Jane Crocker – Thanks. I hope you keep reading.
Serenary Chiba – You're the second person to talk about 'details,' but I'm not sure what you guys mean.
TheForeIsStrongWithThisOne – Thanks. Details on Blackfire's mutilation in this chapter. No, Starfire will not be coming to Earth very soon. There's work to be done. Obligations to be met. Giant festering sores of pain to be denied and ignored. Busy, busy, busy.
Gyhy – No problem. I should have put a footnote in in the first place. I just thought EVERYBODY spoke hugmumble. Yes, there's a reason for Blackfire's maiming. I meant to include a scene in the last chapter and missed it, so there's an interlude at the beginning of this one.
Alister Nightfoot – Welcome Wagon is the flagship of the Home Fleet, specifically charged with "greeting" anyone who comes into the system without invitation. I thought it a good name for the job.
Egg1 – No. No comas here.
St. Rhon – Justifiable? Maybe so, but that level of rejection applied to a baby girl is still gonna leave a mark.
TW – I freely admit to borrowing anyplace where there's something useful, but please point out the Star Wars reference. I'm not sure what you mean. (I'll cop to it. But I really don't know where it is.)
RandomDalmation326 – That was sort of the point. I couldn't think of anything I could have done to illustrate how dire the situation is for Tamaran than to have Galfore appeal to Kormand'r, and to have her, in turn, step aside for Koriand'r. As for KF and Jinx? Not too much. I'm having enough trouble keeping five Titans straight and busy, so they're mostly going to stay in the background, covering for all the missing primaries. And Cy and Bee are keeping it casual. Long-distance relationships are hard, especially if you try to be exclusive.
Randamwriter – Glad you liked it. Hoped you like the entrée to Blüdhaven.
Caprichoso – Review as often as you like. It's the only pay I get. I'm trying not to let my universe get too far removed from canon. The idea is to try to bring the characters through young adulthood and into full maturity. The DC universe actually has them frozen in place, with ages from young teen through early twenties. I hope to explore who they become in their adult lives. If we can all stand it that long.
Autredufantome – Nah. Just too much Sesame Street at an impressionable age.
00cLosetFreak00 – It will be a while. I've got a really, really dramatic series of reconciliation vignettes lined up, and the war on Tamaran is a key piece. But I have to have all of my pieces in position before I can act.
Chowbo – Thanks. Part of the point of this entire exercise was for Raven to find her humanity.
Ccfhikvfed – Dude. Did you just slam your keys down on your keyboard at random when picking your call sign? Glad you liked it.
Tatsumarusmith – Thanks. That helps, actually. I'm really looking forward to writing the reconciliation. I've actually started on it in my head. It's going to be epic. Or fall utterly flat.
Victorthe3rd – I've got some great scenes coming up for Starfire. She needs to formally take command of the troops. As to Raven – first she has to decide if she wants him. Only THEN can she go and GET him. And yeah. Men fuck up. Thanks, I'm glad you like it. This has been a really fruitful exercise for me overall. They're right when they say the only real training for writing is writing.
IanZakk – Thanks. Maybe one day someone will pay me for it!
JOHNXGambit – Thanks for sticking with me for so long.
V for anonymous – I wondered that myself in "Go!" When she made her escape from the Gordanian slave-transport, she flew faster than light to earth with no breathing apparatus. So I decided that if Cartoon Network could ignore it, so could I. So we're just gonna wave our hands and say that she can handle hard vacuum for extended periods and move on. Unless you WANT me to make something up.
Katwizzle – Kiss? Very soon. Make up? Maybe a little longer. Oh, wait. Kiss who?
Guest – Cy and Rae went out into the City to meet Sarah in the short period between when Robin left and Jinx and Kid Flash arrived. I may have bollixed up the timeline, but that was what was supposed to happen. They're on the ground and on duty in this chapter, though. I also explain Blackfire's maiming.
Well, things are banging on quite nicely here at the Fortress of the Fanfic that Will Not End. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am, and that my characters are not moving too far from canon to be believable. We'll visit Tamaran only briefly in this Chapter. Most of our focus will be on LA. Garfield finds a very valuable new friend in an unlikely place. (Fanboys. They're everywhere.) There will then be a brief stop in Jump City. Looking farther down the road, we have a trip to Blüdhaven for Raven, a Convention for Garfield, and an urgent message home.
Interlude: Tamaran, The Royal Palace
Even in time of war, not all time can be spent fighting or in meetings. Rest and recreation are vital for both troops and leadership if they are not to go insane. The two people sat on a balcony, used food plates set to one side, wine goblets in hand. Between them lay a Jetan board, a Tamarnian game similar to chess. The game had been a bloody one, with most of the pieces gone from the board. Both players leaned back in their chairs and slowly sipped goblets of wine.
