Fun story about how I typed this all, hit the back button by mistake, and then deleted it. So fun. Well, at least it was just the little note stuff.
Sorry for the wait! Life is busy. School and sports own my life. Wah.
blueyzangel: 5 Black Stars are definitely worse than 1 Black Star
Whitakker: Well, mind-jacking is never quite out of the question...is it? Maybe? I'm bad at this. I don't think Terra knows what's driving her anymore. Confused, confused girl. Almost there! The last lap is the hardest.
MelonLord28:And they're free too!
Dancing Eyes: Wouldn't be a party without all the Black Stars!
Katwizzle: Slade's a tricky devil
The Cretin: happy to hear that you like all the description and that this story is still entertaining you! Detail is tedious though it does add a lot to the story, hopefully.
Cecilia Haunt: Beast Boy and Cyborg would agree with you on that.
NicolethePenguin: Well...this is sort of? soon. I try. And I think I may have misled you a bit with the Black Stars. Terra wasn't using them to hurt the Wilsons, just sort of keeping watch of them. The Sladebots were responsible for that one, and what the Black Stars are for...well, that's next. And aw, thanks! The last part made me smile lots.
Headphones: replying from your review in chapter 14! I have to say, I'm a sucker for love triangles. And both Wally and Garfield are too cool.
Alchemist15: Aw shucks. Thanks! I'm glad you like the writing. It is tough.
Miss Topaz: Yup! I'm back! And better(?) than ever! ha. Oh Terra, Terra. I don't hate her...for some reason I don't understand, but she is, to say the least, complicated. Thanks!
2-shadows: Here's more! Phew. At least there are not 192 Black Stars
No Line on the Horizon: I thought the sladebots were a good idea. I'm just a better villain than Slade, ha. And you're sort of spot on with the Terra thing. She's confused, everyone's confused about her, and I guess that causes confusion (ha). And so sorry for the delay! I'd be happy to read your story. Just let me know what you'd like me to read!
ssjEasterBunny: Haha, Beast Boy is silly even when he's serious sometime. Ah pacing. My arch-nemesis. Yay! I'm glad I lived up that promise a long time ago. Phew, otherwise i'd feel silly
Deathrow609: Aw that's sweet! Thanks! I will continue to update when I am free, for sure.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans.
Chapter 21: Plan B
Dick Grayson stopped at the dead end ahead, the tunnel pouring out into a large expanse of room. The ceilings were high. The dim lights above swung from wind, though Nightwing could not see the source. It seemed to howl through the room, and he felt his spine tinge as he walked forward, pushing his black mask flush on his nose.
"Slade!" He had no time to play around. Nightwing stopped walking as he remembered Raven's warning. He knew it too. This was a trap.
This was the old Robin—blinded by his hatred for this man and running in, ready to stop him no matter what the consequences could be. But that wasn't who Dick was anymore. He hesitated from shouting the man's name again and scanned the dark shadows. There was a walkway above made of mesh metal. It'd be unstable, and Nightwing couldn't bring the fight up there. Secondary. Getting Slade is secondary. The Black Star was out there—somewhere—and Nightwing needed Slade to divulge that information.
But he waited. He wanted to run around screaming for the man, but Nightwing forced himself to stay put and just watch his surroundings. Batman was a great super hero and it wasn't because of any powers.
A shadow flickered above through the swinging lights, and Nightwing removed a birdarang from his side, hitting the moving figure above. There was a sharp intake of breath, but Slade didn't scream out. Blood trickled down from the raised walkway and splattered on the floor feet away from Nightwing. Dick cringed at the distance and then rolled forward towards the blood, dodging the flash grenade thrown down by Slade.
"Not even a hello before we get started?" Slade's voice was strained. "Didn't the Bat teach you any manners?"
Nightwing didn't reply or give in to any taunts. He took another birdarang in his hands and whipped it up again. He saw Slade's shadow roll and dodge the spiraling blade. Damn it.
"Come up here and fight, Robin."
He said nothing. He kept his fists clenched, ready, and watched Slade's shadow from above. The villain just walked back and forth. Slade knew he was seen. His one eye looked down at Nightwing from above, one hand lazily placed on his upper thigh where he was cut. It didn't seem to be affecting him much.
