Disclaimer: I don't own Jack. I also don't own Kim, Ron, Shego, Drakken, Rufus, Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beastboy, Cyborg, Speedy, Kid Flash, Bushido, Killowatt-*takes breath* -Mas y Menos, Aqualad, Bumblebee, Jericho, Herald, Thunder, Lightning, Pantha, Jynx, Commando, Death- wait, I do kinda own those last two... ish... Oh well, you get the picture, yes?
Chapter 10: Rewriting History (or Fear the Pumpkin)
~Morning of the Twenty Eighth~
"-reporting three injured in a minor car wreck-" "-witnesses say the Teen Titans-" "-latest jailbreak at the high security-" "-in other news, pop culture icon-" "-the wedding is said to start around-"
Go figure, two whole universes and still nothing good to watch! Kim thought wryly as Beastboy continued to click through the channels. Most of the Titans were wide awake despite the 'early' hour of seven in the morning. Robin had decided they would spend the whole of the twenty-eighth training, hoping to become a little stronger, and use the next two days to rest. Kim really couldn't give a damn. As far as she was concerned, she was going to die anyway. The only one to dispute Raven's dark claim was Shego herself and, with the emerald woman AWOL, the redhead found herself a little more skeptical, after nearly dying twice by the hands of the horsemen. Third time's the charm, right?
"Alright, the obstacle courses are ready. We'll use it to warm up, then move on to some hand-to-hand workouts," Robin announced as he entered the Common Room. Everyone stopped what they were doing to listen but some seemed more enthused about the training plan than others. Terra gave Ron a worried look but the blonde young man quickly gave a reassuring smile, grabbing her hand to give a gentle squeeze. Kim caught the movement out of the corner of her eye. Glad one of us is happy, Ron. "We know the horsemen rely on close range attacks, so we'll need to work on close quarters combat and dodging."
"Yeah, a lot of dodging, especially if those robots bring the firepower again," Beastboy chimed in a little too merrily. Perhaps he was just trying to lighten the mood but Kim's refused to be lightened. She liked the dark cloud hanging over her. It reminded her of dark, quiet nights and a certain pair of dark lips.
"Right, and I'm sure Cyborg and Drakken are working to combat that problem as best they can. Stealing the plans to those machines gave us a slight edge but it won't be enough. The rest of us need to focus on getting as good as we can get in the shortest time possible," Robin nodded, almost as if he was agreeing with himself, then turned to walk away.
"Robin, have you heard from Shego?" Kim suddenly asked, a little shocked at herself for letting the question loose. She promised herself she wouldn't try to hunt the emerald beauty down, no matter how badly she wanted to do so. But the thought kept nagging at her. She needed to know. That she didn't was just... criminal! One of those things that don't change, I guess. What am I going to do with my vixen villain once we get back? Kim mused while keeping a serious expression on her face. The black-haired young man stood still a moment, then, without turning around, replied in a cold tone that instantly set the redhead on edge.
"No. There was a tracer in her suit, but it's been conveniently deactivated. And since she opted to leave her communicator here, there's no way for us to track her. She made sure of that before she left," Robin scoffed. "She just abandoned us."
"No. She. Didn't." Kim growled, getting off the couch and stalking towards the young man. Was she upset that Shego just... well... up and left? Of course, but that didn't give Robin the right to assume anything about her motives. Shego had promised she'd come back. Not in so many words, but Kim knew what they had meant, and she wasn't about to let anyone say otherwise. "Shego wouldn't do that!" Robin whirled, obviously just as angry as Kim.
"Sure looks like she escaped to me, Kim. Isn't that what she does for a living? Get out of things, run away... from you?" Kim stood directly in front of the young man, her fists balled, ready to open the floodgates of Hell. She wasn't typically a confrontational person, in most respects, but at that moment, she wanted nothing more than to pound Robin's face in for all he was suggesting.
"That isn't who she is anymore! She's changed!" Kim countered, both teens mere inches away, their teeth clenched as they tried to glare each other down. Shego had a plan, had something she had to do, that only she could do, and Kim would have faith in her no matter what. I just know it! Shego wouldn't just... leave! She figured something out and she's taking care of it! Kim kept screaming in her head but the words never left her mouth. Robin seemed to accept the unspoken challenge, ready to fight to protect his assumption. Guess he didn't learn the first time! I'll gladly give him a lesson review!
"To set the record straight, I deactivated the tracer in Shego's suit," Raven's cool tone cut between Robin and Kim, bringing both sets of furious eyes to stare at the purple clad young woman. Robin looked even more furious, and a little betrayed. Of course, the empath didn't even seem to notice, continuing in the same calm, even tone she was prone to using. "Shego has her own part to play. By keeping us guessing, she's keeping the horsemen even further in the dark; they can't understand our form of logic, let alone impulses like this. This is more her style anyway." Raven's eyes focused on Kim, conveying the command for the redhead to cool down. "She knows how to drop out of sight when needed."
"You could say that," Kim mumbled, looking at her feet a moment. Just like the break after Junior Prom and after the Lowardian invasion, Shego knew how to drop off the map completely. But those times were different; they didn't hurt Kim nearly bad as this separation. Damnit, she missed Shego! And they still had days! No doubt Shego would take that long; if she was coming back before, if this was going to be quick, she probably wouldn't have even mentioned it to the redhead. Her green vixen would just disappear for a little while then pop back up, wearing that sexy smirk and looking triumphant. Damnit, Shego, where did you go?
"Raven," Robin started in a decisively reprimanding tone. Of course, the young woman was expecting this reaction and already had her response planned out.
"I quite clearly remember when I told you not to help when Trigon almost ended the world, and you did it anyway," Raven settled a leveling gaze on the leader of the Titans. "You went off on your own to bring back the salvation of Mankind. Is it so hard for you to believe that someone else is just as headstrong and determined to bear the weight of the world as you are? And that, maybe, that's exactly what she's supposed to do?"
"I at least told the others where I was going! It's completely different!" Robin could feel Raven's cool gaze breaking his resolve to be angry, like she was reaching into his mind and forcing him to calm down. Or at least leave the room. He chose the second option. "Fine, Raven, if you insist," Robin spoke harshly but left the room as abruptly as he'd entered without so much as a glance to the redhead. Kim closed her eyes, squeezing them as tight as her fists, trying to control her anger. Shego, damnit, I could've helped! Why couldn't you have told me where you were going! Damnit... The Hell is wrong with me? I don't get this mad! With Robin gone, Kim started to calm down, a slightly wistful smile coming to her lips as she remembered the last time she'd gotten this angry. Only Shego could make her this emotional, could make her so angry and yet, with another memory swimming in her vision, make her so happy as well. She still wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not; Kim Possible rarely had mood swings like this. She was always cool, level headed, focused... well, most of the time anyway.
"Kim?" Ron's voice broke her reflection, bringing her back to the present. Seeing her best friend relaxed the redhead a little more. "KP, hey... can we... talk?"
The uncertainty in the young blonde's voice, plus the set, serious expression on his face, told Kim far more than Ron would be able to say. Despite how furious she still was at Robin, Kim found a smile easily forming, her expression softening as she nodded. "Of course Ron."