"Galfore," asked Koriand'r suddenly, "What happened to Kormand'r? Her face, I mean?"
The huge man replied, "She got just a little too close to a Gordanian brain-dicer during the withdrawal from Throndak-III. Your sister was leading from the front. She insisted on personally commanding the relief mission we sent to help with the evacuation."
"I just do not understand it. Why would she take such risks? She works so very hard, fights so very valiantly. All my life she has been wicked, duplicitous, and self-centered. She looks as though she is willing to die for Tamaran, and I cannot reconcile that with the selfishness that I have always known was her core." The young woman frowned. "I do not know if I can trust her."
Galfore answered. "Koriand'r, when she was born, Kormand'r was the first and eldest. By tradition and by law, she was to inherit and become Queen, and spent her early childhood believing it would be so. Then you came along and, because she could not summon up the Joy of Flight, she was passed over. In her mind, she was unjustly cheated. And that, my little bumgorf, has been the central fact of her life."
"All this," he gestured at the palace, the city, and the plains beyond, "to her mind is rightfully hers. Just as she was willing to do anything to remove you from her rightful place as Queen, she is willing to do anything to protect what she sees as hers from the Gordanians. We desperately needed those troops on Throdak-III evacuated. They were going to be massacred by a gigantic Gordanian fleet in just a few days. When she was wounded, they could have saved her eye had she been evacuated to the hospital ship. She insisted that they cauterize it and give her a bandage so that she could get back into the fight. To re-grow her eye or deal with the scarring would take a month in deep sedation. A month she could not spare. So she remains maimed."
"I think," Galfore continued, "You can trust Kormand'r to be Kormand'r. You should plan accordingly."
Koriand'r frowned thoughtfully.
Los Angeles (Earth) –
It's funny how you meet people, sometimes. Garfield had taken to soaring high above the city in big figure eights, patrolling for trouble, and wasn't getting much business. He couldn't tell a mugging from people bumping into each other in the street. Lower down, he could find the trouble, but then the bad guys avoided him. There's nothing like a visible cop to keep down crime. He was embarrassed later when he thought of it: he bought a cheap police scanner and listened for reported trouble. It was on his first day monitoring the police bands that he heard a nasty situation.
A non-custodial father had run off with his six-year old daughter during an unsupervised visitation. The mom had subsequently reported the child kidnapped, and when the dad was accosted by police, he'd run. Now he was barricaded inside a small frame house with his child and a gun.
Garfield banked to the southwest and headed toward the South Figueroa Corridor. The pterodactyl's face creased in concern. He was pretty sure that the 28th Street Elementary School was near there. It was easy to see where the problem was. A massive number of police cars and news trucks had descended upon the heavily Hispanic neighborhood. Law enforcement had surrounded tiny faded pink bungalow. The small post-War home was surrounded with a decorative white iron fence and had a small but well-maintained. On one side of the house, a lone adolescent banana tree waved its fronds in the breeze, while on the other side a lush herb garden lined the driveway. A small concrete patio took up much of the front yard. A small picnic table with umbrella sat in the center. The roof displayed an old-school TV antenna, while a battered, faded Mexican flag fluttered from the eaves of the tiny home.
"This," thought Garfield as he morphed into his human form, "could go badly at any moment."
He located the command truck.
"Excuse me sir," he said to the lead officer. "My name's Changeling, and I'm here to help."
"Sir," replied a uniformed officer nearby. "I'm going to have to ask you to step back. And how did you get past the ropes, anyway?"
"Oh, well, see I'm one of the Teen Titans from Jump City and I thought . . ."
"Sir, please get behind the ropes. I don't want to have to arrest you for impeding our operation."
"But I . . ."
Garfield sighed and stepped outside the ropes. He looked around. Nearby was a frustrated TV reporter.
"Hi!" he said.
She ground her teeth and turned to face him. "What?" she said. Then she started, blinking.
"You're Beast Boy, aren't you?"
"They call me Changeling, now. What's going on?"
She frowned. "They won't tell me anything, but it looks like they're about to go in with overwhelming force."
"Isn't it, like one dude with a pistol and a little girl?"
"Yeah, well, the LAPD isn't known for subtlety. My name's Susan, by the way."
"Nice to meet you Susan. So, they're sure it's just the one guy?"
"Okay – I think I'm about to get myself in trouble."
Changeling morphed into a green housefly and flickered past the police cordon unchallenged. He flew around the side of the house, and, finding a crack next to the dryer vent, entered the house unseen.