"Are you too afraid?" The question from Slade seemed almost genuine. Almost. "I know about that...incident."
Nightwing flinched. He was baiting him, and Nightwing took it. "What incident?"
"It was a long time ago though, wasn't it? You shouldn't be afraid of heights anymore. And surely Mr. Wayne makes up for your parents deaths."
Who told him? "What?!" His voice was angry. Nightwing looked up again, but somehow had lost where Slade was going. He looked to the ground and saw where more drops of blood had fallen and redirected his eyes. Slade was simply standing, arms crossed.
"Richard, you'd have to have known I would do proper research on a potential apprentice."
"Slade, shut up. Tell me where the Black Star is."
"The Flying Graysons. Batman was right about scouting you. So easily susceptible too. An orphan. No family. No attachments. I should have gotten to you earlier."
Nightwing's teeth gritted. "Come down here and fight."
"Very well." He jumped down, rolling, the bloodied thigh seeming to have no apparent effect on his physical capacity.
Slade threw the first punch, but Nightwing blocked it with his forearm before sending a high section kick to Slade's mask face. The impact hurt, more than Nightwing showed on his face, but the contact of hitting Slade's metal mask made his calf vibrate. Slade stuttered. He touched a gloved hand to his encased chin and then continued. Kick after kick flew through the air. Most were dodged and others hit with strong violence and force. Nightwing bent over as he felt the pressure to his chest. His breath caught in his throat, but he shook it off. He had dealt with much worse. This was nothing.
When Slade drew out his bo staff, Nigthwing switched his strategy. He changed the distance, coming in to un-lever the long reach of the staff. Slade used the metal stick to stop Nightwing's double-kick, but Nightwing pressed against it, launched himself backwards on his hands, and catapulted himself back into Slade's gut. Nightwing kicked the relinquished staff from Slade's hands and pushed the villain's shoulders against the floor, digging the blades and contours of his back into the rough surface. With his free hand, Nightwing grabbed the edge of Slade's mask and tossed it to the ground.
Slade's face remained impassive, even unmasked. His hair was a curly white. One of his eyes was missing, and a solid black eye patch spanned across his face. He looked at Nightwing-bruises blotting his face-with indignation. Nightwing hesitated at seeing his age. This man who he had been fighting for so long, who physically matched him, was much older than he expected. But then again, what did Nightwing expect?
"It's over." Nightwing's blue eyes glanced to the shedded black and orange mask. Seeing his face changed no feeling in him for this man. "Slade, tell me where the Black Star is."
"No back story first?" He licked the crackling skin on his lips. There were spots of blood. "Not curious what I have up my sleeve?"
"I gave up trying to figure you out, Slade. I'm done talking with you. The League can deal with that."
The dark circles under Slade's eyes seemed to deepen. "Oh, Robin. You think you'll have the Justice League to return to."
"I know you're planning on targeting the Watchtower. It's over, Slade. Give up."
"No, Robin." He didn't try to push up from under the younger man's firm hold. Slade shook his head, seeming to laugh. "I'm not even close to being done with you." There was a sudden grip on Nightwing's right arm, and the former Boy Wonder cringed as he felt Slade roll and pull his arm along with him, tugging at the muscle and bone. Nightwing screamed as the arm continued to rip from its socket—a tearing, grisly noise of tendon and flesh.
With a pop, the limb fell, connected, but loose at Nightwing's side. The pain was harsh, tear-shedding. But Dick stood anyway, holding his broken arm as he started to engage Slade again. The villain shook his head and kicked Nightwing in the pit of his knees. Nightwing crumbled to the ground and landed on his broken arm. He held back the scream and rolled onto his back.
"Just stop trying. I gave up on you. You do the same. The Watchtower is dead now. I do hope none of your friends were on board. Oh wait, yes I do." Slade picked up his mask from the floor. "And even if they aren't, Robin...well, there's always Plan B."
The pain was overwhelming. Nightwing tried to flex his arm, tried to do anything with it, but all he could do was wave it limply from his shoulder. His eyes were threatening to close, and he wasn't sure whether he blacked out or if Slade turned off the lights when the whole room went dark.
