AN: Hey all, 50cal here. Some of you might know me from The Sun Soul, or The Sword And The Sorcerer... as well as some others. This is my first venture into the Teen Titans 'verse so we'll see how it goes. Anyway, I was sitting at work today, weighing the pros and cons of calling my boss a worthless sack of shit, when for whatever reason I started thinking about Teen Titans, that wonderful show I used to watch back before life got serious. As any of you who've read my other works know, I like to mess with things and thus, we now have this.
So you're aware, a big assumption I'm going to make for the sake of the story is that Teen Titans takes place on a planet Earth that resembles our own in terms of modern geopolitics. Canon (the cartoon's at least) doesn't really address what kind of governments run the world so I plan to proceed as though the world of Teen Titans looks pretty similar to the one we live in today as far as political entities go... except that there are superheroes and supervillians to fight them of course. Yes, I'll be stepping on canon a little bit, but that's what fanfiction is all about.
One Shot – Fatal Prognosis
"So I should hope," said the faceless silhouette on the television screen, the baritone voice calm and collected but also venomous, "that last week's bombing of the Pentagon proved just how seriously my threats should be taken." The image on the screen flashed to the headquarters of America's Department of Defense, one of its eastward facing walls partially collapsed and burning as smoke filled the sky over the Potomac River.
As the voice went silent to focus the viewers' attention solely on the battered building, the cabin of the small plane grew deathly still. The only sound came from the aircraft's engines, a dull hum in the ears of the six passengers. The Teen Titans all sat quietly watching the screen as the image faded back to the silhouette from before. The figure leaned forward out of the shadows, and Slade rested the chin of his black and orange mask on his knuckles.
"Now," said the man, his one visible eye narrowing, "on to business... My demands couldn't be more simple. One," he held up a finger, "the United States of America will immediately cease all of its activity on, and remove itself completely from the Korean Peninsula. Second, control of the peninsula will be immediately and unconditionally surrendered to Pyongyang. Third," Slade paused with three fingers lifted, "and finally, the special operations paramilitary task force known informally as the Teen Titans is to disband immediately.
"You have twelve days to comply, or else I will deploy a weapon of mass destruction in Washington DC. The resulting death toll will easily reach into the tens of millions," again Slade paused and stared at the camera for a moment. "In your position, I would decide quickly." The tape ended and the screen faded to black.
The Titans looked around at each other for a moment as an older man in an army uniform sitting beside the television raised a remote and turned off the TV. The officer, a tall character with wide shoulders, a broad forehead , and a very stern countenance looked between the five teenagers sitting around the little table. His already icy expression grew even colder.
"That came in ten days ago," the officer said. "It should be clear by now why I couldn't brief you back in Jump City. The last thing the White House wants is to start a panic. So, before we get started, do any of you have any questions?"
"General," said Robin, turning his head to look out the darkened window and leaning back in his wide chair, "all we need to know is what we can do to help?"
"We have every reason to believe this is the real deal," said the general. "The DHS and the NSA have already assembled a joint task force to get this straightened out. Their advice to me is to bring in an NGO unit with experience combating home-grown terrorism. That's where you five come in. Reports indicate that your group has dealt with this Slade before on numerous occasions. Are they right?"
"They are correct," Starfire chimed from her spot on the sofa beside Robin. "We have confronted the Slade many times and we have always managed to defeat him."
Beast Boy smirked from his chair. "Curb stomped him is more like it."
"Funny," Cyborg muttered, his eyes focusing on the blank television screen, "before last week I never would have pegged Slade for a terrorist. His plans have always been more covert."
"So where do we stand?" asked Robin, turning his attention back to the officer. "What do we know?"
General Baker leaned forward and rested one elbow on his knee. "Twenty-five hours before we received that video, Israeli Mossad agents carried out a surgical strike on an Iranian nuclear plant that they suspected to be producing fissionable material for bombs. Turns out they were right about the plant's true purpose and the good news is that nobody has to worry about Iran making any new nuclear material in the future.
"The bad news is that they'd already to produced more than enough for one hell of a firework show. Mossad sent us the reports the instant they had them, and if they're right then there's roughly enough unaccounted-for material to build a one megaton nuclear weapon... that's almost a one hundred times as powerful as the city-buster we dropped on Hiroshima back in the forties. If that bomb went off on the White House's lawn it would level every man-made structure in DC. Cities as far away as Arlington would suffer considerable damage."
"So you're sure Slade wants to detonate a nuke in DC?" asked Robin. "Even for him that seems a little extreme." Robin started to say something but caught himself. "Then again, he did mention North Korea, and if they're paying him then who knows how far he'd be willing to go..."
"Which is why we're devoting all resources to this operation," said General Baker. "If Slade wants to hit DC with a nuke, and we think he does, then to ensure maximum destruction without an obvious missile system he'd need to set it off from a high point in the city. Since there aren't too many sky scrapers in DC," the general added with a taste of sarcasm in his words, "that narrows his options down some."
