"Good evening. This is News 7, Jump City's number one evening news. I'm Tricia Hasegawa filling in for Amy Lestition. In tonight's top story the crime rate in Jump City has once again increased at a double digit rate, for the 27th month in a row."
Starfire was seated in the middle of the crescent shaped couch, watching the news broadcast with an otherworldly devotion. Her only companion in the common room was Raven, who was seated in her usual spot, on the far end of the coach, sipping some herbal tea while she read a book written in ancient Sumerian. Robin was in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner as it was his turn. Cyborg and Beast Boy had gone out to check out some new video arcade.
"To discuss this troubling topic we take you to Jump City University, where reporter Chad Buckley is with Professor Janice Sheridan, from the school of social studies … Chad?"
The screen switched from the studio to a conference room at the university.
"Thanks Tricia. The rising crime rate is indeed one that troubles all citizens, and to shed some light on the situation we have Professor Sheridan with us … Dr. Sheridan, good evening and thanks for taking some time to share with us."
"Thanks Chad. The skyrocketing crime rate is troubling everyone. What is difficult to determine is the root cause of the epidemic of lawlessness."
"Dr. Sheridan, most people think that the rising crime rate is tied directly to the economic crisis that grips this country. Are you saying that it isn't quite so simple?"
"Absolutely. While increased poverty can be a cause of increased crime, what my department's research has determined is that the cause goes beyond that. Our society is going through a time of malaise, of hopelessness."
"Hopelessness? Would you care to expound on that?"
"Of course. Take our local superheroes, the Teen Titans."
Raven dog eared her book, closing it as her attention switched to the news broadcast.
"When the Titans first appeared on the scene five years ago, they were a sensation. They gave the citizenry hope, hope that things would change. And they were very effective at apprehending criminals. Unfortunately, the criminals they arrested often escaped convictions based on technicalities. And those who were sentenced often escaped from prison, especially the so called super villains. This has rocked the faith the citizenry has in our civic leadership and to a lesser degree in our protectors, including the police and even the Titans."
"So what does this mean for the average citizen, professor, for the average 'Joe six pack' to coin a phrase?"
"As is often the case with complex problems, Chad, the average Joe expects simple solutions for such problems. Case in point: the rising popularity of Patriot Party presidential candidate Adam Cutler. Mr. Cutler's platform consists of simple platitudes that do not address the real issues we are facing: structural unemployment, racial problems, falling wages, cultural issues, globalization, etc."
"So you're saying that Cutler is promoting an oversimplified solution to our problems?"
"Yes, he is. He's basically telling the electorate what they want to hear, and what they want to hear is that he has simple solutions that will work. He also appeals to their sense of exceptionalism, that we are a special people, superior to others. This is a common tactic that has been used repeatedly throughout history."
"And how does this all tie into the rising crime rate?"
"It ties in because we don't want to face the reality of where we are at. That there are no simple solutions to our problems. These are problems that go beyond even the ability of the Teen Titans to solve."
The news reporter chuckled.
"Careful there, professor. The Titans are our local heroes, everyone loves them."
The professor smiled.
"No one appreciates the Teen Titans more than I do, Chad. Their selfless devotion to the citizens of our city is without equal. But simply apprehending criminals won't solve our problems, it's dealing with the symptoms and not addressing the root cause of our problems …"
The TV suddenly was turned off.
"I've heard enough." Robin grumbled. "What does she think it would be like if we weren't out there? The police would be overwhelmed. No one would be safe."
Raven stood up from her place at the couch.
" She has a point, Robin. We need to address these issues at the core. That doesn't mean that arresting criminals is irrelevant, far from it, but something else needs to be done."
"And what does that mean? What would you do, Raven?"
"I don't know, Robin. I don't have a simple solution. What I do know is that what we as a society are doing isn't working anymore."
"Only because we aren't doing it right. Look at all the criminals who are released early because of prison overcrowding. We need to build more jails. And then there are those who get sent to psychiatric wards or worse, who walk because of a technicality."
"Those 'technicalities' exist to protect innocent citizens from overzealous law enforcers."
"Are you saying that I'm overzealous, Raven? That I'm unfair?"
Raven turned and walked away from Robin, heading off to her room.
"I asked you a question, Raven!"
The sorceress stopped and turned around.
"I recall The Beast incident, when you were prepared to arrest Beast Boy on circumstantial evidence. You weren't even willing to wait for me to wake up to hear what I had to say. You assumed that he hurt me, even though there was absolutely no evidence. This was with a teammate, a friend that you knew. You badgered him and nearly caused a tragedy."