"Holy mother fu-"
"Terra!" Gar called over Wally. "You can't be...you can't be here."
"You're the one that isn't supposed to be here, Beast Boy. None of you should be." Terra pointed to the door, seemingly unaware of the still breathing bodies at her feet. "You all should leave."
Raven lowered her purple eyes on the girl, stared at her for a second, and then walked past her—completely ignoring her presence. "We need a way to break through this glass without disturbing them. How did they even multiply?"
"Are you not listening to me?" Terra's voice got firmer.
Cyborg glanced at her direction and then went to Raven's side. "I...I should have known. Star Labs was researching the Black Star as a regenerative source for organs and body parts. It's able to reproduce any type of tissue at a remarkable speed. I guess that includes reproducing itself."
"There's four of them, and only one Tower. That means..." Wally shook his head.
"Terra." Raven turned back to face the blonde girl. As much as she wanted to ignore her and just get on with business, she could be potentially helpful. "How do we open the tubes?"
Her blue eyes dulled. "I can't tell you that, Raven. You guys aren't..."
"I know!" She lost her temper a bit, mad at herself for thinking Terra would help. Raven inhaled before looking at the girl again. "We aren't supposed to be here. So what? We're here. Now tell us how to open the tubes before I force them open."
"Raven, let me..." Gar touched her shoulder, but she shrugged it off. She didn't want to play Terra's game of mixed-up emotion. Raven could smell the crazy, taste it with each changing feeling pervading from Terra's subconscious. It was neither something she wanted to nor could deal with. And she wasn't about to let Gar deal with it either.
"No, Beast Boy. We need to get these things out of here, not talk with her."
"But maybe if we just..."
She knew Beast Boy was grasping at straws, that some semblance of him wanted Terra to be normal because, in a selfish way, that would make him feel less guilty. But she couldn't wait for that to happen. Not when four ticking time bombs were in front of her. "Garfield." She wanted to listen to him, but she couldn't. Raven simply did her best to try and pretend that Terra wasn't in the same room as her. "She's not going to help us. I don't think she'll even tell us Slade's plans with these things, let alone help us get rid of them."
"Titans' Tower, the Earth JLA headquarters, Titans East, and some mansion in Gotham." Terra walked up to Raven. "For now. Slade has other ones here in test tubes still growing. He hasn't identified all the spots he wants to hit yet."
Raven's mind was stuck on the first one. ...Our home? He had tried to bury it before. Terra herself had helped him invade it, but the thought of it being completely obliterated now, now after she hadn't lived there for such a long time. Now when she had finally realized that she wanted to go back to that place so, so badly... "Our Tower? He wants to attack our Tower?"
"The JLA is there." Wally pointed out. "Raven, I'm going back there and warning them. I'll call them on the communicator and give them a bit of a head start, but I got to..."
"Go, Flash. Take Jericho with you." She wanted the former Titan out of here, and soon, Wally was gone with Jericho in hand. Terra didn't move to stop him at all, and Raven raised an eyebrow in confusion. Her purple eyes went back to the tubes. "They're so small."
"Enough damage to destroy the target and the surrounding area. I'm supposed to build a wall to protect this base when Slade decides to launch it," Terra said, emotionless.
"Does he not need the energy first in order for the Black Stars to be effective?" Starfire was still a distance away from the tubes. The Tamaranean seemed almost fearful of being close to the miniature Black Stars.
"He does." Terra touched one of the tubes. "But your fight with the Sladebots should have given them enough energy. They shouldn't need much now. See the buttons there? On the side?" She pointed to the the metal platform the tubes were raised on. "That's where the coordinates are plugged in."
Our fight helped this?
Terra continued, "Slade knew you guys would come. I...I tried to stop you. Didn't I, Beast Boy? I tried to stop you guys from coming."
"How do we open the containers, Terra?" Raven bit back rage. An idea was forming in her head—a bad idea—but maybe it was worth a shot. She was worried about the energy content. Would it be too much for the small alien forms to handle? Would it cause them to blow up prematurely and kill her? She was weighing the options, Wisdom and Bravery starting to fight somewhere in Nevermore. The things did not look stable at all. She bit her lip.
