Well, good news is, I'm back with another chapter. Bad news is, I have no clue when the next chapter will be published.
Disclaimer: Not even gonna bother.
Green anaesthetic smoke swirled through the room, obscuring the two combatants.
"I noticed you had a new uniform," said a voice, slightly muffled by his headgear. "What's up with that?"
"I don't need the circus colours to remember what I was fighting for," said a second voice. The second voice was identical to the first, and also sounded slightly distorted.
"Shut up!" The gas swirled as a fist lashed out, aiming for the sound of the second voice. There was no impact.
"I lost everything that day! And I know you did too!"
"I did. But unlike you, I've managed to move on."
"Move on?! How could you get over the deaths of our parents?!"
"Because I found a new family. It might be a little dysfunctional, and we're all messed up in one way or another, but we're a family."
"Hah! You're saying Bruce was a good father? Don't make me laugh."
"I wasn't talking about Bruce. I was talking about my team."
"Those bastards? Aw, that's so sweet it's gonna make me puke!"
"We've all lost family members; each of us understands that pain. But we know and trust each other to carry that burden together. For you, teaming up was a matter of convenience."
"You're right, it was convenient. Having my own super-powered goons to order around, a bitch to have sex with whenever I want, and a whole city to terrorize-"
"And none of it was under your control."
There was a short pause in the flow of verbal combat.
"If you had her on your team, she would've been the one in control. She's an empath, remember? She can sense emotions... but she can also control them."
"I'd know if she was manipulating me!"
"I doubt you would've noticed, if she was subtle enough. But you can't deny that she was the one who kept five different criminals who would normally never work together as a team for as long as you did. She even got you wearing her colour."
"She's still influencing you now. You came after us for revenge, in a rage."
"I! said! Shut! Up!"
The gas was starting to dissipate now, but it was still thick enough to hide the two.
"You're directing your anger at their deaths at someone who is a mirror image of you, at what you could have been!" A brief pause, and the gas cleared enough to reveal that Nightwing was standing behind Red Hood.
"Mom and Dad would be so proud of you," said Nightwing.
Red Hood roared in anger, and spun around, lunging at Nightwing. Red Hood's fist connected with Nightwing's stomach, and Nightwing retaliated by upper-cutting Red Hood in the chin. The punch caused cracks to form in Red Hood's helmet. Red Hood grabbed Nightwing's shoulders and held him still while he head-butted him, ruining Nightwing's gas mask and damaging Red Hood's helmet further. Nightwing staggered back, and the gas mask dropped from his mouth. At this point, the anaesthetic smoke had mostly cleared, but there was still enough in the air to dull the pain he was feeling. Nightwing went on the attack, kicking Red Hood in the chest. The blow caused Red Hood to stagger backwards, and he slammed into the wall behind him, causing his helmet to crack in half and fall from his face.
Nightwing gasped when he saw how wild Red Hood's eyes were under that helmet. Red Hood used that moment of shock to launch a counter-attack, punching Nightwing in the jaw. The blow stunned Nightwing, and Red Hood followed it up with an unrelenting series of blows, and Nightwing only managed to block a few. Red Hood punched Nightwing again, this time in the chest, and as Nightwing staggered backwards, Red Hood swung his foot in a roundhouse kick at Nightwing's right leg. Red Hood's foot connected just below the knee, and there was a sickening crack as the bones in Nightwing's leg broke. Nightwing shrieked in pain and collapsed, clutching at his broken leg.
Red Hood just stood there panting, watching as Nightwing's screams faded to moans of pain. The criminal knelt next to Nightwing, and grabbed the loose corner of Nightwing's mask. Red Hood yanked at the mask, and Nightwing screamed again as it came off, taking chunks of skin with it. Blood started to pour down his face, and Richard Grayson looked up, meeting his own hate-filled gaze.
"You're right, y'know," said his counterpart. "I could've ended up like you, if things had happened differently. But as it stands right now, I'm glad I'm nothing like you."
The so-called leader of the Tyrants stood up, and pulled a pistol out a holster hidden in his jacket.
"You remind me of the kid I used to be," he said, glaring down at the Titan's leader. "I hate reminders." He took aim, and relished in the feeling of power, in watching his victim's eyes fill with fear...
Starfire flew in pursuit of Blackfire, lobbing starbolts up at her evil counterpart. Blackfire retaliated by firing her own volley, but she missed completely. Blackfire's vision was still recovering from the blow that had been dealt to her by Starfire's eyebeams. Starfire slowed down, and intercepted the purple starbolts with her own green ones, as Blackfire was firing downwards, towards Jump City. She wasn't willing to risk any more civilian casualties.