He quickly buzzed to the living room and clung to the crown molding around the top of the walls, watching. The man was Hispanic, and clearly middle aged. He hadn't shaved in a day or so, and his eyes were a little wild. Changeling could smell the fear on him, but that wasn't news. Anyone could tell that the man was terrified. He paced back and forth like a caged tiger. He wore blue jeans and a T-shirt with a faded logo of the La Senda Antigua church on it. He licked his lips and breathed heavily.
In the corner was a little girl, about four or five years old. Her eyes were bloodshot. She's clearly been crying, but otherwise seemed ok. Really, really scared, but okay.
The man continued to pace, muttering. "Es mi hijo. ' T sólo llevar a niños de un hombre."
"Yeah," thought Changeling. "I got this."
The housefly dropped away from the ceiling and buzzed toward the man. He waited until the gun was pointed away from the child and down at the floor in case there was an accident, and then turned into an adult octopus. With an arm span of nine feet and a weight of 200 pounds, he completely engulfed the startled man's head and shoulders, blinding him and cutting off his airflow. At the same time, he whipped one arm around his gun hand, locking the revolver cylinder in place with crushing force. Unable to rotate the cylinder, the gun would be unable to fire. He wrapped four arms around the man's upper arms and torso, and that left three more arms to carefully pry the firearm from the hands of the increasingly panicy man and drop it to the floor. Changeling then morphed into a gorilla, who gently folded the man's arms into a double-chicken-wing wrestling hold. Then he morphed into his human form and whispered.
"Easy now. Fight's over. Calm down."
The man thrashed and struggled, throwing the two of them to the cheap Berber carpet with a soft thump.
"C'mon man, it's over!"
He wrenched the struggling man around to face the little girl.
"Look Dude! She's scared to death. Is this what you want for your daughter? Is this how you want her to see her? What is with you? Was scaring your little girl on your 'To Do' list when you got up this morning?"
The man froze. The little girl was curled up in the corner, wide eyed, her face tracked with tears. She stared at her father unblinking. Her lower lip quivered.
He froze. His head lowered as he slowly relaxed. "No," he said, in accented English. "Scaring the little girl is never on the list of things to do today."
"I get it Dude. They are taking away your kids. That's not okay for any dad. But this wasn't the way to fix it."
"They're letting her mother move all the way across the country. Here, I have – had – a job. Friends. Standing in the community. Her mother moves to be with her new boyfriend. And they are just letting her take my child."
"It's not right. But this is making it worse. Do you really think there's any way that bunch is going to let you walk free? And if they do, how will you live? What kind of life can you offer your daughter now? I swear – you let me walk you out of here safe, and I will do everything I can to help you."
"Why should I believe you?"
"Dude, do you have a choice?"
The man relaxed and Changeling let him go.
"I'll go out first," Changeling said, "and I'll carry the girl. You come out with your hand behind your head after me. They won't shoot."
The man looked at Garfield with narrowed eyes, then nodded.
It all went smoothly, right up the point that the LAPD arrested Changeling for interfering in a police operation.
Garfield set in the back of the police car while his fellow prisoner glared out him.
"How you gonna help me now, eh?"
"Dude, you are like 10,000 percent better off than you were ten minutes ago. Now there's nobody pointing guns at us. When we get to the police station, I'll be able to call my associates and they'll get us lawyers."
But it was both simpler and more complicated than that. As they were being manhandled into Parker Center, a voice spoke sharply but delightedly.
"Garfield Login? Really? Back in LA?"
Garfield looked around. There was a portly, middle aged man just coming out a nearby door, surrounded by other men in suits. He was dressed richly but conservatively. Not an expert, Garfield estimated that the tailor-made suit the man was wearing probably cost between two and three thousand dollars. He had elegantly coiffed steel grey hair and was somewhat portly. His eyes were ice-blue and he wore no facial hair. The man left his entourage and walked briskly up to Garfield and stuck out a well-manicured hand. Unable to move his handcuffed hand, Garfield started to speak.
"Mayor," interrupted the arresting officer, "This man is under arrest for interfering in a police investigation."
"Garfield Logan? Interfering with a police operation? He's not under arrest. Un-cuff him."
"He's an actor, not a desperado. Cut him loose."
"Actor?" thought Changeling as the handcuffs were remove and the rest of the officers moved off.
"Um, thanks?" he said to the man, sticking out his hand.
"Nice to meet you Mister Logan. I'm Charles Fox, Mayor of Los Angeles. Welcome to our city, but I guess it's your city, too, you were born here, right?"
"Um, sure . . . "
"So, you're here for the Con, right? I mean, you're coming to the Con. You gotta come to the Con."
"Con? Wait, I . . . ?"
"SpaceTrek: Forever, the big national SpaceTrek: 1999 Convention. Thousands of people are coming from all over the country."
