AN- The same warning in the previous chap applies here as well. This is the last part of Aftershock.
It was in every sight, in every sound, in every breath. It was in the blinding flashes of explosions, in the persistent noise of marching, in the acrid miasma of smog. Each of her senses were constantly bombarded. There was no shelter, no sanctuary from the pandemonium around her. War was pervasive, omnipresent, all-encompassing. Around a corner there might be a sniper on a rooftop, or a dangerous ambush, or perhaps death himself waiting to sink his scythe into her body.
Robyn knew she was being paranoid, but in battle one always had to suspect the worst. The Sladebots weren't going to show mercy or restraint. Such concepts were impossible for them to understand, which was why their namesake was so fond of using them. Only by being equally ruthless could they be destroyed. The solution was simple and dispelled her fears.
If they wouldn't show mercy, neither would she.
Robyn ran forward, unveiling her staff as two drones emerged to shoot her down. She ducked in the middle of her rush, the lasers from their rifles whizzing over harmlessly, and took them out with one fell swoop.
Several others immediately appeared to replace them. The girl wonder twirled her weapon in a circular fashion, warding off the Sladebots' attacks until she could get near enough to deliver her own. They quickly expended their ammunition, allowing her to approach without further encumbrance. It was close-quarter combat from that point on.
At such range it didn't matter how many hundreds stood in her way.
A nimble acrobat, she dodged their strikes with a series of fluid somersaults and backflips, occasionally using her staff as a vaulting tool. Then, the acrobat became a butcher and tore apart each foe in her sight. Arms, legs, heads, bits of mechanical components- all were sundered from bodies and left to waste on the ground in a haphazard mess.
The wreckage crunched beneath Robyn's feet as she advanced. More and more Sladebots met the same fate. Heaps and piles of their limbs quickly joined the broken parts of their comrades. She continued the offensive until nothing whole or moving remained.
But the heroine wasn't the only one wreaking havoc.
In the midst the chaos, Kor could be seen soaring in the sky and launching starbolts. At one point, he was forced to pivot downward in reaction to a vicious counterstrike of enemy fire. He swept past, raised his arms, and unleashed a ray of destruction wide and far around.
The roar of the blast was met by Robyn with an approving smile. It heightened her determination and gave her newfound strength. She didn't want to fall behind, and knew with absolute certainty that she wouldn't.
The girl wonder followed him, smashing to pieces every drone in her path. He led her to the others, and she couldn't help but feel impressed at the sight of them. With an endless reserve of stamina, the Titans fought tooth and nail, breaking through enemy lines like they were an army themselves.
She charged into the fray, coming to their relief and taking up her mantle of leadership.
The tide of battle swayed to and fro, each side falling into lapses of weakness and renewed ardor. Blasts of blue, tendrils of black energy, and green beams of righteous anger light up the area in a glorious rainbow. Robyn had never felt more proud of her team than in that moment. They would fight for each street, each building, each bit of ground until Jump City was theirs again.
The Sladebots put up a good struggle, but their numbers were dwindling fast. Wave after wave of them fell to the heroes' unrelenting onslaught. For all their ruthlessness, they were still just machines. No room for mercy came with a catch. It also meant there was no room for brotherhood, no room for that bond of friendship and morale that was truly the decisive factor in group combat.
They were going to lose.
A cacophonous din of explosions rang through Robyn's ears as the conflict raged. The Titans were winning, but that didn't mean she could let her guard down. The girl wonder stood in the middle of an empty part of the battlefield, made so because she had defeated all the drones in that spot.
She suddenly felt something bumping against her from behind. In a flurry of motion, the heroine raised her staff and turned to see what it was.
Cyber's face greeted her with a smirk. "What ya gonna do with that thing? Give me a bump on the head?"
She was referring, of course, to the rod in her hands.
Robyn relaxed and gestured at the mutilated pieces of Sladebots on the floor. "Seemed to work pretty well on them."
"Yeah," the mechanical teen agreed. "But they ain't made out of stuff tougher than titanium, are they?"
Their conversation was interrupted by a volley of lasers.
Robyn jumped and rolled away, avoiding them before they could make contact.
