Ranmyaku Kiritsu: Here, I'll make it up to you! Rage lost because Raven refused to fight fair and instead used the spell to force the final merge.

InsanitySorrow 2.0: Raven changed in many ways, including physically. I've never read the comics, though, so she'll stay at her present height. Remember, she's just a half-inch or so shorter than Jinx; they're the perfect cuddling size for each other. There will be a time-skip of five years. I know nothing about Ravager, so I doubt I'll bring her or Batgirl in.

SepticMind: I know, I probably use them too much, but you have to admit that was the perfect place to end the chapter. Just be glad I didn't end this one on a cliffhanger; I was certainly tempted to. Raven won't be evil, per se, but she's not going to take flak from anyone, and her retaliations might become a bit excessive. My only problem with Kid Flash is that he can get a little tedious to listen to (well, that and being paired with Jinx, but as you said, not really his fault). Nah, he wouldn't care about Raven and Jinx being together beyond asking if he could join them for a night : )

skywiseskychan: The start of last chapter certainly wasn't meant to be jarring. From Raven's perspective, the conversation with Robin was over the instant she shut the door; her sentence about proving he was still trustworthy was basically an ultimatum. The reason I had the emotions materialize was twofold: it made sense to me that they would have to leave her mind to return in a different way, and Rage knew there was no way to win their fight in Nevermore. Inside her mind and against fragments of her personality, Raven is invincible, so the only way for them to be on equal footing was for Rage to come to the real world. Yes, Raven will be somewhat more demonic, but she will also be more human. She can now experience the full range of her emotions, so while it won't be a good thing to piss her off, she isn't going to be some wrathful goddess.

Merry Christmas! For your collective present, I give you the extra-long final chapter of Coincidence and Misunderstandings. Don't be too sad, though; hopefully in a month or so, you'll get to see the first posting of the sequel, tentatively titled Consequence of Misunderstandings. There will be a note added to this story when it's ready for consumption.

Disclaimer: Did Raven transfer to a team that was more accepting than the Titans? If not, I don't own the Teen Titans franchise; it belongs to DC Entertainment, Glen Murakami, and Warner Bros.

Chapter 19
New Beginnings

Cyborg would have liked to say that taking cover behind an overturned car was a strategic decision. Unfortunately, it wasn't; that was just where Doctor Light's blast sent him. "Ugh, this isn't turnin' out how I hoped," he muttered, taking a moment to catch his breath.

"It isn't? Well then, let me brighten your outlook!" Another yellow beam flew at him, and he just barely got out of the way before it blew through the vehicle. "Surely this is not all the mighty Teen Titans can bring to bear!"

In reply, a bronze disc hit the ground at his feet and detonated; now it was the good doctor who was airborne and crashing into the ground. "Newsflash, Doctor Light: we dropped the 'Teen' from our name a year ago." Robin extended his staff and pulled a trio of birdarangs from a hip pouch. "You'll have plenty of time to catch up on recent events in prison."

"And until then, you can take a dirt nap!" Light looked up just in time to spot the ton of crushed rock falling on him.

Lisa's pun caused the mechanical man to break out in a smile. That girl is somethin' else. With us for three weeks, and she's already throwin' out puns. His evaluation was cut short as the mound of soil was blown apart; a yellow dome faded away, leaving Light unharmed.

"Fools! You no longer have the power to stop me. I have been given a gift, a gift meant for destroying you!" Light twisted a dial on his belt, and Cyborg watched in shock as the faint glow from the villain's emitters shifted up the visible spectrum, finally settling on a bright blue. "No one can withstand the power of Doctor Light!"

The blasts now raining on the team were larger, faster, and deadlier; each time one hit the street or a building, it exploded and left a foot-wide crater. Lisa threw up a wall of earth to protect the two of them while the others flew or grappled their way to the rooftops. "I thought you said he was a small-fry!" she shouted over the deafening booms.

"He was the last time we saw him!"

"Well, you need to keep your info up to date! That or let me know when 'annoying but not a big deal' means he's going to kick our asses!"