From the back of the group, Raven cleared her throat and pulled her hood away from her face. "Slade said the death toll would reach into the tens of millions," she said calmly. "There aren't that many people in Washington, so even if he leveled the city he wouldn't kill more than four or five million." She paused as everyone in the cabin stopped and stared at her. "Um," the girl stammered, "not that that wouldn't still be terrible," she started to blush, "but he still wouldn't be making good on his promise of ten or more..." Raven trailed off as everyone continued staring. "Never mind."
"Anyway," said Robin, "a bomb needs to be detonated and Slade wouldn't want to be anywhere near the city when his weapon goes off. That means he needs either a timer or a remote detonator like a cellphone. If it's a timer then there's nothing to do, but if it's a remote then there are ways to counter it."
"Not bad," said General Baker. "The Department of Defense felt the same way and they've already covered that option. As we speak the DOD is moving every Delta Force operative in the western hemisphere to DC. They're setting up electronically hardened radio jamming devices and flux compression generators all over the city. If the bomb has any kind of trigger that relies on radio signals then the jammers will block the signal while the EMP from the flux generators will kill its electronic components."
"Unless Slade took the time to shield the bomb from EMP," Robin added. "It'd be tedious, but he could do it."
"Even if he did," Cyborg piped up, "the remote trigger couldn't be shielded or it wouldn't be able to receive the signal to detonate. The EMP would kill that and the bomb couldn't detonate."
"Hello?" Beast Boy exclaimed, popping up from his chair. "Not all of us are nuclear physi-ma-thingamajigs. My brain doesn't have a direct connection to Wikipedia so can we cut the techno-babble please?"
Robin went silent as he ignored Beast Boy, assessed the information, and turned back to the general. "So what's our part in all of this?"
"You're going to be our boots on the ground," said the General Baker. He glanced at Starfire, "or in the air, as it might so happen. You five know Slade better than anyone. Delta Force and Center Spike are going to be monitoring every voice on the airwaves and watching for any hint as to where Slade has the bomb. They'll relay any information to you. Hopefully between all of us we should be able to find that bomb."
"If I know Slade," said Robin, "then he'll have his robots all over that bomb. It's not easy to spot, but you should have your teams scanning for high-capacity local wireless networks."
General Baker nodded and reached for his phone.
Three Hours Later
Fumbling forward a bit as the van hit a bump, Robin caught himself and glanced at the clock on the dashboard. The display read "3:40" and Robin reached up to rub his eyes through his mask.
"Cyborg," he said, turning around in the van's passenger seat. "Any word from the Delta Operators?"
In the back of the vehicle where the other four Titans and two federal agents with laptops and black uniforms sat, Cyborg signaled Robin to wait as he put one hand up to his ear. Listening for a second the burly Titan's brow furrowed.
"All but two of the teams have finished setting up their jammers and flux generators," Cyborg answered. "If the general gives the word we can knock out every piece of electronic hardware from here to Manassas."
Robin nodded his approval and looked passed Raven and Starfire, both of whom had traded their skimpier casual wear for black and grey camouflaged uniforms complete with armored vests. "Bob," he looked to one of the agents with the laptops. "Any word from Center Spike?"
"Nothing as of-" the agent stopped mid sentence, the bluish light from his computer's screen illuminating the sudden transition of his expression from calm to coldly focused. "Never mind that," he said, tapping the laptop's arrow keys. "One of our drones just passed over the intersection of 6th and Independence Avenue. Wireless activity went off the charts."
Everyone but the driver turned to look at the agent as the van continued driving through the early morning dark of Washington DC.
"Can you narrow down the area?" asked Starfire.
"Working on it," responded the operator, grabbing a radio from his belt. "Mathewson," he said into the device. "I'm reassigning Predator Two. Fly it low over 6th street and help Predators Thee and Five triangulate the source of the signals. Have the Hellfires armed and ready to deploy if need be."
"Yo," Cyborg called. "Delta Force just reported that one of their teams went silent. They'd just arrived at the Department of Education HQ."
The driver turned to Robin. "That's right southeast of 6th and Independence."
Robin's face hardened as his eyes narrowed. "Get us there now." He turned around to Cyborg. "Call in the Delta Operators."
"Already on it," Cyborg said, typing on the little keyboard set in his arm as the van's tires squealed and launched the vehicle forward at obviously illegal speeds. "Their nearest support team is eight minutes away."
"We'll be there in three," said the driver, turning a hard corner that shook everyone in the van.
As its V8 engine revved louder and louder, the van sped down the road, flying by darkened buildings and shooting through traffic signals without so much as a stutter. In the front seat, Robin zipped up his tactical vest and reached to the pack between his legs, drawing out several pieces of steel and plastic. Cyborg sat in the back, running a last minute systems check and arming his weapon systems while Beast Boy smirked and cracked his knuckles. Raven and Starfire both got up and walked passed the agents in black to the doors in the back of the van.
"Thought you didn't like guns," said Cyborg, spotting the assembled M4 carbine sitting in Robin's lap.
"I don't," Robin loaded a magazine and chambered a round, filling the van with the distinctive clap and click. "But I like dieing even less." He began pulling magazines from his pack and slipping them into his vest, along with his more traditional loadout of birdarangs, flashbang grenades, and smoke bombs.
