I claim no ownership rights to any of the works of Rumiko Takahashi or Kosuke Fujishima, and certainly not anything owned by Warner Bros.


In another rocky chamber, much more expansive than the one where he had knelt before his master Trigon, Slade stood against one wall looking out across the rough floor. As with the first it was lit only by the rivers of lava running through it, and the radiant heat would have had any normal human prostrate and gasping in minutes. But Slade ignored it as he looked out across the shadowed floor, luxuriating one long, last moment in the power he'd been granted before raising his arms like a symphony conductor calling for a crescendo. His voice deep, he intoned, "Rise!"

Explosions rocked the cavern, hole after hole blown in the floor, and from the holes rose his army: demons like flickering red man-sized match flames reversed to taper to a point on the floor, given arms tapering to handless pointed tips and wavering dark eyes. The explosions continued as rank after rank formed, until the cavern floor was filled with hundreds of the flame demons.

Slade shouted out, "You all know the day! You all know your targets! Now, march!"

Instantly, the army broke up, scores after scores breaking away from the mass to fly through the ceiling lost in darkness, until only several score were left floating before Slade, waiting.

Without a word, Slade turned and lumbered toward the passageway leading to the surface. It was time to collect his master's errant daughter.

/oOo\

The automated raft docked at Titans' Island, and the team stepped off to stride up the slight incline to their T-shaped headquarters — all except Raven. She was still unable to walk, tremors running through her body as she fought the summons bred into her soul by her 'father'. Instead she was being carried by her Black teammate Cyborg, one half-machine arm under her cape- and leotard-covered shoulders and the other under her bare, gray-toned legs, her head resting on his mechanics-covered shoulder.

"I don't understand," Raven murmured as they approached the front entrance. "It's too early, I was born in the evening. We should have had all day for fun."

Robin leaned over so that the optical scanner could verify his identity. As the line of blue light crawled up across his eyes, he asked, "Where were you born?"

"Tokyo ... oh, I forgot the time difference, it's evening in Japan. I'm so stupid!"

"No, just acclimated," Robin disagreed as the door slid open.

The five teenagers entered and quickly passed through the common room to turn into a hallway toward the storage rooms and garage.

Raven lifted her head from Cyborg's shoulder to look around. She asked, "Where are we going?"

"A special room we've prepared," Robin replied. "Since we learned Trigon is coming we've been making plans, we're ready for him."

"Wait!" Raven cried out. "Wait, we need to go to my room first, I have something there for you, to help."

The others exchanged glances and Robin shrugged. "The signal's already gone out and the perimeter alarm's quiet," he said, "we should have time. Cyborg, hand her to Starfire."

"Yes, give me friend Raven, I shall keep her safe," the orange-skinned alien princess agreed, eagerly floating forward with her arms outstretched.

As Cyborg handed Raven over, Robin continued, "Starfire, if the perimeter alarm goes off you need to get Raven down to the safe room as fast as you can fly."

"I understand, I will fly her to the room of protection," Starfire replied. "Now let us hurry to the room of sleeping of friend Raven."

/oOo\

Metropolis:

Clark Kent, intrepid reporter of Metropolis's premier newspaper, the Daily Planet, sighed ostentatiously as he failed yet again to get around the car quickly enough to open Lois Lane's door on the driver's side for her, while hiding a grin. Lois didn't bother to hide hers as she smoothed down her stylish skirt. It had turned into something of a game for the two, Clark would 'attempt' to offer his old-fashioned, 'Smallville' manners for his co-worker and rival, and Lois would make sure to move fast enough to cut him off before he got the chance. Occasionally she'd twit him good-naturedly for being so far behind the times, but just as often she'd fail to hide her pleased smile fast enough to keep him from noticing. Add the two's competition for stories and recognition as their paper's star reporter, and it made for an interesting working relationship (however much Clark might like to change it to a romantic one).

Not that there was going to be any awards for this interview, just a city father wanting some media coverage with enough pull to get the best.