~Den of the Horsemen~
"They do not know how close we are. Logic would demand a preemptive strike to catch us off guard yet they do nothing. Obviously, we are far too superior for their simplicity." Death scanned the screens filled with video footage from around the city. Most of them were the city security cameras, set in place for the Titans' use but not operated by the heroes, secretly tapped thanks to War's knowledge of the system. Even more monitors displayed the local news, covering everything from traffic accidents to the prison break to a new health craze. Things that wouldn't matter once the horsemen began their attack. Jump City was the first place to taste the End, a privilege none of its residents would ever appreciate. Pity. "How we have not yet destroyed them is beyond my programming."
"I believe this has already been covered." War would have groaned, had she the emotion to express such a thing as annoyance. All emotions had been phased out of her programming though to allow for the further modifications to their internal systems. While none of those protocols had been copied during the Titans' daring raid, the horsemen chose to err on the side of caution and completely redesign their internal configurations. At best, they effectively staunched any possible advantage the heroes had gained; at worst, they put off destroying the world for a few days. All in all, it was an agreeable plan. It's not like they had a time limit or anything. "Perhaps you could pick a new topic to drone on about."
"You have not left me many options." This was true. Almost all information War deemed not pertinent to destroying the world, and the Teen Titans, was deleted to make way for the main control server for the Maganacs. It was simply taking too great a chance to leave the server anywhere but where the horsemen could easily control it. War had made the same sacrifices in her own inner workings, and with Pestilence as well. If they were to be triumphant, their margin of error had to be microscopic. The Titans had already proven their resourcefulness; the horsemen hadn't counted on the attack at Megacity. It was just happy coincidence that they were using the site to test their newest pawns. "Perhaps you could suggest something."
"I would rather not." War replied, shifting gears to tackle an entirely different headache altogether. "Though your assistance could be used to adjust the firing trajectory on the Maganacs' missile targeting system."
"You have your own targeting programs." Death pointed out, rather pointlessly. War was well aware of that; she just didn't have time to transfer the files and continue programming the fourth internal configuration, not to mention delegate specific tasks for the horseman to accomplish. Really, she was already working on the battle plan for the destruction of the world, so the protocols would take longer than simply copying their plan for the Titans. Explaining that to Death, however, was pointless as well. "I assume mine are superior."
"Assume what you will; there is work to be done." War shot back a little too quickly. She knew the reply was forming before it resounded monotonously in the room. With a quick correction to Death's protocols, War eliminated the option for Death to question any orders the former Titan gave her. The elder horseman's retorts were far too tiresome to process. There was work to be done. Had she retained her sense of humor, War might have thought it funny: she was far more focused on her work now than she'd ever been as a Titan, and all they do is work. "Pestilence, report."
"No change in Famine's condition, War. According to my projections, that is a good sign." Pestilence replied, a slight smile on her lips. The procedures were hurried, unlike those performed to create the other three horsemen, but also unlike the other three, War was the one to perform Famine's. By her projections, Famine would only attain a fraction of the abilities of the other three horsemen. Perhaps eighty percent lethality, if she healed in time to make the assault on Jump City. Pestilence hoped so; she wanted to watch the expressions of the Titans when Famine appeared. She had read through both elder horsemens' files, watched the expression on the Titans' faces when Death revealed herself to look exactly like 'Commando', their friend. Plus the look when Commando returned as War, truly priceless. She anticipated a similar reaction, but it was the look one redhead in particular would wear that made Pestilence hope Famine would recover in time. "Everything is falling into place."
"Yes, just as we planned." War flicked through Famine's protocols and started revamping them, again, to accomodate the Collective's interface. It would take up a considerable space, leaving no room for Famine's concepts of her lost Humanity. War had found that providing the ability for Human emotions and reactions, as she had for Pestilence, typically helped with the transition from Human to horseman but now there was no room for error. Any Human reaction could cost them dearly; they had to be removed. Famine was surprisingly resilient on her own, though, so War had no doubts the newest horseman would be just fine, even without her typical quirks. "Continue."
"Scans show no sign of activity at the Tower since the obstacle courses were shifted and reset."
"That is as expected." War nodded, one of those glitches she couldn't find the time to fix. "All is going as planned."
Pestilence wanted to laugh. "For now, anyway."
~Back at the Tower~
"So, what did you want to talk about, Ron?" Kim asked tentatively, concerned by the serious expression on her best friend's face. What with all the craziness of their short two weeks in Jump City, Kim hadn't had the time to talk to her best friend like she once did. In fact, though they saw each other every day, she couldn't remember the last time they sat down and just talked like old times. Well, at least we'll have one last chat. The redhead thought grimly, though with a small smile coming to her lips. She was slowly, very slowly, starting to accept that she might not make it out of the coming fight. True, the hyper competitive, positive minded Possible wanted ever so much to believe she could change the fate Raven had spelled out for her, but reality was something she simply could not ignore. If Shego returned before the battle, they might make it through. If Shego returned too late, Kim stood no chance. Not because she thought the emerald enchantress was so important to the battle itself; Kim didn't want to be alive if Shego wasn't there for her afterwords. Okay, maybe I'm being a little overly dramatic. I mean it's not like I haven't- Ron's voice cut off her mental monologue.
"Couple things... first one... it's about going home, I guess," Ron repeated when Kim visibly shook off her thoughts. He didn't blame his best friend for her distraction; he had been equally distracted with Terra through out their stay and wasn't sorry for a moment of it. It actually helped him speak, knowing Kim was feeling the effects of separation so acutely. "When we go home... if we do... things are gonna change, huh?"
"Yeah... Yeah, Ron, they'll change," Kim nodded earnestly. Oh by God they were going to change! Kim was going to make certain of it; she didn't go through all of this to just let go of Shego once they returned home. If they returned, rather. It was a question they hadn't had the time to properly ponder, truth be told. After her own assertion passed through her mind, the question lingered as to what, exactly, Ron thought was going to change. "Uh... What 'things' are you talking about?"
"Well... we won't be here..." Ron started, trying to put into words what he wanted to ask. It was weird; he didn't need her permission for anything, they were best friends and nothing more, but it still... felt right that he ask her. After all, if she had issues with his plan, then there might be a very good reason for that. "KP... Kim, Terra... I've been hanging out with Terra a lot. We've grown really close, and I really like her. I'm talking about like like here, Kim... damn near love, I think..." Ron blushed a little at the word. It was like he was telling his baby sister, Hanna. Hell, Kim practically was his sister, if not in blood, then in deed. They'd weathered some pretty severe storms together and faced fates most people couldn't fathom. But as friends, the best of friends, and though they had tried to take their relationship to the next level, it was impossible to look at each other as anything but friends. "She's like... it's like... there is no unawkweird way to say this..."
"Oh, just give it a shot, Ron," Kim smiled easily, relieved to hear that Ron had found someone to make him feel so many emotions all at once, but primarily two. Affection and confusion: oddly enough, Kim believed, those two seemed to go hand-in-hand, like one didn't exist without the other. "At best, I'll understand. At worst, I'll tease you for a week." She didn't add 'if we have that long' though the thought occurred to her. If Shego was there, the vixen would probably say the words in that teasing tone with her seductive smile, and laugh. Ron, imagining what Terra would've said to such a comment, patiently waited until Kim forced her attention back to the conversation at hand.