"He shouldn't be!" Cyborg racked his cybernetic brain for a solution. "The only time he was anywhere near this powerful, he was suckin' up the Northern Lights. I don't know how he could've gotten this strong all of a sudden."

She pulled more concrete and asphalt towards them to reinforce her failing barricade. "Maybe he ordered a freaking do-it-yourself upgrade kit off the internet! It doesn't matter how he did it, just how we're gonna get outta this."

Her words latched onto some half-forgotten details from their recent fights and pulled them closer together. Light got an boost, but he's not the only one. Rancid's dogs were tougher, too, and Control Freak's remote had a bigger range and was animatin' more complicated stuff. Then there's the white monster; before, it could only take on the properties of a single material, but a few days ago it was mixin' 'em up on us. Even Mumbo was workin' us harder until Raven put him down. About the only one who hadn't been hittin' the gym was Plasmus, and he was just plain nuts.

His eyes widened. A gift, that's what Light said. "Son of a bitch."


He ignored her and used the communicator in his arm to call Robin. "Rob, we need to call Raven in here, now!"

"What? Why?"

"'Cause I think the bad guys have been gettin' some serious help. That's why we've been havin' so much trouble lately." He nodded at the leader's shocked expression. "We need to interrogate Light bad, and let's face it, Raven's the only one who's ever made him back down without too much of a hassle."

Robin frowned but nodded. "You're right; we need whatever information he's hiding. I'll give her a call —"

"Bad idea! I will talk to her. I haven't pissed her off already, but if you try to get her, she's probably goin' to hang up on you."

"Fine," the Boy Wonder groaned. "Star, Beast Boy, and I will keep him busy. Lisa?"


"You cover Cy. I doubt we'll need to wait long for Raven to arrive, but better safe than sorry."

Cyborg nodded and switched channels. Several seconds passed, which extended to a full minute; by this point, he was getting worried. C'mon Rae, pick up already. Please tell me you took the comm with you into the safe room. Finally, just as he was about to hang up, the black screen displayed a still image of her. "What is it?"

"Rae, thank goodness. I'm sorry for interruptin' your work, but we need you over here about five minutes ago. Light's just plain embarrassin' us."

"Are you saying that Doctor Light has the upper hand?" He could hear her laughing at him over the audio channel, and he felt his cheeks heat up. "That is quite disappointing. Let me guess, now you need me to clean up your mess? Is my replacement not pulling her weight?"

"Hey, now!" Lisa shouted. "I'm pulling all my weight and then some. And I'm not your replacement! I thought we talked about that." Her voice faltered at the end, and the wall weakened as her insecurities raised their ugly heads.

"We did," Raven said simply. "However, what you intend and what Richard intends are very different things. In his mind, you are to take over my duties so that he may finally wash his hands of me."

"Well, tell him off yourself," he grunted. Another blue blast hit, this time breaking a large chunk off the edge. With his right arm, the one not containing his communicator, he returned fire with his cannon. "He's right here, after all, and he's all yours after you bring Light down."

"If I must. I suppose it would only be courteous of me to deliver my message in person." On that cryptic note, she cut off her communicator.

"How long until she's here?"

He shrugged. "Knowin' her? Should be just a second or two, but she sounds pretty pissed. Now would be a bad time for her to make us sweat it out." A shadow fell over them, and they looked up to see an enormous black form in the rough shape of a bird touching down on the ground in front of them. The darkness faded, revealing their teammate.

Cyborg could only stare at Raven's new appearance. Her hood was down and showed her hair to be longer, falling to the level of her elbows. Her nails were thick, curved, and black; if he didn't know better, he'd think she had grown claws. Down her white legs ran deep red tattoos that he could swear were perfect matches to the glowing design she had borne when Trigon and Slade were causing problems. What worried him, though, was that the garnet on her forehead had changed shape, stretching and curling to become the jagged symbol the Titans had come to loathe.

The Mark of Scath.