The van came screeching to a halt, on forth street, the driver's side of the vehicle facing the eastern edge of the Department of Education's headquarters. Starfire and Raven throuh open the back doors and jumped out, both hovering a few feet off the ground while the two federal agents, both wielding P90 submachine guns jumped out into the street and trained their weapons on the building across the street.
"Raven, Starfire," said Robin, jumping out beside the agents. "Circle up and around to the north. Cover our approach from fifty meters up."
"Roger," Starfire acknowledged as she and Raven flew off in the direction the van had been speeding.
Cyborg stepped up beside Robin as Beast Boy stepped out and popped his neck. "How do you want to play this?" asked the hulking titan.
"Get up to the base of the building," Robin said to Beast Boy. "Be discreet and wait for my mark to move in. Cyborg," he went on as Beast Boy's shape swirled into that of a little green cat , "what do you see?"
Cyborg turned to the building as the two agents to his left. "No bodies, or hot ones anyway," he said. "If Slade's here then he's found a way to make his robots run colder..."
Loud banging clapping shattered the early morning calm as machine gun fire broke out from the eastern face of the building. Cyborg and Robin dove behind the van and their partner agents jumped behind a nearby car as a rain of bullets screamed and thudded into the surround. Cyborg spat a curse as the van began disintegrating under the bombardment. Bits of metal flying in every direction as gunfire peppered the vehicle, the mechanical Titan moved himself between Robin and the source of the shots. Several times over the next second, slugs impacted and ricocheted off Cyborg's asymmetrical armor.
"Switching to infrared," Robin declared calmly, pulling a pair of goggles from his vest and slipping them over his mask. He glanced into the van's driver seat and spotted what could only be the remains of the driver.
"Likewise," Cyborg responded, tapping the side of his skull as his mechanical eye began glowing more faintly red. "General Baker," he went on, pressing a finger to his ear. "We found your problem. Hostiles have control of the Department of Education. Activate the jammers."
"Starfire," Robin barked into his headset. "Put some suppressive fire on those gunners."
Cyborg turned to Robin as another wave of bullets tore into the van and punched into the pavement all around them. "The jammers are powering up. We're going to lose radio-"
Robin twitched as the radio in his ear screeched and went dead. "I know," he answered as a flurry of green starbolts flew out of the darkness to the north and slammed into the big building's east wall, exploding in emerald bursts of energy and puffs of smoke. Debris fell from the facade and the gunfire ceased just long enough for Robin to peek around the peppered frame of the van. He couldn't suppress a grin as a large minivan, wreathed in black energy, sailed through the air and crashed into the structure's fourth floor.
The two federal agents stood up from behind their mostly intact car and opened fire in short bursts on the building. "Hostiles up on the forth floor!" one shouted as the other charged across the street and dove behind another car for cover. "Put suppressive fire on them!"
"This whole block just turned into a free-fire zone," said Cyborg, scanning the building and spotting more than a dozen of Slade's distinctly uniformed robots on the fourth floor. "Go time."
The Robots unleashed another wave of fire on the attackers, forcing the Titans and agents to take cover behind whatever they could. Raven and Starfire retreated to the roof of the tall building across the street, flinging starbolts and missiles of black energy at the target building. Raven, spotting a large air conditioning unit behind her, reached out with her mind and wrapped the massive hunk of metal in telekinetic energy. Uttering an incantation, she stood and hurled it across the street where it crashed into the robots' position and exploded in a spray of black fire and shrapnel, taking out most of the exterior wall and leaving the robots' location largely exposed.
"Go!" Cyborg shouted to Robin as the robots took a second to regroup from the onslaught. "I'll cover you!"
Robin nodded and dashed out into the street, angling for the short trees and decorative brick wall that lined the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road.
"Alright!" Cyborg punched a button on his arm and stepped out into plain view. The blue components lining his figure, many cracked or scuffed from the gunfire, began to hum and glow as he raised his arm cannon and pointed it at the robots' elevated position. "One fifty megajoule burst of fuck you, coming right up!" The air all around him rippled outwards in visible waves as one of the robots standing just on the edge of the destroyed section of fourth floor flashed white and exploded in a cloud of boiling metal. A blue trail of glowing plasma traced out the laser's path and Cyborg grinned widely, taking aim at another target. An instant later a second robot vanished in a spray of white-hot liquid metal.
"Had enough yet?" shouted Cyborg, taking a few steps forward and vaporizing two more robots who dared to show themselves. "Obviously not!" he lowered his arm and tapped another button on his shoulder. The fingers of his left hand all spun and merged into a single barrel. Cyborg pulled a grenade out of a compartment in his calf and loaded the explosive as Rabin reached the base of the building. "90 millimeters of painkiller on the way!"
A loud thud filled the air and Cyborg's arm recoiled back as the massive grenade shot through the air. A split second later the whole city block shook and every window within Cyborg's line of sight shattered. A massive fireball exploded out from the building's fourth floor, throwing chunks of rock and concrete clear across the street. Both Robin and Beast Boy leapt for cover as a large section of the structure's roof, now unsupported, crumbled and slid into the street like an avalanche.
"Son of a bitch," Robin muttered, covered from enemy fire by the tree canopies overhead. Pressing his back to the wall as Beast Boy retook human shape beside him, he took a steady breath. "Would Cyborg mind keeping the collateral damage to under a billion dollars?"