Cyber, on the other hand, merely stood in place, the lasers bouncing off her and inflicting no damage. She was quite familiar with the Sladebots' weaponry, and had made adequate preparations to withstand it. Considering how often the Titans fought them, she had known that an upgrade of her body's defenses would prove quite useful.
The girl wonder moved behind her and was forced to endure another arrogant smirk.
"Ya see, they can't even hurt me!"
"Get rid of them," Robyn grumbled. It was embarrassing, having to use the mechanical teen as a shield.
Cyber's smirk turned into a grin as she took aim with her sonic cannon. "No problem."
A single shot burst forth from the weapon. It scattered in mid-air, splitting into various rays, going for targets in numerous locations. Before the drones could even register what was going on, the beams slammed into them and blew up. In an instant, they were all destroyed. Pieces of them that weren't incinerated flew about in a haze of scattered debris and smoke.
"Shazam!" Cyber cried, witnessing the destruction with glee. Her updated technology was flawless and didn't even tax her power cell that much. Those stupid drones should've known better than to take her on. It was the perfect example of quality over quantity.
She got over her excitement, though. Overconfidence would only benefit her opponent. The mechanical teen had to remain cautious and alert.
She and Robyn waited for the next assault. Sladebots always attacked in swarms, group following group, like an unstoppable flood.
But nothing came...
The sounds of battle faded and died. The once thick and endless fog evaporated. The sun beamed and shined down, no longer obscured by the gray clouds which had hid it from the world. Birds chirped a sweet song, as if in celebration, for the war was over and the Titans had won.
A serene blanket of peace settled over the city.
Revan and Kor descended from above and joined the girls. The Tamaranian was ecstatic to see that Robyn was safe. He approached the heroine and engulfed her in a bone-crushing hug.
"I am so glad you are alive and undamaged!"
"That might change if you keep this up," Robyn gasped, struggling for air through the tight hold.
He released her and smiled bashfully. The alien didn't know his own strength sometimes. "My apologies."
Each of the four were glad that they were reunited again.
But someone was missing...
"Where's Beast Girl?"
Revan's voice was as calm and monotonous as ever, but it concealed a grave concern. He had looked for the shifter during the battle and hadn't found any sign of her whereabouts. His protectiveness was something that he couldn't explain logically. The only thing he could come up with was a lie: Beast Girl was the weakest member of the team, and therefore needed more protection. It was as simple as that.
Concern turned into fear when his question didn't receive an answer.
"Yo BG!" Cyber called out. "Where you at, girl?!"
The Titans strained their ears and waited.
But no reply was heard...
Robyn whipped out her communicator and looked up the changeling's coordinates. A map of Jump's layout appeared briefly over the device's monitor before it magnified a specific area. Instantly, it beeped in confirmation and revealed what she wanted to know.
"Five kilometers east and eight hundred meters below the surface..."
In battle, those prepared to kill always have the advantage.
Beast Girl knew this very well. She was a veteran in the superhero business and her career had exposed her to all sorts of criminals, from depraved psychopaths to your run-of-the mill bank robber. So yes, she was quite familiar with murderous types. You could tell them apart by their composure. Most criminals were either nervous or cocky, but those that were ready to commit the ultimate crime had a cold calmness to them. Mento had warned her many times of the danger such people represented.
They were calm because they had no inhibitions.
They had the advantage because nothing held them back.
Terran's eyes flashed a dangerous yellow as the environment bended to his will.
Stalactites fell from above in a torrent of cascading rock, forcing her to act fast. She shifted into a falcon and avoided them, her wings beating as rapidly as her heart.
But the blond was cunning. He lulled her into a false sense of security, allowing her to believe that there was a pattern to his attacks. The stalactites fell repeatedly behind her in rows, which caused the changeling to assume that they would continue to do so and therefore be easy to dodge.
Suddenly, Terran changed his rhythm.
Sharp rocks started to fall from in front of the shifter instead of behind. It was smart and almost surprised his enemy.
However, part of her had expected the ruse.
Beast Girl didn't just have her own instincts to rely on. She had the senses and intuitions of the entire animal kingdom on her side. They had alerted her something was amiss the moment it happened. She transformed into a fly and slipped through the small gaps in the shards. To the blond, it appeared as if she had vanished.