"Well? Where is the reprobate?" A blue sphere flashed in front of Raven after tearing through Lisa's wall. "Never mind."

"Rae?" Cyborg whispered. "What happened to you?"

She shrugged. "I grew up. According to Azarathian culture, today I become a full-fledged adult, and my appearance altered to reflect that. Do you not like it?" Though these physical changes were not what she would have chosen before the merge with her emotions, she found she was overall comfortable with her look. The markings were somewhat disconcerting, but they would ensure the Titans realized she was a whole new Raven.

"It's way cool, especially the tats!" Lisa said with a wave. "Happy birthday, by the way. I'd have gotten you a present, but no one even told me that it was a special day until we were already on the road."

"I appreciate the thought. If you will excuse me, though, I need to deal with Doctor Light before we can continue our conversation." She turned away and, raising a shield, strode toward her foe. Already she could tell how much stronger her powers were; where her barriers had collapsed after a few hits the last time she had faced this villain, now the construct was not even wavering. "Doctor Light! I am feeling generous, so you have one chance to surrender peacefully before I become… aggressive. I advise you take my offer."

"You think you can defeat me? Darkness can never hide the brilliance of light!" He fired a continuous beam, but not even that could crumple her defense.

She nodded. "Your choice." Feeding more soulself into the shield and marveling at the ease with which she did so, she altered it into a beam of her own. Blue and black fought for dominance for only a second before her powers overwhelmed his. She frowned lightly as she walked closer to the man lying on the street, sparks jumping fitfully from his equipment. Dealing with this weak of an enemy had always been tedious, and she was tired of it. Her cloak lengthened with a thought and draped itself over the moaning figure; when she retracted it, Doctor Light was nowhere to be found. "However, I personally think that it was a poor one."

Robin leapt down to the road a short distance away from her. "Raven, where is Light?"

"Somewhere he cannot hurt another soul. Somewhere cold, and dark, and lonely. He is safe there, at least as safe as one can be in the void of an unformed dimension."

"Release him!"

"Why?" She turned to glower at her former leader. "So that he can be sent to prison, again, only to escape and cause havoc later? No, it is time for a more permanent solution. Perhaps his fate will serve as a warning to the rest of the villains who habitually prey on the citizens of this city. Actions have consequences, no matter who one is."

"Uh, not to pull you off your soapbox, but we kinda needed to interrogate him. I was hopin' he'd be able to tell us where he got the new tech," Cyborg interjected sheepishly.

She blanched and offered a whispered, "Oops?" Waving a hand, she created a portal of whirling shadows in the air that led to her mental world. Doctor Light landed on the ground, his suit corroded and his eyes staring ahead unfocused. "I am afraid he is in no state to answer any questions, now or ever."

Robin stared at the brain-dead body in honeyed horror. "What did you do to him, Raven?"

"Nothing." The Boy Wonder's glare was joined by Starfire's and Beast Boy's, but she shrugged, unconcerned with their disapproval. "Every time I teleported you somewhere, I protected your minds from the full power of my soulself; this is what would have happened had I not. As I said, I did nothing to him, for I did not need to."

"Raven, you must return the Doctor of Light to normal. To damage another's mind like this is wrong," Starfire demanded. The alien's emotions were primarily fear and confusion, but salty anger was rapidly overtaking them.

"He is beyond all aid. As for the morality of my actions, perhaps for your race that is true. I, however, am not from Tamaran. His actions were he Azarathian would have earned him behavioral modification long ago, and to my father's people, leaving him alive at all is a grand mercy."

Robin scowled at her words. "Yes, and Trigon was pure evil, or have you forgotten that?"

"Of course I remember how He was. Unlike the rest of you, I interacted with Him for more than a single day." She eyed Robin balefully. "However, no degree of decrying Him will change the fact that His blood runs through my veins. My powers, my physiology, my mental processes; they are all due at least in part to my demonic heritage. What benefit does denying that grant me?"

Before Robin could answer, Beast Boy grabbed the sides of his head and screamed. He fell to his knees panting, then raised his head to glare at her. "You complete and total bitch! You scrambled my brain!"