Blackfire shot upwards, then dropped suddenly, flying in a zigzag pattern to avoid Starfire. Her eyes were still too sore to use her eyebeams, but her vision was getting better. Everything was still a little blurry, but now the blurs had distinct shapes and colours. She hurled another starbolt, and this time, she hit her mark. Starfire was knocked backwards and tumbled through the air. Blackfire shot off, speeding up. She heard her heroic counterpart firing another pair of starbolts, and dropped to her right, and the green spheres of energy shot past. Her eyes were recovering faster now, and the large blobs in the background began to return to their proper shapes as buildings. She stopped suddenly and swung her fist, and Starfire flew straight into it. The blow caused Starfire's concentration to waver, and she lost altitude, but managed to recover before she hit the ground. Blackfire flew onwards, swinging around a building and fired a starbolt at the ground. The explosion caused the crowd to freeze as they flinched, and Blackfire used the opportunity to grab one of them. Starfire approached slowly, her hand raised, with an emerald starbolt formed around her clenched fist. Blackfire wrapped one around her prisoner's throat, and formed a purple starbolt around her other hand, and held it close to her captive's head.
Starfire stopped suddenly. Her eyes met those of the girl that had been captured. She had blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her bright blue eyes were shining with tears of fear. She couldn't have been older than thirteen.
"Stay back, or the child dies!" yelled Blackfire.
"You would dare to harm a civilian?" Starfire snarled in Tamaranean.
"Yes, I would," Blackfire replied in the same language. "You should know that you use every advantage you can get."
"But stooping so low as to commit war crimes?!" said Starfire.
"War crimes?" Blackfire laughed. "Those are just limitations."
"Why, you-!" said Starfire. She started to approach, but halted as Blackfire moved her starbolt surrounded hand closer to the young girl's temple.
"Stephanie!" yelled a voice from the crowd that had frozen in fear.
"I'm..." Stephanie started, but she stopped and swallowed. "I'm okay, grandma," she managed, but the tears streaming down her face told another story.
Blackfire's arm tightened around Stephanie's neck. "Quiet!" she hissed, and the poor girl started to choke. Starfire growled in frustration as Blackfire started to back away.
"Just stay there, and nobody has to die," Blackfire said.
The starbolt around Starfire's hand dissipated, and the green glow faded from her eyes. Her gaze dropped, and her eyes met those of Stephanie. For a few seconds, they maintained eye contact, and strangely, an understanding seemed to pass between them. Stephanie lowered her head, and bit her captor's arm. Blackfire yelped in pain, and pulled her arm back, knocking Stephanie over as she did so, and examined her arm, looking at the blood starting to well up from the teeth-marks.
Blackfire snarled, and took aim at Stephanie with a starbolt. In an instant, Starfire lunged at her, and slammed her fist into Blackfire's chest, knocking her through the air, until she hit the ground and skidded to a stop. She then turned around and helped Stephanie to her feet, and gently nudged to girl towards her grandmother, who had run forward.
"Get to safety," Starfire said. When Stephanie and her grandmother looked at her in confusion, she realised she had spoken in Tamaranean. Feeling slightly embarrassed, Starfire cleared her throat. "Get to safety," she repeated, this time in English.
Stephanie nodded, and the crowd started to back up. Further down the street, Blackfire got to her feet and raced towards Starfire. Panic set in, and the crowd ran. Green energy blazed around Starfire, and she took off fast enough to rip out chunks of the pavement. She dropped under Blackfire and fired a starbolt at Blackfire, launching her into the air. Blackfire recovered and fired a massive barrage of purple starbolts at Starfire. Each of the blasts struck Starfire, hiding her in a cloud of smoke. A green light flared, and the smoke cleared, revealing that Starfire was completely unharmed. Blackfire gasped. That was impossible without the Jewel of Charta... wasn't it?
Starfire crossed her arms, then swung her arms apart, firing a jagged crescent of starbolt energy at Blackfire. Blackfire was too surprised to dodge, and was knocked further into the air. By the time she had recovered, Starfire had flown up to her height, and was floating a few feet away.
"But... how?" asked Blackfire in Tamaranean.
