Hello, faithful readers. I apologize for the wait by presenting to you, the grand finale of my Teen Titans Season Six! This episode kicks off just after Starfire left last episode, and goes right up to the beginning of Titans Reunited. There's a lot of stuff that happens in this episode, so bear with me.
Disclaimer: The new Teen Titans Go series has been announced, and I don't own that, just like I don't own the original series or the original comics, or the Teen Titans Go comics that were made as a spin-off to the cartoon, or the... well, you get the idea. I'll shut up and start telling the story now, shall I?
The beeping was insistent and piercing, but to Richard Grayson, better known as Robin, it sounded distant and quiet. Everything seemed muted, without her. He hadn't moved from his seat at his desk for the three hours she'd been gone, but to him, those three hours had felt like three decades to his aching, broken heart. He half-expected her to step through the door and kiss him, lighting up his now grey-tinged world. But those days were gone; she wasn't coming back.
His communicator was the source of the beeping. It was resting on his desk, but the sight of the yellow device brought back too many memories of her...
The communicator clicked, and the beeping stopped.
"Dick, I know you're there." The voice coming through the communicator was a familiar one, one from his days before becoming a Titan. He wasn't really paying attention, though. Nothing mattered with her gone...
"I know you can hear me, Dick, now pick up!" The voice belonged to a woman, about a year or two older than he was.
She sighed. "Dick, I know you're upset now that your girlfriend's gone," she said. "But you can't just check out like this!"
She was right. It was bad for him to zone out like this and do nothing but stare at the walls and cry, but it was so easy to just slip into that blissful zone of unawareness...
"Dick, your friends need you," implored the woman. "They depend on you. You have to be strong for them. And they can help you; they just lost one of their friends too."
When Richard didn't reply, the woman sighed again. "Dick, listen to me. I know it's hard for you but you have to move on. Would Kori have wanted you to waste your life, crying your eyes out because she's gone? Or would she want you to get up, move on and start being a hero again?"
The mention of his girlfriend's name finally got a reaction. His eyes dropped down to the communicator on his desk. He knew what Kori would want him to do, and he could imagine what she might say. She would probably say something about how other people needed him, and that he couldn't afford to be selfish, and that if he kept working, he wouldn't have to think about how much it hurt. And the woman speaking to him was right: Kori wouldn't want him to waste away here.
He picked up his communicator and answered it. "You still know how to make me feel bad about myself, don't you, Babs?" he said, his voice sounding rough.
Barbara 'Batgirl' Gordon gasped in mock surprise. "He lives!" she said gleefully.
Richard groaned. "Yeah, very funny," he said sarcastically. A stray thought struck him. "How did you get this frequency, anyway? I never gave you a communicator."
"I hacked into your communications network," said Barbara proudly.
"How long have you been trying to do that?" he asked.
"Two and a half years," said Barbara. "But that was only for a few hours every other night. And I would've cracked it sooner if you hadn't shut down the network on me!"
Richard smiled. "You could have just asked for a communicator. I would've given you one."
"What, and have nothing to do on my day off?" asked Barbara in a hurt tone of voice. "Anyway, how was I supposed to ask you for one?"
"Good point," said Richard. "And Babs?"
"Thanks. I needed that."
"You're welcome," said Barbara. Richard hung up, and put his communicator back on his desk. She was right; it was time to move on. He couldn't spend the rest of his life wallowing around in grief. He stood up and walked over to his wardrobe. His multiple Robin uniforms hung from coat hangers, or were neatly folded. Silkie, Starfire's pet mutant moth larva, was sleeping on one of his folded up uniforms again. The grub raised its head to stare at Robin, before settling down again. The grub was getting old now; bugs tended not to live for very long. Silkie had to be in his seventies or eighties in mutant moth years. Richard gently picked up Silkie and its nest of his clothes, and moved it out of the way. His uniforms weren't the only clothes he had: civilian clothes were also present, but they were far outnumbered by the spare uniforms. At the very back, there was something else: something he'd been working on for the last few weeks. It had been inspired by what Kori had said about the future, or the one she had visited when Warp had accidentally dragged her there. It was a new uniform, one that was radically different from the one he was currently wearing. The bodysuit was black, with a blue bird insignia adorning the chest. A blue stripe ran down the sleeves, were it stopped at the armoured gloves, which were metallic silver, the same silver as the belt and boots. Beside the uniform, a set of his usual gadgets: explosive discs, bird-a-rangs, grappling hooks, collapsible bo staffs, all painted in the same silver and blue pattern. Richard stared at the uniform for a few seconds, before he grabbed it. He pulled off the Robin uniform he was wearing, and started putting on the new one. The last thing he put on was the mask. It was almost identical to the normal domino mask he wore as Robin, but the corners flared up, in a manner reminiscent of bird wings.
As he put the mask in place, there was a knock on his door.
"Hey, Robin, you okay?" asked Cyborg.
"I'm fine," he replied, walking up to the door and opening it. "And my name isn't Robin anymore; it's Nightwing."
When there's trouble, you know who to call. TEEN TITANS!
From their tower they can see it all. TEEN TITANS!
When there's evil on the attack,
You can rest knowing they've got your back,
'Cause when the world needs heroes on patrol,
Teen Titans, GO!
With their superpowers they unite. TEEN TITANS!
Never met a villain that they liked. TEEN TITANS!
They've got the bad guys on the run,
They never stop till the job gets done,
'Cause when the world is losing all control,
Teen Titans, GO!
One, two, three, four, GO! Teen Titans!
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos," chanted Raven, floating cross-legged in her room. She had been meditating a lot in the past month. She used to get by meditating once or twice a week, but now she was meditating every day. Keeping her emotions in check was hard; Starfire's departure had hurt everyone. She needed to meditate to keep her powers in check, and although she now had greater control over her powers now that her father was gone, she could still possibly lose control. Raven didn't want to take that risk.
The young woman inhaled, breathing the scent of the incense that usually calmed her.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos," she chanted again. She could sense the other members of her team; Cyborg and Beast Boy were in the common room, but their usual excitement and enthusiasm was muted. Rob—Nightwing was out on patrol at the moment, and even from the Tower, she could still sense the gaping emotional wounds he was hiding behind a mask of good cheer.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos."
Raven had patrolled with Nightwing two nights ago, and it had been rather obvious that he was acting different. He'd started joking more during fights, usually making sarcastic comments about his opponents. Even his fighting style had changed slightly; he was using more acrobatic moves now. Raven had confronted Nightwing about his new attitude, asking him why he was being so cheerful while everyone else on the team was still hurting from Starfire's departure. His reply had been that he was hoping that one day soon, it wouldn't be an act.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos."
That was when Raven realized that Nightwing was in much more emotional pain than he was letting on. She'd offered to help, but he'd declined. He wanted to deal with his pain on his own; and he knew that she was struggling to cope, too. Raven found it a lot harder to meditate now; she was constantly distracted by the lack of Starfire's presence. She kept expecting the door to open and Starfire to walk in, politely asking if she could join Raven in her meditation.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos."
Even the citizens of Jump City were affected by the loss of one of the Titans. The energy of the people seemed to have been sucked out of them, as if the mood of the Titans had been contagious. Jump City had lost one a hero, a woman who cared for all those around her, no matter who they were. Starfire had been one of the more visible faces of the Teen Titans, and now she was gone.
Raven sighed, and opened her eyes. Her hood was up, hiding her face. She'd started wearing it up again, reflecting how hard she was trying to hide her pain. She looked over at the calendar on her wall, and her eyes widened as she read the date. On this day, two years ago, her father, Trigon, had destroyed Azarath, her home. Azarath was a peaceful place, home to the Monks of Azar. Her father had torn down everything, burning it to the ground. Raven had fled to Azarath, in an attempt to escape her destiny, and had found an illusion waiting for her. That illusion had been of Azarath, intact, and the second part of that illusion had been her mother, Angela Roth, who had taken the name Arella upon joining the Monks of Azar. Ever since then, Raven hadn't returned to Azarath. She had been afraid. She didn't want to see the burnt buildings, or the charred corpses… But she hadn't seen any bodies when she had visited two years ago. The only person she had seen was her mother, who had been an illusion. There might have been survivors. She had to know. Raven reached out with her powers, pulling out two flasks of white sand, and pouring the sand into a circle around her. Six candles floated through the air, and Raven set them down around the circle, and the wicks flared to life.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos," she began to chant. "Carazon Rakashas Enderez." The circle of sand around her started to glow a bluish white colour. "Vaserix Endrien Azarath…Azarath,Azarath!" As she chanted, her voice began to rise, so she was shouting the last word. A column of bluish-white light rose up from the sand, forming a cylindrical barrier around her that touched the ceiling of her room. There was a bright flash, and Raven blurred before disappearing, and the light from the sand faded, leaving only the six candles to provide illumination.
Raven hadn't expected this. She knew people had died when her father had attacked Azarath, but she hadn't expected to end up teleporting into a mass graveyard. She gazed over the orderly rows of headstones. Some of those graves had flowers placed on them, and recently too; all the proof she really needed that there had been survivors. She looked up, and saw further proof. While there were still several buildings still in ruins, here and there, new ones were being built, with scaffolding next to them. She could hear the sounds of construction from here; the banging of hammers, people calling out to each other, sawing noises. Raven started to walk over to the nearest building. She could see people now, and she even spotted a few of the Monks of Azar in their white robes.