Beast Boy laughed and patted Robin on the back. "At least you can't set off a nuke by blowing it up. Maybe we should just have him level the building."
Standing in the street, Cyborg wore a look of contrition mixed with pride. "That might have been a little much," he admitted to himself. He spotted the two federal agents taking advantage of the still and running across the street to join Robin and Beast Boy. He readied his arm cannon to cover them if necessary, quickly but cautiously walking towards Robin as he kept his weapon trained on the devastated upper floors.
"Raven!" Robin shouted as the two girls flew in to meet them, stopping and hovering a dozen meters above the ground. "You and Starfire move in and search the upper floors first. We'll take-" He stopped as a loud shot rang out in the night and Raven jerked. Going limp, Raven tumbled downwards.
Without wasting a second, Robin dashed forward and jumped to catch her as Raven's body dropped throuh the tree branches. With a grunt of effort, Robin broke her fall her and dropped to his knees with his teammate in his arms. Overhead, Starfire flung a flurry of starbolts through a window to deal with the sniper.
"Raven," Robin hissed, propping her up as the girl wheezed and clutched at her side. "Where did it hit?"
"Broke a rib," Raven growled through clenched teeth. "Broke a stinking rib." She sucked in a breath, opened her eyes, and pushed herself up to a knee. "It didn't get through the vest," she muttered, her fingers finding the crushed slug buried in the side of her armor, "but damn that hurts." She paused and looked up at him as Robin examined the bullet stuck in the vest. "I can still help out," Raven grunted, lifting herself into the air and hovering there.
"You're sure?" Robin asked as the sound of police sirens wailed in the distance.
"Positive," said Raven, teeth still clenched. "Starfire and I will take the top floors."
Nodding as Raven flew off, Robin ran back to the other Titans and agents, all of whom had moved to the walls beside a small set of stairs leading up to a security door. On Robin's direction the team moved up to the door and Cyborg positioned himself in front of it. The hulking superhero raised his foot and pressed his heel to the door. Lurching forward, he snapped the door's metal jam like balsa and stepped throuh the resulting hole in the wall, arm cannon raised and ready.
A heartbeat later, Cyborg had moved several steps into the building, flanked by Robin and the agents while Beast Boy morphed into the form of a rat and scampered forward. The massive room consisted of a long and rectangular floorspace devoted almost exclusively to cubicles. Lining the north wall were more than two dozen plain wooden doors leading into offices with glass walls and paper curtains. Only the sound of closing police sirens interrupted the otherwise deathly quiet in the building.
"Cyborg," Robin said, voice barely louder than a whisper. "Are your scanners picking up and signs of the bomb?"
"Oh yeah," said the larger Titan. "Slade must have built this thing in a hurry 'cause I'm seeing plenty of radiation leakage dead ahead... Fifty meters forward, twenty up, tops."
"Get down!" one of the federal agents shouted, stepping to the side and opening fire at the door across the large room as it burst open.
Reacting instantly, Robin and the other agent both brought up their weapons and started shooting as a dozen of Slade's robots stormed the office, weapons blazing. The whole room erupted into a tempest of gunfire, shouts, and flying bullets as scraps of paper and bits of drywall flew into the air, creating a cloud of particulates and debris. One of the agents stood up from cover and sprayed the opposite end of the room with bullets as the robots spread out and dug in behind cubicles and desks. Two robots went down under the barrage and he took aim at a third. An instant later the agent spasmed as the back of his head exploded in a cloud of pink and grey. He dropped backwards without a word.
"Cyborg!" Robin barked, ducking and dropping an empty magazine from his weapon as a slug demolished the potted plant less than a foot from his head. "Left flank! Left flank! Throwing a flashbang!" He jerked a grenade from his waist, leaving the pin hanging from his belt, and chucked it over the desk behind which he'd taken shelter. Shielding his eyes with one hand, Robin barely saw Cyborg duck behind a pillar.
A heartbeat passed and Robin felt his frame shake as the room filled with a deafening roar and a flash of blinding light. When he pulled his hand away, he felt the warm liquid clinging to his fingers and noted the stinging pain coating the right side of his head. "Fuck," he muttered, picking a small piece of what had once been a ceramic pot out of his cheek. Out of the corner of his vision he noted Cyborg standing up and taking aim at the dazed robots. Simultaneously the other agent emerged from a cubicle, took aim, and opened fire with his P90.
Buzzing as their systems failed, most of the robots went down beneath a withering hail of bullets. Robin rose to his feet and looked down the sight of his weapon, taking aim at the one enemy trying to flee the room. The carbine kicked into his shoulder, unleashing a three round burst that ripped a trio of holes in the robot's head, dropping it instantly. Robin took several steps to one side, keeping his weapon trained on the door across the room and stepping up beside the agent.
"Move up," Robin ordered as he and the agent advanced towards the door. "Cyborg, take point!"
As Cyborg ran forward and pressed his wall to the door, Robin reached to his belt and grabbed another flashbang grenade. From outside the building the Titans heard yet more gunfire. General Baker's voice shouted over a loudspeaker for all forces to open fire on the upper floors and engage the robots. The sound of machine guns and exploding grenades followed as the thumping of helicopter blades sounded in the night.
