Teen Titans is a registered trademark of DC Comics and Cartoon Network Inc. All trademarked characters, locations, themes and ideas are used without permission in a work of fan-created fiction. The following has been done without profit for purely entertainment purposes. All original concepts, characters, themes and ideas within are the copyrighted property of the author, and are not to be reproduced without his prior consent. Additional information used in creating Teen Titans: Absolution is courtesy of Titans Tower Online.
What follows is the third part in a trilogy. For the full experience, please begin with Avatar and continue through Adaptation before reading this story. Both are available on my Author page. Otherwise, enjoy!
Prologue: The Final Moment
Three days from now.
The pain rang in Robin's ears as he drifted back from blackness. Whispers of a dream clung to his mind, turning to vapor as he tried to grasp it. He remembered a hood, and cloak, and dark eyes, and a gentle hand pressed to his face.
The world outside his dream smelled stale and pressed icily against his back. When Robin tried cracking his eyelid, a muted light stabbed his eye, forcing it shut again. He lay perfectly still and focused his efforts on extinguishing the fire in his skull instead. Minutes or centuries later, when he could think again, he took stock of his surroundings as best he could without moving or looking.
He was inside a structure. The winter rain pounded on a high metal roof. Water dripped, echoing off of far walls. The air didn't stir. It was cool, but not cold.
An old warehouse, he guessed. And since he didn't hear the ocean outside, that most likely put him just outside of Jump Central, in the old industrial district.
A light twitch of his nose made his stomach clench: his mask was gone. The only thing covering his eyes were the bruises swelling in his face.
His whole costume was gone. He felt a light sheet covering him from the waist down, with an identical sheet spread over a metal table on which he lay. He didn't feel any restraints on his wrists or ankles.
Footsteps approached, making the table vibrate. His table was on an elevated platform of some kind, judging by the echo and clank of the footfalls. He ignored the urge to tense up and forced his breathing to remain shallow. Then he waited.
The footfalls stopped at the side of his table. Quickened, pleasantly minty breath hovered over him for a handful of unbearable seconds. A fingertip took his pulse, warm and electric against the soft flesh of his neck. Then he felt a steadying grasp around his arm, and the prick of a needle being pressed into the crook of his elbow.
Robin exploded from the table in a whirl of sheets and limbs. The hypodermic needle spun into the air, falling into his waiting grasp before his bare feet slapped the cold metal grating beneath him. With a jab across the table, he pressed the needle's point beneath the trembling chin of his would-be poisoner.
The dark-haired girl sucked back a yelp, her eyes wide, her fair skin paling. "Wow," she said breathlessly, and lifted her hands in surrender. "You are really fast."
"Who are you?" Robin snarled. "Do you work for Immortus?"
The girl swallowed hard, wincing at the needle's point. "My name is Wendy," she stammered. "Wendy Harris. I don't work for anybody. I don't even go to school. I've never heard of Immortus. I'm a huge fan of yours, and I don't know your face, so please, please, please, please, please don't kill me."
Robin examined her, keeping the hypodermic needle in place. Her threadbare clothes and tattered shoes struck a deep cord in him, harkening back to another lifetime, when Tim Drake had been a punk living on dumpsters and stolen doughnuts.
"You removed my mask," he said.
Excitement sparked in Wendy's eyes. "I know, right?" she said brightly. "Electro-reactive material that forms a static bond with skin? It took us almost an hour to figure it out. Once we did, of course, it wasn't hard to find the electrodes in the tips of your gloves. It would only make sense to keep the means for bonding the mask close at hand, if you'll forgive the pun."
"…let me rephrase that," Robin drawled. "You removed my mask. Why?"
Wendy turned pink. "Oh. Your face was really swollen, so we wanted to get it out of the way to make sure you didn't lose an eye. You didn't, by the way. Would you, um, like it back?" Her eyes flicked down, and her pink face turned red. "And your other clothes?"
Robin grunted at the cold touch of air between his legs. "Yes. Please," he said.
"Okay." Wendy said. A few second later, she added, "That would be a lot easier if you weren't threatening me."
"Oh." Robin lowered the needle.
The color faded from Wendy's face as she backed away from the table. She fairly flew down a set of rickety stairs leading to the concrete floor. The drafty seconds she was away allowed Robin to take in his surroundings. He had been right about the broad strokes. But the details blew him away.
The expansive warehouse had been scrubbed clean so that only a few dark stains marred the floor. A string of windows circled the building near the ceiling, revealing Jump City's rainy season blanking the sky as it knocked steadily on the corrugated roof.
Robin was stunned by the warehouse's interior. The large space had been divided into groups of furniture, like rooms without walls. There were two beds, one each on opposite sides of the building, blocked from view of each other by privacy screens. Worktables dotted the floor between the beds. One table was buried in a bank of computers. Another held mechanical garbage seemingly dug out of a mountain of rust. Still another table had chemicals of all colors in test tubes and beakers. There were other mechanical projects kept on tarps, or hung from chains, and a half-built car on blocks by the old loading dock door. The building was more a lab than anything else, and a far cry from what Robin had expected.