There was a loud cracking noise as one of the supports for the nearby scaffold broke. The man at the top cried out as the scaffolding started to sway and more struts broke.
"Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos!" chanted Raven, reaching out with her powers as the scaffolding began to collapse. The scaffold and the man on board were surrounded by the black energy of her powers, and she slowed them down, lowering the scaffolding and the man to the ground as gently as she could.
"It's Raven," someone said. "Arella, Raven's back!"
One of the women dressed in the white robes of the Monks of Azar turned around, lowering her hood, revealing her blue dyed hair and her dark brown eyes. She gasped when she spotted Raven.
"Rachel?" she whispered.
In response, Raven pulled back her own hood and smiled. "Mother, I..." Raven began, but her voice trailed off as Arella started to run towards her. Arella grabbed Raven in a massive hug, laughing and crying at the same time.
"Oh, Rachel, I missed you so much," whispered Arella.
"I... I missed you too... Mom," Raven replied.
Arella hugged Raven a little tighter. "I've waited so long for you to call me that," she said.
Tears started to well up in Raven's eyes. "I know, Mom."
"You sure you want to do this?" asked Nightwing. The three other members of Titans West were gathered outside her room.
Raven nodded. "I'm sure," she said.
Even though his eyes were hidden by the mask he habitually wore, Nightwing seemed to have a faraway look on his face. "All right," he said. He hugged Raven gently. "You take care of yourself, okay?"
"I will," said Raven.
Nightwing let her go, and started to walk away.
Cyborg hugged her next. "Don't stay away too long," he said. "I can't handle Beast Boy all by myself."
"Hey!" said the green-skinned teenager indignantly.
Raven smirked. "I'll keep that in mind."
Cyborg left her, leaving Beast Boy and Raven behind.
"Well, Rae, I guess this is it," said Beast Boy quietly.
Raven nodded. "That's right."
There was an awkward silence between the two for a few seconds, and then Raven grabbed Beast Boy for a quick hug. Beast Boy started to blush a little as he hugged her back.
Raven stepped back, and looked at her friend. She hadn't noticed before, but Beast Boy had grown. They were the same height now, and he was a little less scrawny, a little more muscular.
"Bye, Rae," said Beast Boy.
"Goodbye... Garfield," said Raven, before she walked into her room and closed the door.
Beast Boy stared at the closed door, blinking. She'd used his real name. She hadn't done that before. She had clearly intended to tease him about his name after Rita had mentioned it after the Titans had saved the Doom Patrol, but she never had. He had almost begun to wonder if she had forgotten, but now he was curious about why she would use it now. Did she... no, no, no, she didn't have any feelings about him like that. That thought made him blush again. I mean, sure, she cared about him, but that was in a brother-and-sister way, not in that way... right?
"I think you might be getting a bit too old to be Beast Boy anymore," said Nightwing.
Beast Boy didn't say anything. He and Nightwing were on patrol, and the sun was starting to set. Cyborg was back at the Tower, packing the T-Car. He was planning on visiting the Titans East, and he didn't know when he'd be back... or if he'd be back.
"I mean you're what? Seventeen?" continued Nightwing.
"Yeah," said Beast Boy. His voice still had that slight scratchiness to it that it always had, but his voice had dropped rather noticeably in the last six months. He was also starting to develop a lot more musculature.
"Seriously, you don't look like a boy now," said Nightwing. "You got away with it for the last three years, but that was before you started getting muscles." Nightwing glanced at Beast Boy again. "Or started getting taller."
Beast Boy sighed, running a hand through his green hair. "What the hell am I going to call myself, though?" he asked.
Nightwing shrugged. "How about something like..." Nightwing trailed off as his gaze started to roam the streets.
"What is it?" asked Beast Boy, snapping into a more alert stance.
"I thought I saw something move," muttered Nightwing.
Nightwing shook his head. "This was something bigger," he said. "But not as big as Plasmus, Cinderblock or Overload."
Beast Boy nodded. "I'll go down for a closer look."
Beast Boy jumped off the building, morphing into a bird as he did so, spreading his wings and gliding down to street level. He switched to a dog and started sniffing around. Beast Boy tensed, and morphed back into human form. He opened his mouth to speak, but something large and white tackled him out of nowhere. Nightwing leapt off the building, firing his grappling hook at a streetlamp. The line wrapped around the post, and he swung towards the white creature, his booted feet smashing into the creature's face. Nightwing pushed off the creature's face, back-flipping and landing next to Beast Boy.
"I thought we trashed this thing!" yelled Nightwing. They'd fought this white monster before; the Titans had just returned from Paris, and this creature had ambushed them, exhibiting its power of self-transmutation: the monster could turn into whatever it touched. (1)
"We never found the body after we killed it last time," said Beast Boy.
The monster grabbed a nearby streetlamp, and a wave of steel rippled across its surface.
"Then we won't make that mistake this time," said Nightwing. "Titans, GO!"
"Dude, I'm the only one here!" yelled Beast Boy as Nightwing leapt into action.
Tara Markov looked around. She knew that war cry; everyone in Jump City did. At one point in her life, she'd listened to the man who gave that order... then she'd betrayed him. She stayed away from them now, but... well, Starfire had left six months ago, and Raven not long after that. They might need her help, even if they didn't necessarily want it.
Explosions rang out, and Tara started to run towards the sound, unlike most of the other civilians, who were running away from the fight. Tara ran around a corner, and saw a green-feathered hawk swoop down and change mid-flight into a rhinoceros and slam into the white monster that she had seen the Titans fight on the day her cover was almost blown. The creature staggered back, and concrete rippled along its legs and up its entire body, leaving only the face untouched. Nightwing threw a disc at the creature that exploded on impact, but the monster shrugged it off and grabbed Nightwing, slamming him into the ground. Nightwing struggled against the creature's grip, and Beast Boy charged at the creature, morphing into a tyrannosaurus and biting the creature. The monster released Nightwing and pried Beast Boy's jaws open, then punched the green tyrannosaurus hard. Beast Boy changed back to human form, and the monster loomed over his stunned body. The monster swung its arm down to crush Beast Boy, and that was when Tara activated her power. The creature's arm snapped clean off, the stump swinging towards Beast Boy. The creature tried to crush Beast Boy with its other arm, but Tara snapped that off too. She clenched her hands into fists, and the two unattached limbs were shaped into huge rocks. Tara brought her hands together, and crushed the monster's head between what used to be its arms. Tara lifted her arms, and swung downwards, lifting up the creature and smashing it into the pavement, crushing it. For good measure, she exerted her powers once more, causing the monster to explode, sending chunks of dirt in all directions. She stood there panting, before she noticed Beast Boy looking at her. She looked at him, and their gazes met.
"Terra?" he asked.
Tara started to back away, and then she turned and ran.
"Terra, wait!" yelled Beast Boy. Tara continued running, but Beast Boy managed to catch up. He grabbed her arm, but she yanked it out of his grip and turned to face him.
"Back off, Beast Boy!" Tara growled, her eyes flashing yellow.
"Terra, I just want to talk," said Beast Boy. "For five minutes."
The two of them stood there for a few seconds, then Tara lowered her arm and her eyes faded back to their normal blue. "All right," said Tara softly.
"Why did you lie to us?" asked Beast Boy. He didn't say it angrily; as far as Tara could tell, there wasn't any emotion in his voice at all. He was calm and quiet... it unnerved Tara slightly.
"I..." Tara began, stopped, and started again. "I didn't think you'd trust me if I just suddenly came back out of nowhere," she said. "Especially after... after I betrayed you," Tara looked down as she said that, trying to crush the haunting memories.
Beast Boy nodded slowly. "You're right," he said quietly. "We'd never trust you like we used to. I mean, we would have let you back into the Titans—"
"But you would've watched my every move," said Tara. "Making sure I wasn't going to betray you again." Tara sighed. "I wouldn't be able to live with that kind of stress."
"Yeah," said Beast Boy. "We'd all end up at each other's throats, we'd fight, and you'd probably just quit again. But Terra, you can't just sit out."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"You have superpowers; you can help us," said Beast Boy. "We have to fight crime all the time, and you have powers, we need your help."
"But you would never completely trust me again," said Tara. "How could I be a Titan if—"
"What if you could start again?" said a voice from behind her.
Tara turned to face Nightwing. "What do you mean?"
"Cyborg is leaving for Steel City next week," said Nightwing. "He's going to rejoin the Titans East. You could go with him and join them as well. They won't hold anything against you; you can be a hero again—"
"And you'll have Cyborg to keep an eye on me, is that it?" snapped Tara.
"Terra, we're just trying to help," said Nightwing. "Why are you being so paranoid?"
"Sorry," said Tara. "It's just... the last person to help me like that was—"
"Slade," said Nightwing.
Tara nodded. "And look how well that turned out," she said sarcastically.