"Fifteen hostiles!" Cyborg shouted from the door, ducking away as a wave bullets ripped dozens of holes in the wall to his side.
Pulling the grenade from his belt, Robin took several more steps forward and hurled the flashbang through the open door as he pressed his shoulder to the wall. Another bone-shaking wave of force made Robin's ears ring but without any hesitation he stepped through the door and into the long hall beyond. He couldn't miss the several robots advancing down the corridor less than twenty feet ahead. Each of the mechanical soldiers shook and twitched as they raised their weapons at him in jerky motions. Robin smirked and as Cyborg stepped up behind him the two Titans opened fire and gunned down the stunned robots before they could fire a shot.
One of the many transparent doors lining the hall exploded outwards in a spray of sheetrock, glass, and wooden splinters. Immediately Robin, the agent, and Cyborg aimed at the scene, only to spot a massive green gorilla barreling into the hall as it ripped one of Slade's robots in half. Beast Boy turned on a second robot in the door with a roar and grabbed its arms. As though he were playing with a child's toy Beast Boy tore the machine's arms from its shoulders and beat the robot to the ground with its own limbs.
"Heh," the green Titan laughed, returning to his human form. "Stairwell clear," he said. "Courtesy of your friendly neighborhood- Ah!" he screamed. Beast Boy shot a glance at the ground, spotting the upper torso of the robot he thought dead. It glared up at him, its unusually long and narrow claws dug into his calf.
"Stay down!" Beast Boy shouted, raising one boot and smashing the robot's head.
Robin stepped forward, still pointing his carbine down the hall, and stopped by Beast Boy. "You alright?" he asked.
With a grunt and a curse, Beast Boy ripped the severed arm free of his leg and tossed it aside. "Fine," he said.
"Robin," a familiar voice called from the stairwell Beast Boy had just cleared.
The other Titans and the agent turned to see Starfire and Raven floating down the stairs towards them.
"We have cleared the fourth floor," Starfire said. "And we have found the bomb."
Robin and Beast Boy both turned to Cyborg, though it was Robin who spoke. "You ready for this?" he asked.
Cyborg shrugged, then rolled his head to one side and popped his neck. "No man ever built anything I couldn't take apart. Let's go have a look."
While Raven flew out to alert General Baker, Starfire lead the other Titans up to the fourth floor. None of the security lights were functional and much of the floor was littered with debris, sections of collapsed ceilings, and plenty of crumbled walls. Plasma burns from starbolts pockmarked nearly every wall and Robin could only guess at which had done more damage: Cyborg's bunker-buster grenade, or Starfire's and Raven's assault.
"Here," said Starfire, leading the Titans into a large and open office, the center of which was taken up by a metal cylinder almost fifteen feet long and no less than eight feet high. "This is it, yes?"
Cyborg, the flashlight on his shoulder focused on the device, walked forward and checked the readout on his wrist. "This is it," he answered, turning back to Robin, Beast Boy, and Starfire. "Listen, you three should probably get out of here. I can take it, but this thing must have no shielding around the fuel 'cause it's putting off tons of radiation."
"Is there any danger of it going off?" asked Robin.
Cyborg nodded to the antenna sticking out of the bomb's shell. "Looks like Slade built it to go off on command, so as long as those jammers are running there shouldn't be any danger. You guys go, I got this."
"I will stay," said Starfire. "You need someone to cover your back, and I am capable of withstanding much more radiation than a human."
After a quick round of wishing Cyborg and Starfire good luck, Robin and Beast Boy retreated from the room. As they made their way cautiously downstairs, the sound of grenades and machine gun fire dropped away over several seconds. The Titans could hear people barking orders, most prominent among the shouting voices was Baker's.
The two Titans encountered no resistance and arrived in the department's lobby to find General Baker directing the numerous squads of soldiers in black armor. The general spotted the superheroes and summoned them over with a wave of his hand.
"Report," said the officer. "What did you find?"
"The bomb is on the fourth floor," said Robin. "The level is secure and Cyborg is working to disassemble the weapon as we speak."
"Are you confident in his abilities?" asked Baker, a tone of incredulity plain in his voice.
Robin nodded. "I have absolute confidence in him."
"Good," the general nodded. "On behalf of the United States Army, we appreciate your help. It's been a pleasure working with you."
Robin grinned and saluted. "The pleasure is all ours," Robin answered. "I hate to ask, but Jump City isn't exactly within walking distance. Think we can borrow that plane or a car to get back?"
Looking around as another two dozen soldiers arrived on the scene in black vans and made their way through the buildings big doors, Baker cleared his throat. "We can certainly arrange something," he said. "I'd appreciate your willingness to stay in DC for a few days though. There's still work to be done making sure this was the only threat. After that and the debriefing, I'll get you guys home, deal?"
Robin glanced at Beast Boy, who shrugged. "Of course, sir. Anything to help."
Twelve Days Later
Calling out for whoever was knocking at his door to hold on for a second, Robin walked from the bathroom of his lavishly decorated hotel room. Pulling on a tailored jacket and straightening out his tie, Robin looked through the peephole and, spotting Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven standing in the hall, opened the door.