The sudden change in the day's light caught both reporters' attention instantly, the two looking up as a sourceless shadow stretched across the sky from west to east, the sun dimming as if eclipsed when the shadow covered it.

"Wow, that's a new one," the raven-haired woman said, her hand over her eyes for shade she no longer needed. "You ever seen anything like this, Smallville?"

"No, I can't say that I have," Clark replied, also staring up at the sky and frantically trying to come up with an excuse to leave so he could contact the Justice League satellite headquarters. The Martian Manhunter had the watch and Wonder Woman spent much of her time there studying her new world, hopefully they would have an idea what was going on —

He jerked as his cell phone vibrated. Hurriedly pulling it out of his pocket and accepting the text message, he paled at the message displayed on its tiny screen. He's coming!

"Hey Clark, are you all right?"

Clark looked up to find his rival/potential love interest watching him, clearly concerned. At least he had his excuse. "Yes, I'm fine," he replied. "A family emergency, I'm afraid I'm going to have to beg off the interview." It was even true, for a certain definition of 'family'.

"Do you need my car? I can call a taxi —"

Clark shook his head. "There's time, I can call a taxi."

"If you're sure..."

Clark hastily agreed and made his farewell, and within minutes the by now very familiar blue- and red-clad figure of Superman was flying through the sky above Metropolis, he would be at Jump City on the opposite side of the continent in minutes and could make the call to headquarters when he arrived —

Even as he streaked up through Metropolis's airspace, strange flame-like creatures sprang into existence around him and instantly attacked, some flashing toward him as others fell back.

Superman dodged the first, second, third, dodged and struck out at the fourth (carefully holding back, he had no idea how fragile these things were) ... and choked back a shout as his fist erupted with fiery pain, just before a bolt of fire slammed into his back, annihilating the symbol of the El family crest on his cape and charring the back of his costume. Superman plummeted toward the ground, smashing down onto a parking garage roof. These creatures were magical! They must be Trigon's, of course they are.

Still, it wouldn't be the first time Earth's premier superhero had faced enemies armed with one of his greatest weaknesses. He lifted up from the shallow crater he'd smashed into the concrete and hovered as he quickly scanned the opponents diving toward him with his x-ray vision, and grinned. No real mass, no internal structure — simple flames given form and power by magic, not living creatures. And that meant he could stop holding back.

Sucking in as much air as he could compress into his lungs, he blew with all his strength, turning his head to scythe through the diving flame-things as the gale-force winds snuffed out enemy after enemy. Lungs empty, he sucked in more air as he streaked up into the sky through the hole he'd literally blown through the enemy ranks — only for others that had hovered above rather than dive into the fight to charge in from all sides; some flinging out arms impossibly long to hammer into him; others to wrap their arms around his legs and torso and dive for the ground, pulling him behind them; yet more firing more fiery blasts to hammer him down. And even as he blew more out of existence, the first that he had annihilated flashed back into existence.

/\

The Rio, Las Vegas:

Zatanna smiled as she looked out across her audience. The seats were surprisingly full for a morning show, especially since she wasn't one of the big name draws. Not that she couldn't be one of the big stars if she wanted, with her own Vegas theater and a show every night, but she'd have to settle down in one place for that and for now, at least, she was enjoying life on the road too much to stop.

"Lately I've been feeling rather nostalgic," the raven-haired young woman announced to the audience, "so I thought that for my next trick I'd go with the all-time classic, pulling a rabbit out of my hat."

She turned to the black silk top hat sitting upside down on what seemed to be a four-legged table beside her, picked up the hat, spun it in the air, placed it on her head at a jaunty angle while striking a saucy pose well in keeping with the fishnet hose she wore with her leotard and tailed formal jacket, then placed the hat back on the table. "And to show I still have it —" She reached into the hat and by the scruff of its neck pulled out ... a housecat.

She held the housecat at arm's length and stared at it. "That's not right," she mused as titters ran through the audience. Shrugging, she put the cat back in the hat, and pulled out ... a turtle. The titters turned into scattered laughter.