Raven sighed and made a fist. She couldn't push Terra like she normally would have, but a part of her still wanted to force her to say it. Maybe if she could just manipulate some fear, it would...
"I'm done with this, Terra." Gar broke through the line up of Titans and grabbed the blonde girl's wrist. "Your wishy-washy, flip-floppingness is tiring. You're exhausting. And I don't have the time or the energy to feel guilty and sad over you right now." His green eyes blinked. "Or ever. So please. Help us, get out of the way, or fight us. I don't have time for anything in between."
The blonde opened her mouth, wanting to say something, but it soon closed again. Terra ran her fingers through her hair and grabbed at it, pulling. Starfire started to move up to her before the yellow device on her belt began to ring. "It is Dick. He's hurt." The Tamaranean didn't even turn to the others before flying down the hall, in the other direction.
It was after Starfire left that the cavern started to rumble. Terra was still grabbing at her head, ripping at clumps of her blonde hair. Gar looked to Raven, "Get Red X and Ravager out of here."
"No, Cyborg can." Raven shook her head. "I'm staying here."
Gar's fangs showed for a brief second, but the changeling nodded. "Dude, go. We got this. Get them out."
Cyborg glanced at them both before throwing Ravager over his shoulder and picking up Red X. He sprinted out of the tunnel, and Raven half-wondered if she made the right choice.
She saw him on the ground, body bloody, bruised, and broken. His arm was at an angle that she knew was not right at all, and Starfire's feet collapsed to the ground with the sudden unhappy feeling in her chest. "Dick!" She ran to him and kneeled. His face was purple and swollen, and Starfire went to wipe the sweat from his eyes.
Dick shook his head, and with his left hand tore the black mask off. "Kory...he got away."
"I do not care about Slade right now." Starfire cradled his head in her lap. "I do not even care about the Black Stars."
"Stars? Why are you...why is it plural?"
"It is no concern of yours while you are in this state." Starfire took his left arm and helped Nightwing stand. Her green eyes traced over his body. His uniform wasn't ripped, but his face was bruised and his right arm was clearly broken. She knew he had bruises underneath his uniform, and from the way Dick was breathing, he may have had a broken rib as well. "Are you well enough to stand?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. We have to go after..."
"This is the intense, crazy Robin that I thought you were trying to do the avoiding of. Let me go after Slade."
"You?" Nightwing bit back at the way his voice sounded, but Starfire knew he didn't mean it any condescending way, but just to be sure, Starfire clarified.
"I know Slade is a powerful villain that you have spent the majority of your Titans career doing the searching and fighting, but I am Tamaranean royalty. I know the tricks he uses and the skills that he employs. I am not asking for the permission, Nightwing."
She waited for him to object to that, but Dick Grayson said nothing. He looked at his arm and then frowned. "Fine. But let me help."
"Only if you believe that you can help while your arm is in that...shape." She was skeptical, but she knew what catching Slade would mean for Nightwing. "What is your plan?"
"Just leave once you get him, okay Kory?"
"Yes, of course."
Nightwing didn't know how long he had been knocked out for or where Slade ran to, but he could see the drops of blood on the floor. From the way they shone in the dim light, Starfire knew they were still wet. He hadn't been gone for long. "This way."
The drops of blood led to another wall, and Nightwing seemed to want to turn around before Starfire raised a fist and punched the wall straight through. "Cyborg is not the only one who can do the breaking down of the walls." She cracked her knuckles and then wrapped an arm around Nightwing to support him down the continuing hallway.
After they walked for about two minutes down, Nightwing took his weight off Starfire and walked further down alone. "Slade!" He called once he was away from Starfire. "This isn't over!"
There was nothing but his echoing voice down the hallway, but the blood was still marking the ground. Slade was here.
Starfire hesitated before flying up and behind a hanging light. She watched as Nightwing looked back to her and gave her a thumbs-up. Good. She was hidden.
Nightwing continued his walk down, unrelenting with his shouts, and every so often, wincing as his right arm swung a bit too harshly. He was hurt, yet he continued on and on. Starfire watched patiently, biting her lip.