"What?" Robin asked.

"She messed with my head! She didn't want me to tell the rest of you that she's been banging Jinx behind our backs. That's why she's turned bad, so she can be a criminal, too!"

The leader of the Titans extended his staff and ground out, "Is this true, Raven?"

"Not at all. Jinx and I were not yet romantically involved when I altered his memories."

Her wry quip caused his stance to falter in shock, an emotion that was projected from the rest of the team as well. It only lasted an instant, though, and when he prepared himself again, fire burned in his eyes. "I can't allow this to go on, Raven. You've left us no choice but to bring you down."

"And what do you plan to do to me once I am in your custody? Throw me into a cage you had Zatanna enchant? Bind my powers? Banish me like a common demon? Oh yes," she said to his paling face, "I know all about Operation Exorcist. What I find interesting is that you made these plans approximately six months ago, long before my behavior started changing. No matter what my actions were or how you chastised me for them, you always intended to do away with me."

The silence following her words allowed them to clearly hear Cyborg's incredulous whisper. "She's tellin' the truth, isn't she? Robin, what the hell were you thinkin'?"

"He was thinking that I could not be trusted due to who my parents were, the same position the people of Azarath took when they exiled me to this world. Unlike —"

"Exiled? What are you talkin' about? Why didn't you tell us?"

"You never asked. There are many things about me that no one ever showed an interest in, so you do not know them. After five years, I am still a virtual stranger to you, and now this stranger will take her leave. I bid you farewell."

"Now wait just a second!" A green tiger pounced at her, only for a shield to spring up and rebound him to her side opposite Robin. The shapeshifter returned to his base form and shouted, "There's still what you did to me! You don't even feel sorry for it, do you?!"

She quirked an eyebrow. "Why should I? You stuck your nose in where it did not belong, interfered in my affairs, and attempted to blackmail me. Anyone with common sense would know I would not take that well. Be glad that I restrained myself from doing something worse."

Her words did not pacify him, and she noted that Robin was also set to attack her. "You plan to fight me? You, too, Starfire," she added when the princess hovered in front of her.

"You have done evil and harmed my friend. For this, I can not forgive you. Please come peacefully with us so we do not have to hurt you."

"As you wish," she said, then looked to the remaining spectators. "Cyborg, Lisa, will you be joining the fray as well?"

Lisa glanced at each of them. "Um, I'm not entirely sure what's going on."

"It's really come down to this." Cyborg covered his face with his hand and sighed. "Raven, I can understand why you did what you did, but that was definitely the wrong way to go about it. Robin, if you've been plannin' this for as long as she says you have, there's no way I'm gonna side with you. You made the first move against her, BB, so you can't get mad when she slaps you down for it. I'm not even sure what she did was all that excessive considerin' you wanted to blackmail her. Star, she didn't hurt him, and while I don't agree with her actions on a personal level, there're no laws against it. All of you are in the wrong, and I refuse to get in the middle of this."

Raven bowed her head in acceptance of his neutrality. "So three against one. Are you still firm in your decisions?"

"Give it up, Raven. We've been fighting alongside you for years; we know all your strengths and weaknesses. You can't win this fight."

She smirked at Robin's naïveté and pulled her hood over her head. Her opponents' gasps were no surprise; she had done the same when a mirror showed her the change. While in shadow, each amethyst eye was replaced with a pair of vermilion slits. She encased her hands in black, thick tendrils of darkness stretching from under her cloak. "I believe I have already informed you that you do not know me as well as you think you do."

The three Titans struck, moving forward to deny her the range she preferred, but it was for naught. Raven raised a dome of soulself that repelled their attacks. They saw her lips moving, and the shield grew completely opaque. "Don't let up. Hit her hard!" Robin called out; a car coated in black did just that to him.

Starfire and Beast Boy stared at their leader poorly imitating his namesake, then they looked to Raven hovering in mid-air. She snapped her fingers and let the illusion she used to hold their attention fade. "Shall we continue our play?"