Nightwing didn't say anything. Tara was quiet for a minute, thinking about what she could do. Eventually she sighed.
"All right," she said. "I'll join Titans East. If it doesn't work out, I'll come back here."
Nightwing nodded. "Cyborg's leaving next Monday," he said. "You should probably sort out anything that needs doing before then."
"I'm going to go back to the Tower," continued Nightwing. "I'll let Cyborg know he's going to have a passenger."
"Okay," said Tara. "Thanks."
Nightwing fired his grappling gun up at the rooftops, and hoisted himself up, leaving Tara with Beast Boy.
"Um, Beast Boy?" said Tara. "Can... can I ask you a question?"
"What is it, Terra?"
"Do you..." she trailed off, then started again. "Do you still—"
"Do I still love you?" finished Beast Boy. Tara nodded.
Beast Boy sighed. "No," he said. "You were right: things have changed. I've changed, you've changed; we're not the same people we were back then. Things wouldn't work out between us anymore. Anyway, I've moved on from that, and I'm pretty sure you have, too."
Tara nodded. "That was... surprisingly mature," she said.
"Yeah, don't get used it," said Beast Boy. "Now it's my turn to ask a personal question."
Tara nodded. "Go ahead."
"Does your brother know that you still remember everything?" asked Beast Boy.
Tara nodded. "He met with you guys, didn't he?"
"Yeah," said Beast Boy. "He was looking for you. I took him to the school you were at. We saw you, and he recognized you, and he said he wasn't going to interfere with your life."
Tara nodded. "He visited me once; it must have been the day you met him. Anyway, we talked for a bit, and he said I could stay, if I wanted. I was glad he gave me the choice. I'll have to let him know about this."
Beast Boy passed her his communicator. "He's an Honorary Titan; if you want to talk to him..."
Tara accepted the yellow device Beast Boy was offering. "Thanks," she said with a smile.
There was silence between the two of them. Tara was the first to break it.
"Tara," she said, to Beast Boy's confusion. "My name is Tara Markov."
"Garfield," replied the green skinned young man, returning the favour. "Garfield Logan." He smirked. "Pleased to meet you."
Gotham City. It was a city that seemed to be permanently shrouded in darkness. It was home to one of the richest men on the planet, one of the most insane men on the planet, and one of the best crime-fighters on the planet. Bruce Wayne was the owner of the multi-million dollar business Wayne Technologies and Enterprises, and was the main sponsor for the Titans West. Several criminals had set up shop in Gotham to take advantage of the money brought in by Wayne Tech: Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Penguin, The Riddler, Mr Freeze, Ra's al Ghul, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman and the Joker all called Gotham home. Therefore it was no surprise that a superhero had risen to fight them. The Dark Knight himself, Batman.
The Caped Crusader stood on a high building, his cape blowing in the late night wind, a scowl on his cowled face.
"You need to work on your stealth," said Batman. "I heard you three rooftops away."
"That was so you knew I was coming," said a familiar voice from the not-so-empty space beside him. "So what's new?"
"The Joker has escaped from Arkham again," said Batman. "And now he has a new sidekick."
"Who is it?" asked Nightwing.
"A woman calling herself Harley Quinn," said Batman. "She used to be Harleen Quinzel, and she was the Joker's psychiatrist back at Arkham."
"Wow, she's crazier than him," said Nightwing. "Anyway, go on."
If Batman was angry at being interrupted, he didn't show it. "From the evidence I've found, I think she fell in love with the Joker, and decided to join him in crime."
"I was right," said Nightwing. "She is crazy."
"Catwoman and the Riddler are also on the loose, and Black Mask is trying to expand his drug cartel into Bludhaven," said Batman. "He's joined forces with Bludhaven's resident crime lord Blockbuster. I need you to track down Black Mask and capture both of them. I'll handle the others."
Batman waited for an answer. When he didn't get one, he turned to where Nightwing was standing... or rather, where Nightwing had been standing.
"Son of a..." said Batman, before he smirked. "Kid pulled a me."
Batman pressed a finger to the communicator in his ear.
"And you said I needed to work on my stealth," said Nightwing smugly over the communicator.
"I stand corrected," said Batman. "You're heading to Bludhaven?"
"I am," replied Nightwing. "I'll be back once I've gotten Black Mask and Blockbuster behind bars."
"Be careful," said Batman. "And good luck."
"Thanks, Bruce," replied Nightwing.
There was a click as Nightwing signed off, and Batman heard a motorcycle engine revving in the distance as his former sidekick departed Gotham. (2)
Nightwing leapt easily onto the next rooftop, rolling as he landed. He fired his grappling hook at the next rooftop, and swung down between buildings. He let go of the line, sailing through the air until his booted feet smashed into the criminal. Nightwing landed on top of the man, and leapt up again as the thug's partner drew his gun and started aiming at Nightwing. Nightwing threw a bird-a-rang, knocking the gun out of his opponent's hand. The pistol fired, the bullet gouging a chunk out of the brick wall. Nightwing started walking towards the thug. His opponent pulled a knife out as Nightwing caught the bird-a-rang he threw earlier. The thug charged at Nightwing, but the masked hero calmly blocked the blow with the bird-a-rang, before punching him in the gut. Nightwing then grabbed the thug's hand and slammed it into his knee, causing the thug to drop his knife. The criminal he'd dropped earlier charged at him from behind, but Nightwing backhanded him in the face without even looking; a trick he'd learned from Batman. The criminal behind him collapsed, unconscious, while the thug in front of him moaned, clutching his sore hand to his stomach.
"Wh... who are you?" asked the thug.
"Nightwing," he said. "I'm new in town." Nightwing started walking up to the thug. "I need directions to where Black Mask is meeting up with Blockbuster; I don't want to be late for the meeting."
"I-I'm not gonna tell," said the thug.
Nightwing shrugged. "All right, then." He pulled out a small metal canister, and the ends shot out until he had a full length bo staff. Nightwing swung the staff towards the thug's throat—
"Stop!" he yelled. Nightwing stopped the bo staff, resting it gently against the thug's throat. "I'll talk."
Nightwing removed the staff from his opponent's throat. "Well?"
"There's an old warehouse in the industrial sector," said the thug. "Across the road from the junkyard. They're meeting u—"
The thug was interrupted by a gunshot, and a bullet whizzed past Nightwing's ear, slamming into the thug's chest. He touched the bullet wound in his chest, and his hand came away bloody. He looked at the blood in shock, and then he realized he was dead and collapsed. Nightwing spun around, looking behind him. He saw the flash of the sniper rifle firing, heard the gunshot, and the thug he'd backhanded twitched slightly as the bullet struck him in the back. Nightwing threw an explosive disc at the sniper. The disc exploded, and the sniper dropped his gun and fell back into the window of the apartment. The gun broke as it hit the ground, and Nightwing fired his grappling hook up at the apartment building. The built-in winch hoisted him up, and he swung inside. The sniper tried to get up and run, but Nightwing threw another explosive disc at him. The miniature explosive detonated on impact, shredding the sniper's clothing and bruising his back. The sniper fell down, and Nightwing walked up to him warily. The sniper tried to get up, but collapsed again. Nightwing knelt down next to him, and pulled out the wallet that was slightly exposed. He flipped through the wallet and the sniper's other possessions, taking note of the police badge that had been stuffed into another pocket, and the large amount of cash in his wallet. Once he'd been through them all, he pressed a finger to his ear.
"Batman, this is Nightwing," he said.
"Batman here, go ahead."
"I might be here longer than I thought I would," said Nightwing.
"I was expecting you might say that," said Batman. "What's the problem?"
"I think Blockbuster, whoever he is, has a few friends in the Bludhaven Police Department," said Nightwing.
"Bribed, or are they working directly for him?" asked Batman.
"The latter," replied Nightwing. "A police sniper just shot the two thugs I was chasing down. But I wouldn't be surprised if Blockbuster had provided large amounts of cash to make the higher ups ignore him."
"I see," said Batman. "Do you need any help?"
"No, not yet," said Nightwing. "Besides, if I get into too much trouble, I can call the Titans."
"I understand," said Batman. "How long do you think you'll be in Bludhaven for?"
Nightwing shrugged. "I honestly have no idea." He sighed. "Nightwing out."
The police sniper groaned, and tried to sit up, only to find Nightwing's bo staff pressed to his throat.
"Now then," said Nightwing. "Let's have a little chat, shall we?"
Wally West shielded himself as the window to the jewellery store shattered.
Of course, he thought. They rob the jewellery store the day I go to buy a wedding ring. Typical.
Wally slipped the box into his jacket pocket, and then looked around to see if there were any places he could get into costume unseen. There was, as always, a convenient alleyway nearby; the only problem was that Gizmo was between him and the alley. There were panicked civilians running out of the shop past him though, and Wally ran out, mingling with the crowd until he could cut into the alley. Once in the alley, he pulled out a ring with a lightning bolt insignia on it.
Let's hope this works, he thought. He popped the top of the ring off, and a red costume shot out. Wally grabbed the costume and donned it at full speed. Of course, full speed for Wally was about sixty miles an hour, literally.