"My powers are governed by my emotions," Starfire said in English. "Boundless confidence for strength, unbridled joy for flight... and righteous fury for starbolts. And you have just made me very, very furious!" Starfire surrounded her entire arm with jagged green energy, and punched Blackfire. Blackfire was sent flying, but Starfire did not relent, flying with Blackfire and continuously beating her with starbolt-surrounded fists. Starfire then grabbed Blackfire by the shoulders and held her tight, flying downwards at the ground. About fifty feet from the ground, she brought her legs up and kicked Blackfire downwards. Blackfire hit the ground in front of the pizza parlour hard enough to leave a small crater. Blackfire groaned, and tried to sit up. Starfire grabbed her by her shirt and threw her into the portal that led back to the Tyrants' dimension.
A malicious grin spread across his counterpart's face, and Richard realised that he couldn't fight him, not in the condition he was in. So he simply closed his eyes and waited for death to come.
A loud explosion caused him to recoil, and a wall blew inwards as someone flew through it. The person smashed into the next wall, bringing it down, and crashed into the wall behind that, leaving a crater. Blackfire collapsed, unconscious. The leader of the Tyrants turned in surprise to look out the first hole that had been made, and Starfire flew in, panting heavily. Richard's counterpart raised the gun, and levelled it at Starfire.
A gunshot rang out. Metal tore through flesh. Blood splattered against the floor. A scream ripped through the now still air.
Gadget began to analyse the situation.
TARGET: COUNTERPART OF ALLY: RED HOOD (ROBIN).
STATUS: ENGAGED WITH ALLY: RED HOOD.
THREAT LEVEL TO SELF: NONE.
THREAT LEVEL TO OBJECTIVE: LOW.
ACTION: LEAVE TO ALLY: RED HOOD. ASSIST IF NECESSARY.
TARGET: COUNTERPART OF SELF (CYBORG)
STATUS: AIMING AT SELF.
THREAT LEVEL TO SELF: MAXIMUM.
THREAT LEVEL TO OBJECTIVE: HIGH.
PRIORITY: DEFEND PORTAL GENERATOR.
PRIORITY: MAINTAIN PORTAL TO ALLOW ALLIES TO RETURN.
ACTION: NEUTRALISE VIA SENSORY OVERLOAD.
All of this passed through the robot's processors in nanoseconds. His counterpart took aim with his sonic cannon again, and fired at Gadget. Gadget analysed the trajectory of the beam, and moved the minimum amount of distance to avoid the blast, and began to calculate the best method to neutralise his opponent.
ANALYSIS: VISUAL SENSORY OVERLOAD DEEMED INEFFICIENT.
ANALYSIS: TACTILE SENSORY OVERLOAD DEEMED HIGHLY INEFFICIENT.
ANALYSIS: OLFACTORY SENSORY OVERLOAD DEEMED HIGHLY INEFFICIENT.
ANALYSIS: AUDITORY SENSORY OVERLOAD DEEMED EFFICIENT.
DECISION: NEUTRALISE TARGET VIA AUDITORY SENSORY OVERLOAD.
Gadget paused in it's calculations in order to fire it's sonic cannon at it's counterpart, causing Cyborg to dodge.
TUNING: SET FREQUENCY TO 21.5 kHz. SET DECIBEL LEVEL TO 125 dB.
The speaker in Gadget's mouth began to play a constant tune. The noise was at a pitch outside the human hearing range, but was at a volume that would cause pain in it's target's human ear. Cyborg screamed, and clamped his hands over his ears. With it's target in pain, Gadget began to lower the decibel level to a more suitable level for long-term exposure in order to avoid deafening it's target and eliminating the effectiveness of this method. It also lowered the pitch, so that it was just inside the human hearing range, and still high enough to cause physical pain. Cyborg continued to scream in pain, until, after less than a minute, Cyborg collapsed.
LIFE SIGNS: BREATHING AND HEARTBEAT DETECTED. BRAIN ACTIVITY CONSISTENT WITH UNCONSCIOUSNESS.
THREAT LEVEL: NONE.
TARGET STATUS: NEUTRALISED.
Gadget deactivated the speaker, and the robot returned it's attention to the machine in front of it. It began typing into the keyboard in front of it, inputting data from it's calculations into the portal generator to maintain the interdimensional portal. After three minutes and seventeen seconds passed, a person Gadget identified as Blackfire came flying through the portal, and broke through the wall on the opposite side of the room. Eleven seconds later, Blackfire was followed by her counterpart, which Gadget had identified as Starfire. Starfire appeared not to notice the unconscious body of her ally Cyborg, nor did she appear to notice Gadget itself. She passed through the hole Blackfire had left in the wall, and Gadget calculated that she was not presently a threat.