"Okay, well, I get this feeling like... maybe the reason I 'm even here at all... is because Terra needs someone... like..." the blonde boy huffed, trying to remember how he'd decided to word his concept in his head. Luckily, Kim was a mind reader, or close enough, when it came to Ron.
"Terra needed someone to believe in her, and someone to believe in, and the two of you have grown a lot closer since we've been here, though it hasn't been all that long," Kim sighed, looking a little envious of the rather simple solution Ron was going through pains to explain. Leave it to Ron to make something so easy so complicated... then again, I'm pretty guilty of that myself... "Now, you don't want to let her go, so you want to take Terra back with us, to Middleton, right?"
Ron gave a short laugh, relaxing considerably. "You got me, KP. I know it seems selfish, but... she just doesn't belong here, KP. We can both feel it."
"If you ask me, love is a little selfish, sometimes. Maybe that isn't always true, but it's what I've learned," Kim gave a ghost of a smile as she drew Ron into a hug. "I'm sure Terra will love Middleton. Your parents will absolutely adore her, you know."
Ron returned the hug a little more forcefully. Of course his best friend would understand; looking back now, he wondered why he'd been so nervous in the first place. "Yeah, I'm sure they'll love her. She wants to go; she was the one who suggested it, actually. But..."
"But?" Kim prompted when Ron failed to continue his sentence. The blonde shifted a bit, releasing Kim from the hug and looking away. "Ron?"
"It's going to sound stupid," Ron admitted. He had told himself so many times it was stupid, but still the sensation was there, and Kim was probably the only person he could even try explaining it to, besides Rufus. Speaking of whom... "Have you seen Rufus lately?"
Kim quirked a brow. "Uh, last I saw the little guy, he was peering over Cyborg's shoulder in the lab. You think Rufus has a problem with Terra?"
"No! No, no, I just... I've been a little spaced out lately, I haven't been a very good... friend," Ron finished in a slightly discouraged whisper. His brown eyes turned their focus to Jump City, looking rather peaceful considering the doom pronounced upon it the day before. Kim was looking out across the bay too, agreeing with Ron's comment. Though the trio were usually inseparable, they hadn't been spending nearly as much time together as Kim would've liked. Apparently, Ron was feeling the same way. "Not just to Rufus, either. I haven't been a good friend to you... I know you're going through some rough stuff too."
"Oh." Kim didn't know what to say to that. Sure, Ron was the first person to comfort her when she needed a shoulder to cry on, and had been for over a decade, but this... well, she wasn't sure how he could possibly relate to this. Come on Ron, do we really have to talk about this? Not like she's here anyway...
"I feel a little... guilty... if Terra comes home, I'll have... what you and Shego have, but..." Ron offered weakly, running a hand through his hair. "I'm glad you two could be kinda happy, for a little while... I wish it was easy for you two... KP, you deserve to be happy, you know that right?"
"That's really a matter of perspective, Ron," Kim offered, shaking her head slightly. Though he hadn't fully explained it, Kim understood; he was basically apologizing for having found someone to love while she might be losing hers. They had barely spoken since this whole ordeal began, too wrapped up in their separate turmoil, but talking things out like they used to felt good. Okay, maybe talking to him about Shego wouldn't be so bad. "You're right though, it's not easy, for either of us... I can feel it, like Shego's really considering... being a good guy once we get back. There's just something I see in her eyes, when we're alone, and lying-"
"Uh, KP? No, um, details, please?" Ron's face was beet red, trying very hard not to imagine what his best friend would do with the emerald woman while simultaneously picturing the beating he'd receive if said woman found out he was imagining said scenes. Kim couldn't help but laugh out loud. Just when I think it's as bad as it can get, he just has to make me smile. Though it didn't truly surprise her, she certainly wasn't expecting the conversation to be so easy. That's what best friends are for though. I was so worried what he'd think, I completely forgot he wouldn't care... now I feel a little stupid.
"What I mean is, when it's just us, I can see it happening. Even when we're out on missions or patrol. I can see Shego being a good guy, but I just... don't know if she can see it too," Kim sighed, drawing her knees up and hugging them to her chest. "I guess I'm just so scared of her leaving that I don't want to talk about her staying. She doesn't seem too keen on broaching the topic either."
"The great Kim Possible scared?" Ron feigned confusion and shock, the dramatic expression somewhat mimicking his tendency to overreact when they were in high school. However, as if to prove he had matured far beyond Kim's expectations, the blond put on a sympathetic smile and patted her shoulder. "It makes sense," Ron nodded. "It feels like you're standing in the middle of a frozen lake. You wanna get to shore, but you're too scared to take a step in any direction, because you might break that fragile little island you have. So you're waiting until it eventually thaws out and you drown. Better then drowning on the first step you take because it was the wrong one." Kim stared at the young man in shock. When did he get that deep? Ron, reading Kim's mind, laughed. "What, the Ron-man can't do a little growing up while you're off at college? Believe it or not, I have matured a bit since you left. I've been doing a lot of reading on my lunch breaks. Good exercise for the mind, you know?"
"Yeah, I do... thanks Ron, really," Kim stood up, a slight smile coming to her lips. "When do you think Shego will make it back?"
"Knowing her? When we least expect it," Ron stood as well, nudging Kim with his elbow. "So stop expecting it, and she might show up sooner!"
Kim rolled her eyes, laughing as they returned to the Tower. Those obstacle courses were starting soon and, though she certainly felt better after talking to Ron, Kim could use the physical exercise to expend some pent up frustration. "I doubt it works that way, Ron... but I'll give it a try."
"That's the spirit!" Ron threw an arm around her shoulders. "Now, what's the motto?"
"Yeah, come on!"
Kim sighed, then laughed. I'm lucky to have the best best friend in the world, and any world at that. "Anything's possible for a Possible."
"And?" Those brown eyes held so much hope, Kim couldn't feel the fear that had been griping her mere hours before.
"And I can do anything!"
"Thata girl! Now let's go kick some butt!" Kim just chuckled, casting one last glance at Jump City before heading back inside the Tower. Shego, wherever you are... whatever you're doing... just stay safe... because once you get back, I'm not letting you go. Period.
"Robin, you need to trust me on this," Raven's tone was as cool as ever but her violet eyes held the edge her voice didn't betray. The Boy Wonder had both fists clenched, trying to identify if he was more angry or insulted. The young woman in front of him didn't seem to care; it was just like Raven to say what needed to be said and expect the recipient of those words to understand without having to go through a long explanation.
"I can do this, Raven."
"I don't doubt that. This has nothing to do with your capability to lead the Titans, Robin. We all have parts to play in this. Yours is to fight, train, rest, and not lead. That is my task," Raven tried not to sound too arrogant but, as being politely reasonable wasn't doing too much to win him over, she figured she might as well be a little more blunt. Robin wanted to instantly argue but something held him back. "Robin, I'm asking you to trust me."
"Trust you?" Robin repeated like it was an alien language. He did trust Raven! This wasn't about trust, this was about leadership! How could he just hand over control of the Teen Titans- wait, was that what it was really about? Robin deflated slightly. No, it had nothing to do with his leadership. This had to do with saving the world. He was taking the horsemens' challenge as a personal attack when it wasn't. They were threatening all humanity. This wasn't the time to get insulted; it was the time to train. And win. Though his voice betrayed no apologetic tone, a slightly futile effort to save face, Robin hoped she would understand. "Fine. You're in charge, Raven."