Wally sprinted out into the street and whistled. "Hey, Jimmy Neutron!" he yelled. Gizmo turned, the spider legs of his mechanical backpack gouging holes in the street. He gasped when he saw Wally.
"The Flash! Wh-what are you doing here?!" asked Gizmo, panicking.
Wally held up his hands and shook his head. "No, no, no, the Flash is my uncle," he said. "I'm the Flash. Well, the new one, anyway." So saying, Wally ran under Gizmo, unclipping the teen genius from the mechanical backpack. Gizmo shrieked, dropping down to the ground with a thud. Wally ran back up to him and lifted him by the scruff of his neck.
"And now, you are going straight to jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, et cetera," said Wally. Wally sprinted down the streets of Jump City, buildings going past in a blur as he raced over to the prison. He stopped just in front of the gates and dumped Gizmo.
"Here you go," he said to the surprised guard. "Early birthday present." Wally waved a casual salute at the guard. "Later!" Wally dashed back to the jewellery store, surveying the carnage. Wally raced around, picking up all the jewellery and putting it back where it belonged, cleaning up the mess Gizmo made.
"Thank you," said the jewellery shop's owner, shaking his hand.
Wally smiled. "No problem," he said. "Anyway, it was the least I could do." Wally raced back outside and into the alleyway. His bag was still there, and he rifled through his possessions until he found the box, flipping it open. He sighed in relief when he found that the wedding ring was still inside. His communicator started to beep, so he pulled it out and answered it.
"Hey, sweetie," he said. "What's up?"
His girlfriend, Lorraine Moore, better known as Jinx, smiled at him. "Oh, nothing much. Did you stop that jewellery theft on Hibertia Avenue?"
"Yeah," he replied. "It was just Gizmo; tell Changeling I got him." Beast Boy had gotten a new uniform a few months back, a white one, with red marks on the flanks and sleeves. He'd also given himself the name Changeling. A few of the Titans were starting to change their names now; Richard had become Nightwing, Wally had become the Flash, Beast Boy was now Changeling, and Wally had heard that Speedy and Aqualad over in Steel City had changed their names to Red Arrow and Tempest, respectively.
"By the way," asked Wally. "Are we still on for dinner next Friday?"
"Of course we are," said Jinx. "Why?"
"Just checking," said Wally. "I'll have to hide my Justice League communicator so they can't call me when the next big crisis hits."
Jinx laughed. "Sorting out your appointments?" she asked.
"Something like that," said Wally. "I also have something I want to ask you."
"What is it?"
"No, it can wait 'til Friday," replied Wally.
Jinx paused, and looked at him thoughtfully. "Are you going to ask me what I think you're going to ask me?"
"That depends," said Wally, going evasive. "What are you thinking?"
"No, never mind," said Jinx. "I'll let you be all mysterious if you want."
Wally smiled. "It's nice to have an understanding girl..." he trailed off as his Justice League communicator started buzzing. "Oh, come on."
"What is it?" asked Jinx.
"League business; I'll call you back later," he said. "Love you."
"I love you too," said Jinx, before signing off.
Wally pressed a finger to his ear. "Flash here, go ahead."
"A group calling themselves the Injustice Gang is attacking Metropolis," said J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter. "Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl and Green Lantern are already at the scene, and Batman is on his way." (3)
"Right," said Wally. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
"I am on my way down as well," said J'onn. "Watchtower out."
Wally whistled. This Injustice Gang must be big news if the Founding Seven were all needed to tackle them. Wally technically wasn't the Flash that had helped found the League; that was his uncle, Barry Allen, but Wally had taken his place amongst the Seven after Barry had retired.
Wally closed the box and stuffed it back into his bag. He'd have to drop it off at his house in Keystone City on his way to Metropolis; it wasn't too far out of the way for the fastest man alive.
"You all right, Dick?" asked Batgirl.
Nightwing was patrolling Gotham City with her while Batman helped the League handle the Injustice Gang.
"I'm fine, Babs," he replied. "Why are you asking?"
"I just want to know how you're holding up without Kori here," she said. "I'm worried about you."
Nightwing sighed. "I'm... I'm holding up okay," he said. "I still miss her," he added.
"I'd be worried if you didn't," said Batgirl. "So, why'd you move to Bludhaven?"
Nightwing shrugged. "The place needs some cleaning up; I wanted to make a reputation for myself, so I decided I might as well kill two birds with one stone."
Batgirl nodded. "And the real reason is...?"
Nightwing looked down, and for those few seconds, he looked vulnerable, hurt and scared. "I couldn't stay in Jump City," he said, once he'd regained his composure. "The place holds too many memories. I didn't want to be constantly reminded of what I don't have anymore."
"Is it working?" she asked.
"Not as well as I'd hoped," said Nightwing.
The two members of the Bat-Family were silent for a while.
"You've been acting differently," said Batgirl.
Nightwing raised an eyebrow. "How so?"
"You're always acting so cheerful," she said, "And you're getting very sarcastic lately."
"Is it that obvious?" asked Nightwing with a faint smile.
Batgirl glared at him. Nightwing wasn't looking in her direction, so it didn't really have the desired effect.
"I've been glared at by the best; you haven't got anything on the old man," said Nightwing.
"That's what I'm talking about," said Batgirl. "Why are you acting like that, Dick?"
Nightwing's face didn't change, but she knew he was trying to find an answer.
"I guess it all really started with Warp," said Nightwing eventually. "He was a time-traveller from the future intent on stealing some clock; I can never remember the name. Anyway, he grabbed the clock, and went through his time-portal, and Starfire decided to charge in after him. She ended up twenty years in the future. She hadn't been seen since she went after Warp. Without her, the rest of our team had drifted apart; Cyborg was an outdated wreck, Beast Boy was working as a one-man zoo, Raven had locked herself in a padded cell, and I had become Nightwing, a jaded loner. We managed to band together and defeat Warp, and returned Starfire to our time, and we thought that that future would never come to pass... then she left for Tamaran."
Batgirl had listened in shock to Nightwing's story, and now she finally managed to get her thoughts together. "So that's why you're acting so cheerful," she said. "You're trying not to become the Nightwing Starfire saw."
Nightwing nodded. "I still don't think the future that Starfire saw will come around, even if she's gone," he said.
Batgirl cocked her head to the side, confused. "Why not?"
"Our battle with Warp happened earlier in our career; there was so much still to come," said Nightwing. "Terra, Slade's apparent death, Brother Blood, Trigon, the Brotherhood of Evil, Tokyo, all the new Titans; all those things happened after Starfire came back. There was so much we didn't do in that alternate timeline."
"Is that why you think things will turn out differently?" asked Batgirl.
"Things already have turned out differently," said Nightwing. "In the bad future, we all stayed in Jump City. But in this timeline, Cyborg's gone to Steel City and joined the Titans East, Raven went back to Azarath, and I moved to Bludhaven. The only one of us still left in Jump City is Changeling, and he's got Jinx and the Flash to help him out; well, when they're not busy with their own rogues or on League business."
"...Are you sure things won't go back to the alternate timeline?" asked Batgirl after a pause.
"All we can do is hope, Babs," said Nightwing.
Cyborg fired his sonic cannon, but Brother Blood deflected it with his psychic powers.
"Oh, come now, Cyborg," said Blood tauntingly. "Is that really the best you can do?"
"Don't worry," growled Cyborg. "There's plenty more where that came from!" Cyborg charged at the former H.I.V.E. Academy headmaster, and swung a series of punches at him. Blood dodged the blows, but Cyborg fired his sonic cannon as he delivered the final blow, and managed to hit Blood. Blood was knocked back, but he recovered quickly, using his telekinetic powers to hurl Cyborg away from him. Red Arrow fired down a volley of explosive tipped arrows from his vantage point atop a nearby factory, and Bumblebee fired her stingers, the blasts of electricity raining down around Blood. Brother Blood calmly dodged the attacks, and then glared at Bumblebee and Red Arrow, exerting his telepathic powers. Bumblebee tried to stand up to his mental assault, clutching her head in pain. Red Arrow stopped, and lowered his bow. Tempest hurled a blob of water at Red Arrow, splashing him.
"Snap out of it, Roy!" yelled the Atlantean, as Red Arrow shook his now soaked head. Tempest yelped when Bumblebee tried to shock him with her stingers. Tempest looked around for her, but he couldn't see her. Bumblebee grew back to normal size and kicked Tempest, knocking him over. Tempest looked up at her, and he noticed that her eyes were glowing red. A sonic blast from Cyborg knocked Bumblebee out of the air.
"Come on, Karen," said Cyborg. "Fight it!"
The speedster twins Más y Menos charged at Brother Blood. Brother Blood swung his arm and exerted his powers, knocking the twins apart, bringing them back to normal speed and sending them tumbling. The twins started to stand up, and Brother Blood used his telepathic powers to bring them under his control. Tempest stood up, his eyes glowing red as well. The members of Titans East started to surround Cyborg, and Cyborg started backing up, readying his sonic cannon.
A chunk of earth came falling out of the sky, smashing into the ground near Blood.
"What on earth?" asked Blood.
"You're forgetting someone," said Terra, jumping off the rock she'd been standing on. "Me."
