakes up. In this state, she just might think she's a Polish bat named Frank or something," he grumbled as he overlooked the duck-and-mushroom infested landscape.
"Well, it may be a lot of work, but this time I will get the big payoff. When will those mortals learn you can't keep Tarakudo down?
"In the meantime, a little reminder of what to look forward to in a few decades," Tarakudo said to himself. Pulling out a folder labeled "visual memories" from nowhere, he opened it and extracted a few pictures of the aged-up Jade. He gave a wolf whistle at the sight.
"Now that is what I call a Queen! Just look at those horns," he smiled.
1). You, have no idea how long I have waited to use this line in a story like this.
2). Jon Stewart, #1 Green Lantern, so says I!
3). See the awesome Ander Arias' fanart for the grown up Zhu Chan!
Well here we have it the last post of 2013. Sorry there no Queen update this year, I figured you would prefer a proper update rather than ininterlude for that story.
This isa Nocturne Legacy. He wanted an age switch chapter; though his idea called for Cyborg taking a level in jerk prior to this insulting her height and age. And some focus on the adventure from Mini-Cyborg's view. I never really felt it on those so we get an abridged version put together with the dreamwalking incident.
And I hope the chapter explains a bit about Jades' continued presence at the HIVE. I pushed back Slade's story debut to next chapter to move that little revelation up in a switcheroo. His premiere scene will be awesome, and at the expense of a character we have seen a lot of in this story. Fun times, without creepy children in sailor suits.
Well Happy New Year To All! Have fun and stay safe.