The raised platform on which he stood was made from scavenged metal, and appeared to be a shared living area. Three refrigerators puttered at the edge of the grating, seated next to a freestanding oven. The table on which he'd laid was in the middle of the makeshift kitchen.
The nearby wall was plastered with scrawled blueprints and circuitry layouts dotted with yellow post-it notes. Robin couldn't fathom half of what the designs were. And in the middle of the collage was a single framed photo of—
Robin stared in shock at the framed eight-by-ten photo. It consumed him to the point where he jumped in shock when Wendy tapped his shoulder from behind.
His startle made Wendy shriek and flinch, holding his folded uniform in front of her like a shield. "Sorry! Sorry. Here you go," she stammered. "Sorry. Were you looking at some...oh! The picture."
Heartache stabbed his chest as he turned away, accepting the uniform from Wendy's trembling grasp. "Yeah. I didn't…" His eyes squeezed shut. "I wasn't expecting to see them. That's all."
Wendy stepped around him, focusing on the photograph as Robin dressed behind her. The two smiling super heroes posed in front of a bookshelf with her and a gangly boy made her grin. "Yeah. That was an awesome day. I could tell they were busy in the bookstore—especially because they saved our lives later—but Cyborg and Raven still stopped to take a picture with us. They were really awesome. Whatever happened to them?"
As Wendy turned, she saw Robin pressing a black domino to his face, completing the transformation. A scalloped black cape fell over him, obscuring the bare spot where his utility belt would have been.
"Wow," she breathed.
"How long have I been unconscious?" he asked.
She shook her head clear of dreamy remembrance. "Um, a couple of hours. We found you in an alley behind some garbage cans," Wendy said. "Somebody messed you up pretty bad."
"Where are we?" Robin said, starting for the distant warehouse door.
Wendy followed a few steps behind. "This is our lab. And our home. We've kind of been on our own ever since our dad—"
Robin collapsed on one knee. The world around him pitched onto its side, forcing him to catch the grate or flop onto his side. The adrenaline rush of waking in a strange place was gone. Exhaustion and pain had come rushing back with a vengeance.
"Are you okay?" Wendy said, hovering at his side. She didn't quite have the courage to reach to help him.
Robin drew a slow breath, and said, "What day is it?"
Thursday. Three days since he'd last slept. Two days since the ration pills in his utility belt had run out. At least a day since he'd had water. He had been running on fumes, and the fumes had run out."
Had the Titans gotten away? Were they looking for him? He had to find a way to contact them before Immortus caught up to him. Or, more unthinkable, find out if Immortus had caught up with his friends first. He had to keep moving.
He had to keep fighting.
"Maybe you should sit down for a minute," Wendy suggested nervously as Robin pushed onto his feet. "You still don't look so good."
Robin grabbed the rail of the stairs. Somehow his legs reached the bottom without buckling. "Thank you for your help, Wendy. But the longer I stay, the more danger I put you in. I have to…"
He staggered again, halfway to the door, and braced himself on the table of beakers. The glass clattered as he struggled to keep upright.
"Whoa!" Wendy cried, hesitating behind him. "Okay, you are clearly in no shape to—"
The warehouse door skreeked open and clanged shut. A redheaded boy in a hand-me-down hoodie threw himself against the door, panting. Thick lines of sweat and rain cut across his face. "We—"
The boy shrieked and skittered back as a hypodermic needle slammed point-first into the door frame next to him. Its needle sank into the rotted wood, leaving the plunger to quiver with the force of its impact.
Wendy looked in horror at Robin's extended throwing arm. As he struggled to his feet and curled his fists, she threw herself in his way. "No! Don't! That's my brother, Marvin!"
Backed against the wall, Marvin stared at the needle stuck mere inches from his head. His wide eyes trailed to Robin. "Holy crap. You really are him!" he cried. "I was half-convinced you were just one of those guys who works birthday parties!"
"Marvin! What's happening?" Wendy said. "You said you were going out for food."
The fear in Marvin's face returned. "It's like an episode of the Twilight Zone out there! And not the Shatner episode, either. The neighborhood is lousy with creepy guys in giant trench coats. And there's this red-eyed—"
Both teens jumped and shrieked in alarm at a loud scraping noise. They turned and saw Robin shoving the chemical table toward the door. The beakers and tubes rattled, their contents spilling across the stained wood and dribbling over his boots.
"What are you doing?" Wendy cried.
"Wow! You move fast," said Marvin. "Weren't you, like, just out cold a few minutes ago?"
Robin grunted, "We need to go. Now."
Marvin watched, open-mouthed, as Robin hobbled behind another work table and shoved it toward his first makeshift barricade. "Wait. Seriously? You want to go outside with the creep-o convention in full swing?"
Wringing her hands, Wendy insisted, "This is our home. We're safe here."
When the door thumped inward, Wendy shrieked, jumping back. The table's beakers toppled, hissing as they pooled together. A second thump bent the door. A third thump slid the table backward, and peeled back the edge of the door for a vaguely human arm to thrust into the warehouse.
