The alarm sounded throughout the Titan's tower, waking up Beast Boy from his midday nap. He woke and rubbed his eyes for a moment, and opened them to see Speedy, Jinx and Aqualad running out of the tower.
"Hey!" He called after them, "you forgot to turn it off!" But they were already gone. He grumbled a bit and got up, stretched, and walked over to shut it off. He pressed to flashing red button labeled "Alarm 1" but the siren continued. He pressed it several more times before realizing that the second alarm was also sounding. By now Argent and the others had come to the common room to see what the commotion was.
"Yo Robin!" Cyborg called out when he came up to the council to shut off the second alarm. Robin came in right behind Starfire, he had been training in the gymnasium moments before and worked up a decent sweat from it. His muscles still burned slightly when he looked at the screen and grimaced, seeing the black robots carrying sacks on money out of a bank. "Slade." Was all that he said; the single word filled with so much hate and anger that it silenced everybody else.
A small tone from the council sounded and Cyborg quickly put up on the large screen.
"Hey," Jinx's face filled the screen. "We might need some backup here." She said as she threw a hex behind her. "It's those damned robots again." Robin's eyes widened for a brief moment before he sent Argent and Beast Boy to help them. Cyborg shut the screen off again as he and the rest of the team left to stop the bank robbery.
Slade counted the number of people leaving the building and chuckled as the last one left. He turned and climbed through a small, two foot wide hole cut into the side of the tower. The professor greeted him inside the tower and led him down to the room that held the nearly completed machine.
Were those kids really going to help me? Not just leave me behind to fend for myself in a hostile world as they searched for their own friend?
It was a question that the Professor had spent sleepless nights over many a time. Sure, the kids never showed any bad intent, but he always knew he was accepted by them out necessity. They needed to get their friend back, and if he was the only one, then they had to work with him despite their true feelings. He had met little resistance when working with the Titans, or the honorary ones too, but he was sure that was because of Robin's orders. It was not a chance he could take, being used by kids and not being able to find his wife in the end, after so many years of waiting. Besides, with these robots - these helpers, finding her would be easy. He thought, trying to justify his betrayal. He walked up next to Slade, who was watching the dismantling and careful packaging of the machine done by his robots. Beneath his mask Slade grinned. The ability to gain passage to a new world, a new galaxy of worlds, was thrilling in itself- and with his army? The possibilities were endless.
Slade stepped outside while the Professor supervised the dismantling and packaging of his beloved machine that was nearing completion. Slade ducked through the hole in the tower's steel wall and approached the submersible that the robots were taking the pieces into. He quickly stepped out of the Professor's line of sight and pushed a crate off the rocks and into the water, the heavy metal parts in it weighing it down as it sank to the bottom of the bay. He waited a moment and pushed another one into the bay. That should take care of it. Now he cannot complete this machine, and will be forced to build a new, perhaps larger, one - with my generous donation of materials for him to do so, of course. To think! - A portal large enough for a regiment of my mechanized army to pass through with ease. This may actually be interesting.
Raven stood by a small grove of trees, her hands drumming lightly on Rena's shoulders, holding her close in front of her as they watched several earth benders work in the lightly falling snow. They cleared and shaped the land that the Army would be landing on in a few short weeks, all in accordance to Suki's instructions. Next to her Suki went over the plans with one of the benders. Raven had explained the concept of the phalanx that morning to Suki, and she quickly put the few benders on the island to work clearing the land until it was flat, and constructing two walls, each several feet thick, to protect the vulnerable sides of the formation in battle. The walls create a narrow channel, easily defendable using this new formation, and would force the Fire Nation Army to enter slowly, in numbers that would be manageable to defeat, instead of overwhelming the Kyoshians.
Raven had been helping clear some of the trees away for the last hour, and now that her work for the moment was finished she stood on the sidelines - finding warmth under the trees with Rena at her side, watching idly until her abilities were needed again. Rena thumbed the rough microscope that was shoved deep in her pocket. She looked up at Raven, twisting her head sideways and upwards to see her. "So, how's it work?" She asked Raven, holding the microscope out for her to see. Raven knelt down to her eyelevel and began explaining it in terms she hoped Rena could understand. Fifteen minutes later and only half way through all the questions that Rena had, Ko walked up carefully balancing four bowls of food for them.
"Training for the villagers will start tomorrow, Akiko said there's about a hundred and twenty so far— and that's just from the villages on the coasts. No word from Masa about those in the mountains yet." Ko reported to Suki as she handed her a bowl.
"Good. Any idea where you can get the armor and weapons from?"