Seemingly from nothing, a gorilla took form and delivered a powerful blow to his body. The strength of the attack sent him soaring across the area, and it was only due to luck that he manged to avoid the remaining stalactites that hung from the ceiling. If the blow had been slightly stronger...
The green ape became a cheetah and, before the geokinetic could hit solid ground, raced towards his position. Fists of an ape once more sent him soaring, and the process repeated itself over and over- Beast Girl alternating between cheetah and gorilla in order to keep him dazed and in the air.
Instant death was avoided time and again, but only because the changeling restrained herself from putting too much force in her strikes. She couldn't kill another human being. It went against everything she believed in. Her goal was to render the blond unconscious or make him too weak to pose a threat.
Slade didn't interfere. He stood on the sidelines, observing the fight with an increasing sense of disappointment. If his apprentice couldn't defeat a single Titan by himself, then he was worthless and would rightfully be destroyed.
Fed up with being a volley ball, Terran permitted his powers to lash out. It was a risky move that could've back-fired on him, but it paid off.
The ground beneath Beast Girl trembled as it came to life. She was lifted and sent swerving through the air on a slab of stone. It was a sudden maneuver, one that took her by surprise. In cheetah form, she dug her claws in and hoped she wouldn't fall.
But the blond landed on the flying rock and shoved her off.
In mid-plummet, she assumed the first form that came to mind. He had always been there for her whenever she was in danger, so it made sense. Fur became feathers, paws became wings and talons, gravity became a partner instead of a foe.
A green raven cried in a screeching voice just as it bounded upward to avoid crashing into the floor.
The sight of the bird infuriated Terran. Anger coursed through his veins like a raging disease. He wanted to destroy it completely, so that no vestige of it would remain to taunt him.
The blond unleashed a piercing shout as his frame became enveloped in a swirling aura of golden energy. He could feel every pebble, every bit of dirt, every speck of dust and sediment around him. The stone he was floating on shuddered, as if fearful of its rider's power, but obeyed his will and moved a safe distance away from the chaos that was about to ensue.
Beast Girl knew she was in for it big time.
The cave began erupting in successive barrages of earth, spraying her with gravel. It was just a warm-up, for within moments an avalanche of boulders fell from on high, each of them manipulated by the geokinetc and hurled at her.
She changed into the fastest animals she could think of. She ran and flew, feeling wind and ground for only seconds at a time. The shifter morphed so often to avoid the incoming rocks that her body felt more like a speeding bullet than any creature.
But her luck didn't last long.
One of the boulders managed to hit her, and before she could even process what was going on, Beast Girl found herself crashing, flailing, and skidding against endless pain. The impact felt like a sledgehammer blow. At the end of it all, she was human once again and lying face-down on the floor. Blackness threatened to consume her vision. She fought against it, fought against the dying of the light.
Terran dismounted and approached.
He was coming for her...
She had to move, had to get away.
The changeling picked herself up and tried to run, but her feet were stuck in the earth. Terran had known she would try to escape.
He had also saved the best weapon in his arsenal for last. A massive stone loomed over her, its ominous shadow being the first thing she noticed before looking up and gazing at it. If the battle was a game of chess, this was the checkmate moment.
She stared at the blond.
He stared back and immediately wished he hadn't.
In Beast Girl's eyes, he could see all of his victims.
The civilians of Jump and the countless innocents he had hurt long before he even met Slade- they all looked at him through those emerald orbs.
"I never wanted this to happen."
Terran didn't know whether he was talking about the present situation or his entire life. The resolve which had fueled him throughout the battle was gone. He was paralyzed, as if caught in some sort of trance. If he carried through with this, everything pure and innocent in him would die. The geokinetic didn't just feel guilt for what he was doing. What he felt was stronger than human emotion and caused indescribable shame.
He could sense the judgement of heaven weighing on his soul.
Beast Girl sensed it, too.
"Prove it to me," she said. "It's not too late, Terran."