Her green eyes widened as an explosive fell right by Nightwing—a flash grenade, nothing damaging-but she knew Nightwing was blinded. She shifted against her hiding place behind the light. The flash grenade hadn't affected her—not in the same way it did Nightwing. Her eyes readjusted quicker, and through her strained vision, she could see a man emerge and punch Nightwing in the stomach. Nightwing groaned and fell back, on purpose or not, Starfire didn't know.
Slade was there, baiting, talking, saying something about how he'd fallen like his parents had, how everyone he ever loved had abandoned him or died. How his only real connection was to a Bat, and even then he was just a tool for a mission no one really understood.
She had to restrain herself when he started talking about the Titans and kicking him in the side. To Slade, they were a useless bunch of teenagers, too high off hormones and the adrenaline of being 'heroes' to be anything but a nuisance to him. And like a fly or a rat, he was happy to finally be rid of them.
"What do you have to say for yourself?" Slade was rolling Nightwing over, touching the hero's cheeks between his fingers. "I have a few suggestions. Say you're a helpless lost boy that should have never slighted me. Say you're a worthless excuse as a leader and hero, and I will end you quickly."
"I will." Nightwing slurred, spitting blood and saliva. Starfire was holding back the starbolts from her hands. "Just tell me how to disable the Black Star."
Slade laughed. "A detective to the end. I see. You just want to figure out the case." His eye behind the metal stared at Nightwing's, waiting for a flinch or intimation to prove otherwise. He didn't see it, and Slade smirked behind his mask. "You do not deserve that satisfaction."
Slade raised a fist over Nightwing's head, a powerful hook, but it never came. Nightwing rolled to the right, over his broken arm and avoided Slade's harsh blow. Starfire—seeing their plan crumbling apart—flew from her hiding spot and, before Slade could see, hit the villain in the back of the neck. Slade cringed and fell to the ground, out cold.
"He has a high resistance to physical attacks, abnormal." Nightwing fumbled through something on his belt. He took it out to reveal a small bottle. "This will keep him unconscious for hours. Starfire, take him away."
She stared at Nightwing then to Slade. There was one detail they failed to fully discuss. "Where?"
"Where? The Watch..." Nightwing hesitated. "Blackgate. It's a prison in Gotham. I'll call Oracle and she'll find you and help."
Starfire didn't move. She saw how strained Nightwing looked, the blood from his lips and his broken ribs making his breathing seem haggard and vile. But she nodded her head, went up to him, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He winced from the pain, and Starfire moved back. "Call Raven to heal you, please. I will be back as soon as I can."
Nightwing poured the liquid from the bottle down Slade's throat. "Go."
Raven blocked out whatever Terra and Gar were talking about. It wasn't too hard. She was used to blocking things out, and the other things grating at her thoughts didn't mind having all of the attention. The rumblings continued, and instead of trying to placate the girl, Gar was getting her more and more furious.
She watched to see if the glass tubes were cracking, but they weren't. The Black Stars continued to glow and throb. She was running out of time and options. Something buzzed in her ear, and her hand went to her belt before she realized that it wasn't her Titans communicator. "Not a good time."
"Raven, it's Wally. I'm back at the Tower, but..."
"Wally, I can't right now." She had lost track of Starfire, Dick was probably seriously hurt somewhere, and Gar had become eerily silent. "This isn't..."
"The Black Star left the base. We didn't stop it."
She knew that. She knew it was gone and maybe... Raven shook her head and walked away from Gar and Terra. "The WatchTower?"
"It's falling, Raven. The Black Star collided with it and then just...went off." Wally exhaled. "No other external damage to other satellites, but the League's expecting a lot of chaos when the pieces start to...make impact."
"Tell me someone is trying to stop it."
"Supes out in space now with Jon. But that's only two guys. Others are holding back and trying to catch it as it hits the earth's atmosphere but... Raven, we could use some help. That's only if those other things haven't been causing problems."
"They have." She hung up on the Flash and looked at Gar and Terra. Gar went up to her, and she must have seemed off, for even Terra stopped whatever quakes she was producing. The blonde seemed actually concerned, and Raven didn't know if she should let her emotions loose and punish this girl who let this happen. No, don't.