"Supposedly there's an Earth Kingdom supply ship that passes by Chin Village every week, should be a relatively easy target." Ko said, referring to the village on the peninsula that Kyoshi Island was once a part of. "Yumiko is trying to confirm that right now."
"I thought the Fire Nation was the enemy, not the Earth Kingdom." Raven interjected.
Suki shook her head. "They aren't the enemy. But we have a bit of a history of not liking each other; although if we had to fight alongside them someday, it probably wouldn't be an issue. Besides, common enemy, I'm sure they won't mind donating." She said with a mischievous grin.
"So Kyoshi really is on its own." Raven said to herself quietly, such that only Rena could have heard.
"It's their loss." Rena whispered back. Raven squeezed her shoulders lightly in response.
"Oh," Ko said with her mouth full, "Holly wanted you two to meet her in the cabin in like, ten minutes, I think." She said, waving her hand towards Raven and Rena.
Cyborg took several cheap shots at the bots before they were aware of the Titans' arrival. Firing into the backs of criminals wasn't something that Robin or the others made a habit of. Cyborg remembered Robin once saying that if he has to fight, they'll be facing him and it'll be a fair fight. Slade's bots though? Robin decided that some rules had to be pushed aside when dealing with them. Kid Flash quickly carried any bystanders that were lingering to safety, and returned carrying two bricks, releasing them into the robots as he passed by them. He then took to running in between the other bots, getting too close for the ones he was next to fire at him, but stopping momentarily to let the others fire, and hit their own comrades when he moved out of the way. Starfire took to the air at first, but was forced onto the ground by the bot's guns. Cyborg and Robin cut their way through the mass of machines to help Starfire, who had landed in the center of the group.
Meanwhile, across the town Jinx and the others were greatly relieved by Beast Boy and Argent's arrival. With their help the battle finished relatively quickly, and they decided to pick up the aftermath while Beast Boy flew to the other fight to see if he was needed. Jinx and the bank employees picked up the stray money that had been strewn across the street when she hit one of the bot's sacks with a hex. She walked back to the building when they were finished, tucking a few of the bills from the ground into her pocket as she went. Argent was talking to one of the employees when her communicator went off. "This is Robin, meet up at the pizzeria in fifteen minutes." Argent looked up to see Speedy, Jinx, and Aqualad listening to the same message. She shrugged and went back to talking to the very grateful bank employee.
A short time later, all of the titans were being seated at the pizzeria, completely filling the largest table at the restaurant. Their order was being made before they were even seated, and the teenagers quickly got to talking about the recent battle and eventually the newest movies. Robin decided against calling the Professor and inviting him, because he had refused every other invitation of his and he saw no reason why he would change his mind this time.
Robin excused himself from the table and stepped outside. Thinking about the Professor had reminded him to send Raven the picture of the Professor's wife. At first he refused to give it to them, fearful of it being lost or destroyed. It took many days of convincing him to allow Cyborg to scan it into the system, and even then he kept a careful watch over everything that Cyborg did when he had the wallet sized picture. Robin flipped open his communicator and connected to the machine in the tower, which then connected to Raven's.
"Raven," he said when he saw her face appear on the screen a minute later, "I'm sending over a picture of his wife. I forgot to mention before, but could you keep an eye out for her?"
Raven nodded and looked at the picture that replaced Robin's face on the screen. She said farewell to him and studied the picture as she walked to the cabin with Rena in tow. The woman, who looked thirty at the very most, was pretty with cropped blonde hair, a soft face, and thin framed glasses pushed high on her nose. Robin quickly bid her farewell and went back to the rest of the titans. Raven and Rena were walking towards their cabin, where Holly awaited them.
"Rena, is there many blonde people in this world?"
"Light colored hair, a yellow shade."
"Oh, none that I've ever seen. Maybe in the circus though. And Holly used to tell me about one, but that was a long time ago, not anymore." Rena answered as she skipped around some of the rocks, and almost slipping on the ice that was starting to form on the paths.
"What'd I use to talk about?" Holly poked her head through the cabin's doorway, catching only part of their conversation as they approached.
"I'm looking for a woman with yellow hair, you knew one?"
"What about it?" She became guarded.
"The person that sent me to this world, he built the machine to find his wife, but I went through it instead of him."
"And?" Holly asked, still eyeing her.
"His wife had blonde hair." Raven told her and showed her the picture.
Her body went rigid. "You won't find her." Holly said bluntly as she brushed past Raven and left the cabin, heading for the main dojo.