A hawk and an angry alien rose to her taunt, Starfire flinging orbs of energy at her that she deflected with Beast Boy repeatedly attempting to gouge her with his talons. As a team they had spent a great deal of time improving their teamwork, and it showed; though the shapeshifter was limited to guerrilla tactics, he was an excellent distraction from the true aerial threat. Raven had been restricting herself to whips of shadow — damaging, but not dangerous — in honor of their years together, but now the duo were beginning to irritate her. It was time they had a better glimpse of exactly who they were dealing with.

Recalling one of the tricks her father had taught Slade, she formed a concave shield and caught the starbolt hurtling her way; compressing it to the size of her fist, she then slammed it into Beast Boy's side on his next pass. He returned to his base form as he fell, crashing into the roof of the building they were flying over. A — by necessity — cursory glance revealed that she had shattered the humerus of his left arm, and his fall had likely cracked several of his ribs.

"You… you… grzzt'glog! Betrayer!" Starfire screamed a harsh warcry as she raced at the demonling. Raven flew faster, putting distance between them, but not out of fear. No, she would simply rather not chance being caught in her own spell.

"Penitens Bocrili, Aelita Cytoros." Her words reverberated in the fabric of reality. With a deceptively sedate pop, the sky in a ten-foot radius from Starfire imploded. The shockwave spun the Tamaranean like a top, but what finally stopped her charge was the invisible wall she smacked into.

Raven floated over at a relaxed pace, inspecting the conjured prison for any weak points. Bars of white light outlined a cube six feet to a side, and the impossibly dense air they bracketed would isolate Starfire for a short time, perhaps an hour. That was enough for her needs. "Had you been reasonable, I would have happily departed without this conflict."

"Lies," hissed Starfire, her voice unhindered by the spell. "We never should have trusted you. You are a demon, no different than Trigon. Until my family is forgotten, I name you enemy."

Frowning at the princess's uncharacteristic attitude, Raven seated herself in midair. "While I cannot fault you for your hatred of demons, I am curious about it. My father never visited Tamaran so far as I know, yet you stated once that you have heard of His atrocities. With which demons did your world traffic?"

"I will not cheapen The Tragedy of Juderik by sharing it with a grzzt'glog." The alien spun away from her in a clear refusal of further communication.

She sighed and dropped to the ground, uncrossing her legs to stand. Robin was still lying on the street, the car she used to hit him having bent and partially melted to pin him without crushing his body. "It seems a peaceful break was too much to expect."

"Are you really surprised?" he growled. "Did you think we would smile and nod when you became a criminal?"

"Criminal? If that is what I am, it should be easy for you to name just one crime I have committed." And you clearly know none of them, else this battle would have occurred before now.

He gaped for a moment. "You destroyed Doctor Light's mind not five minutes ago."

"Which was done as a member of the Titans, and therefore no more a crime than any other injuries we have inflicted in battle."

"You assaulted us."

"No, I defended myself against assault. You three attacked first, and you did so without a warrant or clear and present evidence that I was breaking the law. Anything else?" She sighed as he continued to glare. "Obviously not. I will be gone from this city by the end of the week at the latest, and I highly doubt I will return, but if I may give you some advice? You will be far more tolerable once you learn that you are not the paragon of virtue or infallible moral compass you seem to think you are. Consider this my resignation from the Titans, effective immediately."

She turned and walked closer to Cyborg and Lisa, removing her hood and returning her eyes to normal. "I do believe this is where we part."

"I'm gonna miss you," the geokinetic whimpered as she latched onto the sorceress. "Keep in touch, okay? I don't wanna lose a friend I just made."

"Friend? We have only known each other for two weeks."

Lisa looked down at her, eyes sparkling with unshed tears. "Time doesn't make a friendship. Cyborg's told me some of what I did as Terra. I don't deserve the second chance you offered, and you definitely didn't have to work with me on controlling my powers better like you did. No, you're my friend, whether you like it or not."