Gadget detected a second person entering. This person existed in it's database as a threat. Gadget prepared to neutralise the target-
"Authorisation Code: Vee-One-See-Tee-Zero-Are-Five-Tee-Zero-En-Three," the person said.
Gadget processed this information. He had entrusted that code to one specific person, and that person was currently dead. The person currently standing in front of it was already registered in the robot's threat database, so it was certainly not a reincarnation, nor was it a resurrection. Gadget then accessed the information on the powers of the person standing before him, as well as the powers of the only person with knowledge of the code. It also accessed and analysed the vocal data it stored on both of these people. The robot analysed this data, and reached a decision. The whole process took one second and seventy-three nanoseconds.
"Authorisation Code accepted," Gadget droned, then returned to maintaining the portal. The sound of a gunshot reached Gadget's auditory sensor, but the robot determined that the wielder of the weapon was Red Hood, so the gun was no threat. The robot watched impassively while the person it had recently analysed passed through the portal.
Changeling switched forms, changing into a hawk and slipping between the antlers of Menagerie's moose form, and slashed him across the face. Menagerie morphed into an eagle, and Menagerie grabbed Changeling's wing with his beak. Changeling changed forms again, this time becoming a fly. Once he had escaped Menagerie's grip, he switched to a pterosaur and stabbed at Menagerie with his beak. Menagerie switched to a hummingbird and darted to the side. He then flew under Changeling and morphed into a gorilla, grabbing Changeling's legs. Changeling shrieked in pain, and the weight brought the two of them down to the ground. Changeling switched to a gorilla, and the two apes brawled as they fell. As they reached the ground, Menagerie jumped off Changeling, switching into a bird and circled around the falling Changeling. Changeling morphed into a peregrine falcon, and pulled out of his dive before he hit the pavement. He flew a few feet from the ground, before switching to a cheetah and sprinting ahead. Menagerie morphed into a tyrannosaurus, and tried to bite into Changeling. Changeling leaped to the side, then jumped onto Menagerie's head and started slashing him. Menagerie shook his head, throwing Changeling into a building. Changeling hit the wall hard, sliding down to the ground and automatically reverted to his human form. Changeling grunted as he pushed himself up, rubble falling from his back as he stood up. Menagerie had reverted to human, and was walking towards him.
Changeling had only one idea left, but it was a bad one. However, he didn't exactly have much of a chance of beating his counterpart otherwise.
Changeling's muscles bulged, and long green fur began sprouting out of his skin. His fingernails sharpened into claws, and his mouth filled with fangs. His face flattened, and his eyes became narrow slits. A roar escaped from Changeling's throat as he finished transforming into the Beast.
A feral grin twisted Menagerie's mouth as he transformed into his own Beast. Menagerie's Beast form was slightly larger, the fur was mangy and dark, and the claws and fangs were sharper.
The two Beasts clashed, claws ripping gashes open, teeth plunging into skin. Red blood and green fur flew through the air as they tried to tear each other apart. Changeling attempted to slash Menagerie's face, but his counterpart dodged, and swung his arm, slicing open Changeling's throat. Changeling howled and staggered backwards, reverting to human form and tripping and landing on his back. In an instant, Menagerie was upon him. Menagerie trapped his arms and legs, and his face hovered above Changeling. Changeling gagged at the foul smell of Menagerie's breath. Something slammed into Menagerie, knocking him off Changeling. Raven floated into view, her eyes glowing red. She fired another blast of energy at Menagerie. The black blast of energy was surrounded by a dark red aura, rather than the usual white.
"I won't let you hurt him!" she yelled, her voice echoing slightly. She grabbed an empty car and hurled it at Menagerie. Menagerie tried to dodge, but was still suffered a glancing blow. Raven picked him up with her powers and slammed him into the ground several times, until he collapsed and reverted to his human form. Once he was back in human form, Raven picked him up and slammed him into the ground one last time, to make sure Menagerie was unconscious. Raven took a few deep breaths, and the red glow began to fade from her eyes. She then ran over to where Changeling was slowly trying to sit up.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
Changeling groaned. "Throat's sore," he managed. "And I've got a headache."
Raven surrounded her hand in blue healing energy, and gently ran it over Changeling's throat. "That should help," she said. "But there's not a whole lot I can do for your headache."
