Raven moaned pitifully as Nigthwing tightened his hold. He was strangling her. She had never seen him so angry before. Not with her…
"Yo, Fathead! Pick on someone yer own guts!"
Nightwing turned sharply. He saw a flash of green before the sole of a boot slammed into his face. He staggered back. Starfire's eyes blazed and she fired a starbolt at the attacker. The green robed Raven jumped back. They held each other's gaze.
"I have given you all you wanted." A yellow-robed Raven appeared behind them. "Why do you reject it?"
"Because they are all lies!" Starfire snarled, her hands blazing with green fire. "This is not my world and you are not my friend!"
Nightwing straightened and faced the two Ravens. Brave and Wisdom turned to Changeling. His weary eyes were angry and he moved to stand with the other Titans. Timid crawled towards her kin, whimpering and sobbing.
"You will take us back to our world." Starfire continued. "Or we will fight you."
Brave grinned and opened her arms in invitation.
"Bring it on."
Starfire attacked, firing starbolts as fast as she could. Brave managed to dodge the attacks. Nightwing charged Wisdom. She dodged but made no move to counter.
"I am not a fighter." She said. "This is hardly fair."
Nightwing bared his teeth. His hand flew forward and caught her by the neck of the robe. He yanked her within inches of his face.
"Send us back. It is the last time I ask nicely."
"I do not have the power for that. Only she does and some of the others do not want you to leave."
Nightwing glanced to where Wisdom was pointing and saw several Ravens gathered there, each of them wearing robes of different colors. It looked like a flower garden. Wisdom was engulfed in dark energy and he greeted his teeth in frustration as she teleported out of his grasp.
Brave landed gracefully and prepared herself to dodge the next starbolt. It never came. Starfire had stopped to catch her breath. The emoticlone smirked in triumph. A heavy hand perched on her head. Iron fingers closed tightly around her skull and whirled her around. The mouth of a charged up plasma-cannon was right on her face.
"I hope this hurts."
Cyborg fired. The blast sent Brave flying several feet away. Her screech of pain echoed as thunder in the reddening sky and the stony ground under their feet shuddered. Her smocking body hit the floor, her form darkened and she slid to a stop on the stone as an unconscious black bird.
"You fucking bitch!"
Rude jumped onto Starfire's back, her eyes glowing. She pulled sharply at her long red hair. The alien screeched and tried to swing her off of her. Cyborg, panting and exhausted, raised his canon to shot again. In their struggle it was risky. He could hurt Starfire. His cannon turned back into a human arm and he ran to them.
"We have the right to be upset!" Nightwing snarled to the flock of Ravens standing on the side. They flinched back. He struggled to reign in his temper. "Okay. You made a mistake. We all had. Do what's right now and take us back."
"We should take them back." Timid whimpered. "He hit me. He will do it again."
"But we love them!" Love said.
"And we made them happy." Happy pointed out.
"It was wrong." Wisdom stated. "We should take them back. Besides, he is serious. They can beat us up."
"He deserves to die!"
Nightwing whirled around to meet the charge of a red robed Raven. She snarled at him, baring sharp teeth, her four eyes blazing like fire. He struggled to keep those clawed hands away from his neck. He dropped to the floor and placed his feet on Rage's stomach and used her own momentum to throw her back. She disappeared in darkness before touching the ground and reappeared right on top of him. Nightwing screamed in pain as her razor-sharp teeth embedded into his shoulder.
"Get off me, scraps!"
Cyborg was trying to get Rude off of Starfire, but the emoti-clone refused to let go of the girl's hair. He felt stupid and his patience was wearing off. They heard Nightwing's scream and saw him struggling with the hissing beast that was Rage. He turned to Changeling and screamed at him to move. The green man glanced at him as if in shock.
"Friend, please, help Robin!" Starfire added to the urgent call.
And Changeling obeyed. He charged towards Rage but before he could get close enough she saw him. The rabid creature picked Nightwing's trembling body and threw him violently against him. Beast Boy grunted for the impact. They fell in a heap on the rocky ground.
Changeling whimpered and crawled out from under Nightwing. He saw Raven advancing on them, her four eyes blazing with hatred, her mouth twisted in a diabolical grin, inhuman sounds filtering through her sharp blood-stained teeth. He started trembling and sweating, hunting memories of painful encounters with a similar beast flooding his mind. His heart raced, his body refused to obey frantic commands.