Remembering how Love had said something similar about Jinx, she smiled sadly and returned the hug. "I promise nothing, but I will try to maintain contact. There will likely be some delay, however."

"Don't care."

Raven stepped away and addressed Cyborg. "I gave them another opportunity, just as you asked."

"I know," he sighed. "So you're gonna join Jinx as a thief?"

"No, actually. She, Mammoth, and Gizmo are working to leave their pasts as criminals behind, and I shall help them do so. It is unlikely that you will hear word of us again without actively searching for it."

"All right. I just wish you didn't have to leave," he said, pulling her into a hug of his own.

"It is probably for the best. I have grown tired of playing the hero; a change of career is exactly what I need. Maybe I can find something I enjoy doing, rather than something I merely feel obligated to do." She walked a few yards from them, darkness already creeping up her body. There was so much more to say, but there was no time, and most of it could not be put into words. How could she express the anguish she felt at leaving the closest thing she had to a family on Earth, even if she had to cut her ties with three of them in the end? How could she simplify her sorrow at being, once again, effectively banished? How could she encapsulate the past five years, the good and the bad, into a few sentences? She allowed her soulself to carry her away, her final message floating behind her in the wind.


Jinx stiffened and called up her hex energy when a pair of arms wrapped around her from behind. Thankfully, for both her personal safety and her sex life, she looked down at who was holding her before she could release her powers, relaxing when she recognized the sleeves. "You're late."

"My apologies. I will try to be more punctual in the future."

Hearing a difference in her lover's voice through the sarcasm, she twisted around and immediately spotted faint tear-tracks on Raven's face. "Oh, no. What happened?"

"It was time to tell the Titans about us. They… did not take it well."

"They threw you out, didn't they?"

Raven grimaced. "No, but only because I resigned before they could do so. Richard, Garfield, and Koriand'r then decided they would rather fight than allow me to simply walk away. I won, but…"

"But it feels even worse than if you had lost," she finished. "I felt the same after that last battle with the Brotherhood of Evil. Do you want to postpone the party? The guys and I won't mind."

"You have done so much for me already, I do not wish to ruin a chance for you to have some fun. Besides, I feel better, lighter, even with the pain; it is like scouring an infected wound so that it may finally heal. I just need time to come to terms with everything."

She leaned in and gently kissed Raven's mouth, then nose, then each cheek. Returning for one final peck on the lips, she looked at the slight smile on the former Titan's face. "It'll probably sink in when you're asleep. Stay with me tonight."

"If I do, I will not wish to sleep alone tomorrow."

She looped an arm around Raven's waist, guiding the woman to the kitchen. "I don't have a problem with that. I'm your girlfriend, good times or bad, and that means your happiness is one of my main priorities. It's just easier when we want the same thing, like now." With that, she opened the doors so Raven could see her celebration.

"You do not…" The sorceress trailed off as she stared at the food laid out before her. Numerous dishes from different cultures, courtesy of the supermarket's international aisle, made up most of the options, but there were also steaks, Jinx's HIVE-famous chili, and normal party fare. Even with Mammoth's enormous appetite, the four of them would be eating leftovers for days. Tears flowed down Raven's face again, but the pinkette knew these were from joy rather than sorrow. The sorceress whispered, "An Ascension feast?"

"That's what you told me Azarathians do. At least you can't say I never listen," she said, resting her chin on Raven's shoulder from behind.

"No, I shall never say that. Where are the boys?"

"They're killing time in the gym; I said I'd call them when you got here. Before I do, though," she pointed at the corner holding the gifts, "unwrap your presents. The guys wanted to, and I quote, 'avoid the squealing'."

Raven frowned and crossed the room, where she methodically unwrapped the box on top of the small pile. When she saw what it contained, her mouth dropped open. "Jinx, thank you. Would I be incorrect in assuming all of these are related?"

"Nope. Go ahead and get rid of that old uniform; it's so yesterday." The half-demon laughed and pulled out the blue floor-length dress Jinx had found the previous week. She knew Raven would love it, which was why it was first in line.