"Huh. Never seen you here before," muttered Blood. "Oh well." Blood stretched out with his psychic powers, and Terra gasped, collapsing to the ground as her eyes started to glow red. "From now on, you listen to me."
Brother Blood turned back to Cyborg, and raised his hand. A red glow surrounded his hand, and he clenched into a fist. Cyborg's arms shattered to pieces, followed by his legs. Cyborg hit the ground hard, and tried to lift his head to face Blood.
"Poor, poor Cyborg," said Brother Blood. "If only you'd join me, then you wouldn't be in this position."
"Never!" growled Cyborg.
Blood nodded. "I figured you'd say that. And since I can't control you, I guess I'll just have to leave you here until your batteries run flat."
Cyborg smiled, noticing the chunk of earth that had started to rise up behind Brother Blood. "I don't think you'll have to wait that long."
"Wha—oof!" The rock smashed into Blood, knocking him down. The concrete around him rose up, trapping his cybernetic arms and legs. Brother Blood struggled against his bonds, and managed to free one arm. Another rock, this one shaped like a knife, came past and sliced off his arm, exposing circuitry and wires. The rock spun into the air, turned into a fist and smashed into Blood's head, knocking him out. With Brother Blood unconscious, the other members of Titans East were freed from his mind control. They all looked at Terra in amazement, while the young geomancer staggered towards them, clutching her head and groaning.
"What?" she asked when she realized everyone was staring at her. "I have issues with mind control. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pass out now." So saying, she collapsed, and Tempest caught her.
Red Arrow sighed. "And for this, we miss out on Wally's wedding," he grumbled.
"Would you have rather he got away?" asked Cyborg pointedly.
"And you only wanted to go for the free drinks, anyway," said Tempest.
"Shh! Not in front of the team mom!" said Red Arrow in a stage whisper, pointing at Bumblebee.
Bumblebee just looked at Red Arrow. She had very expressive eyebrows.
"Garth?" she asked sweetly as she tried to pick up Cyborg with some help from the twins. "Can you slap Roy for me?"
Tempest tried to slap Red Arrow on the back of the head, but Red Arrow ducked under the blow, and laughed. Tempest promptly backhanded him in the face.
Nightwing had spent about a year in Bludhaven now. He'd fought several of Blockbuster's minions, and had tangled with the corrupt Bludhaven Police Department a number of times. Nightwing had helped those few cops that hadn't been bought off by Blockbuster, and had managed to restore the Police Department into something resembling a real police force. There had still been corruption at higher levels, as evidenced by how fast some of the bigger criminals managed to get out of jail. Nightwing had obviously gotten on Blockbuster's nerves; Blockbuster had put a rather large price on Nightwing's head, and had sent several assassins after him, including Lady Vic, Stallion, Brutale, the Trigger Twins, and Shrike. Nightwing had defeated them all, of course, and most of them had been sent to Blackgate Prison in Gotham, and while they were likely to escape from Blackgate, the Gotham City Police Department was nowhere near as corrupt as the Bludhaven force.
Nightwing wasn't the only one who had risen up against the rampant crime. Catalina Flores, now a vigilante who called herself Tarantula, had taken the law into her own hands. Tarantula's methods were extreme; most of the criminals she faced ended up face-down in a gutter somewhere. Those few that survived were those that Nightwing had saved and sent to prison. Recently, she had murdered the Chief of the Bludhaven Police, Delmore Redhorn. Nightwing had tried to capture Tarantula then, but she had managed to escape.
Now, things were coming to a head. Nightwing knew that Blockbuster was working towards expanding his criminal empire to Gotham City, and then to cities like Metropolis and Star City, and he had heard rumours that Blockbuster was getting ready to begin that expansion. After months of searching, with the occasional help of Batgirl, Nightwing had finally located Blockbuster's headquarters, and he was preparing to finish this battle, once and for all. Unfortunately, Tarantula also knew where Blockbuster was hiding. It was a race to see who and what would reach Blockbuster first: Nightwing and a life in prison, or Tarantula and a bullet to the head.
Nightwing gunned his motorcycle towards the docks. Bludhaven used to be a whaling town, so there was no shortage of abandoned warehouses along the harbour. Blockbuster would be there tonight; he moved between safe houses erratically, but Nightwing and Batgirl had managed to work out where Blockbuster would be tonight.
As Nightwing approached the warehouse, gunshots started to ring out, and bullets whizzed past him, gouging out chunks of the road. Nightwing accelerated, and aimed his motorcycle at a wooden board propped up against the fence. Nightwing leapt backwards off the motorcycle as he approached the impromptu ramp. The motorcycle shot up the ramp, bullets sparking slightly as they hit it. Nightwing threw an explosive disc at the motorcycle. His aim was true, and the resulting explosion created a bright fireball as the gasoline in the tank ignited, blinding everyone who was watching, as well as throwing up a smokescreen. There was a loud crash as the remains of the motorcycle landed on the other side of the fence. Blockbuster's goons surrounded the debris, while others searched for Nightwing.
A second explosion rang out, and one of the thugs collapsed. One of them saw something run past, and fired wildly where the shadow had been. A bird-a-rang flew out of nowhere and struck his gun, knocking it out of his hand, and a second one hit him on the head, knocking him out. Explosive discs and bird-a-rangs flew at the thugs, with no pattern to the strikes. The thugs started to gather in groups of four or five. Another disc landed near one of those groups, but instead of exploding, this disc released knockout gas. A few of the guards fired ineffectual shots into the darkness, hoping to try and hit Nightwing. The masked hero slowly chipped away at Blockbuster's henchmen, until only seven were left.
Nightwing stood on the roof of the warehouse the thugs were supposed to be guarding. He wasn't really going for subtlety; he wanted Blockbuster to know he was here. Nightwing watched as the remaining seven men grouped together, standing back to back. A small, grim smirk started to spread across his face. Let's party, he thought.
A sharp whistle broke through the night air. The thugs turned around, and spotted Nightwing standing on the roof.
"There he is!" yelled one of them. Nightwing ran across the roof as the thugs fired wildly at him, emptying their pistols. The bangs soon turned to clicks as the thugs used up all their ammunition, and had to stop to reload. Nightwing leapt off the roof, and landed on one of the thugs. He lashed out with his foot, tripping another. He punched the third in the gut, and shoulder slammed the fourth. He grabbed the fifth and sixth thugs and knocked them into each other, and he finished by kneeing the last of them in the groin. The warehouse door opened, and a small group of reinforcements raced out. Nightwing threw another explosive disc at them, bringing them all down in a heap. Nightwing started to walk towards them. Two of the reinforcements were still conscious, and both of them managed to pull out their pistols, and aim them at Nightwing. The hero stopped, and held up his hands.
"D-don't move," stammered one of the criminals, his gun wavering slightly.
"I'm holding still," said Nightwing easily.
A pair of gunshots rang out, and the two thugs aiming at Nightwing collapsed. The masked hero spun around, and saw a masked woman in black and yellow with a pistol in her hand walking towards him.
"You looked like you were in a bit of trouble, Nightwing," said the woman.
Nightwing rested his hands on his hips, and palmed one of his newer types of disc. "Thanks for the save, Tarantula," he said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have some business to conclude."
Nightwing threw the disc at Tarantula. The disc struck her in the chest, and thick ropes shot out of the disc, wrapping around the vigilante. Tarantula dropped her gun, staggered back and lost her footing, landing on her back.
"Hey!" she yelled. "I just saved your life!"
"You just murdered two men," said Nightwing. "I'll add them to the list of crimes you've already committed."
"I'm trying to stop Blockbuster, same as you!" said Tarantula as she pulled out a knife and tried to cut through the ropes holding her. "Why won't you kill him?!"
"Because if I do," said Nightwing as he turned towards the warehouse. "Then I'm no better than he is."
Nightwing ran inside, pulling out a retractable bo staff as he did so. He came to a stop inside near a stack of empty shipping containers, looking around warily.
"Hey, Blockbuster!" he yelled. "You need to hire some more goons; those ones outside weren't very good." He paused, then added, "Oh yeah, and two of them are dead."
Nightwing saw something move in the air above him. He looked up and saw a steel girder flying through the air towards him. He dove to the right, and the girder smashed into the ground with a loud clang. There was a second thud as a huge muscled man dropped down and landed a few metres in front of Nightwing.
"Nightwing," said Blockbuster. "I was expecting someone with your reputation to be a little...older."
"Blockbuster," replied Nightwing. "You're uglier than I expected."
Blockbuster raised an eyebrow. "Are you trying to taunt me so that I become angry and make stupid mistakes while I'm fighting you?" asked the muscular behemoth.
Nightwing smiled. "Sorry, but I'm not going to spill the beans that easily." Nightwing pulled a disc out of his belt and hurled it at Blockbuster. Thick ropes sprouted out of the disc upon impact, wrapping Blockbuster tightly. Blockbuster growled, and flexed his muscles. He strained against the ropes, and the ropes started to stretch. Nightwing's masked eyes went wide as the ropes started to snap, and his jaw dropped when Blockbuster broke free.