The young woman just smiled one of her rare smiles, letting the former leader walk away to nurse his slightly injured pride. Raven expected it to be a little worse, what with the argument regarding Shego earlier already setting the young man in a bad mood, but Robin always had the logic to determine what was most important to him, and the team. It just took some prodding for him to realize it, every now and again.
"That went better than I was expecting," Beastboy commented offhandedly, slipping a twenty over to Terra. The blond girl smiled, a light laugh escaping before Raven gave them both a quizzical look. "So, what's first on the agenda?"
"Honestly, probably the most tactically unsound thing imaginable," Raven reached for her belt and pulled her yellow communicator up to her lips. "Calling all Titans, this is not a test..."
~A Few Hours Later~
"Raven, are you sure this was a good idea?" Beastboy cast a slightly unsettled glance across the common room, counting at least another five people had arrived since he last attempted to count their guests. Every official Titan, plus a few Honorary Titans, were packing into the common room, along side the Towers' usual occupants. Only Drakken, Cyborg, and Rufus were absent, still working furiously on building the Titans' own battle droids. Kid Flash was also not among those assembled but that wasn't surprising. Perhaps one or two others were absent, but most of the Titans were accounted for. So many people the horsemen wanted dead, all in the same room... 'tactically unsound' obviously meant close to 'suicidal' in Raven's dictionary. "What if they attack right now? It would be..."
"Game over? Absolutely. We've gathered all the strength the Titans have into one room," Raven swept the room with her eyes, making mental notes of who could do what and how, trying to remember as much as she could from her dreams, her visions. It gave her a cold chill knowing she was positioning her 'pieces' much like the Brain had when the Brotherhood of Evil targeted them. He had called them, the Titans, Robin's 'pawns', as he was considered the 'King' by the evil mastermind. The scepter now passed to her, and the army to protect the world was before her, watching her, eagerly waiting for her orders. They knew about Pantha and Jynx, and Commando, and wanted to stop the horsemen just like Titans West. If she wasn't so absorbed in the magnitude of the situation, perhaps she would've found it a tad bit ironic that she was once the key to ending the world and now was the key to saving it. Strange things, indeed. "But it's the only way. The horsemen won't attack anyway."
"What makes you so sure?" Beastboy asked in a conversational tone. He wasn't questioning Raven's judgment or decision, just curious as to what had her so determined. The young woman felt a slight amount of warmth, and confidence flood through her at the revelation that her lover didn't doubt her. It helped offset the cold chill she got from her next words.
"I don't know." Raven looked at him, searching for the uncertainty she was trying to beat down within herself. There was none in those forest green eyes, though. Perhaps he had greater faith in her than she did in herself. "Call it a feeling."
"Works for me, Rae," the young man flashed her a toothy smile. "You gonna get the ball rolling?"
"Sure," she replied simply, marking another point in his favor. Despite all the faults, Raven only found more reasons to love her chosen partner with each passing day. She subconsciously rubbed her lower abdomen as she turned back to face the room. Then she ran into a problem she hadn't counted on before. Everyone was absorbed in conversation, catching up on who was doing what and all the crazy things that had been happening in and around Jump City, as well as across the globe. Hardly anyone would hear her if she spoke at her usual volume and she rarely, rarely raised her voice. "I don't like to yell."
Luckily, Beastboy was counting on that and the changeling already had his hands cupped around his mouth. "Hey! Eyes front and shut up!" The assembled heroes quickly complied, all eyes in the room turning to where Raven stood. Again, Beastboy flashed that toothy smile. "They're all yours, babe."
"Thanks," she gave him a nod before facing her audience, steeling herself for the speech she had prepared. It certainly wasn't something she did often, addressing a room full of people, but the situation demanded that everyone know who they faced and the circumstances surrounding that point. When she did speak, it was in the same level, cool tone the Titans always associated with the half demon, projected just enough to reach the back of the room. She didn't have to though; everyone was hanging onto every word like it would be the last they ever heard. "I thank you for your quick response. For those who went to greater lengths to bring our far flung members here quickly, I especially thank you." Her eyes lingered on Herald and the twins Mas Y Menos a moment before she continued. "There may be some new faces here, new Titans that those of us who fought the Brotherhood might not recognize. There are also faces missing, young heroes cut down in their prime. While I would like to take the time to properly grieve for those lost, and to rejoice over those new, the time is not now.
"You've been called here to face the second greatest threat to humanity in history. For those of you who never met her, Commando was a formidable adversary in her own right. The same can be said of Pantha, also a Titan, whom I know was part of the last battle where the Titans' strength was tested. Now, be it by choice or circumstance, the two have joined up with a bioweapon calling herself 'Death', taking on the mantles of 'War' and 'Pestilence' respectively. These three are devastating together and deadly apart. These are the enemies we must stand against in less than three days' time.
"The official start time of their assault is unknown. The only clue we have is that the battle for human kind will be over before the clock strikes midnight on the thirty first, before the New Year begins. Today, we will train. Tomorrow, we will go over the plans for the fight of our lives. The day after, we will rest. On that fourth day, the world might end, and we are all that stands in the way of that end. Know that we don't face enemies the likes we have come to expect. They will aim to kill. They want us dead. We can't let them get passed us. The fate of the world is at stake in a way I don't want to fathom.
"They do not tire; they do not stop. They have minions, robots, that are equally dangerous, equipped with missiles that are designed to kill their targets. The training you will undergo today will be the most vicious we have ever put forth. You will be tested in ways you have never thought to consider. Because we are not simply fighting 'bad guys' or 'villains'. What we must prepare ourselves to face is far greater a threat to everything we stand for: ourselves. Two of these three called themselves Titans, once. They have worked beside us, fought with us, bled with us, saved some of our lives. And they know it.
"To combat this, we must look at them in a disturbing light. Those Titans- Commando and Pantha- are dead, gone, killed by those who wear their faces and that is where the similarities end. These monsters have perverted their images and must be stopped, at all costs. Only then can our friends be properly laid to rest and the memories of their time as Titans remembered." Raven paused, sweeping her violet eyes over the room. "We cannot stop at just preventing them. We cannot stop at simply putting them in jail. These three must not see the new year or it will spell the doom of all we fight to protect." For a moment, she doubted the words would leave her mouth, but somehow, they did. "When the battle is over, the horsemen must be dead. Any questions?"
~A Short While Later~
"Uh, is anyone sure this won't kill us?" Ron looked down the lane he was meant to run, the courses laid out side-by-side to accommodate four Titans at a time. They weren't so much separate courses as imaginary lines in the sand; the courses were meant to be run simultaneously, with members of the same team able to help their friends, or get help, if need be. That sounded like it would make things easier but there was good reason for the optional help. The first two groups had already gone: the first consisting of Raven, Starfire, Robin and Beastboy, to show how the courses ran, followed by Speedy, Bumblebee, Aqualad, and Killowatt. Now, it was time for Kim, Ron, Red Star and Argent. While the two Titans looked more than ready for what their lanes would throw at them, the two Middleton High School Alumni were a bit more... concerned.