"Okay, I've owned a cat before, but never a turtle," Zatanna insisted. She put the turtle back in the hat, then picked up the hat and examined the inside of the brim. "Well, there's the reason, it isn't my hat, it's Dad's!" she exclaimed. "How did I end up with his hat? Come to think of it, I wonder what else he has in here? Let's see..."

She put the hat back down on the table and started hauling out object after object. "A pair of old shoes, soles need work ... a pair of unused tickets to a Yankees game — hey, that's my birthday! No, literally, my birth day, not hard to figure out why they missed the game ... a reading lamp —" She pulled up the lamp, its stand as tall as she was and the base barely able to fit through the brim of the hat. Standing it up beside the table, she pushed the switch just under the light bulb and it lit up. "Hey, it still works after all these years!"

Turning back to the hat, she muttered, "Let's see, car keys, a wallet, some swim trunks, an umbrella, a walking stick..."

Finally, she reached into a hat the audience could barely see for all the stuff piled up on the table ... and in ... and in, until she was bent over the table with her arm in the hat up to her armpit. "And ... hey, I think I found it!" Straightening, she pulled her arm out and held up ... a rabbit, grinning as the audience broke into applause. She bowed. "Thank you, thank, you. And for my last trick —" She turned to look sorrowfully at the cluttered table. "For my last trick, I'll try to get all this junk back in the hat," she said with a sigh to fresh laughter.

She had just put the rabbit back into the hat and was reaching for the lamp when things made of living fire exploded through the theater's walls and ceiling. Zatanna froze for a split-second as screams erupted from the audience ducking from the debris raining down on them, before breaking free of her shock and shouting out a backwards incantation of her real magic, and her real inheritance from her father: "Srekcatta yortsed dna ecneidua tcetorp, esir sdniw!"

Instantly gale force winds swept through the huge room, blowing most of the still-falling debris away from the audience (now stampeding for the exits) and hammering into the flaming beings that were diving toward the stage. Most of the attackers were blown out like snuffed candles, but several had dropped low enough that the winds Zatanna commanded couldn't bring their full force without endangering the fleeing audience as well, and Zatanna's eyes widened and she took a step back as she realized she'd made a mistake — she hadn't ordered the winds to protect her as well.

The two that had been missed swept toward her, inches above the shrieking patrons, and it was Zatanna's turn to shriek as their handless arms abruptly elongated forward to wrap around her and her jacket burst into flame.

"Semalf hsiugnitxe, tsrub sepip!" she shouted. All along the ceiling the piping for the fire suppression system broke, and streams of water — much more than the system would normally provide — whipped across the room to both splash across her, knocking her to the stage floor, and hammer like water cannon into the two fire-things holding her. They vanished in explosions of steam.

Zatanna staggered to her feet, soaked from head to foot and jacket charred, and groaned when the extinguished flame-things sprang back into existence, hovering above the seats, seeming to fill the theater. So Air and Water didn't permanently banish these things, let's try Earth.

/\

Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter at Justice League headquarters, Batman (and coincidentally Batgirl) in Gotham, Hawkgirl in the Saharan desert, the Flash at Central City, even a group of flame warriors hanging over each of Earth's poles ready to intercept Green Lantern if he returned from his sector patrol in time. And beyond the Justice League there were many others: the demon-hunting Sailor Senshi, the Phantom Stranger, Dr. Fate, Madame Xanadu, the Demon Etrigan, any that might detect and interfere with Trigon's rise — all found themselves under siege, blindsided by the countless living flames that appeared out of nowhere.

And as he walked along the bottom of the bay toward Titans' Island, Slade smirked, satisfaction percolating through his haze-filled mind. There would be no help for the Titans this day, all that remained was to collect his master's prize and he would again have what was rightfully his.


And another look at the wider world, and why the Titans aren't swamped by adult superheroes eager to do their part to save the world. That was one of the niggling little problems with the cartoon, of course, where were the adults? Sure, not having them busting in on most of the episodes made sense, they were spur-of-the-moment-type adventures. But in this case all the Titans knew what was coming weeks before the big blowout and I don't care how proud they are, there's no way Robin isn't going to ask for help on this one.