"Well, that didn't work," muttered Nightwing sarcastically. Blockbuster ripped the door off of a nearby shipping container and hurled it at Nightwing. Nightwing ran towards Blockbuster, sliding under the airborne container door. He threw an explosive disc at Blockbuster, hitting him in the face. Blockbuster grunted, and staggered back half a step as he tried to blink the dust and smoke out of his eyes. Nightwing turned and ran as Blockbuster picked up the steel girder he'd thrown earlier and gave chase. Nightwing threw another explosive disc at Blockbuster, but Blockbuster batted it away with the girder. Blockbuster swung the girder again, aiming for Nightwing. The hero dodged, and the girder smashed a hole in the wall of the warehouse. Nightwing saw the hole, and an idea struck him. He dodged another blow from Blockbuster, and the girder tore another chunk out of the wall. Nightwing sprinted away from Blockbuster, and threw an explosive disc at Blockbuster. He missed, and the disc struck the wall behind Blockbuster, blowing out another hole. Nightwing managed to keep ahead of Blockbuster, and he threw several more explosive discs at the behemoth. Sometimes, the discs would hit Blockbuster, and do little more than annoy him. Nightwing missed quite a few times, and blew chunks out of the walls. Blockbuster tried to hit Nightwing with the steel girder he was carrying, knocking out several support struts in the process. Eventually, Blockbuster came to a halt in the centre of the building, near one of the remaining support strut, while Nightwing stopped just in front of the door.
"What exactly are you trying to achieve?" panted Blockbuster.
Nightwing smiled. "Let me show you," he said, throwing his last explosive disc at the support strut next to Blockbuster. Nightwing turned and ran, managing one last sprint outside before the disc exploded, ripping a huge chunk out of the support strut. All the damage from their battle had weakened the structural integrity of the warehouse, which had already started to fall apart on its own. The last explosion brought the roof and walls down in a massive, roaring collapse. As the building collapsed, a blast of air pushed out, knocking Nightwing over and forcing the breath out of his lungs. Nightwing rolled onto his back, and lifted his head, examining the rubble. He could see Blockbuster, barely visible under the debris. A groan from Blockbuster reached Nightwing's ears, and the huge man pushed up against the ground, forcing his way out from under the masonry that had trapped him.
"Shit," gasped Nightwing. He was tired from all the running he'd done and he was struggling to get his breath back, while Blockbuster still seemed fresh. Blockbuster approached, his shadow falling over Nightwing as police sirens began to ring out across the city.
"Not so tough are you, Nightwing?" asked Blockbuster, brushing rubble off of his shoulder. "Don't worry: I'll make this—"
A gunshot rang out, and Blockbuster stopped midsentence as a spray of blood shot out from between his eyes. The hulking behemoth fell onto his face, dead, revealing his killer, Tarantula. The vigilante holstered the pistol she was holding and walked over to Nightwing.
"You all right?" she asked, offering her hand.
Nightwing took her hand, and she pulled him up. "Yes, I am," he said. Nightwing yanked on her arm, overbalancing her. As she staggered past him, he shoved her in the back, and she landed face-first in the dirt. Nightwing grabbed her arms and pulled them behind her back, slapping a pair of hand-cuffs around her wrist.
"What are you doing?" she asked. "I just saved your life!"
"I'm arresting you for murder," said Nightwing calmly. "And while I'd be the first to admit that he deserved to die, that sort of decision is for the courts to make, not us."
"He was a criminal!" yelled Tarantula. "I gave him what he deserves—and you agreed with me!"
"That's no excuse for us to act as the executioner," said Nightwing. "We might be judge and jury, but never the executioner."
"Why are you arresting me for killing a guilty man? The world is better off without him!"
"I'm not just arresting you for murdering Blockbuster," said Nightwing. "There are also all of Blockbuster's thugs you killed, and the Police Chief, Redhorn."
Nightwing stood up, and started walking away. He paused for a second as he walked towards the cops, turning his head to look back at her.
"All the people you killed had families; people who loved them," he said. "They probably want to kill you now, just like you killed their loved ones. Revenge doesn't solve anything; all it does is feed the fire, causing even more pointless deaths. It didn't have to be this way. All those people didn't have to die because your family was murdered. I'll bet you never thought about the families of your victims; all you cared about was satisfying your desire for revenge. Now look where it's got you."
Nightwing resumed his walk, taking his gaze off her. "Have fun in prison; I'll bet the friends of your victims will be happy to see you." (4)
Nightwing dismounted from his motorcycle. He walked through the hangar, over to where Batman was sitting at the Batcomputer.
"Blockbuster's dead," he said without preamble.
"I heard," replied Batman. Batman had pulled back the cowl, revealing his face in the safety of the Batcave. His gaze flicked over to Nightwing briefly. "You're taking it better than I expected."
"You mean the fact that he's dead, or the fact that he was killed right in front of me?" asked Nightwing, pulling off his own mask.
"Both," said Batman.
Nightwing shrugged. "It wasn't the first time I've seen people shot to death right in front of me." Nightwing sighed. "As for the fact that it was Blockbuster, well..." Nightwing went quiet, trying to sort out his feelings. "He was a criminal, and he'd already had so many people killed on his orders, and he'd ruined a lot of people's lives. That still doesn't make it right."
"It's not your fault he's dead," said Batman.
Nightwing nodded. "And there's no point beating myself up about it," he said. "It happened, he's dead. I might as well get over it."
"Are you going to go back to Bludhaven?" asked Batman.
"Nah," said Nightwing. "I've done what I can there; the rest is up to the police."
"You realize that with Blockbuster dead, the gangs in Bludhaven are going to have massive turf wars," said Batman.
"I've already cleaned up most of those gangs," said Nightwing. "Why else do you think it took me so long to go after Blockbuster?"
Batman smirked. "I thought you were just being lazy," he quipped.
Nightwing acted shocked. "Who, moi?" he asked, sounding hurt. He quickly dropped the act. "I knew from experience that taking out the head causes gang wars; that's why I spent most of my time going after the gangs, rather than Blockbuster himself. The police should be able to handle what's left."
Batman nodded, and looked back at Nightwing again. "You look tired," he said. "Get some rest."
"Right," said Nightwing, hiding a yawn. "G'night, Bruce."
It had been two years exactly since she'd left. Nightwing looked fondly at the picture he'd stuck on the inside of his Titans Communicator. It had been taken the day before she'd left, at one of those do-it-yourself photo booths at the Jump City Fair. He'd taped a similar photo onto her communicator as a goodbye gift, so she'd have something to remember him by... not that he thought for a second that she would ever forget him.
Nightwing swallowed. "Hey, Kori," he whispered. He did this last year, and now it was kind of a tradition for him. "It's been a while, huh?"
Nightwing sighed. "I still can't believe it's been two years," he continued. "I thought, by now, I'd be used to this feeling, this sense of... loneliness. Instead my heart hurts even more now. I thought it would get easier... but it's getting harder. Not just harder to cope with the pain, but harder to keep up my little facade. I've been acting like a bit of a joker, but it's getting harder to keep the pain hidden."
Nightwing sighed again. "But you probably don't want to hear me moping; you probably want to know what's been happening this last year. Blockbuster was killed, not by me, of course, and I managed to catch his murderer. I haven't heard from Raven since she went back to Azarath, so I can only assume she's doing all right. I talked with Garfield the other day; he's doing all right. He's got Jinx and Wally helping out. Wally stopped being Kid Flash a while ago, and became the Flash when his uncle retired." Nightwing smiled. "He married Jinx a while back. The Titans East couldn't make it to the wedding, unfortunately; Brother Blood got out of prison. I'm surprised it took him so long. Anyway, Cyborg's going out with Bumblebee, apparently, and..."(5)
"...and the civilian death toll in the last attack numbered in the dozens," whispered the young woman. She was holding a Titans Communicator, and was gazing longingly at the picture of her and her boyfriend that was taped on the inside of the cover.
She sighed. "There have been so many deaths lately," she said. "Too many. Although, to us, any death is too many, right?"
The man in the picture didn't say anything, but she wasn't expecting him to speak anyway. She wondered what he was doing right now. Was he fighting crime still? Had he become the Nightwing she'd seen in the bad future she had visited, or was he still the Robin she had fallen in love with? Was he sitting somewhere like she was, talking to a picture of her, like she was talking to a picture of him?
Kori shook her head slowly. "I still miss you," she said. "Every day, it gets harder and harder to handle the pain. The war is also still continuing. We must still fight against the Gordanians, and there is no end in sight. I don't know if I'll live long enough to see you again."
She paused for a second. "No," she said. "I will live through this war, and I will see you again. I won't let you down, Richard... and I'll make sure you can keep that promise you made, two years ago."
"This isn't goodbye. We will see each other again. I promise. And I intend to keep that promise, come hell or high water."
"Goodbye, Richard," she said. "I love you."
She closed the device, and brushed a tear away from her emerald-green eye. She stood up and returned the communicator to its rightful place on her belt. She kept it clicked onto the outside of her belt, on her right hip, as a constant reminder to everyone as to who she was; not Koriand'r, Grand Ruler of Tamaran, but Kori, Starfire of the Teen Titans.