"Robin put these courses together and everyone else is breezing through it. So not the drama, Ron, just relax," Kim smiled, forcing her lips to move even as she thought to herself. How the Hell are we supposed to survive this? Come on, they can't be serious! Unfortunately, the Titans were dead set on everyone going through the obstacle course, whether they wanted to or not.
"Adrenna Lynn's right, mate," Argent flashed a confident smile, taking the lane to Kim's left. Out of old habit, Kim and Ron had chosen to run the lanes side-by-side, leaving their new teammates on the outside lanes. Out of new habit, they had assumed their alter egos, Ron in his Triple M suit while Kim made do with one of Robin's masks and the mission clothes she came to Jump City wearing while Cyborg continued to modify her suit. "You saw how they took it; didn't even break a sweat."
"Not to be bursting your bubble, but they did have a difficult time. At least a little," Red Star chimed in from Ron's right, having already ditched his wool cap considering the warm weather. He hadn't wanted to wear his uniform, opting for simple trousers and a tank top instead, but at Raven's request donned his signature green suit and black gloves. "This is not going to be a walk in the park."
"True, but there's the fun," Argent shot back, a smile on her lips. She reminded Kim a little of Shego, though with red rather than green. And a skirt. Hmmm... Shego in a skirt... a short skirt... that would be-
"Team Three, ready?" Robin called out from the operating platform, cutting the conversation, and Kim's inner mischief, short. Instantly, four minds focused on the short distance before them. The lanes themselves only went about three hundred meters but it was a very dangerous three hundred meters. "Team Three, Go!"
Instantaneously, the four launched themselves forward, ready for anything. Team Two's run already proved there was no set timing to the various traps and obstacles in the course; they could activate at any time and there was no way to predict what they were or when they'd trigger. They had to rely on their instincts and reactions alone. Before they could even take their second step (simply flying through the course was against the rules), their first test popped up in the form of turrets firing spinning saw disks, the first set having already claimed a few nearby trees. While her teammates seemed to falter, if for a split second, Kim only grinned. Ha, piece of cake!
With the grace she'd possessed since Junior High, Kim somersaulted over the first round of disks and instantly hit the dirt with the splits, dodging a stray disk from Ron's lane. Sweeping her back leg forward and rocking her body, Kim righted herself just as everyone else finished their dodges, bringing the four roughly in line. Out of the corner of her eye, Kim saw that Ron looked unscathed, bearing no injury she could see and only a grim sort of determination in his eyes, a sure sign he was in the zone. Kim could feel it too; the focus of a mission, the thrill of dodging one of Drakken's elaborate trap set-ups. She could also feel the new sort of rush that came with fighting in Jump City, in the Titans' world. As they mixed, the young woman could feel herself coming alive with new energy, with purpose.
As the first turrets disappeared back to whence they came, the ground beneath them started to shift, causing all four teens to leap to and from shifting panels. Kim was light and quick, barely touching down on one platform before sailing through the air to the next one. Argent, clearly used to flying, started to lag behind and nearly missed the last platform. Though she only noticed from the corner of her eye, Kim was able to hit her final platform in time enough to jump into Argent's lane temporarily and grab the other girl's hand, pulling her to safety.
"Well, that was a bit too close for comfort," the British girl growled, throwing a quick glare over her shoulder at the lane. "Thanks, Lynn."
"No big, Argent! Let's go!" Kim was already jumping back into her lane, sprinting to catch up with Ron and Red Star, both having already triggered their respective obstacles. Ron had electrical tentacles lashing out at him while Red Star had to contend with some refitted attack droids, courtesy of Slade's abandoned army. When Kim and Argent caught up, they were surprised with a volley of laser fire and hand-to-hand combat robots, like the ones Robin used for his personal training, respectively. This was it. It was the most alive Kim had felt since Shego left. Somehow, the very thought of the emerald woman who'd spirited away with her heart invigorated the redhead even more. All in all, a decided improvement in her mood. She could practically feel the confidence flowing through her. The horsemen have nothing on us!
Kim tried getting closer to the source of the laser blasts but couldn't. A few back flips, one forward roll, and a very, very close call were her only rewards. Well, this isn't working! Jumping to her right, the redhead noticed her entire team, well with the exception of Red Star, was having trouble too. Well, if you can't beat 'em... "Argent! Switch!"
"Gladly mate!" Argent called out as she ducked a few swipes from the robots to run to Kim's lane. Ron and Red Star took the cue and switched as well, leaving Kim and Ron with the hand-to-hand combat and Red Star and Argent with the ranged fighting. In a flash, Ron had hurled one attack droid into the other two, Red Star had used his bolts to disable half the tentacles, Argent was rebounding the lasers back at their launchers, and Kim was beating the robots so badly (by causing them to attack themselves) they were beginning to malfunction. As this was the first time most of the Titans had seen Kim and Ron in action, they couldn't help but be a little impressed.
"Girl's got moves," Herald, arms crossed, admitted as Kim jumped from one robot to the other, even doing a handstand on the last one to make it attack itself. Jericho, the silent blonde standing next to him, simply nodded in agreement. Beside them, a young woman with pink hair had her eyes on the far lane.
"That Triple M guy isn't so bad either," Kole commented dreamily as Ron delivered an expertly placed kick that beat the last standing droid's head in, dreamily enough that her best friend, Gnarrk, the prehistoric caveman of few words, felt inclined to comment.
"No, silly, I'm just saying he's a pretty good fighter."
"Gnarrk." The caveman conceded, turning his attention back to the course as the four returned to their original lanes and hit the final obstacle. This was the only obstacle that stayed the same, no matter what. Depending on who the respective Titan knew better, a hologram of either Pantha or Commando appeared and lunged at them. For Red Star and Argent, Pantha's form appeared, accompanied by a sound clip of her war cry. For Ron and Kim, it was Commando. She's not Commando! Kim told herself as the hologram cocked back her fist and jumped towards her. This is War! Letting loose a battle cry of her own, Kim rolled in the space between them and jumped up with all her power, landing what would have been one Hell of an uppercut to the hologram. As it faded away, the redhead realized she'd completed the obstacle course, along with the rest of her team, within a respectable time: only two seconds slower than Team One and a second faster than Team Two.
"Team Three, complete. Good job, guys," Robin announced with a slight smile. Instantly, he started configuring the course for the next team while Team Three celebrated.
"Man, this is one Hell of a work out," Beastboy massaged a sore spot in his neck. As he saw which obstacles the next Team would face, he couldn't help but laugh. "Bet no gym in the universe can match the Titan Fitness Program!"
Standing beside the changling, Raven just shook her head and smiled. "I've said it already, but I'll say it again: our budget is ridiculous."
~And After That~
"Are you SERIOUS!" Ron screamed as he back flipped over an errant lightning bolt, simultaneously dodging a slash from Bushido's sword. The young man didn't even know there were this many Titans in the world. Now, in the middle of a four-on-four battle, while two other fights raged around them, the Mystical Monkey Master was pushing himself past limits he didn't even know existed. Sure, Robin, Terra, and Speedy were helping as best they could, but they had their own opponents to deal with, and the opposing team, consisting of Bushido, Argent, Killowatt and Beast Boy, were strong fighters in their own right.