"Ready to be fashionably late?" asked Cyborg.
Robin nodded and looked at Starfire, distracted by her evening gown. "You look great," he said, stepping into the hall and shutting the door. "That's a gorgeous dress."
"This thing?" said Starfire, glancing down at the gown. "It was just the one the store suggested. I wasn't sure what would be appropriate for the occasion."
"Trust me," Robin grinned. "It looks great." He turned to Raven. "I never thought I'd see you in anything formal," he said to her.
Raven crossed her arms and shrugged. "I just thought that since you're forcing me to go to this," she glared at him, "I might as well dress the part."
"Oh come on," said Robin. "It's not every day the President invites you to have dinner at one of the fanciest hotels in the world with a dozen other world leaders. This is a big privilege."
"If you say so," Raven sighed. "I just hope Beast Boy doesn't ruin it..."
"Speaking of," Cyborg looked around, "has anybody seen BB anywhere?"
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Beast Boy called out, emerging from one of the other rooms, pulling on his wrinkled jacket, and shutting his door. "Keep you socks on."
"Jeez, you look terrible," Raven muttered, walking over to the other Titan and beginning to straighten out his disheveled attire. Snugging up his tie and brushing some of the wrinkles out of his shirt, Raven quickly looked him over. "You could at least try to look like you care. I mean-" she stopped, spotting the bags under his eyes and the smelling the hint of copper on his breath. "Are you alright?" she asked.
"I've spent the last ten days as a rat, crawling through sewers and basements to find nonexistent bombs," said Beast Boy, temper obviously short. "I've slept maybe five hours this week, I think I'm coming down with a cold, my gums ache, I've got a killer rash from wading through piles of shit, and you guys are making me go to some fancy party when all I want to do is sleep. How's that?"
"You're not going to skip out on this and make us look bad," Robin stepped forward and folded his arms in front of his chest. "We need to be on all these people's good sides, so you're going, and you're going to at least look like you're enjoying yourself. Once it's over you can come back here and rest. Got it?"
Beast Boy started to protest, but stopped and groaned. "Sure," he said. "Whatever."
"I promise it won't be too long," Robin said, putting a hand on Beast Boy's shoulder. "Just make an appearance, turn into something fluffy to entertain the First Lady for a little bit, and then you can leave. Okay?"
Making their way to the hotel's enormous dining room, the Teen Titans stopped at the entrance lobby and met with several Secret Service agents who checked their passes before escorting them into the dining room where they were immediately greeted with no small amount of fanfare. Waiting at the door to meet the Titans, the President of the United States shook hands with each of them and thanked the group for their "wonderful contributions" to national security. After the superheroes had spent about forty minutes mingling with a few dozen people including, among others, several US Congressmen and the Presidents of France and Germany as well as a number of NATO heads of state, dinner was served. The Titans had seats with the American President who seemed to be making every effort to make them comfortable and ensure they enjoyed themselves.
At one point in the dinner, several of the heads of state got up on the stage at one end of the room and delivered speeches on their nations' firm stance against terrorism and their personal commitment to stomping it out. Beast Boy found all of the proceedings exceedingly dull and more than a little disingenuous, and by the time the speech from the Prime Minister of Portugal rolled around, he had busied himself turning into a cat and moving from lap to lap among the wives of the guests and absorbing all of the scratching and petting he could find.
Making sure to be covert about it, Robin and a giggling Starfire snuck out of the party and disappeared, much to the chagrin of Raven and Cyborg who were left alone by the exit to watch Beast Boy and make sure the shapeshifter kept his paws where they belonged. All through the meal and following speeches, Cyborg absentmindedly picked at his food with his fork, making conversation when it came his way, but otherwise focusing his mind elsewhere, a pattern on which Raven commented as proceedings were beginning to wind down.
"What's on your mind?" Raven asked, whispering as not to distract anyone else the speaker on the stage. She reached over and put one hand on Cyborg's arm. "You've been quiet all night."
"Hm?" glanced over at her, his attention visibly refocusing. "What's going on?"
"I was just asking what you're thinking about," Raven repeated, making an effort to smile. "You've barely said five words all night."
Cyborg shook his head, glancing around and seeing that he and Raven had been left alone at the table. "I was just thinking that all this seemed off," he said. "Nothing added up."
"What doesn't add up?" Raven asked.
Cyborg thought for a second, glancing about the room at all of the beautifully ornamented tables and buffets before he answered. "Maybe I'm reading into it too much," he sighed, "but I can't help but get the feeling that Slade isn't done yet."
"Why do you say that?" asked Raven. "We got the-" she paused and looked around, remembering that General Baker had wanted to keep the truth under wraps. "The bomb," she whispered, clearing her throat before speaking up again. "The city is secure and everyone thinks the attack on the DOE was just the police putting down a terrorist sleeper cell. We won."
"It was too easy though, don't you think?" wondered Cyborg. "I mean sure, we got into one hell of a fight, but you've got to admit that compared to what we've faced from Slade before, resistance at the DOE was pretty light... and then there was the nuke itself," he went on. "That thing was the most hastily assembled piece of shit I've ever seen. Even if it had fired I'm not sure it would have gone off. At first I thought it might be a trap, like when Slade used that fake Chronoton Detonator to lure us in, but nothing's happened since we found the nuke. There's not even a hint of Slade having any ulterior motive or darker plan..."