"So I made a mistake."
Raven stared at the floor, and then looked back at her friend.
"That's why we have these rules, Robin. So we don't make mistakes. Yes, they make our job harder, but that's the way it has to be."
"Of course, if Cutler and his patriot party win the elections, there is a good chance that our jobs will become a lot easier. You've heard about the legislation he wishes to pass. Legislation which will take usin the wrong direction."
"So what do you propose Raven? The status quo isn't working."
Raven began to walk away again.
"Like I already said, I don't have any easy answers, Robin. It's late, and I don't want to discuss this anymore. Good night."
Raven left the room without looking back. Starfire saw Robin tense up.
"Typical cop out." He fumed at the now closed sliding door. "Sometimes, she just … perplexes me."
"Robin, please do not be angry."
The boy wonder turned to his girl friend.
"You know how I feel about this, Starfire. Criminals belong in jail, not in country club medical wards and especially not back out on the streets. And I'm a firm believer in Occam's razor: the simple solution is the best solution."
The Princess took her boyfriend's arm and led him to the couch, where they both sat down. Robin stared out the window at the illuminated city that lay before them. It shimmered in the twinkling glow of millions of individual lights, some static and many in motion. It was complex, like a hive. Most of the people out there were law abiding citizens, good people, but a small minority were not and it was his job to arrest them and send them to jail.
"Star, how do you handle criminals on Tamaran?"
The red head leaned in to her beau, resting her head on his shoulder.
"It is very simple. If someone is accused of a crime, he or she is brought before the grand ruler, who judges and sentences them. We do not have your complex system of rules regarding arrests and the procurement of evidence. The accuser presents evidence and if the grand ruler deems the evidence to be sufficient then the accused must prove his innocence. The entire process takes perhaps 10 of your earthly minutes."
"Does your system work?"
"Well … the crime rate on Tamaran is very low …"
"Are your jails overflowing?"
"No, we do not have prisons for long term sentences. There are but two forms of punishment for crimes. The most common is exile …"
"Like when you banished your sister?"
"Correct. The other punishment is death. The form of punishment is determined by the grand ruler."
"So you could have sentenced Blackfire to death?"
"Yes, I had the option. There are many on Tamaran who think I was too lenient with her. Some believe that I was influenced by your own earthly customs."
Robin appeared to be lost in thought.
"Robin? What are you thinking?"
He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
"That I like the Tamaranian way."
Starfire snuggled up with him.
"I do not believe that Raven would agree."
"She's from Azarath. It's a pacifist society and it explains her views. She forgets sometimes that Earth isn't Azarath, that we're different. I still remember the first words I ever heard her say: Sometimes, fighting isn't the answer."
"There is much wisdom in Raven's philosophy, Robin."
"But this isn't Azarath. I agree with Cutler. If we simplify the criminal justice process we'll be able to clean up the streets. Isn't that what good, decent, law abiding citizen's deserve? To be able to go out and not worry about being mugged or having criminals invade their homes?"
"Yes, Robin. That is what people want. They are fed up with the crime."
Robin gave her a loving squeeze.
"Just you wait and see, everything is going to turn out just fine."
-( two months later )-
It was Election Day and mercifully the city's criminal element decided to take the day off. This wasn't surprising as the past two months had been politically tumultuous as the popularity of the Patriot party had skyrocketed. Polls had indicated the Mr. Cutler would be elected President, easily defeating the mainstream party candidates. What was unexpected was that the Patriot Party was winning seat after seat in both the House of Representatives as well as the Senate and was threatening to claim majorities in both chambers.
After returning from their only mission of the day the Titans stayed glued to the television, watching the election results slowly unfurl across the country. Robin, Cyborg and Beast Boy voted for the first time as they were now all 18 or older. Raven and Starfire, who were not citizens, did not vote but spent the afternoon and evening watching the election results.
Starfire watched with the curiosity of a child. The concept of democratic elections was foreign to her as Tamaran was an absolute monarchy. Her attitude toward the event was somewhat naïve, and she clapped every time a candidate was projected to win one office or another, as if it was some sort of TV popularity contest like those shows where amateurs would sing or dance.
Raven watched the screen more grimly and was joined by Beast Boy, who looked glum.
"It looks like they're gonna win majorities in both houses." He announced to no one in particular.
"I think you're right. I don't like this Garfield, not one bit."
Starfire perked up.
"Why are you concerned, Raven? Are they not the Patriot Party? It is my understanding that patriots are people who love their country. They only wish to solve the problems we face."