Of course, she stopped her girlfriend once the leotard hit the floor, and not just to ogle the woman's naked body, either. "Okay, I understand that you're trying for the 'bad girl' image, but we really need to have a talk with whoever did your artwork. It looks like you went to an epileptic drunk."

"Artwork? Oh, you mean these," Raven said while tapping the wine-colored lines running over her entire body. "They developed when I completed my Ascension, which necessitated merging with my demonic half. You remember the Prophecy concerning the end of the world I mentioned, yes? This is it, written in infernal runes. They shone from my skin when Trigon came to this dimension, and I decided to take them back up."


"To constantly remind myself of who and what I am; what I am capable of, both good and bad." Her voice softened as she slipped into her gift. "That everything comes with a price, one that may not be apparent until all is done."

Jinx almost felt like crying herself, but she had the presence of mind to distract herself with how good the sorceress looked in the tight clothing. The outfit had a halter top attached to a high collar, allowing pale skin to be seen where it was missing the shoulders and upper back. There were also long strips cut out of the sides to reveal both legs and a broad expanse of flesh above Raven's hips, though an unseen piece of fabric connected the front and back, preserving her modesty. "Well, how do I look?"

"Good enough to eat," the thief murmured. "Let me grab the guys; much as I want to be naughty, we should have real food before we move on to dessert."

"…And the question on everyone's minds is, what does Raven's defection mean for the Titans as a whole? Will they be able to go on without the woman who our footage shows to be their secret heavy-hitter, or does this spell the end of Jump City's protectors? Either way, we are waiting for the mayor's and Robin's joint press conference tomorrow with bated breath. Back to you, Becky."

A shadowed figure leaned back and switched off the screen, fingers idly tapping the arm of the chair. This turn of events was a surprise, and he did not like surprises. The Titans would certainly be weaker without the Daughter of Trigon backing them, a boon if there ever was one, but he would be unable to track the girl should she depart via her teleportation, which he was sure she would. She was a half-demon and therefore not someone to trifle with or leave unmonitored. The three minor criminals with her were of no consequence.

Nevertheless, there were definite advantages. Perhaps with her gone, there would no longer be wary eyes watching the museum. Too many shipments had disappeared before he could reclaim them, and she was his primary suspect. His plans had been delayed for over a year because of that, and he was anxious to finally get underway.

Running off would not turn her into a threat, now that he thought the situation through. It was unlikely that she could find a position protecting another city; not only was she was in far too deep with her new friends to do so, the public thrashing of her ex-team was being broadcast throughout the entire country. That amount of power, always present but never seen, would not be left unchallenged by the Justice League, the Honorary Titans, or a number of other heroic organizations. Raven's only chance for safety now was to go to ground, hide herself away until she could create a new identity and live an unpowered, civilian life. The man chuckled; the greatest threat to his goals had removed herself from the board of her own volition, leaving his path to victory clear.

"Yes, this will be to my advantage after all. Let the games… begin."

"Do you have a minute?" Jinx stifled her laughter as the middle-aged yet athletic-looking man behind the desk jumped in surprise. She was much less amused when he whipped out a pistol and pointed it at her despite them being invisible.

"You can either reveal yourself or be shot. Make your choice quickly."

She nodded at Raven, who dismissed the spell. The magic involved blocked a lot of light, so she had to blink a few times for her vision to return to normal. "Colonel Miguel Ruiz?"

"That's me." Now that he could see them, he relaxed marginally but kept her in line with the gun's barrel. She was the spokeswoman for the group, so she would grudgingly admit that was a sensible response. "Is there a reason you tried to sneak into my office?"

"Hey, we didn't try to sneak in, we succeeded. But yeah, there's a reason. You're in charge of recruitment for the Perseus Initiative along the West Coast; well, here are four recruits."

"I see. You have me at a disadvantage, I'm afraid. Who are you?"

"I'm Jinx, and this is Mam —" She cut herself off in irritation as he rose from his chair and stepped to the file cabinets behind him. At least he was no longer aiming at her.