"And that's..." Raven paused, "bad?"
Cyborg shook his head. "It worries me," he said. "Slade doesn't do sloppy. He never has." The Titan looked around again and turned back to Raven. "Robin and I talked about it yesterday. Neither of us think it was really Slade who made that video or planted the bomb."
Raven raised an eyebrow. "But his robots were all over the building," she said.
"Which is why Robin thinks Slade is selling his technology to terrorists," Cyborg whispered, "ones who don't have his technical skills."
Raven sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. "Makes sense," she said after a moment of thought. "When we get back to Jump City I'll contact Titans East and see about getting to help investigate." Raven turned her head when she heard a ruckus off to her left. Casting about, she and Cyborg both spotted the several people fawning over a green kitten in the First Lady's lap. Raven sighed and shook her head. "Idiot," she muttered.
Four Days Later
"Beast Boy!" Robin shouted, banging on the metal door to the younger Titan's room. All throughout Titan's Tower the rooms and halls rang with loud alarm buzzers and flashed with emergency lights. "Beast Boy, I know you're in there! Get your butt out here! We've got to go!" Robin tapped his foot impatiently on the floor and glanced both ways down the tower's long hall. "Damn it, Beast Boy!" he shouted, again banging on the door. "I can hear your TV! We've got hostages that really need our help! Come on!"
"Robin!" Starfire called, coming floating around a corner. "We can not wait longer. Maybe Beast Boy left without telling us."
Exhaling sharply, Robin turned to Starfire and jogged down the hall to her. "He's going to get it when I get back."
"Do not be angry with him," Starfire put a hand on Robin's shoulder as she floated beside him and continued down the hall. "Perhaps he is not feeling well."
The Next Day
"Goddamn it Beast Boy!" Robin shouted. "Unlock your damn door! It's noon already and we need to talk!"
"Please," Starfire called, moving close to the door and pressing her ear to the frame. "Beast Boy, we would like to make sure you are alright! You are worrying us!"
Cyborg popped his knuckles and walked forward, motioning for Robin and Starfire to move aside. "Alright," said the eldest Titan. "This door's coming down." Cyborg put his foot against the door, heaved forward, and stepped through the empty frame as the door gave way underneath him like cardboard. "Yo!" Cyborg shouted as Raven floated up behind him. "BB! You in here"
The four Titans paced into Beast Boy's somewhat less than tidy room as the 'Game Over' screen and music flashed across the TV over and over. Robin threw a pile of blankets off the bed, only to discover the lump underneath was yet another pile of blankets. Starfire pulled open the closet, squeaking in panic as the resultant avalanche of clothes nearly buried her, while Raven walked to the entertainment center and shut off the noisy TV.
"Oh shit," Cyborg's voice sounded from the bathroom. "Guys, clear a path, clear a path." He came walking out of the bathroom, carrying a crumpled and shaking Beast Boy as the other Titans cleared away from the bed.
Cyborg laid Beast Boy on the bed and knelt down by his shivering frame. Raven, Robin, and Starfire all stepped up behind the bigger Titan to get a look. Robin started to ask what was wrong, but froze in place and gasped as Starfire screamed and Raven slapped both hands over her own mouth.
Beast Boy's half-naked figure was curled into the fetal position, his body covered from head to toe in a bruising so black the young Titan looked as though he had been charred alive. Black, unclotted blood seeped from the corners of Beast Boys eyes and dripped continually from his nose. His boxers were stained completely black.
"What-what," Starfire screamed, her frame going completely rigid. "What is wrong with him?"
"I-" Cyborg started to answer, stopping before he could finish. Beast Boy wretched forward and coughed, a grating sound like tearing paper. He coughed again, harder this time and in the middle of the action vomited dark blood with such force that the fluid splattered off the wall by his bed and hit both Cyborg and Starfire like spittle, though both Raven and Robin managed to avoid the spray.
Starfire's eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open as she held up her hands and examined the droplets of blood clinging to her like ink. She threw up her arms and screamed, running from the room. Cyborg remained calmer and scooped Beast Boy up in his arms.
"I've already been exposed to whatever he's got," said the eldest Titan, holding Beast Boy away from Robin and Raven but looking over his shoulder at them. "You two go and call the CDC, now. I'm taking BB to the lab."
Robin nodded, but Raven remained standing, frozen with her hands over her mouth as she stared into space.
"Raven," Robin grabbed her arm, but she remained absolutely still. "Raven, come on. We need to go." He gave her a quick but gentle shake. "She's out of it," he said to Cyborg. "Raven let's go." Robin pulled on her arm. Raven started to stumble, but caught herself and silently went along as Robin lead her out of the room.
Less than ten minutes later, Robin came dashing down the stairs into the basement laboratory of Titan's Tower, where he found that Cyborg had already sealed himself and Beast Boy into one of the lab's many containment rooms. Beast Boy lay on a table, with Cyborg standing over him and holding a tray full of syringes and small instruments. Robin walked to one of the massively thick plexiglass walls meant to section off the lab and prevent cross-contamination.