A scream of pain thundered in the sky. The emoti-clones stared as Happy withered in agony among them. She screamed again, clawing at her face as her body shrank and twisted. The pink robe turned black, feet twisted into scaled claws, fingers shifted into feathers. Her next scream was the cry of a raven. Sloth approached the trembling bird that had been Happy and cradled her tenderly.
Cyborg saw Changeling shifting frantically into different small animals to escape the brutal attacks of the red Raven. Losing his patience, he snatched Rude off of Starfire's back. The alien shriek but the stinging pain of ripped hair was a reasonable price for freedom. She flew like a comet towards the battling Titans.
"Oh, no you don't."
Cyborg growled as dark energy started swallowing his legs. He whirled around and slammed Rude against the floor. She cried out in pain, bouncing once off the stony ground and falling limply a few feet away as an unconscious raven.
Red Raven howled hideously, her body growing slightly bigger and bulkier. Her long claw-like fingers grew sharper. The small rodent that was Changeling whimpered at her feet. She grinned. A rain of stinging starbolts hit her on the side and the demon-like creature was forced to stagger away from her prey. Shadows engulfed her and she disappeared. Starfire gasped and halted her charge.
Changeling shifted back to human form and knelt next to the injured Nightwing. Cyborg was soon by their side, his plasma-canon ready to fire. They pointed at Wisdom as she broke away from the whispering flock of emoti-clones huddled to the side. She ignored the hostility and picked up the ravens that had been Rude and Brave and hurried back to the others. Starfire moved to intercept her. A blinding pain spread across her back and she fell from the sky.
Cyborg cursed as Rage appeared right behind Starfire and unleashed a savage attack. Her claws ripped across the alien's back, drawing blood. She seemed ready to bite her but he never gave her the chance. The plasma-blast impacted right on her face. Red Raven howled in pain, lightening burning through the sky, the ground under their feet shuddering.
"Damn it!" Cyborg shouted, helping Nightwing to his feet. "That thing's getting bigger!"
"It's her anger…" Nightwing moaned. "The more we fight her, the angrier she gets, the bigger that thing grows…"
"Great! What do we do?"
Rage howled madly and grabbed the fallen Starfire by the leg. She threw her savagely towards the other Titans. Changeling shifted into a gorilla and caught his injured friend in gentle paws. Cyborg aimed and shot again, trying to slow the beast's charge. He moaned, the glowing light of his armored body flickering. The plasma blast was suddenly interrupted. He fell to his knees.
"Damn it….I ain't got nothing more…"
"We've got to convince the others." Nightwing said, ignoring the pain of his injured shoulder. "We cannot defeat Raven. Not here."
"I don't think she's gonna let us…"
As if knowing they were referring to her, Rage let out another blood-curling howl and charged against them.
"We will distract her. Changeling, talk with others! Convince them to get us out of here! Titans, Go!"
Nightwing and Cyborg ran to meet the demonic creature's charge as Starfire reclaimed the skies. Changeling turned into a mouse and ran to the flock of emoti-clones.
A rain of starbolts fell from the sky on Rage's back, but they were an unimportant distraction. Her four eyes narrowed, struggling to see passed the blinding green light. She focused on Cyborg, the weak link. He gasped as his body was swallowed by shadows. A snap of Raven's fingers and his arms and legs were dislodged from his body.
Nightwing sent a barrel of explosive disks to the creature's face. Rage disappeared into the floor before they hit. She re-emerged behind him. The leader of the Titan whirled around barreling the air with a raised leg, but the blood-loss and pain had slowed him down critically. Raven caught his leg and pulled sharply. Nightwing grunted, losing his footing and hitting the floor with his head. Starfire flew towards them, her eyes blazing. Rage whirled Nightwing's limp form and sent it rocketing towards her. The young alien tried to halt her charge, but it was too late. They slammed into each other and plunged down from the sky.
Rage turned. Her eyes glowed and a small green creature was lifted from the floor. It shifted into a startled bald man. Changeling was pulled by an invisible force towards the hissing demon. He screamed, her sharp teeth and raised claw striking terror into his heart.