How he got stuck with a samurai, with no weapon of his own, was beyond the young man, but so far Ron had made do with simply dodging the attacks and counter attacking with strikes to the hands and gut, even once got in a decent blow to the other Titan's right leg that slightly hobbled the swordsman. Terra and Argent were flying high above, throwing rocks and energy bolts, while dodging similar projectiles from Starfire and Bumblebee, Lightning and Red Star, and whatever else got deflected skyward in the battles below. Ron had been skeptical of the idea of large, melee style team combat training at first; now, he realized he should definitely have spoken up about just how dangerous the entire fiasco was. At least there was one bright side: he had a regular human for an opponent. He didn't dare sneak a glance to see how Kim was faring.
Note to self: lay off the Twinkies! Kim mentally reprimanded herself, dodging another blast of dark energy as Raven circled to the redhead's right. She knew she was moving slower than before, and part of that was fatigue and anxiety as her new found energy slowly dwindled to non-existent levels. However, as neither would be going away anytime soon, and she was getting rather sick of all the anxiety, she had to get used to the idea of feeling like shit and still turning out her top performance. Rolling as she hit the ground, the former cheerleader righted herself in time to throw a bird-a-rang that just happened to be lying around at the slightly stunned empath. Raven dodged, but just by a hair, gritting her teeth as she floated a bit higher to put distance between herself and Kim.
As Cyborg was still working on repairing the supersuit, Kim was fighting Raven without flight capability and, thus, at a severe disadvantage. Can't rely on that stupid suit anyway. If War hits the power cell again, I'll be fighting just like this! Better to train without. A well timed jump allowed Kim to clear another wave of black energy and use Starfire, who was diving down to avoid one of Bumblebee's blasts, as a launching point to get to Raven. Her opponent barely moved out of the way in time to avoid a solid punch to the face, the knuckle of Kim's pinky barely grazing Raven's cheek as the redhead went flying past her. Kim felt a small wave of panic as she started to fall back to the ground but was saved when Starfire appeared out of nowhere and grabbed her hand.
"Friend Lynn! Are you having trouble as I am?" the sweet Tamaranean yelled over the din of shouts, explosions, and an elephant's trumpet. Kim nodded, trying to keep her senses right from the vertigo as Starfire started dodging both Bumblebee's and Raven's attacks. None of the four were on the same team though, so they weren't technically allies. "Then perhaps we have the wrong opponents!"
Enemy of my enemy, I suppose. "Good thinking!" Kim smiled, pulling her knees to her chest and preparing to push off from the alien. At the moment, she was facing Raven, who was retreating slightly while Bumblebee pressed from the other side. At the last moment, Starfire spun, sending Kim flying towards Bumblebee while Starfire sent a starbolt at Raven, catching both opponents off guard. Without time to dodge, Bumblebee was thrown to the ground under Kim's weight and Starfire's strength while Raven had to deflect the starbolt and take on Starfire head-to-head.
Meanwhile, on the far side of the skirmish, the scientists were having their own problems. Having spent most of their time in the lab, Cyborg and Drakken were having a tougher time keeping up with Hotspot and Aqualad. The two kept combining their powers- fire and water- to keep the four shrouded in mist, easily confusing Drakken.
"I can't see anything!" the blue skinned scientist yelled in frustration. "Really, I'm not useful in a regular fight, how the He- uf!"
From seemingly nowhere Gnarrk came crashing into the former megalomaniac. They rolled on the ground a moment before noticing they were on the same team. Gnarrk was quicker to come to this conclusion though, jumping away from Drakken as the scientist slapped the air blindly.
"Gnarrk?" the caveman queried, a brow raised as Drakken recovered himself.
"Yes, I'm quite alright. Thank you," Drakken bowed his head a little, then paused. "Wait, that is what you asked me, right?"
"Gnarrk!" was the only response he received before the mist lightened enough for both of them to see. At that moment, however, Drakken would have far preferred the mist. While Cyborg had Hotspot in a headlock, Aqualad was charging the metal teen from behind, meanwhile Kole, the pink haired young woman who functioned as Gnarrk's partner, was running at Cyborg from the other side. Seeing his friend charging towards Cyborg, Gnarrk broke into a sprint, following the same path as Kole. As Aqualad interlaced his fingers and jumped to deliver a fierce blow to the back of the metal teen's head, Kole shouted a warning, causing Cyborg to roll away, releasing Hotspot in the process and allowing the two teammates to collide into each other. Before either could regain his feet, Kole jumped up and activated her crystal form, falling back into Gnarrk's awaiting hand to be wielded like your average club. Both Hotspot and Aqualad gave a yelp of terror as they rolled away to avoid to blow, causing Dr. Drakken to chuckle sympathetically.
"At least I'm not the only one having problems," Drakken smiled, then turned, looking for a more suitable opponent, when a robot looking all too much like Cyborg, except with red circuitry, appeared in front of him. At first, the scientist visibly paled, then, remembering who controlled the exosuit, scowled at the mostly machine. "I liked you better as a pesky rat thing!"
Rufus made a mental note of that before grabbing the front of Drakken's uniform, via his exosuit, and threw him into the air, at Red Star. Fearful of dropping back down, the blue skinned man latched onto the Russian with a vice grip. Despite the added weight, Red Star managed to dodge another of Lightning's bolts, sending back a quick blast of his own energy to discourage another attack. At least until he'd dumped the extra weight. "This is not helping!"
"DON'T DROP ME!" Drakken let out a girlish scream, and a subsequent yelp of terror as another bolt of lightning passed all too close to his head. Twisting his head around to catch sight of the rebellious young man charging another attack with Beastboy, in his T-Rex form, just behind the supernaturally powered Titan. Thinking fast, Drakken pulled out a small recording device and played a high pitched frequency, pointing it directly at Beastboy, who turned and snapped his jaws at the sound, effectively trapping Lightning in his jaws, rather unintentionally. "Hey, it worked!"
"Good thinking, my friend," Red Star smiled, drifting down to deposit Drakken on the ground as Lightning, unaware of how he was entombed, let his bolt discharge inside the dinosaur's mouth, instantly causing the jaws to open as Beastboy roared in pain and started returning to his Human form. Oddly enough, as the transition was happening, a young man with blonde hair popped out of the changeling's body. Both Jericho and Beastboy hit the ground with solid thuds, the green skinned teen looking significantly more dazed than the quiet blonde. "Seems we are fighting more than just our opponents."
"If I survive this, I'm never leaving my lab again," Drakken muttered, running away as Red Star threw a few more energy blasts at Lightning before taking to the air again.
"Hey, Beastboy, you okay?" Ron shouted as he expertly tossed Bushido over his shoulder and into Herald and Killowatt, who'd taken to using each other to watch their backs. The changeling had his tongue lolling out, fanning the burned skin wildly, as if it would help.
"Yea, I 'ink," Beastboy didn't dare closing his mouth just yet and had, quite effectively, dropped out of the fight. Forest green eyes flicked up to meet concerned brown ones. "Yew won' hur ee, wi' yew?"
"Nah, man, we're on the same side," Ron smiled, lashing his foot out to trip Killowatt as the Titan tried to attack, sending the young man sprawling. "We have bigger issues than this training exercise."