Marvin screamed as the hand carved deep furrows into the corrugated metal wall. "Oh! Oh, shit! What the hell is that?" he sobbed.
Robin slammed the tables together against the door, bending it back and trapping the rogue arm in puckered metal. Immediately, the arm began to tear through the metal to free itself.
He collapsed against the second table, trying to hold it in place. "Back door," he wheezed.
Neither Wendy nor Marvin could answer. They watched in horror as their front door was demolished from the outside. Through the crumpling frame came a furious, inhuman snarl. With cold, trembling lips, Wendy stammered, "What do we do?"
"Back door!" Robin snapped. His battle against the door was a losing one. The two heavy tables jumped into him with each blow struck from outside. "Don't you have another way out of here?" he demanded.
"Yeah. Yes!" Marvin answered. "We cut a hidden door into the back…in the back of…What do these things want? Why are they here?" he cried, losing his train of thought.
"Get to the door and wait for me. Don't open it until I get there!" Robin barked at them in his best Gotham Growl, channeling the commanding tone Batman had used on him.
Even as hoarse as he was, his voice broke through their stupor, and spurred them back toward the raised metal grating. He watched them duck between the platform's supports before another knock to the door rattled through his arms.
The door wrenched free from its hinges. Gloved fists were bending the door over the table one punch at a time.
A long breath washed through Robin, settling over a week's worth of hurt. He pushed away from the table as the last of the door collapsed. For a fleeting second, he mourned his missing belt. Then he steeled himself, and parted his cape over his shoulders.
Fearsome strength exploded through the door wearing a fluttering brown trench coat and matching fedora. The figure scrambled across the two-table barricade and landed in the warehouse on all fours. From beneath the hat's rim, featureless red eyes glared at Robin. It spider-crawled at him with incredible speed, and then leapt at him with hammer fists.
But Robin was ready. His cape billowed, detaching from his neck as he whirled it around his body and into the figure's punch. The heavy black fabric pooled over the figure, covering his face and chest, and tangling in his fist.
With the figure's sharp gesture, the cape came loose. The fedora tumbled after it. The fluttering fabric unveiled a blank, metallic face of smooth alloy interrupted only by two glowing red optic sensors. Its head swiveled with an unnatural independence of its body, its hateful optics following Robin.
The Teen Wonder bounded into the air. With a snarl, he hooked his boot into the robot's skull. The blow tore the robot's head from its shoulders, sending a hail of sparks across the ruined barricade. As the head tumbled, its sparks landed in the spilled chemicals and roared into a furious inferno.
The floor caught Robin on his back. He lay stunned for a second, sucking air, searching for the strength to lift his head. Broken ribs screamed inside his chest. His foot throbbed from the kick. The heat of the flames grew closer, hotter, but still he could not move.
Then a tinny growl pierced the fire. It was the same sound that had hounded him since this nightmare began.
Robin pushed his terror into his limbs, forcing them to push him off the floor. He staggered for the rickety struts where he had last seen Marvin and Wendy. His muscles burned, begging him to quit. He huffed and caught himself against one of the platform's cross-braces, and risked a look over his shoulder.
Through the curtain of flames, a silvery predator erupted into the warehouse. Fire trailed from its paws as it hammered through the tables, flinging splintered wreckage with a toss of its head. Its angular glower swept the room, finding Robin in a second. The jagged scar across its snout gleamed. Its triangle ears perked in anticipation.
"Oh, come on!" Robin howled, and pushed himself deeper under the platform.
The sound of metal claws spurred him toward the two terrified kids huddled next to a makeshift door cut into the side of the warehouse. It had hinges on the inside and a simple latch holding it closed, making it all but invisible from the outside.
Marvin flattened himself against the door and pointed past Robin. "What the hell is that?" he screamed.
"Open the door!" Robin screamed back. He tried not to think of the snapping jaws just a few feet behind him. "Get ready to run!"
Fumbling in unison, the siblings grasped the door's latch. They managed to hurl the door back just in time for Robin to lurch out into the rain.
Only Robin couldn't leave. He stumbled to a halt at the threshold of the door, pierced by the cool gaze of a single eye. Black and red patterned armor blocked his path. A saber swung up as the door open, its haft grasped in gauntleted hands.
Robin stared at Ravager's flashing blade. The metallic hound pounced from behind. His heart pounded, and his vision faded at the edges, becoming a warm, dark blur. He didn't have the energy left to fight. There was nothing he could do.
As the blade descended, Robin felt the anger and pain evaporate from his body. For his entire life, he had prepared for this final moment. He always assumed he would feel a flash of hatred for the psychopathic metahuman or lottery-lucky street thug that punched his ticket. He had promised that, when the end came, he would face it with defiance.
Now, with the end at hand, Robin only felt regret wrapped in the memory of red lips, soft golden skin, and warm green eyes.
"Oh," Robin said, as Ravager and the metal beast fell upon him.
To Be Continued