Raven heaved a huge sigh as she entered her room. She waved her right hand and several candles lit up by themselves, illuminating the room in their warm, soothing glow. While serenity pervaded her room, Raven's mind was in turmoil. She parted her drapes and peered at the night time skyline, which shimmered in the dark.
Raven, like all of her teammates, was now an adult. She was 19 years old and had physically changed little since her teenage years. She liked to think that she had matured, but hearing about Jinx witnessing Mad Mod's murder unnerved her. The pink haired enchantress had returned to her life of crime, after ending her brief relationship with Kid Flash. Part of Raven wanted to agree with Robin, to dismiss Jinx's testimony as unreliable or even false. But deep in her heart she knew it was true.
Her train of thought was interrupted by a loud knock on her door.
"Raven? Are you in there?"
She opened the door with another gesture of her hand. Beast Boy entered and the door slid shut behind him. Unlike Raven he had changed. He was now slightly taller and more muscular. What remained unchanged was his happy, go lucky demeanor, which was absent at the moment. He walked up to Raven's bed, sitting down on its edge. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and cradling his face with his hands.
"They were scared, Raven, I could feel it with my animal senses."
He sat up straight, lifting his head.
"Is is really true? Are they really murdering supervillains?"
Raven sat down next to the changeling.
"Yes, Garfield, they are … and it won't stop there."
"You mean …"
"Yes, they will eventually come after us. Once the supervillains are all gone, we'll be the next threat to eliminate."
"I was afraid you were going to say that … so … what can we do?"
"Long term … I don't know yet … short term … we need to be ready to leave before they come for us."
Beast Boy stared at the floor.
"When will that happen?"
Raven took his hand and squeezed it.
"I don't know, but I'll be ready … and you can come with me … if you want to."
Beast Boy returned the hand squeeze.
"Well, maybe it won't come to that, right?"
"Maybe … but Garfield … don't tell the others about this, not even Cyborg. If Robin finds out, he'll blow a fuse."
He nodded his head in understanding.
"Yeah, he would … is there anything I can do?"
She released his hand.
"Actually there is … I need you to ask Cyborg to make us some holorings. Tell him that we're going to go out on dates and we want to do it anonymously."
He snickered halfheartedly.
"He's gonna seriously rib me. He's actually been teasing me about you lately…"
"Let me guess, he's sung the kissing in a tree song?"
"How'd you guess?" He laughed.
"This is Cyborg we're talking about, after all, I expected nothing less … which is good … it will provide cover for us."
He leaned towards Raven.
"You're really serious about this, aren't you?"
"I just want to be prepared."
"You realize that we'll have to date to make it seem real."
"I know … and I don't mind." She smiled at him. "But I get to pick the movies."
He smiled back at her.
"You got a deal."
"Good, but one more thing … no kissing. We just go out."
"Aw, you're no fun."
-( scene break )-
Four months later.
There hadn't been a sign of a Supervillain in all of California in almost three months. More conventional crime was at an all time low as any perps who were arrested and convicted, which was virtually all of them, were being shipped to the new prison city that had been opened in central Nevada.
Robin continued to follow leads for the Injustice League, but kept hitting dead ends. At Starfire's insistence they resumed their dating life with a vengeance, and they were going out every other night, and unlike Raven and the changeling they did not disguise themselves with holorings.
A positive side effect of this arrangement was that Robin was more relaxed and the environment at the Tower once again began to resemble the "good old days", which came as a relief for all, especially for Raven.
The sorceress was in the garage, helping Cyborg perform some sort of upgrade to the T-Car's suspension, something about new technology shock absorbers. She knew the upgrade would make no real difference to the car's performance, but the task was almost therapeutical for the Tin Man, and it gave her an opportunity to spend some "quality" time with her friend, plus she actually enjoyed working on the T-Car. While she was turning wrenches she was able to forget the troubles of the world outside the Tower.
Cutler's popularity continued to soar. He gave long winded speeches on TV on a daily basis. Raven forced herself to watch them with Robin and Starfire. Beast Boy always made himself scarce when the speeches were broadcast, usually playing videogames with Cyborg in the new game room. For some reason there wasn't a speech scheduled for that day, which was a relief for Raven.
To his credit, Cutler had been speaking the past month about his economic policies which would increase employment and reduce reliance on foreign imports. Still, as she mounted a new shock absorber, she had a sense of dread in her stomach, the feeling of the calm before the storm.
She knew that it was almost lunch time and that Robin and Starfire were preparing the meal. She was starting to feel hungry and Cyborg tossed a wrench back into the toolbox, apparently reading her mind.
"Lunch time. Let's wash up and get some grub." He said as he headed to the sink, where he began to wash his hands.
Raven slipped out of her mechanic's coveralls, stripping down to her leotard. She washed her hands and as she was slipping her cape back on the Tower's alarms went off. They both took off running to the common room.