From twenty yards away, Raven smiled, even as she dodged another vicious right hook from Kim, who was starting to really release her frustration, putting more force behind each blow. After a minute or so, Starfire and Kim had returned to their original opponents, leaving Bumblebee and Raven still reeling from the first unexpected switch. Risking a glance around, Raven confirmed her hopes. Though the Titans were beginning to tire, they were still fighting. It was a good sign, she thought, that they were still fighting almost two hours later. In fact...
Just before Kim launched another vicious front kick, attempting to take advantage of Raven's moment of distraction, a low tone rang out over the field, halting all combat as the Titans relaxed. Finally, the training session was over. Thank God! Kim tried not to let her relief show too much, offering Raven a friendly handshake instead. I really hope no one back in Middleton gets superpowers.
"Aha! Boo-yah!" Ron high fived the Cyborg look-a-like he knew housed his little friend. "Rufus! How'd ya do?"
"Performed like a champ!" Cyborg chimed, a few new dents in his armor but otherwise looking better than most after the melee. The rest of the Titans began chattering animatedly, congratulating their opponents, praising their own prowess, joking about miscues. It was certainly a lot more intense than the obstacle courses and everyone was ready for some well deserved rest as the sun began to set on the bay.
"Mission accomplished, Raven?" Kim turned back before following the others into the Tower, watching Raven as she stared off into the distance. Kim frowned. Wonder what's on her mind. "Raven?"
"Do you think they'll get the message?" Raven turned her violet eyes back to meet bright green orbs. For a moment, Kim wasn't sure who she meant, but then she realized the only people she could've been addressing with a display like that.
"That depends, what message were you planning on sending the horsemen?" Raven, what are you thinking?
"Oh, just who we are, and how many of us there are. Give them the details they need to craft the perfect plan," Raven casually walked towards the Tower, Kim falling in step with the gray skinned young woman as she passed. "I think we showed them everything we could."
Clever. Kim smiled, resisting the urge to laugh out loud. "So now, all that's left is to completely change it."
~Den of the Horsemen~
"That was impressive." War commented as the last of the Titans returned to their precious Tower. It took a moment for Pestilence to determine if the comment was made out of sincere admiration or arrogant sarcasm.
"You believe they will not succeed." Pestilence turned her gaze to regard the elder horseman. "My records indicate you were the one to preach about not being overly confident; they are Humans, capable of several anomalies."
"While this is true, it is safe to say we have laid the foundation for a strong and decisive blow. For the majority of the Titans, this will be their second large scale battle. Only a hand few have faced the numbers we will supply. Our communications are better, our skills are better, our preparations are better, and we have the decided advantage of knowing when the strike will take place. This gives us the element of surprise. The Titans will be unable to overcome our advantages." War changed the screen to display the latest news streaming on the local channels. "Just because the world is going to end does not mean it stops turning. As we speak, several of the Titans' usual adversaries are free, ready to wreak havoc at a whim. Perhaps they will serve as a distraction for our invasion, though we shall hardly need the diversion."
"I see." Pestilence scanned the feeds, instantly absorbing all the information she cared to know and turned her attention back to War. "I have a query regarding your locked files, War."
"Is that so." Only their shared link in the Collective allowed Pestilence to know War was questioning her to continue. War had been working on their programming all day and, by this point, War and Death completely lacked any inflection, even those curious Human ticks had been eliminated. They were horsemen now and nothing more.
"It was not until Death came for me that I stopped being Pantha and became Pestilence. I had no choice in the matter. Not that I'm complaining; this is a far better fate than being dead. However, you were War first, then became Commando, then became War again. What prompted your departure and return to the horsemen." Pestilence noticed her own voice lacking inflection. War had been deleting several of the programs that had allowed her to retain her humanity as of late. Though she knew complaining about it would do her no good, she was starting to miss some of her Human qualities, if only a little. That was unusual though; she probably still had some bugs in her programing.
"Simple; I thought Humans could learn." War gestured to the screen again. Or perhaps she just made the consideration to raise her arm to the screen and Pestilence registered the motion. Probably yet another bug in her software; an easy fix. "I destroyed our original creators to prove that no Human can control the powers we possess. I joined the Titans to prove even the most destructive of creatures can find purpose, and not in a negative light. I left-." War suddenly cut off, quickly scanning through her own files. Ah, that's right. There was a reason why she left. "I left to stop Death from the inside. I sought to prove that even something made purely for destruction could do something for the benefit of Humankind, a selfless act, even if it destroyed myself in the process."
"And then I came to the logical conclusion that Humankind does not deserve that benefit. Bereft of the compassion I was programmed with, I came to realize that Humans have truly overstayed their welcome in this existence. Genocide is the only answer." Pestilence nodded. "We are the cure to the Human condition, Pestilence. However, Death does not understand these concepts. Death can only understand our programmed mission. The expanded concepts would prompt investigation."
"The files are locked so Death has one less thing to drone on about. Query answered. And also stored in a locked file." Pestilence expected at least a smile. Instead, nothing.
"Do what you will. I have ensured not you, Famine, or even Death can attempt to injure me. What you choose to lock away is of no importance to me."
Pestilence blinked. "Understood."
~Morning of the Twenty Ninth, Common Room~
Just like the day before, Raven's eyes swept the room, taking in the eager faces of the Titans assembled, mentally preparing herself. Today was the planning day, the day where she tried to explain some very strange concepts to her fellow Titans. Everything, her whole plan, was based on... a vision and her father's cryptic advice... not for the first time, Raven felt a shiver crawl down her spine as she wondered if it could all possibly be an elaborate trap. However, Beastboy's hand in hers quickly brought her back to the present, dispelling her doubts, at least for a time.
"Sorry," she murmured before clearing her throat and lifting her chin, determined not to let her doubts show. "I trust everyone is well rested?"
The room erupted with an indistinct jumble of affirmative responses, and a few harmless jokes. She couldn't help but smile at the high spirits. Leave it to a bunch of teenagers to take the Apocalypse as a laughable event.
"Good. We're one step closer to the fight of our lives. Now here's where it gets a little... tricky," Raven waved her hand, dimming the lights in the room so the hologram projector, operated by Rufus, could be seen. As Raven spoke the names, the image changed to show the rest of the Titans what she was talking about. "First, you should meet our opponents.
"This is Death, eldest of the horsemen in terms of conception and design. Her weapon of choice is a scythe that uses a sort of beam energy to become a deadly weapon. It can slice through flesh easily and even passing too close to it can leave severe burns. There's a sort of magnetic field that allows her to fly and maneuver at high speeds. Destroy her scythe and she becomes slower but be very careful. The metal that is bonded to their organic matter is extremely resistant, so normal attack will do little, if any, damage.
"Next is War, formerly Commando. She's faster and stronger than Death, a brilliant strategist and can react far quicker than her 'sister'. The knife she wears strapped to her breastplate is actually a sword that utilizes the same sort of beam energy as Death's scythe. We've also seen footage of a shield of the same energy but have yet to see her use it. War also commands the ability to change her organic structure almost instantly, changing height, weight, and other attributes. Be careful if she gets too close; whereas Death refuses to relinquish her scythe, War will go hand-to-hand at any time. Trust me, not the one you want to take a punch from.