"I don't think the headache's gonna be much of a problem," said Changeling. "I think I just need to rest for a bit, get my strength back."
The stench of gun-smoke filled the air. Starfire glanced downwards, at the chunk of flesh that the bullet had torn out of her right arm. She sank to her knees as the pain kicked in, and she covered the gash with her arm, trying to stem the flow of blood.
"Huh," said the unmasked Red Hood. "I missed. Oh, well."
Red Hood nonchalantly walked forwards, and pressed the barrel of the pistol against Starfire's temple.
"I won't miss this time," he said, and started to pull the trigger.
Starfire didn't say anything. She just reached up with a blood-covered hand and grabbed the barrel of the pistol, crushing it closed with her immense strength. Red Hood's eyes widened as he realised what was happening, but it was too late. The gun fired, but with the barrel crushed shut by Starfire, there was no escape for the pressure that built up, so the gun exploded, and the blast absolutely ruined Red Hood's hand. His scream of pain was cut short as Starfire punched him and knocked him out. Starfire made it back to her feet, and walked over to Nightwing. Her husband pulled a roll of bandages out of one of the pockets in his belt and passed it to her. She held it against the bullet wound, and slid the metal circlet around her arm up to hold it in place. Nightwing then pulled out a second bandage, and Starfire wrapped it around the wounds on his face.
"Can you walk?" she asked as she did so.
"No," said Nightwing. "My right leg is broken."
Starfire nodded, and helped Nightwing up. "Lean on me," she said, draping one of his arms around her shoulders. Slowly, they made their way out of the room and headed back to the portal. Once they entered the portal room, Starfire noticed that Cyborg was down, and saw Gadget manning the portal generator. She fired her eyebeams at the robot, but it dodged the blast effortlessly. In the split second while the robot's attention was on Starfire, Cyborg fired his sonic cannon at the robot's head. The blast of sonic energy ripped through the robot's head, leaving behind a mess of molten wires and twisted metal, and the robot collapsed. Cyborg heaved himself to his feet.
"Thanks for the help," said Cyborg.
"What happened?" Starfire asked.
"Evil me tried to knock me out by pulling a Black Canary and knocking me out with sound," Cyborg said as he walked over to the portal generator. "I shut myself down before he could cause any permanent damage. And because I shut myself down, I could reactivate myself at any time."
The portal flickered and began to destabilise, but Cyborg tapped a few keys and the portal regained its stability.
"I'll stay back and keep this portal open, you two go get to a hospital," he said.
Starfire nodded, and stepped through the portal. Once she was through, she pulled out her communicator.
"Flash! Get to my position, now!" she yelled.
The Flash appeared almost instantly, and gasped when he saw how badly injured Nightwing and Starfire are.
"I'll get Nightwing out of here first," he said. Starfire nodded, and the Flash grabbed Nightwing.
"Flash," Nightwing muttered. "Go to... Gotham... see Leslie..."
"Yeah, I know where to go," said the Flash. He glanced back at Starfire. "Are you gonna be able to make it to the hospital by yourself?"
"I think so," she said, and tried to take off... only to collapse and pass out.
The Flash swore as he took out his communicator. "Raven, Starfire needs to be taken to a hospital. I'm taking Nightwing to get medical care."
"Okay, I'm on my way," said Raven. The Flash, and pocketed his communicator. He then raced off towards Gotham City.
The fight between Nightwing and Red Hood was based on the fight between Batman and Justice Lord Batman from the Justice League episode A Better World. That's also the reason why there are no dialogue tags in that sequence until the end. During the Batman vs Lord Batman fight, both Batmans (Batmen?) were hidden in the shadows, so the only way to tell who was whom was by their voice and what they said, which is what I was trying to achieve with the dialogue sequence.
Starfire reaching such high power levels was an idea that was bouncing around for a while, but I hadn't really figured out what could possibly piss her off that much. I think I found it.
I'm sorry about the huge blocks of bold caps for Gadget's thought processes, but that was what I used during the prologue, and I wanted to maintain consistency. I also had fun writing Gadget's highly analytical thought processes.
The reason Changeling lost his fight is because he's always subconsciously holding back the animal instincts to kill. Menagerie has no such restriction as a villain.
And no, I wasn't going to kill Nightwing or Starfire. That would have just been too much.
Anyone who can guess who Gadget was talking to at the end of his section gets an internet hug and cookies. The same goes for anyone who guesses who the two cameos were (Hint: they are both existing DC characters). It probably won't be too hard to figure out who they were, but whatevs.