A green light exploded right on Rage's face. She screeched and stumbled back, losing her hold on Changeling. Starfire, exhausted and sore, pressed on the attack, trying to ignore the growing height of her quarrel, aiming at the most sensitive spots she could reach. Howls of pain were her reward. Her efforts brought her too close to danger. Rage lashed out, hitting Starfire . The alien plummeted to the ground, sliding painfully across the stony ground, coming to a stop next to a trembling Changeling. Blazing eyes narrowed, spittle dripping from her snarling mouth, Rage advanced on them…
One of the other Ravens broke from the flock and stood protectively in front of Starfire and Changeling. She faced, unafraid, the hissing beast that was her kin.
"Get out of the way!"
Rage's voice was not like the others. It didn't sound human. It was painful to hear. It filled their hearts with trepidation and fear.
"No." Love said. "I want them alive and well."
"Why? They don't care if she lives or dies. They abandoned her! They hate her!"
Love winced as if those words caused her pain. She turned to glance at the Titans. They looked hurt and exhausted. She could see their pain and anger. She looked at the others for advice. Rude and Brave were slowly recovering their human forms, aided by Wisdom. Happy was a messy bag of feathers on Sloth's arms. Only Timid stepped from the flock to aid her.
"We are alone!" She supplied pitifully. "Just like before. Just like always…"
Love whimpered, clutching a hand to her chest. A paralyzing pain spread through her body. Rage lashed out. Her claws ripped muscles and crashed her ribs. Love wailed in agony and toppled backwards. The floor shuddered violently, sending the Titans reeling back. Thunder and lightning tore the skies, blinding, deafening…
Rage threw aside the black raven that had been Love. Her body grew, shifted and changed. Her human legs grew fur and her feet shifted into hooves. Horns erupted from her head; her short hair grew long and white. Her skin turned the color of blood. The dim red light that illuminated the gloomy world grew darker and the demon that was Trigon straightened with one last furious howl.
Wisdom picked up the trembling raven and contemplated the transformation of Rage. Brave had not recovered from Cyborg's brutal attack and none of the others had the power to face the beast. She sighed and glanced sadly at the Titans. There was no need to watch. She herded the others away without looking back.
Rage grinned and raised one of her hooved feet. Starfire was the cause of all their pain. She was the reason behind the constant betrayal and loneliness. She wanted her dead. Her four eyes were fixed on the fallen alien as she brought her massive foot down.
It was caught by a stout furry claw. Rage's eyes widened as the whimpering fat man at her feet shifted and changed into a huge beast. It howled madly, and shoved her foot back, making her fall. The wolf-like monster pounced on her and lashed savagely at her face. She howled in pain. The strange deserted land cracked, chunks of earth fell into the abysm where it floated. The darkness of the sky gave way to open spaces of glowing red.
Nightwing dragged himself towards Starfire and helped her back to her knees. She robbed her sore head and flew them quickly out of them way as giant hooves and paws stomped the ground where they had sat. She landed next to the dislodged Cyborg. Nightwing winced when she set him down but bared the pain of his numerous wounds in silence.
"We must assist!" Starfire said, her eyes fixed on the brutal fight.
"How?!" Cyborg wheezed as Nightwing reconnected his arms. "I can't fight and you two don't look like you can take much more either!"
"Cyborg's right." Nightwing said. "We cannot win in a direct confrontation. The harder we hit, the bigger it gets. We must find the others."
"And what?! We talk to them!? They ain't people. They're chunks of a person!" Cyborg wobbled back to his feet. He moaned as the eerie blue light of his body flickered and died out. "Damn…I have not recharged since that wacko dragged us here. I'll go down soon. I-I can't believe this's how I'm gonna end…"
"You are not. This is not over. As long as we're breathing, nothing is over. We have faced the impossible before...as a team. And we will do it again."
Changeling glanced at them one last time before slashing at the demon's face, tearing a howl of agony from its throat. The other Titans ran in the direction the other emoticlones had left.
"Ow. Ow! I said 'ow', you idiot!"
"Heal yourself then!"
Brave slapped Rude sharply on the back of the head and limped away from her, dropping the wet rag she had been using to clean her wounds. Sloth picked it up and handed it to the weeping Timid so she could blow her nose. The ground trembled again and the sky blazed like fire. Wisdom turned briefly from the shivering ravens she was tending.
"We are dying." She stated.
"No." Brave wheezed as she slumped to the ground. "Rage can't lose."
"She may. Her mind is erratic. You know that."
"Let her lose!" Timid wailed. "It's all over!"
Brave cried out in pain and took a crisped hand to her chest.
"This is wrong." Wisdom noted.
