Disclaimer: This is a fan work created at no profit and for entertainment purposes only. The author acknowledges that Teen Titans and related characters are property of Warner Entertainment.
Teen Titans – What Grows From Deception
Chapter 1 – Lady Aionor
Robin hated this place, wished that someone would finally buy the decaying hulk of a building and tear it all down. If they left not a single brick atop another, he'd still say it wasn't demolished thoroughly enough.
He didn't even know for certain what it was originally meant to be. It was a huge, cavernous complex, filled with pistons and gearwheels with no discernible purpose. But whatever it was meant to be, what it was to him was a monument to some of the worst moments in his life and Titans history.
Here, he had been made the unwilling apprentice of Slade, a murderous psychopath whose personality, at its core, was uncomfortably close to his own. Here, he had nearly killed himself while under the effects of a hallucinogen, and here, Slade had returned as an undead monster to threaten his friend and teammate.
Nothing good had ever happened to the Titans when they came here. And now he had even more to lose.
The disturbing thought made him glance to his left. It was entirely irrational, but he had to make sure Starfire was still there, that the lovely Tammaranian still hovered at his side. The last thing he wanted was for this place of pain and sorrow to take her. Only a few short months had passed since Tokyo, and he still found himself concerned to the point of distraction for her safety in battle.
He reassured himself by taking his staff from the clip on his belt and extending it. Filling his hands with some sort of weaponry was as much a nervous tic as it was a way of preparing for battle. In that way, it wasn't unlike Stare gathering starbolts in her palms, or Raven flaring her soul-self in the form of black flames over her fists, or Cyborg reconfiguring his arm into his sonic cannon.
They were all doing so now. None of them was comfortable being back in the building, especially not when they were there to investigate who had reconnected the power to the place, as evidenced by the overhead lights shining down on them.
All except Beast Boy. Robin knew there was little he could actually do to visibly ready his powers, but it seemed to him that the youngest member of the team was observing the fallen cogs and pistons with curiosity instead of dread. There was no rule that the green hero had to hate it as much as the others, but it grated slightly on his leader's already frayed nerves.
However, at Starfire's urging, he was trying his hand at being more tolerant of the fact that not everyone had spent their lives being trained in the fine art of paranoia and seriousness. So he chose not to reprimand or chide Beast Boy an instead spoke to the entire team.
"Alright, Titans; we don't know very much about the situation, so be on your guard and expect anything." He cast a glance at Star, "And stay close. Until we know what we're up against, I don't want us even getting out of sight of the others."
The lights immediately went out.
"You just had to tempt Murphy's Law, didn't ya, Rob?" Cyborg forced humor in order to keep the tension from his voice. His shoulder mounted light popped up, illuminating the area immediately around them. His robust voice all but drowned out Beast Boy's gasp.
"Not the time, Cyborg." Robin grit his teeth and brought his staff on guard.
"Guys?" Beast Boy asked, voice wavering.
"Man, chill. I know this ain't a laughing matter, but it's better than freaking out."
"I am not freaking out." Robin said brusquely.
"Please, friends, this is not the time for fighting." Starfire tried to mediate.
"Guys!" Beast Boy gesticulated wildly to get their attention.
"What?" Cyborg and Robin snarled simultaneously, their ire for each other pouring over in the direction of the overly loud changeling.
If he was affected by it, Beast Boy didn't show it. He was too concerned with the current problem, which he demonstrated by gesturing to the empty space behind him where Raven had been bringing up the rear. "Where's Raven?"
Starfire gasped in horror as the other two Titans swiftly went back on their guard.
"Raven?" Robin shouted into the darkness. No answer.
"Star, light us up." Cyborg suggested. Starfire complied, raising one arm and igniting an intense starbolt in her palm. Her flickering green light illuminated out to thirty feet in all direction. Oh, how they all wished it hadn't.
They were surrounded. Oddly shaped things lurked behind and atop the broken and collapsed machinery. The uniform shape seemed to rise up from the ground on a tapering stalk with triangular heads attached to a bulge in the stalk by a spindly neck. Two mantis-like scythes also extended from the bulbs, and were held akimbo.
Nothing good ever happened in this place.
"Titans, Go!" Robin bellowed. "Find Raven, then regroup here." Like any good leader, he was first into the fray, swinging his staff out one handed while he dropped a magnesium flare with another. Brilliant, white light filled the room, throwing the Titan's shadows across their foes. And hopefully blinding them at least for a moment.