After a few moments of searching, he pulled a thick file out of the drawer and returned to the desk. Opening it, he scanned the top page and looked back to them. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Ms. Nirupama Dasgupta." She gaped at him; she hadn't expected for him to have a file on her, let alone one with her birth name. "You two as well, Mr. Baran Flinders, Mr. Mikron O'Jeneus."

The HIVE did its best to disassociate our aliases and crimes from our real names. If they know that, what else do they know? How long have they been keeping tabs on us?

"Your name truly is Mikron O'Jeneus?" Raven asked incredulously.

Gizmo snorted. "Well, yeah. What, you thought I was lying?"

"Honestly, yes."

"He hasn't been lying about that since it was legally changed six years ago," the officer said. "He was born Michael O'Toole."

"Kinda see why you'd change it," Baran rumbled.

"Though it is still too convenient for my mind," Raven added. "'Tool'?"

Ruiz shrugged away the glare he got from Gizmo. "And you would be Raven, legal name Rachel Roth, formerly of the vigilante group called the Teen Titans, yes? How a heroine fell in with a trio of thieves must be quite the story."

"Former thieves," Jinx corrected, pulling his attention back to her. "We've decided to go on the straight and narrow. That's why we're here."

"I see. I don't believe I can help you, to be honest. An important requirement to enter the Initiative is a clean background check, and only one of you would be acceptable based on that alone."

"Our criminal records have been totally expunged."

"And a bleached record is supposed to be impressive? The rulings of crooked judges alone will not convince me to make an allowance for your team, Ms. Dasgupta."

"So what will?" Raven asked. When the rest stared at her in confusion, she continued, "Your words imply that there is something we can do to convince you. What would that be?"

He looked closely at the sorceress for a few moments, then pressed an unobtrusive button on a speaker sitting on the desk. "Sheila, please have the men outside stand down. The situation is under control."

"You're sure, sir?"

"Everything's just peachy." Moving his arm back to where it had laid, he asked, "Why is it, Ms. Roth, that you weren't the one to open our discussion?"

"Jinx leads this team, Colonel Ruiz, not I. It is only appropriate that she address you first."

"I see." Ruiz leaned back in his chair and examined them for a long minute; Raven was the only one not fidgeting when he spoke again, his expression stony. "Very well. The four of you will be expected at Fort Pell in Montana in two days, where you will undergo an abbreviated basic training regimen. Depending on if and how quickly you complete this and any specialist training your superior officers recommend, you will be discharged and hired in six weeks to a year from now. Should you fail your basic or be deemed a disruptive element, you will be tried and convicted in a military tribunal for espionage and subsequently imprisoned."

"Wait, that's it?" Jinx asked, ignoring the threat for the moment. They could freak over the high stakes involved in playing with the big kids from the safety of their base later. "You just said you couldn't make an allowance for our records."

"The requirement I spoke of is fiction to lure in who we want. Allow me to be frank; besides the rare exception like Ms. Roth here, metahumans without a record are absolutely useless as mercenaries. They are too passive, too used to blending in and going with the flow in order to protect their secret. The best individuals for this program are those like yourselves: metas trained in some form of combat who truly wish to leave the criminal life behind and will do just about anything to realize that desire. The President will grant full pardons to each of you, provisional on you serving for at least," this time he flipped through the file containing what she could only guess were copies of their outstanding warrants and convictions judging by his frown, "six years. Get the address for Fort Pell from my secretary on your way out. If you are not there within the permitted timeframe —"

"Lemme guess: military tribunal, espionage, quietly disappearing into a prison no one knows exists?"

"More or less." He smiled, and any idea she had that this desk jockey was a 'nice guy' flew right out the window. "Remember, two days. Now get out."

"That's not a lot of time. We have belongings to pack up, an apartment —"

"Not my concern. If you make a deal with the devil, Ms. Dasgupta, be prepared to pay the price. Welcome to the Perseus Initiative."

For a picture of Raven's dress, search for her on Wikipedia. It's the first image you find. See you soon!

Silently Watches out.