An unexpected sight greeted them when they arrived. Robin and Starfire were both staring at the screen, both were pale with shock. Beast Boy made eye contact with her, and from the look on his face he was clearly horrified with what was on the screen.
Raven looked at the screen and gasped. A giant crater dominated the screen, perfectly round in its symmetry. It wasn't clear what had happened. And then she read the caption on the bottom of the screen:
"Brotherhood of Evil destroys Atlanta with a black hole machine."
Raven couldn't hear the news anchor; all she heard was white noise, a buzzing sound. She shook her head and was able to hear the woman.
"At 1:33 local time the Brotherhood of Evil activated a black hole machine they managed to smuggle into downtown Atlanta. The radius of total destruction was 20 miles and the crater is 5 miles deep. It is believed that everyone within a 23 mile radius died as they were sucked into the artificial black hole. At this point it is believed that as many as 4 million people died in this cowardly and unprovoked attack."
Raven, being an empath, was beginning to feel the collective shock of Jump City's near 2 million residents, who were also watching the news. She fought back as it threatened to overwhelm her but the room began to spin around her. She felt her legs turn rubbery and she began to fall. She felt a pair of strong arms catch her and heard Beast Boy shouting "put her on the couch."
She opened her eyes and saw Robin's face above.
"You'll be OK Raven, just relax." She heard Dick's soothing voice as he gently deposited her on the crescent shaped couch.
The spinning finally began to subside and Raven sat up, clutching her head in her hands.
"Are you OK, Rave?" She heard Beast Boy's voice. "You look like you wanna hurl."
"I'll live." She croaked as she leaned back against the couch. The spinning around her finally came to a halt and that was when she once again became aware of the news anchor on the TV.
"… the Congress and Senate have granted special temporary emergency powers to the President. Effective immediately the entire nation is under martial law and a 24 curfew is immediately in effect until further notice. The President will be contacting the Teen Titans, who have dealt with the Brotherhood of Evil in the past …"
Suddenly, it hit Raven. Cutler had been given emergency powers, powers he would never relinquish. That meant only one thing.
It was over. Cutler now had absolute authority and power.
He was now the nation's dictator.
-( scene break)-
Two months later.
The past two months had been a whirlwind. Cutler summoned the Titans to the Capital, where they were received by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who grilled them on everything they knew about the Brotherhood of Evil.
The Titans attended a few of Cutler's official events; including a speech before a joint session of congress. Much to their surprise, there were legislators missing that day, and Raven later found out that they were the minority Republican and Democrat remnant, and they were boycotting the President's session in protest of him being awarded dictatorial powers. In the end it didn't matter as the camera avoided the empty section of the chamber and focused on Cutler instead.
He gave a powerful speech on Americans standing united against the supervillains who clearly remained a threat even if they had moved their operations outside of the country. He promised to take the fight to them and make them pay tenfold for the outrage they had committed on the peace loving American people. He called upon young men and women to volunteer for military service, telling them that the victims in Atlanta were screaming for justice.
After a few days the Titans were sent home. Robin was frustrated that the military appeared to be uninterested in working with the Titans. They were excessively polite, but in the end the message was obvious: don't call us, we'll call you.
Robin appeared to be broken. While no one blamed him for the catastrophe it was more than evident that he blamed himself. It would be weeks before he snapped out of his funk. It was obvious from Starfire's demeanor that she was worried about her boyfriend.
Slowly the curfew was reduced and now it was from 11 PM to 6 AM, across the entire country and while normalcy had yet to return to people's daily lives at least the country was getting back into a routine.
Somehow, the networks were able to procure footage of Atlanta's destruction, which was played over and over on the TV, which the Titans could no longer bear to watch. The footage served to enrage a large portion of the population. Many had relatives or friends in the Atlanta area and that only added fuel to the fire.
Raven had yet to tell anyone about Slade, though she was now considering telling Beast Boy about her informal alliance with their nemesis. She had not been in touch with him since Atlanta was destroyed. While there was value in staying in touch with Slade she still found the arrangement to be unsettling, if not outright foolish. Now though, after all that had happened, she felt that perhaps she should contact him.
After returning to her room and locking the door she turned on her computer and using the datapad, which she kept concealed in a transdimensional pocket in her room, she obtained the ever changing URL and login. Once again she opened a browser and typed in the information.
This time after logging in, instead of a video, there was a large flashing button with the word "Chat" on it. She paused for a moment, deliberating what to do next. Biting her lower lip, she clicked on the button. A new window opened, displaying Slade's masked face.
"It's about time you contacted me. Did you have fun in Washington, Raven? I saw you on the news."
"What do you think?"
"I'll take that as a no. As you can see, I was correct in my prediction about Cutler becoming a dictator."
"Yes, you were. What do you know about Atlanta? Beast Boy has tried to contact the Doom Patrol, but he can't reach them."