Around them, dead looking trees housed dark birds. Their burning eyes were fixed on them. Their grunts and calls the only noise they could hear. Lightening sizzled across the sky and the ground beat at their feet like the chest of a dying beast.
Cyborg had to stop to catch his breath. The stored energy had gone dangerously low. It was a matter of time before his systems shut down.
"Go without me." He panted. "I can't help."
"You can and you will." Nightwing said.
"No. I can't. My power cell's drained."
"We will be back for you."
They missed the dead-look on his face as they turned and continued their frantic search for the emoti-clones. Starfire grabbed Nightwing's arms and they both rocketed through the dark skies.
"I still do not know where we are or how we will leave." She said, frightened by the monotone landscape.
"We are in Raven's mind, Star. She dragged us here."
"So I would not leave…"
"She gave us all we ever wanted." He stated softly. "In her own strange way, she was just trying to make us happy."
"I do not understand how it could all come to this. I wish to go back to my own time. I will not let this be our future."
"I know you won't."
The pink trees were losing their leaves and the yellowish grass had dried out. They could only hear the whimpers and sobs of a grey-clad figure sitting in a rock. Two sickly looking ravens were perched on her shoulders.
Brave was lying motionless on the ground, her breathing shallow and uneven. Her legs were slim and scaly with four fingered claws. The bright color of her robe was almost black and her fingers were distorted, resembling somehow feathers. The purple eyes were bleary and dull.
Nigthwing and Starfire stopped at the center of the circle. Rude glared at them. Sloth didn't look up, offering Timid her robe so she could blow her nose again.
"Where is Raven?" Nightwing asked.
"We are Raven." Wisdom said.
"You are pieces of her."
"And pieces is all there is."
"Stop hiding!" Nightwing screamed his eyes scanning the sky and the shadows."We don't want to fight. Just talk to us!"
"We do not hide." Wisdom stated. "This is what we are."
"Then you must listen to us." Starfire said, her hands clasped tightly together in front of her chest. "This madness must be stopped."
"Yes. But it cannot be stopped."
"You can stop it." Nightwing walked closer to her and Wisdom backed away. Brave struggled weakly to raise, her eyes glowing faintly. He stopped. "This is you. All of this is you."
"I can't stop it." Wisdom said. "I can simply not aid in the destruction. Anger and sadness is killing us. We don't have control over them."
Nightwing stared at her. There was a pitiful moan behind them and they turned to look. Brave had turned once again into a raven and it lay sprawled in the dirt.
"Rightfulness and will is no longer part of anything." Wisdowm said. "Changeling is in danger, more now than before. Use your mind, Nightwing and you will prevail. You do not need us to free you. Just use the portal at the end of the way."
"What about you?" Starfire asked. "What will become of you once we succeed?"
"I don't know."
"Please, tell us what we can do to help."
"You can do nothing. It is too late for us."
The trees disappeared, the grass died and all there was left was the dusty land. A blood-curling howl was heard and the sky seemed to bleed at the echo of its horrific sound. Starfire shuddered and Nighwing placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. Salty tears glided down her cheeks.
"I give up on you all once." Nightwing said. "I won't make the same mistake again. We will subdue Trigon and then we're coming back for you."
They turned and walked away.
"You won't be able to defeat her." Timid moaned, finally lifting her face from her wet hands. "Please. Just leave."
"You said the same about your father." Nightwing said. "You said he could not be defeated but he was. You destroyed him."
"You helped me."
"Yes. And I will help you now. I won't abandon you again, Raven." He exchanged a warm smile with Starfire. "We are friendss."
Rude made gagging noises but Timid stood and sniffed, wiping away lingering tears. Wisdom regarded her for a moment and nodded. She offered her hand to the raven that had been Brave. The bird climbed to her hand and squawked defiantly.
"Let's reign in the anger, then."
Cyborg fell to his knees, cursing under his breath. He had found the portal. It stood a few feet away. It could have been miles away. His body could no longer move. It was a matter of minutes before it shot down completely.
A horrible screech reverberated through the deserted land. The ground shuddered and cracked. The sky grew darker. Cyborg raised his left arm grimly and opened a panel. His brain was not human. It was a machine. All that made him human was simply programming. He no longer needed to sleep. He no longer needed food. He no longer needed emotions…
One by one, Cyborg deprogrammed everything that made him act as a human. The energy storage rose considerably. He stood and marched towards the portal.