She turned to Gar instead, and let her hands shake before saying, "The Watchtower is..."
Her voice cut off as the ground shook from no tremor produced by Terra. Bits of the ceiling rained down on them, and she wondered how close it fell, how many people and homes it destroyed as remnants of the satellite crashed and burned its way to Earth. They were supposed to be protectors, and now their base had killed many innocent people. Just in a matter of seconds. Raven swallowed. "I have to take care of this."
"It wasn't supposed to happen this way." Terra shook her heads before sitting on the ground."I...I just wanted to help."
Help who? She didn't know what had happened to Terra to think that this was supposed to help anyone but Slade. Raven watched the girl crumbling on the floor. "Terra, what's the radius of the blasts from the smaller Black Stars?"
The blond was crying, and Raven hesitated before opening the girl's emotions and taking away the sadness and guilt. Please, think, Terra. Help me. Terra seemed to stiffen and wiped her eyes. "I...I think Slade said the blast radius was small. These aren't nearly as powerful. But he said...he said I'm supposed to build walls to protect the site when one hits Titans Tower."
"Build it." Raven walked away from her, maintaining and stabilizing Terra's emotions. "And open the tubes. Beast Boy will get you out of here." She didn't let herself look at the changeling. A part of her wanted to drag him aside and kiss him again, but she didn't. Terra was a pile of emotional wreckage, even with Raven's powers as a crutch, and she thought the action would just worry him more.
But apparently, she didn't need to do anything to worry him. Gar's eyes visibly widened as Terra pressed some hidden code on each tube, her shoulders seeming less heavy. Gar watched glass tube after glass tube rise before turning back to Raven. "What are you thinking?"
She ignored him at first. "Thanks, Terra. And I'm getting rid of the problem before it causes any more damage."
"Getting rid of it how?" Gar forced her to look at him, grabbing her wrist. "Raven? Raven? What are you doing?"
"I'll be fine." She smiled, only a little, and tried to use her empathetic abilities on him, but Beast Boy noticed. He shook his head to try and get her out of it, and Raven relented from sudden guilt. "Sorry."
"You shouldn't have done that." He held back a scowl. "You don't have to do that to me, Raven." She was quiet, and Gar continued but dropped her arm, "You can just be honest with me."
If I'm honest with you, you'll try to stop me. "These are going to trigger soon. We don't have time to sit and watch the world rot. That isn't Slade's game. That was never it. He's trying to destroy the league and all heroes, slowly watching us turn into nothing. I'm leaving one of them here to get rid of this place." She hesitated and watched to see how he would react. He didn't. "And then Terra will build her little walls and cause this place to collapse once you are all out of here. Make sure she makes them thick enough."
Gar shook his head, "You're going to try and teleport them out of here...aren't you?"
"Can't we just...I don't know, have Green Lantern come and put them in his ring?"
"That might set them off immediately."
Gar scoffed, "And yours won't? What if that triggers them?"
She didn't know how to answer that. They didn't have the time to wait for another hero to come or to argue about this. This was the best plan she could think of right now, even though it terrified her. "My powers aren't...earthly. The Black Stars might not be able to feed off them."
"But you don't know that."
That burning, empty feeling was returning, and Raven realized she really wanted to kiss him again. But neither of them made a move towards each other. Gar looked over his shoulder, to Terra, and then glanced back to Raven, seeming incredibly dissatisfied with the situation. She swallowed before taking a step back towards the tubes and picking up one of the throbbing bundles in her hands. It felt mushy, sticky—like a clump of glowing chop meat—and Raven scowled before grabbing the next one and the next one slowly. "That thing you said before, Gar, I..."
"Don't answer me right now." He looked at Terra and then the Black Stars in her hands. "Just go, do your thing, and we'll just see each other again, back at the Tower."
Raven nodded. "Right. Back at the Tower." She wanted to wait for Gar to leave before she tried, but seeing him cemented there, purple sneakers seemingly unmoving on the ground, she exhaled, waved a short goodbye to Terra, and left for home.
I should be doing real work. Sigh. Don't care. Leave a review and thanks all for reading!