The young woman glanced at herself in the mirror. She was dressed in the outfit that she'd normally worn back on Earth; another reminder of her true self. The only concession she had made to her real duty was the crown. She didn't want to be the Grand Ruler, but there was no one else who could; she had banished and more recently disowned her sister Komand'r, and her brother Ryand'r had been missing since she'd first been captured by the Gordanians, four and a half years ago. He was most likely dead now.
Her eyes strayed from the mirror, and searched over the room. She was onboard the Galfore, the largest capital ship in the Tamaranean Navy. There were not many of their larger ships left; most of them had been destroyed, or were in the shipyards for maintenance and repair. Over seventy corvettes were still in operation, as well as seven full wings of starfighters, five wings of bombers, thirty five troop transports and several assault frigates, which were really just glorified cargo freighters.
Kori's eyes reached the viewport, and she noticed that the stars were passing by as bright streaks rather than as pinpoints of light. She reached out and pressed a button on a nearby console.
"Grand Ruler to bridge, status report," she said.
"Your Highness, this is Captain Ph'yzzon," was the reply. "We've received a distress call from Thanagar, and are moving to respond."
"Understood," she said. "How soon can we get there?"
"At current speeds we should be there in one hour and twenty three minutes," said Captain Ph'yzzon.
An asteroid floated through space. Two Tamaranean fighters had latched onto that asteroid, and the occupants, wearing vacuum suits, had exited their fighters and tethered themselves to their ships, watching the construction efforts continuing on the Gordanian Citadel.
"How long have they been working on this?" asked Trias'ik, leader of Elite Wing's Sunflare Squadron.
"I don't know," replied Kar'ras, Sunflare Two. He was gazing out at the Citadel using a pair of electrobinoculars. "At least two years, I'd say."
"What makes you say that?" she asked.
Kar'ras refrained from making a sarcastic comment. He had to remind himself that, even though he was willing to admit she was a much better pilot and leader than he was, she was still inexperienced in combat, even if she was the Supreme Commander's daughter.
"It would take time to create the necessary components for that many weapons," he said. "Especially for...whatever that is at the base of the Citadel."
"Can I have another look?" asked Trias'ik, and Kar'ras handed the young woman the electrobinoculars.
"It looks like... some sort of giant laser cannon," she said eventually. "I can see about seven or eight tributary beams."
"I thought tributary laser cannon weapons were highly unstable," said Kar'ras.
Trias'ik nodded, not removing the electrobinoculars from her face. "They are. If even one laser is slightly misaligned or out of phase, then the resulting misfire could cause a misfire or backfire; either one would result in a massive explosion. But these kinds of weapons are also very powerful."
Kar'ras frowned. "Do you think one that size could destroy a planet?" he asked.
Trias'ik lowered the electrobinoculars. "No," she shook her head, the motion pulling her black hair out of place at the back of her helmet. "I don't think so. It could easily destroy a city, however." Trias'ik paused. "But where would they get the raw materials to build something like that, or the amount of anti-cruiser weaponry they've started adding?"
"They must have melted down some of their larger ships to make that tributary laser weapon," said Kar'ras. "We haven't seen any of their capital ships in some time. They probably removed the weapons from those ships and placed them around the Citadel."
Trias'ik nodded, and took another look at the Citadel. "There's something else," she said after a minute, passing the electrobinoculars back to Kar'ras. "Near the top, between those two spires."
"I see it," he said. "It looks like some sort of external shield generator."
"An external shield generator? What's that?" asked Trias'ik.
"Unlike the internal shield generators we use for our ships, external shield generators are used to protect other objects," replied Kar'ras.
"The Gordanian fighters are unshielded, right?" she asked.
Kar'ras nodded. "How else could you have racked up so many kills this fast?" he asked jokingly.
Trias'ik chose to ignore the joke. "That's most likely to protect their fighters," she said. "That way, the odds will be more balanced in a dogfight."
"The shield generator will be vulnerable to attack," said Kar'ras. "But it will be heavily armoured when it's complete."
"How long do think it will be complete?" she asked.
"The shield generator will probably not be complete for several months," said Kar'ras. "As for the tributary laser cannon, that will probably be finished in two or three weeks."
"We have to get back to Tamaran to warn everyone," said Trias'ik.
"Agreed," said Kar'ras.
The two Tamaranean pilots started pulling themselves along their tethers towards their ships. The asteroid, while large enough to carry the two starfighters, was too small to have a noticeable gravitational field. It had been hard enough getting the starfighters into position on the small asteroid in the first place.
Trias'ik managed to get into her cockpit and sealed it, waiting a few minutes for the life support systems to bring the air and temperature to normal levels. The red light on her console went green, and she pulled off the vacuum suit helmet, stashing it under the seat and switching it for her flight helmet. The young woman started flicking switches, sending power to the engines.
"Sunflare Two, report in," she said.
"Sunflare Two, standing by," said Kar'ras.
"On my mark, disengage," said Trias'ik, her hand hovering over the switch for the landing gear. "Mark." She flicked the switch and the landing gear on the underside of the starfighter retracted. The two starfighters rocketed forward, soaring away from the Citadel.
"Sunflare Leader, I think we have guests," said Kar'ras. "I'm picking up nine, ten... twelve launches from the Citadel, and another squadron that was on patrol is headed to intercept us. Your orders?"
"Arm all your missiles," she said, running a quick plan through her head. "Balance your shields, seventy-five percent fore, twenty-five percent aft, and divert power from lasers to engines."
"Copy," replied Kar'ras.
Trias'ik made the same changes to her power balances, and felt herself being pressed back into her seat as her fighter increased speed.
"Veer towards the intercept group and fire your missiles on my command," she ordered, her thumb resting gently on the fire button.
"Ready, sir," said her wingman. The two pilots changed course, racing towards the intercept squadron. Trias'ik narrowed her eyes, waiting for the right moment...
"Fire missiles!" she yelled, stabbing the fire button. Six missiles streaked outwards from her fighter.
"Missiles away!" replied Kar'ras, as missiles shot out towards the Gordanian fighters. The Gordanians broke off their assault, but not all of them got away. Two of the missiles hit their targets, creating silent, brief burning explosions. Trias'ik and Kar'ras flew through the explosions unharmed, debris and fire bouncing off their shields.
"Power to rear shields, one hundred percent," said Trias'ik, making the change.
"Copy," replied her wingman, as the Gordanians pursuing them opened fire.
"Downloading coordinates from the nav-computer," she said, as laser fire struck her shields. "Prepare for the jump to lightspeed."
Kar'ras grunted as one of the Gordanians got a solid hit on his fighter. "Shields down to sixty-one percent," he said. Trias'ik took a hit as well, and watched as her shields dropped down to fifty-eight percent power. Her ship jolted as she took another minor hit. She glanced back at her nav-computer while the coordinates continued downloading... her shields were down to thirty-nine percent... done!
"I've got the coordinates," she said. "I'm sending them to you now."
There was a nervous pause, and then... "Coordinates received," said Kar'ras, and Trias'ik blew a silent sigh of relief.
"Go to lightspeed in three..." she started counting down. "Two..." She grabbed the lever. "One... GO!"
Trias'ik yanked the lever back, and the two starfighters shot forward, accelerating to eight and a half times the speed of light. (6)
The Tamaranean fleet dropped from superluminal speeds, surrounding the Citadel. The entire fleet wasn't launching for this raid. The attack force consisted of the Myand'r, the flagship, two more capital ships, the Jyand'r and the Norand'r, twenty corvettes, ten assault frigates, five assault transports, two wings of fighters and two wings of bombers.
"I'm picking up multiple launches from the Citadel," said Gar'ikor, the Myand'r's sensor officer. "At least three wings of fighters so far."
Kori nodded. "Order Crusader Wing and Interceptor Wing to launch, and tell Broadside and Marauder Wings to standby."
Tamaranean starfighters launched from hangars throughout the fleet, while bomber pilots scrambled into their ships and began their final checks. One hundred and forty four fighters closed the gap between the fleet and the Citadel, meeting the Gordanian fighters.
"Your Highness, several unidentified ships have just dropped out of lightspeed," said Gar'ikor. "Sensor profiles indicate at least two corvettes and fifteen war cruisers."
Kori opened a channel to the captains of the Jyand'r and the Norand'r. "Move to engage the war cruisers."
"As you wish, my liege."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
"Give Broadside and Marauder Wings the go ahead," she continued. "They are to take out as many of the Citadel's weapons as possible. And order the frigates to target the corvettes."
"Yes sir," said the communications officer.
"Bring us closer to the Citadel," Kori ordered the helmsman. "But be ready to retreat when they open fire; I want to gauge their range."
The Myand'r began to move, flanked by the corvettes. Bombers flew towards the station, preparing to unleash their deadly payload, as fighters zipped past, all guns blazing.
"The number of enemy fighters has increased," said Gar'ikor. "There are at least six wings now, and there are more launching."
"Give the corvettes orders to engage the fighters," said Kori.
The battle progressed for several minutes, neither side giving any quarter. The Myand'r took some hits, but dished out far more damage than it took, slowly whittling away at the Gordanian defences. However, her forces were getting hit hard; at least half of the corvettes had been ripped to shreds, and several squadrons of fighters and bombers were down.