"Hey," Robin knocked on the glass.
Cyborg turned around and pointed to the radio on his ear. He then gestured to a small cart by the door to the isolation room, on which sat another radio. Robin immediately donned the headset and turned it on.
"Raven's come to," Robin said. "She's pretty shaken up, but she's looking for Starfire. The CDC is sending a response team, and they said we should try not to panic."
"Good," Cyborg turned back to Beast Boy, grabbed a syringe from a table, and poked the needle into the younger Titan's arm.
Robin covered his mouth for a second, Beast Boy's appearance making his stomach turn. Already Beast Boy must have vomited again, as one of the isolation room's walls and the floor beneath it was spattered with a black combination of blood and bile.
"Cyborg," Robin said, his voice shaking. "What the fuck is going on?"
Cyborg took a vial of Beast Boy's blood and loaded it into a centrifuge. He shook his head, pushed a little button, and the little machine began to hum. "I don't know," he said, voice void of anything other than cold reason as he turned back to Beast Boy, picked up one of his hands, and scraped some of the dark flakes from under his fingernails onto a plastic tray.
Robin watched as Cyborg squirted some clear fluid into the sample, then dripped a single drop of stain onto the slide and slid it under a microscope. For a long minute the only sounds in the room were the humming of the centrifuge and the quiet pumping sound of the air scrubbers next to the isolation lab's O2 tanks. Cyborg looked through the eyepiece of the powerful microscope for several minutes before abruptly getting up and typing on the keyboard set in his arm. Another minute passed as he studied the readout before he walked to the wall of the isolation room and called for Robin's attention.
"What is it?" Robin asked. "What's going on?"
Cyborg sighed and put one hand up on the thick plexiglass. "I pulled a skin sample," he said, "and threw it under a microscope so my internal computer could run a visual comparison against a few tens of thousands of known diseases. It's a quick and dirty test, but it worked. I don't even need to wait for a blood analysis..." Cyborg paused. "Robin, it's Smallpox. It's Hemorrhagic Smallpox."
"No, how's that possible?" Robin muttered. "How did he catch-" Robin paused as his thoughts flashed back to the night of the Titan's raid on the Department of Education HQ. An image of one of Slade's robots driving it's needle-like claws into Beast Boy's leg burned itself into his brain. "Oh..." he muttered, jaw going lax. "The nuke was just a distraction..."
"The nuke was a distraction," Cyborg echoed. "What's worse is that I can tell you right now; this isn't your garden variety Variola virus either. Less than two percent of cases are hemorrhagic like this and from what my computer is telling me... no, Slade spent a lot of time and money engineering this virus to ensure that one hundred percent of its cases would result in hemorrhagic smallpox."
"Slade never wanted to destroy DC," Robin said, staring passed Cyborg at Beast Boy's still form. "He knew we'd be brought in to stop him. He just wanted to infect us with his virus." He looked up at Cyborg, realization dawning on his face. "No, that's not the half of it. If that was all he wanted he wouldn't have lured us to DC ten days before a NATO dinner. He was hoping that he could infect one of us and we could give it to all the world's most powerful leaders." Realization melted into horror and Robin slumped against the glass. "And we walked right into his trap."
Cyborg nodded. "And there's nothing we can do about it now."
"What?" Robin asked. "Why not? There's got to be vaccines, or treatment. Right?"
Cyborg shook his head. "There are, but even regular smallpox has a thirty percent mortality rate. The hemorrhagic kind, whether or not you try to treat it, has a one hundred percent mortality rate. Couple that with a six day period when the victim shows nothing worse than flu-like symptoms but can still infect anyone he breathes on... you do the math."
Robin's face fell even farther and he slid down to the ground. "This can't be happening," he muttered, pressing his palms to his forehead. "How could I let this happen?"
"It's not your fault, bro," said Cyborg, sitting down and resting his back against the glass. "Any terrorist with a passport and a little bit of know-how could theoretically get just about any virus from the Vector Institute in Russia or even from the CDC itself... and Slade isn't just any terrorist."
Robin dropped his head back against the glass. "So," he said after a sigh. "You think we're all infected?"
Cyborg shrugged. "I don't know if it will affect Star, but the rest of us probably have it. Based on the disease's normal progression, if we do then we'll start showing symptoms tomorrow or the next day."
"How many other people do you think have it?" Robin asked.
"No idea," answered Cyborg. "Could be half the folks at the dinner caught it from BB, all of whom are back in their own countries and contagious by now... and then there's the soldiers, officers, and specialists BB interacted with while he was contagious."
Robin pulled his head forward and stared across the basement at the stairs leading up to the rest of Titan's Tower, his face blank. "Beast Boy spent ten days using the sewers to crawl in and out of people's basements..."
Cyborg took a deep breath and let it out. "I know."
AN: That's the end (probably in more ways than one). Anyway, I felt like writing something a little darker and there you have it. I know it was a kid's show, but even as a kid I wondered why Slade never actually, you know, used all of his obviously incredible resources to take out the Titans. On more than one occasion, the only reason Slade's plans didn't kill one or more of them is because Slade himself called it off. Oh well. Thanks for stopping in and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!