Raven did not reply and continued to stare at the TV.
"You worry too much, Raven. Cutler is promising the moon, but he won't be able to deliver. His party will lose the midterm election and he'll be a lame duck and won't be reelected." The Tin Man added.
"I hope you're right Cyborg, I hope you're right."
As they continued to watch the election results the TV network announced that they were going to Cutler's campaign headquarters where he was about to give his victory speech.
The screen switched to a stage with a large podium. Behind the podium the wall was draped in American and Patriot Party flags. A large banner with the words "Order, Prosperity, Purity" hung directly behind the podium.
Adam Cutler was a relatively young man. He was handsome and had an athletic build and the crowd roared its approval as he appeared on stage while a religious hymn was played over the loud speakers. He took his place at the podium and acknowledged the crowd with a wave of a hand. He then adjusted the microphone and addressed the audience.
"Today is the dawn of a new America! Of a strong America, one that is not ashamed of its heritage and is willing to stand for what it believes in."
The crowd roared.
"I promised to deal with the wave of crime that is choking our beautiful land and that will be my first priority when I take office. I promised to eradicate these cockroaches, the vermin that plagues our fair nation. I promise that justice will be swift and punishment will be appropriate. There will be no more coddling of criminals, no more charges dropped on technicalities. My opponents claimed that it would be impossible to incarcerate all the criminals, but I'll find a place for them, even if it's in tents in the middle of the desert."
The crowd roared its approval.
"And to help expedite this process, I'm inviting all Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, and Prosecutors to a crime eradication summit to be held before I take office. I am also inviting all superhero groups to the summit, and this includes both the Justice League and the Teen Titans."
Once again, the crowd cheered.
"Smile America, today is a great day. We will eradicate the cancer that plagues us and this time the vermin won't have anywhere to hide. We will take our country back! Americans First! Hold your head high, my fellow citizens, for once again our greatness will shine like the sun and the world will once again respect us."
"America will triumph!"
The camera switched back to the studio.
"And there you have it. Adam Cutler, with his message of hope and renewal has captivated the nation, winning with an unprecedented 80% of the vote. We are also projecting supermajorities in both the House and the Senate. Adam Cutler has been given a full mandate, a carte blanche to remake America into his own vision …"
The TV shut off. Raven fingered the remote control in her hand.
"I'm sorry; I couldn't bear to hear another word." She apologized as she stood up.
Before she left the room an incoming call came through. The video screen came to life and everyone saw that it was Roger Messersmith, Cutler's campaign director.
"Good evening, Titans."
"Good evening, Mr. Messersmith. We weren't expecting a call from you so soon."
The man smiled.
"We move fast, Robin. President Elect Cutler's is going to keep his promises and he will do it quickly. We're scheduling the crime eradication summit for this weekend, and we would be delighted if your team could attend."
Robin beamed his approval.
"We'd be happy to attend, all five of us."
Messersmith smiled again before replying.
"Actually, only you and Cyborg are invited."
"We are? Is there a problem?"
"None at all. You do recall one of our campaign mottos: "Americans first!" Only American born citizens are invited to the summit."
"I'm American!" Beast Boy protested.
"Well, maybe. You were born in Africa, if I'm not mistaken."
"But my parents were Americans, that makes me American born!"
"Yes, that is your story. Since we can't confirm your claim, I'm afraid we'll have to exclude you …"
"What do you mean you can't confirm my claim? I have a US Passport! I'm an American citizen!"
"I'm sorry Mr. Logan, but rules are rules. And that goes for Miss Raven and Miss Starfire, who are both foreigners. And if I'm not mistaken, Miss Starfire is a member of the ruling family of Tamaran. This won't be a problem, will it, Robin?"
The Boy Wonder smiled.
"Not at all, Cyborg and I will be more than happy to attend."
"Wonderful! We look forward to seeing you this Friday, Robin. I think you are going to love President Elect Cutler's vision for law enforcement. I will forward you the details. I need to sign off now; we're a busy team these days."
"Good bye, Mr. Messersmith."
"Goodbye, Robin. America will triumph!"
The video and audio connection was severed. Beast Boy was still livid.
"I am so an American! What the hell is he talking about?"
Raven quietly left the common room.
"And so it begins." She murmured to herself.
-( scene break )-
I realize that the overall plot of this story will upset some readers. The point of this story isn't so much the political landscape but rather how it will affect the Titans. They are a family, yet they will be affected by the change that is coming. How will they react? Will they stay together?