It was a chilly late afternoon in December and the Teen Titans were busy doing what they did best: they were fighting villains. The scene was an old construction site, which had been abandoned years ago when the developer filed for bankruptcy, leaving a naked skeleton of I beams which stood out amongst the other downtown skyscrapers like a sore thumb. It was the fifth day in a row they were fighting the same opponent, a fact that was not lost on Robin.
"Slade-bots … why does it have to be Slade-bots?" Cyborg moaned as he fired his sonic cannon onto a crowd of the trouble making droids.
A green ankylosaurus swung its mighty tail, bulldozing almost a dozen of the robots. "And right before Christmas too! Isn't anything sacred for Slade?"
"Do you even need to ask that question, Beast Boy?" The sorceress replied, as she swooped down, forming a battering ram with her obsidian power. The blow was devastating, and the wretched Slade-bots tumbled like bowling pins.
While her attack was powerful, Raven missed one on the droids.
"Raven! Watch out!" Robin yelled at her.
The lone surviving droid skillfully dodged the dark battering ram, and lunged at Raven as she swooped past him. In a swift spinning motion it struck her across the face with a powerful back fisted strike. It hit her square on her nose, which broke. She grunted in pain and lost control of her flight, tumbling to the floor, where she rolled over several times before coming to a halt.
Opening her eyes she saw stars dancing. She knew that the Slade-bot had to be near and tried to rise to her feet but her limbs would not obey her. She was in a precarious position, unable to defend herself and knowing that the enemy, who remained invisible, was closing in on her.
The Slade-bot was indeed closing in. It steadily approached her and drew its laser pistol, which it aimed at her head.
A whooshing sound was heard in the air, and it was replaced by the sound of metal on metal, as Robin's bird-a-rang knocked the pistol out of the droid's hand. The robot's AI, in an attempt to understand what had happened, looked up just in time to see a volley of star bolts coming right at it. The green energy bursts found their target and the droid, which was the last remaining Slade-bot, fell to the ground in a crumpled, smoking heap.
Starfire landed next to Raven, who was still out of action. The princess cupped Raven's face in her hands, examining the damage done. The sorceress's face was a mess, with blood dripping out of her broken nose, splattering on the ground. Raven attempted to stand up, but her legs felt like rubber.
"Take it easy, Raven, you're going straight to the infirmary." Cyborg ordered her.
"Star, you and Beast Boy take her home, Cyborg and I will get there as soon as we can."
The princess picked up Raven bridal style and took off, with the changeling following behind her after morphing into a hawk. Robin watched them fly away before heading back to the T-Car with Cyborg. They buckled in and Cyborg drove away.
Robin appeared to brood while the Tin Man drove. Cyborg quickly noticed his dark demeanor.
"Yo, Rob, it wasn't your fault Raven got hurt."
Robin slowly turned to his friend and teammate.
"She could have died."
"And she didn't. You and Star were right there, covering her back … relax gel hair … she'll be fine … once I set her nose she'll go into one of her healing trances and she'll be as good as new."
Robin shook his head.
"Something's not right, Cy."
"What do you mean?"
"That Slade-bot attack, there was nothing of value there. They were there for one purpose, to draw us out into a pointless fight."
"So what? Did Slade accomplish anything?"
"Raven got hurt. She could have been killed."
"Now that you mention it, Rob, this has been the fifth pointless attack this month, and every time they seemed to have it for Raven, but why? Does Slade have some kind of grudge with her?"
Robin crossed his arms and sighed.
"I don't know, Cy, but I'm gonna find out."
-( scene break )-
Back at the scene of the crime, which was an abandoned construction site, a small crab shaped robot skittered over a pile of rubble, surveying the scene from its perch. Its electronic antennae, shaped like small spoons, twirled like small radar dishes while the robot waited patiently to find what it was looking for.
A minute passed and finalyl the small droid located its target. It skittered down from the pile of rubble, its metallic feet making at staccato like symphony of clicks as scurried towards its target.
Upon reaching its goal it scanned it using a greenish light, after which it paused while it performed some unknown computations. A hatch then opened and a small tube protruded, while the crab made a series of whirring and clicking sounds.
The target was the small puddle of blood Raven had left behind. The tube, working like a miniature vacuum cleaner, sucked up all of the blood that was still wet. The hatch then closed and the mechanical crab scurried away, disappearing into the shadows.
-( scene break )-
A few hours later, in Titans Tower …
The sliding doors in the common room swished open, revealing Raven's serene looking form. There was no sign of any damage to her face as her healing trance had performed flawlessly, leaving her nose as pristine as the day she was born. At first her teammates didn't notice her as they were busy decorating the Christmas tree. It had been a busy month and contrary to American tradition, the Titans were decorating the tree just days before Christmas.