The thing in front of him rose up to meet his first strike. It was half again his height and some blasphemous amalgamation of insect and snake. The 'stalk' was now revealed to be a muscular tail, covered in leathery, gray hide while the head was dominated by a sharp beak, sweeping back into a pair of ridges that resembled horns. No eyes were evident there and both it and the scythe-like blades it caught his staff with were made of silvery chitin with a sheen over them like an oil slick.
It repelled his first swing, but wasn't fast enough to block a straight jab into the bulge Robin hoped was its center. It overbalanced and fell backward, only to be replaced by two more, whose blows he deflected by whirling his staff in a quick circle.
Behind him, the other remaining Titans also waded into battle.
Starfire rose into the air, turning a slow circle so she could scan the ground for signs of Raven. At the same time, she flung starbolts into the strange monsters, keeping them from getting behind her friends or crowding them too much. It was a standard tactic on her planet and it always surprised her that her boyfriend never considered it. Possibly because she did so without being asked or calling attention to it.
Cyborg worked methodically, targeting and blasting the monsters with his sonic cannon. Normally in situations like this, he'd let loose and blow through them enmasse, but Raven was missing and could be behind some of that machinery, so he was forced to opt for the more inefficient method to avoid harming her accidentally.
Beast Boy was getting frustrated. It would be cake to find Raven if he just had time to shift into a bloodhound. He already knew all his friends scents, plus Titans East and most of the honorary Titans, even. But the bizarre monsters seemed to be swarming him worst of all.
He punched three away from him in gorilla form, only to find five more leaping for him. Shifting into an ankylosaur, he smashed three high into the air with his club tail and caught the other two's blades on his hard carapace. The next moment, he became a Sasquatch, grabbing one of them by the tail and swinging it hard into the other.
No sooner was he done with that, then he turned to see three more leaping down from a ruined catwalk. He raised his fist to commence with pummeling them when a familiar voice made his ears perk up.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos." A piston the size of an upended eighteen-wheeler and crawling with black energy thundered down from above, smashing the three creatures beneath it. Raven floated down behind it, seeming to admire her handiwork.
Beast Boy took the risk of reverting to his default form so he could talk. "Rae! You didn't get kidnapped and eaten!"
"No." She droned in her customary monotone. "But I have been annoyed. More than even you're capable of." A gesture caused a man sized gear to upright itself and go rolling into part of a horde attacking Cyborg. Her eyes narrowed at the monsters noticed her for the first time. "Now. Who's next?"
The creatures froze for a split second, then vanished in a burst of crackling static, one by one. The lights flickered back on.
Suddenly, the building was plunged into uneasy quiet.
Cyborg reconfigured his cannon back into an arm and scratched his head. "What was all that about?"
"Yeah," Beast Boy agreed, "Raven's been way scarier than that. What kinda scaredy-cat monsters were those?" He ignored the annoyed glare Raven shot him.
"But... we are victorious, yes?"
"I'm not so sure of that, Star." Robin shook his head. "Those things were here for a reason, and left on their own accord. We need to find out why. Split up and search for any clue to what they were up to here, but keep radio contact at all times."
Reluctantly, the Titans did as ordered, taking a section of the building and beginning their search. All but Raven.
She made sure the others were gone and slipped behind an unrecognizably destroyed piece of machinery. Hidden in its cowling was a small hand mirror, which she picked up and spoke a magic word into. The silvery surface gave way to a scene inside a cavern somewhere outside Jump City. Front and center in the image was the Puppet King.
"You rang, Mistress Aionor?" He asked in his sniveling voice. He wanted to be a ruler, but the young woman who now gave him orders thought he never had the bearing or the voice to rule in the first place.
"Did you receive her?"
"Yes, Mistress." He drawled, reminding her of a badly portrayed Igor. "The new controller you created for me worked perfectly. She is now in your body as you are in hers."
"Excellent. Did you have any trouble containing her?"
"You are mighty, Mistress, but the sleeping potion you gave us is working like a charm."
She smiled, more of a smile than the real Raven usually was wont to even in the best of times. "You've done well, Puppet King. It shouldn't take me long to locate the book and return. Continue to serve me well and maybe I'll make you into a real boy when this is all over." She sneered at the cruel joke before cutting the connection.
Carefully, Aionor hid the mirror again and headed out to pretend to look for signs of her own plan.