"Thousands of people . . . But we only had the one season!"
"But it was a great season. I remember the great scene you had with Captain Richardson in Episode 34 – 'The Challenge.' It changed my life. Inspired me to go into politics."
Garfield scratched his head. As far as he could recall, the only line he'd had in "The Challenge" at all was, "The boosters are installed, sir."
"Listen," the Mayor babbled on, "I'm on the board for 'SpaceTrek: Forever,' and we're having a hard time getting talent to show up. We're pretty much stuck with a pile of redshirts who died before the second commercial break, a broken down writer, and a retired special effects technician. C'mon!"
He looked pointedly at the retreating back of the arresting officer. "You do kind of owe me a favor."
Garfield shrugged. "Sure. I'm not doing anything this weekend."
And that was how Garfield made friends with the Mayor of Los Angeles.
"Who knew?" he thought. "I mean, I guess you find geeks anywhere, but the dude must have been 20 when SpaceTrek:2020 had been on the air, and we only had the one season."
He didn't like to really admit it, but he'd been an over-eager 12 year old green shape shifter who had been hired to play an over-eager 12-year-old green shape shifter. It hadn't actually been much of a stretch of his acting chops. But he'd had fun, and he'd gotten paid until Star Trek and Space:1999 had pretty much sued them out of business. It had been after that he'd come to understand that the roles for green shape shifters were rare.
"Oh, well," he thought, "I'm not in jail, and maybe the Con will be fun. But first, I need to call Questor about a family law lawyer and criminal law lawyer for my cell-mate."
Tamaran, the Royal Palace
"Galfore," said Koriand'r. "I have a special task for you. You are not to use any of the normal Royal or State channels. Do not access the military network. Instead, I wish for you to only to speak to other knorfkas. I wish to meet with thirty of them – the very best of the field."
"That will be hard, Princess. Times being what they are, they will not want to leave the children they are guarding and training."
"Make it happen, Galfore. It is a matter of life and death."
"And have Korgar Etann-Fossh, Captain of the High Guard survey vessel Victory recalled and report directly to me. He is to be detached to the Royal Guard. Let his job be "Fleet Liaison."
Jump City, CA – Earth
The four Titans sat around the T-shaped table in the common room as Cyborg went over the patrol schedule for the coming week. There was a loud but not unpleasant tone, and the giant TV screen snapped on. Nightwing's stern face filled the panel.
"Hi, guys," he said. "Sorry to interrupt."
"Hey R – Nightwing," said Cyborg. "Just going over the new patrol schedule. What's up?"
"I need to ask a favor," said the dark hero.
"You know I'll help if I can," said the machine-man.
"I was wondering if Raven would be willing to come out to Blüdhaven for a week or so. One of the syndicates is getting ready to make an attempt to take over the city's vice industry. They've brought in some sort of Voodoo or Hoodoo priestess from the Caribbean. And it seems like she's more than just talk."
Raven said, "A Voodoo Priestess would be using thaumaturgy. A Hoodoo Queen would be using necromancy. Either is dangerous."
"I know enough about them to know when I'm in over my head. If I'm going to thump heads, I need someone slinging counter-spells. Or whatever. Batman suggested Zatanna, but I'd rather have the sorceress I know. No offense Jinx."
The fuschia-haired hex-mistress waved carelessly. "None taken, R-Nightwing. You've worked with Raven a lot more, and besides. Blüdhaven: dark, gritty, filthy, and no decent shopping. Ew."
Raven looked over at Cyborg, "I'm okay with it."
"Hey Dude, you don't have to . . ."
"It's your team now Cyborg. Can you spare her?"
"You were right about this town, Nightwing. We've got it sewn up. The three of us can more than hold down the fort for a week or so."
"I'll get packed," said Raven. "If I'm going to be facing ritual magic, I'm going to need a few things. I'll be ready to leave in a couple of hours."
Raven went to her room and opened the medieval chest that held her ritual spell casting gear and began to pack it into a hardside suitcase. When that was done she went to her closet to grab a couple of leotards and a spare pair of elf boots when she stopped short. The silk dress was scarlet, and so not her color, but Rita had insisted it was perfect. It had a modest but alluring bustline, narrow waist, and shoulders with tiny pleats. There were black stocking and red, strappy sandals to go with it. And, perhaps, best of all, Garfield had never seen her in it. She stroked the wildly inappropriate material, not thinking. Definitely not thinking about anything at all. Nightwing probably knew some nice places to eat. Maybe. When the work was done. She'd just toss in this dress, you know, just in case.
With great care not to wrinkle the delicate silk, Raven carefully folded the dress in the hard case with the spell casting gear. It would not do to stuff Rita's gift in a gym bag. No, no it would not.