"Ah yes, Mento's team. They can be hard to reach. As for Atlanta, I seriously doubt that the Brotherhood of Evil was behind it, as they have made no demands."
"Cutler says they have …"
"Did he show your team the evidence?"
"No, he said that there was a simple message send by the Brotherhood, demanding that Cutler surrender to them."
"Raven, Raven, we both know that is not how the Brotherhood operates. If they were truly behind the attack, they would have come out in public and gloated about it. But there is something else to consider: the target. Why chose Atlanta? Why not New York, Gotham, Metropolis, Chicago, Los Angeles or even Jump City? While not the Capital itself?"
The sorceress understood where he was going.
"Because Atlanta was expendable." She droned in her monotone.
"Precisely, child. It was big enough to scare the citizenry but redundant enough that its loss is only a minor setback."
Raven's eyes opened wide as the revelation sank in.
"Cutler did it."
"Yes, and it was brilliantly executed. Just as the populace was getting comfortable with him, he upped the ante. The people almost begged him to become a temporary dictator. And if you thought things were bad before, with prisoners being murdered and civil liberties curtailed, it's only going to become much worse. In fact, my informants tell me that your dear Beast Boy will be receiving an unpleasant surprise today."
"What! They wouldn't dare arrest him! On what charges?"
"Charges? They don't need to accuse him of anything. Have you forgotten that Habeas Corpus was suspended? They can detain anyone they want, for as long as they want, for any reason. But do not worry Raven; they aren't coming for him, at least not yet."
"Then what is it?" She growled.
"You'll find out. Contact me again tonight, say at 11 PM your time. We can talk all about it then."
"No Slade, tell me now."
He chuckled again.
"Well, well, the rumors are true; you do care for the green one. And here I thought that your dates were merely staged to fool your friends. To be honest Raven, I am uncertain myself. All I know is that the State Department sent him a courier package that should arrive today, if it hasn't already arrived. You should hurry Raven, you might miss it."
The video connection was cut and Raven was logged off the website, which displayed "Remember, 11 PM tonight, and bring the changeling, it's time he learned the truth."
Raven slammed her laptop shut and teleported herself to the common room. Starfire and Robin were sitting on the couch, engaged in a heavy petting session.
"Where's Beast Boy!" Raven shouted.
The Boy Wonder and the Princess almost hit the ceiling, as they thought they were alone.
"He and Cyborg, they went together to do the receiving of some packages from the government." Starfire replied.
"Gee Raven, you really gave us quite a scare, we didn't hear you come in." Robin added as the sound of the elevator doors opening echoed in the room.
"Whatever." She replied as she turned to the lift, from which Beast Boy and Cyborg emerged.
"Cyborg, what did they send us today?" Robin asked.
The tin man tossed a small package at the Boy Wonder.
"Your usual box of official papers. But BB got something today too."
Raven felt her blood freeze as Beast Boy waved a thin manila envelope in the air.
"Beast Boy, what did they send you?" Starfire asked.
"I dunno, it's from the State Department."
Robin cleared his throat.
"I've been working with Messersmith to clear up the issue with Beast Boy's citizenship. He told me last night that it's been resolved and that should be the official paperwork in Beast Boy's hands."
The changeling grinned as he ripped open the envelope and pulled out several pages of official State Department correspondence. He quickly glanced at the cover page while he smiled. Suddenly, his smile turned into a frown and Raven had to stifle as gasp. Beast Boy turned red with anger and threw the paperwork onto the floor, after which he stomped out of the room. Robin, Starfire and Cyborg stood immobilized, not knowing what had just happened. Raven recovered and picked up the sheaf of papers and began to read the cover letter out loud.
"Dear Mr. Logan: We have reviewed the status of your claim to United States citizenship."
She paused before continuing.
"We are sorry to inform you that your claim had been denied. Because of your service to the country you will be granted the status of resident alien and avoid deportation. Please complete the following forms and …"
Raven had to summon all of her willpower to contain and control her anger. Her face also turned red.
"They can't do this to him. It's not fair!"
Raven dropped the paperwork and ran after Beast Boy.
-( scene break )-
Thanks again for all the reviews.
There is one thing I want to make clear: This isn't a "Conservatives vs. Liberals" story. Dictators come in all shapes and flavors. Some are right wing, some are left wing. I have made a point of avoiding describing Cutler's politics, because they are irrelevant to the story.
I also apologize for my remark last week about Fox News. While I find their form of journalism to be heavily biased towards right wing politics, it's unfair to characterize its viewers as Fascists, even if many of them might be.
One more note: I need to get back to my other story: Deathstroke the Terminator, so there won't be any updates to this story until after the weekend.
And, before I go, I have a shout out:
Sir Alwick has been working on a fantastic story: The Crime of Passion. I can't recommend it enough. Not only is the plot superb, but Sir Alwick simply writes great prose. He can't seem to write a bad sentence! You have to read this story, you won't regret it.