"Your Highness, priority message from the Norand'r!" said the communications officer.
"Patch it through," said Kori. She sat down at her command chair, and activated the video screen on the arm. The view was filled with static, clearing occasionally.
"W.'r...kin..hea...ire," said the captain of the Norand'r. "Our engines ...been hi...and th...ctor is bad...dam..ed. We'...ost all o...guns on the...side, and –AAAAHHH!"
The screen brightened for a brief instant, before the static reappeared.
"Get me visual on the Norand'r!" Kori yelled.
On the screen, an image of the burnt husk of the Norand'r appeared. There were gaping holes across the hull, exposing the superstructure. The bridge was now a crater, vaporised in a single hit.
"More Gordanian corvettes have arrived," said Gar'ikor. "They're tearing our fighters and bombers apart!"
Kori clenched her fist, and bit back a swear word she'd picked up back on Earth. "Give the order to retreat," she said. "We can't afford any more losses."
The Myand'r began to turn, its nose pointing away from the Citadel. The engines flared, thrusting the ship forward—
There was a dim explosion, and the ship shuddered, noticeably slowing down.
"Damage report!" Kori called out.
"We've lost our rear shields," said one of the bridge crew. "Our port engines are down, and we've lost the main lightspeed drive."
"How much speed can we manage?" she asked.
"We can make fifty-six percent," said the officer. "Any more and we'll blow the starboard engine."
"Will we be able to make lightspeed?"
The crew member examined another screen. "We can get to four point two times lightspeed, sir," he said. "But the backup lightspeed drive will blow if we go for over an hour."
Kori lowered her head and closed her eyes. "Order the rest of the task force to cover our retreat," she said. "Once we've made it to lightspeed, they can make their escapes when able."
She thought that a pre-emptive strike, an attack before the superweapon could be completed, would have worked. Instead, she'd walked into a trap. She should have known that she would need more firepower, but she thought this would be enough. It wasn't; she'd need most, if not all, of the Tamaranean fleet.
Another explosion sent shudders throughout the ship.
"We've lost our starboard engines," said one of the officers. "That last blast knocked us off course. We're drifting with no way of correcting ourselves."
"Sir! The Gordanians are launching attack transports!" said Gar'ikor. "They're headed for our hangar!"
"Order all soldiers to converge at the hangar," ordered Kori, getting out of her chair. "Everyone else, abandon ship."
"Where are you going, sir?"
"To the hangar, to lead our defence."
"The last escape pod has been launched, Your Highness," said one of the soldiers.
Kori activated a nearby console, contacting the captain of the Jyand'r.
"Captain," she said once she was connected. "Collect as many escape pods as you can without putting yourselves at excessive risk. And tell General Ryys'ik that he will be in command until I return."
"Yes, Your Majesty," said the captain. "Jyand'r out."
Kori flicked off the screen, and looked out the hangar into the darkness of space. A shadow moved up, blotting out the stars. The Gordanian transport blasted at the magnetic containment field generator, causing the hangar atmosphere to vent out into space. A large metal shield began to close to seal the hangar, but the transport made it in before it could finish closing.
"Prepare to repel boarders!" ordered Kori, charging up her starbolts. The soldiers levelled their rifles at the Gordanians, and the two sides began to exchange fire.
"Take the Grand Ruler alive!" yelled one of the Gordanians. "Kill the rest, but the Grand Ruler must be captured alive!"
Kori fired her starbolts, taking out several Gordanians. Her troops fired, killing the Gordanians. Some of her troopers started to collapse, chests smoking after taking a lethal hit from a Gordanian energy staff.
An explosion ripped a hole in the metal shield that sealed the hangar. The air was pulled out incredibly quickly, but most of the soldiers weren't caught in the wind blast. The Tamaraneans kept firing, but soon began to succumb to the cold and lack of breathable air. The Gordanians, being reptilian creatures, were the first to go down as the cold slowed down their metabolisms. Tamaraneans started to collapse from the lack of breathable air, passing out, and in less than two minutes, would die of asphyxiation. Kori was the only one unaffected: due to the genetic modifications the Psions had performed on her distant ancestors, Kori and other members of the royal family could absorb ultraviolet light through their skin, which gave them their powers of flight, the ability to fire starbolts and eyebeams, as well as survive in vacuum for an indefinite amount of time. However, ultraviolet light was no substitute for real air, or food or water, and she would eventually grow weaker.
Kori spotted Gordanian transports out the hole, and saw vacuum suited troops leap out. With a soundless yell, she launched herself at the Gordanians, starbolts blazing.
Raven opened her eyes slowly. She was still floating cross-legged in her room in the recently rebuilt Temple of Azar. She was meditating when she'd had that vision. It happened rarely; in fact, Raven could only remember two other times it had happened. The first time had been almost five years ago, just after Starfire had returned from the future. She had seen what might have happened if Starfire had disappeared for good that day, how the team would fall apart without her, and how their lives would fall apart without her. The second time had been when she had sensed Killowat was in danger, and had pulled him out his universe into her universe to save his life. This time, she had seen Starfire, about to go into battle, but she didn't know whether or not it was real. What she did know, was that the people of Azarath no longer really needed her to finish rebuilding their city. She was done here; she wanted to go home.
Raven stood up and walked outside. Her legs were slightly stiff; she must have been meditating longer than she thought. Raven saw her mother, standing on the balcony, the hood of her white robe down.
"Mom?" said Raven.
Arella turned to look at her daughter and smiled. "Hey, Rachel," she said. Arella was the only person who called her by her real birth name, Rachel Roth. "What is it?" she asked when she saw Raven's expression.
"I... I want to go back to Earth," said Raven. "I want to go home."
Arella nodded. "I understand," she said. Mother and daughter hugged each other, and Arella marvelled had how mature her daughter had become since she had first left five years ago.
"Be careful, okay?" whispered Arella.
"I will, Mom," said Raven. "I promise."
Nightwing watched from the shadows as the Titans West, consisting of Changeling, Jinx and the Flash, attacked Dr Light. The visiting members of the Titans East, Cyborg, Bumblebee, Más y Menos, Tempest, Terra and Red Arrow, were helping. Dr Light had broken into Wayne Enterprises and stolen some Xenothium, supercharging his suit. It was probably the reason why he had lasted this long against both teams. Changeling had morphed a tiger, and pounced at the doctor. Light blasted him out of the air, and the green feline was knocked down, and Changeling returned to human form. Dr Light tried to blast him again, but the blast was blocked by a dark shield. The shield turned into a raven, and then into Raven, the heroine. That was when Dr Light started to run, but Nightwing wasn't about to let him escape. He tossed a silver and blue bird-a-rang at the doctor, knocking him down. The bird-a-rang soared through the air back to him, and Nightwing caught it easily.
"Dr Light, you're under arrest," said Nightwing, as he slipped a shiny pair of handcuffs on him and retrieved the Xenothium. "Again..." (7)
1. I can't be the only one who wondered what the hell happened to that creature from Things Change. Also, where did it come from, what did it want, why was it in Jump City in the first place?
2. You will read Batman's lines in Kevin Conroy's voice. Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. No exceptions.
3. Oh my god, it's the Justice League! Well, sort of, anyway. They might make proper appearances later on down the track.
4. I'm basing all the stuff that's happening in Bludhaven on the Nightwing comics, but I am deviating quite significantly from what happened at the end with Blockbuster. In the original comics, Nightwing apparently stood aside and let Tarantula kill Blockbuster, and then they apparently had sex... Yeah, it was like that. I figured the only way Teen Titansverse Nightwing would let Tarantula kill Blockbuster was if Nightwing was out of the fight. Not that he did just let her in this story. I also figured that he wouldn't be too upset about Blockbuster's death, but he would arrest Tarantula, because, let's face it, murder is murder. And of course, Titansverse Nightwing is faithful, so ix-nay on the sex scene. As for the "reason you suck" speech, he probably picked up a few tricks from all of Slade's "not so different" speeches throughout the series.
5. Nightwing appears in about half of this story. I guess his adventures were the ones that were screaming at me to be written. So I did.
6. Ph'yzzon and Kar'ras were two of Starfire's husbands from the comics. They both ended up dead, which means that it's a bad idea to marry the mainstream universe Starfire. Trias'ik is one of the Tamaraneans I made up for Titans Reunited.
7. I did say that it would go right up to Titans Reunited. If you want to know what happens next (if you haven't already read it) go read Titans Reunited. I will warn you now that the quality of Titans Reunited, while not absolute shit, is not as good as my more recent stuff, but that's because I've improved a lot over the last year.
So, what do you think? Good? Bad? Amazing? F***ing terrible? Review and let me know!
Anyway, I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, favourite, and/or review all of my stories over the past year, a bigger thank you to those who've done two of the above, and an even bigger thank you to those who've done all three! Seriously, you guys are the best.
My next story will be set a few months after Titans Reunited, and will be a Raven-centric story. At this stage, the title is "The Seven Deadly Sins." I'll have a little teaser ready soon (hopefully).