Raven froze in her tracks, deliberating whether or not it was too late to turn around and leave. Raven wasn't into Christmas. She was Azarathian and had her own religion. While she respected her teammates' Christmas cheer she wasn't really interested in participating, unfortunately they never seemed to get the message.
Robin turned and smiled at the demoness.
"Raven, you're just in time!" The Teen Wonder cheered.
She deliberated on whether or not she should just turn around and walk out of the room. In the end she didn't. She never did walk out of decorating the tree, as distasteful as she found it to be.
Starfire zoomed to her side, thrusting a huge ornament into her hands, which she quickly identified as the tree topper, the Star of Bethlehem.
"I have been saving this one for you, my friend!" The princess gushed.
Raven nodded solemnly and floated to the top of the 15 foot tall tree, where she delicately placed the ornament, which glittered and shimmered in the room's ambient light.
Raven's only consolation was that this ornament was one of the last one's left. As she hovered back down, she saw that Beast Boy had a tray of cookies and hot chocolate for everyone. Perhaps the day wasn't a total loss after all.
As they congregated on the crescent shaped couch to enjoy their sweet treat, Robin turned off the lights in the room and the tree almost appeared to glow super naturally.
"This has to be our best tree ever!" Robin gushed, clearly satisfied with their handiwork. "We were afraid you'd miss all the fun Raven. It looks like your recovery is complete."
Raven gently tweaked her nose. "It's still a bit tender, but I'll live."
"You sure do look a lot better, Raven. That Slade-bot sure clocked you good." Beast Boy remarked.
"Don't. Remind. Me." She growled at the changeling, who was sweat dropping while he handed the witch her mug of hot chocolate.
Robin cleared his throat.
"Uh … Raven … I think it's pretty obvious now that Slade's out to get you."
She sipped her hot chocolate before replying.
"Yes, I too have noticed that."
"We need to find out why."
Raven placed her mug of the coffee table.
"It has nothing to do with Trigon, if that's what you're wondering." She remarked in an authoritarian tone.
"Then why? Why you?" Cyborg asked.
"Chrome dome's right, with Slade, there's always something sinister behind it." The changeling remarked.
Robin smacked his fist into his palm. "And we're gonna find out what he's up to. I'm not gonna let him get the jump on us, not this time. We're gonna be ready for him."
"What's there to find out? Slade wants to hurt Raven, and hurt her bad, what's so complicated about that?" The changeling asked.
"Believe me, Beast Boy, Slade never operates without a plan, never." Robin interrupted.
Raven didn't like where the conversation was headed, in other words, towards her. She definitely preferred that they not discuss her at all. And in order to keep that from happening, she was ready to take desperate measures.
"Starfire, how about you play some Christmas carols?" Raven asked, doing everything she could to not wince.
"Oh yes, I purchased a new disc, it has the carols played on an organ with a small choir singing!" She enthused as she plopped the CD into the player.
Raven smiled. Good old Starfire, even though she was an alien, she thoroughly enjoyed the trappings of Christmas, even though she still had no clue what was being celebrated. As the organ music began to play, she closed her eyes and allowed the classical melody to soothe her. Christmas carols were still not her thing, but as long as they distracted the attention away from her, she could live with them.
A few minutes later Beast Boy, with his sensitive ears, noticed that Raven was humming along to the carols.
-( scene break )-
Slade sat patiently on his throne like chair. The current lair was like so many of his previous ones, full of giant view screens and gears which turned incessantly. Frail old Wintergreen, his confidant, whom he had kept secret from the Titans after all these years, placed a piping hot cup of tea on his chair's armrest.
At the moment Slade wasn't interested in tea and he drummed his fingers impatiently on the armrest. Wintergreen approached him.
"Sir, the sample collector droid has returned."
Slade leaped to his feet.
"It's about time. Why did it take so long?"
"The crime scene was crawling with police officers, Wilson, the robot needed to be discrete or it would have been seen. I have already prepared the lab and it's ready for your use."
Slade hurried to the lab where the crab like robot was awaiting on the workbench. He flipped a panel open on top of the droid and tapped in coded sequence. A small, sealed test tube was ejected, which Slade snatched. He trotted over to a high powered microscope, where he examined a single droplet he extracted from the tube. Wintergreen watched patiently while Slade adjusted knobs as he continued to examine the sample. After almost 30 minutes elapsed Slade rose from the microscope.
"Sir?" Wintergreen asked.
"It's perfect, Wintergreen, absolutely perfect."
"We will have our revenge against the Titans, Wilson. They will pay for everything they have done to us."
"That's right, Wintergreen. This time we'll destroy the Teen Titans, and they won't even know how it happened."
-( scene break )-
A short chapter by my standards, but I didn't want to give away the real juice too soon.