"Pestilence, formerly Pantha, is the third horsemen. Bulkier than the other horsemen, she is just as fast as Death and displays at least the capability to utilize some sort of poison. From the designs we did see, it's safe to assume at least a few projectile inhalants are housed in her gauntlets. She's the only horsemen we have only seen, however, as what we saw was merely an elaborate hologram. Right now, she's our second greatest threat, simply because we won't know exactly what she's capable of." Raven took a breath as a schematic appeared overhead, one she'd studied for several hours without success.
"Finally, we have Famine, the fourth horseman. Officially, she doesn't exist yet. However, to think that the horsemen will begin their mission to eradicate the Human race without Famine is hoping for too much. Unfortunately, the designs we managed to collect didn't have a weapons system installed yet, so Famine's abilities, if it even exists, are unknown." A murmur of confusion went around the room, some clever suggestions of what powers the horseman would possess, whether or not it existed, and the like. Raven waited a moment before she continued. "Our last opponent, which there will be plenty of, are the robots the horsemen have created. The first time they appeared, they had only minimal hand-to-hand capabilities. The last time, they had deadly rockets and could fly. It's a safe assumption to guess their next incarnation will have something more deadly added and probably a bit faster. This means that those of us who can fly should try our hardest to keep their aim up and away from the grounded fighters." Suddenly, two little hands raised into the air. Raven hadn't anticipated answering questions so soon but nodded for the two young men to speak. "Yes?"
"No lo entiendo. Si cada uno de nosotros es necesario para esta lucha..."
"¿Por qué dejamos fuera del entrenamiento de ayer?" Más y Menos questioned innocently. Unfortunately, with Pantha and Shego absent, no one stepped up to translate. Before Cyborg could pull up a translating program, Ron cleared his throat.
"Uh, pretty sure they asked why they weren't part of the training yesterday if everyone is needed for the big fight." Terra, seated next to him, leaned over and whispered, trying not to detract from the meeting too much.
"You speak Spanish?"
"It comes and goes," Ron gave her a small smile while raising a brow. "You like that, huh?"
"Well, yeah, it's kinda cool," Terra tried to pretend she was paying attention to Raven as her cheeks became tinted pink.
"Got it, Spanish is a turn on. I'll work on it."
Raven took note of the deepening red shade of Terra's face but ignored it for now. That goofy grin of Ron's told her that it probably was none of her business anyway. Besides, the twin's question would require her full attention once the Titans heard her answer. "When the battle commences, Rufus will be piloting the Titanoids, our own versions of the attack droids the horsemen have. His participation yesterday was to test his control of the system and work out any final bugs."
"Whoa, that's a smart... whatever the Hell he is," Speedy scratched his chin, regarding the naked mole rat still operating the hologram projector.
"Naked mole rat," Kim, Ron, Terra and Beastboy said, in unison, the first two out of habit, second two to correct their fellow Titan.
"Okay, naked mole rat, got it," Speedy held up his hands in defense.
"Right," Raven waited until everyone returned their focus to her before continuing. "Well, with Rufus taking that spot, and considering the horsemen watched the entire training session, it's in our best interest to keep at least a few secrets to ourselves." The shocked look that spread over all but five faces (Kim, Drakken, Cyborg, Beastboy, and Rufus) was the reaction Raven had been anticipating. And, partially, trying to avoid. "Make no mistake; the horsemen watched and analyzed every move each of us used yesterday. They'll use it to craft the perfect plan to destroy us. However," Raven nodded and Rufus changed from displaying schematics to showing footage from the first time the Titans squared off against Death. "Something we have come to expect from the horsemen is this: they lack the ability to fully comprehend our thought process. We're able to surprise them simply by doing things that don't make sense or are deviant from our usual behavior. Death had time to watch us, study us, and she used that time. However, when she did attack, we had four new fighters, four of us were someone else's body, and, through pure luck, we were able to keep her from taking Beastboy to be the horseman Famine. Simple circumstances that we weren't expecting completely altered her plan of attack and she wasn't able to compensate. War is faster at that sort of compensation, however, so having you two as our little secrets, with your super speed, might be able to buy us just the right amount of time, when we need it most."
"Okay, if that's true, why train at all? Why not leave them in the dark completely?" Aqualad shook his head, his arms crossed. "Doesn't make sense to keep cards up our sleeves if we don't have to show our hand in the first place."
"True, but who is more prepared to bet: the man who doesn't know your hand or the man who's sure you only have a pair of sixes?" Raven waved around the room. "If you haven't noticed, we have a royal flush. And really, it's just icing on the cake. What we'll really use to throw them off, from the very beginning, no one on the planet, least of all the horsemen, will expect." Surprise registered on every face in the room, including Beastboy. This was the part she'd kept to herself all along and Raven couldn't help but smile a little. What she had planned, no one would be able to guess, at least she hoped so, since that's what made it the perfect option, however insane. And it was quite insane. But, Raven was certain, it would be well worth it. She'd already put half the plan into action early that morning. The other half would go into action the thirty-first. "When the horsemen decide to launch their attack, we'll give them a nice little surprise..."
Twenty minutes later, Raven felt a small tendril of fear worm its way into the back of her mind. She'd finished her explanation about five minutes ago but none, not a soul, had dared speak yet. They were still in shock. Yes, she expected that reaction, but still, someone should at least try to speak. Much to Raven's surprise, Terra raised her hand. "Yes?"
"So... does this mean we can't order pizza for dinner?" Raven blinked, slightly taken aback by the question.
"Uh, right, that means we can't order pizza," violet eyes scanned the room, noticing the mood broken by a chorus of groans. "Anyone else?" Ron raised his hand.
"So, what is for dinner?" Raven sighed. "What? There is no way to- just- it's-"
"I agree with Ron," Drakken chimed in, ignoring Ron's shout of victory at the former villain finally remembering his name. "If I were on the recieving end of this I'd... well... I don't know what I'd do. If the entire purpose is to destroy the Titans... and they... just... well... I just don't know." Drakken ran a hand through his hair. "Teenagers scare the shit out of me."
"Definitely rates an eleven on the 'what the hell are you thinking' scale, Raven," Bumblebee chimed in, a smug smirk on her lips. "I don't think it would work for anyone else, but for these guys? Absolutely."
"So, we're all in on this?" Robin looked around, feeling far more nervous than any other Titan present. When everyone else nodded, the former Titan leader sighed and nodded. Though she wasn't expecting his permission, that Robin agreed to go along with what she had planned helped immensely.
"Good," Raven smiled, noticing how the mood had changed from tense expectation to anxious excitement. "When the horsemen attack Jump City, the Titans won't respond."
Continued in Chapter 11: The Fourth Horseman (or Take Your Time)
Author's note: Well, that was fun. I had more planned for this chap originally, but I think it will flow better with Chapter 11, so that's that. The big battle is coming up next chapter, finally, and actually contains the scene that provided inspiration for this entire fic, oddly enough. Got two chapters left and then this will be all wrapped up. Circumstances being what they are, I might have Ch 11 up within the next month, it depends on how I do on a test I have coming up on the 6th. So wish me luck? (Trust me, I need it! lol) Thanks for your continued patience. :)