But to another individual in the cave, it appeared as if "too late" was only seconds away. He phased through a wall and was alarmed to discover the changeling in such desperate circumstances. He didn't see a boy struggling with his conscience and a girl pleading with him to obey it. All he saw was a murderer about to kill one of his friends.
The blond could feel the chill of his words before they were even spoken.
"It'll be the last thing you ever do!"
It wasn't a threat, but a promise.
If Terran killed Beast Girl, he would end him, even if it meant freeing his father and ushering the apocalypse.
A period of stillness, of freezing tension, stretched on for what seemed like an eternity. Wills were being measured and put to the test. One was weighed on the scales and found wanting.
In battle, those prepared to kill always have the advantage.
Terran wasn't prepared...
But Revan was...
The other Titans joined him, announcing their arrival with shouted warnings.
Robyn told the geokinetic to stop before he did the unthinkable and forced her team to do the same. They were more than willing to cross that line if one of their own fell. They were a family. If one of them died, they would seek swift and furious vengeance. It was something the girl wonder would accept full responsibility for, the consequences be damned.
Terran's brows narrowed, beads of perspiration making their presence felt. He tried to think, tried to asses things rationally, but found that he couldn't. The body was rebelling against the mind, as if it knew that what he was doing was wrong. His shallow breathing and sweaty forehead, the clamminess and twitching he suddenly felt in his hands, all these weren't merely the result of nervousness. Events had escalated beyond his ability to control. He hadn't known what was truly at stake until he saw the pure and unadulterated fear in Beast Girl's eyes. He didn't know what to do, didn't know on who's side he belonged.
Slade emerged from his concealed position. Though it was impossible to tell, the masked criminal was just as nervous as his protegé. The Titans had managed to defeat his army and find his headquarters. Anger shortly replaced fear as he thought of all the time and effort he invested in his plan of conquering Jump. World domination was now a shattered dream. He had come so close, but now he was finished.
If that was the case, he would take at least one of the Titans with him.
"Apprentice, strike now!"
Terran wavered. He and Slade still stood a chance of winning if they disposed of one of the heroes, but he couldn't do it. That he had even contemplated such a thing made bile rise in his throat. How did he become such a monster? How strong was evil's grip on him? Was it too strong to resist it?
He looked at Beast Girl and discovered his answer. She was the only one who could see past what he had deceived himself into believing throughout his existence. The moment he was born with his wretched powers, he had thought he was beyond redemption. He would forever hurt the people he cared for, so why not cast his lot with Slade and become his apprentice? He didn't realize that there was goodness in him, so absorbed was he in his own self-loathing.
"It's your choice," she pointed out. "You can still do the right thing."
Choice. It was the key that released him from his chains. He had chosen the wrong path.
But he could choose to leave it. He could choose to walk another path.
The apprentice faced his master and smiled. He had ordered him to strike, and so he would.
Slade didn't see the boulder coming...
For many years it had lied dormant, sleeping beneath the earth, never stirring...
But the battle roused it from its slumber. This was no creature or supernatural entity. This was something entirely different and infinitely worse. It festered and grew until it erupted with a shout of hot fury.
The cave rumbled and shook, but not as a result of an earthquake.
It could be quelled no longer...
Geysers burst upward in a series of orange pillars. Magma gushed forth, jetted like fountains, and vomited hell out of every orifice it could find. The once dank cavern quickly became a boiling ocean.
The raging inferno consumed everything it touched.
Pinned down, Slade Wilson could do nothing as every bit of his body melted away. If he had still been conscious, it would have been an excruciating end.
It also would have been exactly what he deserved.
Terran carved a path out of the magma, which guided each of the Titans to safety. Instead of following them, he lingered on a stone in the center of the burning sea. The blond knew what he had to do. A volcanic eruption had been triggered, and it would destroy the city if nothing was done.
Beast Girl had other plans. She, too, lingered in the cave, waiting for the blond to accompany her friends. When she finally figured out that he wasn't coming, she transformed into a hawk and flew to him. The changeling was human once more upon landing.
"Come on," she told Terran. "We gotta go!"
He chuckled, amused that she was still trying to save him. Beast Girl was either the biggest fool or the kindest person he had ever known. It was an interesting observation that held a simple truth.
She was probably both.
"No can do, babe. I have to stay."
"I'm the only one who can stop it."
The changeling was in a state of utter despair. Terran had chosen light over darkness and had been brought back to her. She thought it was over, that perhaps things might finally go back to normal between them. It was too good to be true.
She was just going to lose him all over again.
"You can't," she sobbed, clinging to the blond like he was her lifeline. "Please, don't do this!"
Of the various emotions churning in his chest, Terran felt one sensation over all the others. It was a powerful and profound feeling, characterized by a warmness of the heart. "I'm sorry," he said, stroking the changeling's locks. "I'm sorry for everything."
Beast Girl looked up and stared into his eyes one last time. Even though he had done terrible things, even though he had hurt her friends and tried to destroy all that they had vowed to protect, she couldn't help it...
"I'm not leaving you."
The geokinetic was touched. He knew he didn't deserve such devotion, which was precisely why he had to do this. It was a decision his entire being protested against, save the throbbing organ which told him it was the only way to redeem himself. He guided the shifter's hand to the source of his feelings. It beated slowly, assured of the rightness of his actions.
"You'll always be here."
The tender moment didn't last long.
A portal ripped through empty space and revealed the figure of Revan. He had been the first to notice Beast Girl's absence. This was the second time she left them to do something stupid. Couldn't she see how urgent and perilous the situation was? Her folly knew no bounds.
The first thing the empath noticed when he appeared was how close she and that traitor were. It disgusted him.
He approached the two with a grim and intimidating scowl on his face.
"We have to go," he snarled. "Now."
Terran glared at the pale teen, but knew that he was right. He also knew that Beast Girl wouldn't leave of her own free will. The changeling's hold on him tightened, as if to confirm what he thought. She would have to be dragged away kicking and screaming.
The blond's gaze softened. "Revan, get her out of here."
There was a silent message in those words, and the empath understood it completely. The two boys hated each other, but that didn't mean they couldn't cooperate. There was one person that could unite them, one person that was more important than their hatred, and she was going to die if she remained in this doomed cave.
Beast Girl couldn't accept it. "What?! Terran, no! We can-"
A sharp pain invaded her mind and stopped her.
The environment swirled and lost focus. Everything became a blur, a multitude of mingling colors and lights. The world was a merry-go-round, and with each spin came an increasing sense of disorientation. She fell backward and landed against something soft. Her eyes slowly rolled back.
The last thing she saw before the darkness was Revan's face...
He hadn't wanted to do it, but the changeling didn't give him any other choice. The spell he casted on her required a great deal of concentration, and probably wouldn't have worked in any other circumstance. Beast Girl was now in a deep sleep. The pale teen knew that she would've resisted had he simply tried to convince her to leave. Reason would've accomplished nothing while she was in such an emotional state.
"You better take care of her," Terran said. "If you don't, I swear-"
Revan was in no mood to deal with his empty threats. He carried the shifter gently in his arms and uttered his mantra. Another portal opened, capable of taking only him and Beast Girl to the safe surface above. He wanted to go immediately, but he stopped himself.
The blond had his back turned. He was gazing ponderously at the flowing magma below. Revan knew what he thinking about, for it was the only possible thing that could be on his mind.
He was thinking about death.
"You have to go, Rev. It's coming."
The empath stepped into the portal. Right before it closed, he left the geokinetic with a kind remark.
Terran laughed the moment he vanished. Revan wasn't so bad once you looked past that grouchy front of his. "You're the one who's gonna need it when BG wakes up."
His merriment was interrupted by a loud blast of fire and brimstone. The volcanic eruption was reaching a crescendo.
It was time.
He thought of his life, of his homeland in Markovia and his family, of years spent in solitude without hope or love...
Until finally his mind rested on Beast Girl. She was gone now, but she would eternally remain in the place that mattered most.
Terran finally allowed the tears to fall.
"You were the best friend I ever had."
He breathed deeply...
And prepared himself for the fate of all martyrs...
AN- Man, this was so cliché. Whatever! I'm just gonna roll with it. We only have one more chap of the Terran arc left to go. Still have a bit more drama in store...