"How can you be so sure?" Raven called after her, following behind her with Rena at her side.
Holly ignored her.
"One question, and then I'll never mention it again." Raven said as she followed her friend into the dojo. Holly kept walking, but gave in after Raven asked for a third time, wanting this conversation to end quickly and never happen again.
"That person's name is Renee, as you might know already." Holly said just above a whisper, quickly so Raven couldn't interrupt her and ask more questions. "She was technically my mother, but the year before she died she went insane. Never left the house once, slowly letting herself waste away. When I came to Kyoshi with Hiroko, I first met Rena's parents. That's where her name came from." Raven could not see the water well up in her eyes as she remembered her past.
"Could I ask how she died?"
"For the sake of her husband."
"She was too damn stubborn to move. The house was on fire and she just sat there!" The outburst surprised all of them, Holly's grip on the shield she held tightened until the edge cut into her hand. Raven caught her as she pitched forward, her legs shaking slightly. Raven pushed her back upright and waited until she had calmed down enough to allow her heal the cut. Holly pushed Raven's hand away when she did try to heal her, instead opting to wrap a cloth around it a few times. Holly squeezed the cloth until it bled more furiously, turning the rag from a worn blue to crimson red. Raven watched with morbid curiosity as her partner caused more pain for herself, focusing on it to calm herself down from the outburst. When Holly's breathing had returned to normal, Raven healed her hand and dabbed her eyes.
Several moments later Holly waved Rena over, who was still standing by the doorway, and knelt down to her. She fitted a shield over her arm, testing if the size was right or not. It was close enough for the time being and she moved on to find one for Raven. She moved like a machine, emotionless and offering no words to either of them. Perhaps she was embarrassed by Rena seeing this, or possibly she thought it showed weakness to Rena, who had just recently gone through her own loss and now needed somebody to look up to— placing much stress on Holly as she tried to live up to the expectations set by her old master and by Rena's father.
"What's this about?" Raven inquired as a shield was strapped to her forearm.
"We have a month until the invasion and you two aren't going to be defenseless. And if you find a way home before then, Rena goes with you." Holly told her in an emotionless voice, matching how Raven used to talk.
"I have my powers, and Rena won't be near the fighting."
Holly looked back at Rena and shook her head. "Only if she ignores everything I've taught her."
Raven glanced at Rena, who gave a meek nod.
Holly continued: "And your powers, they might get you killed. You can't really use them if we fight how you said, packed together like sardines— besides, it will make you a target for them."
The corners of Raven's mouth tugged downwards as she hoisted up the bronze shield. "Don't you have anything lighter?" She asked, not happy about not being able to use her powers. She's right though, it would break up the formation.
"Anything lighter is useless. You'll get used to the weight soon."
They walked up the small hill overlooking the bay; Raven secretly using her powers to carry the shield while she walked. Whether Holly knew or not she didn't know. When they got to the top Holly picked up a few stones and backed up several yards away from them. She threw the stone at Rena, who quickly raised her shield in front of her so the stone would harmlessly bounce off. She did it a few more times for Rena until moving on to Raven, who quickly got the hang of it after getting hit in the legs more than a few times.
Raven rested against a tree while Rena and Holly had gone to fetch some water, they had been at it for close to a half an hour and Raven was sure she would have be a few new bruises in the morning. She caught her breath and dialed Robin on the communicator. It rung a few times before it was answered by Argent.
"Oh, where's Robin?" Raven asked.
Argent smiled and turned the communicator toward the rest of the teens. Starfire was trying to cut up her pizza and eat it while Beast Boy helped himself to his personal meatless pizza. She saw Cyborg stealing a slice off Robin's plate while Robing tried to wipe off his hands and defend his food at the same time. After a few seconds they grew silent, all staring at Raven on the small screen.
"The Professor's wife," Raven started, trying to get to the point quickly while they all stared at her, "was blonde haired, something that's unheard of here I guess. An, ah, acquaintance, did recognize her though. She supposedly died in a fire many years ago." Maybe that was a little blunt.
The Titan's mood went from cheerful to somber in an instant. Beast Boy broke the silence a solid minute later.
"So who's going to tell him?" He asked no one in particular. Beast Boy looked around the table, he wouldn't want any of the honorary titans to have to do that, and he knew that Robin wouldn't want that either. He looked at Cyborg and then to Robin, who now held to communicator in his hand.
"You know, it might not be a good idea to tell him." Robin pondered.
"Dude, we can't just keep him in the dark like that!" Beast Boy protested, with Starfire nodding in agreement.
"He's been working for years to find his wife," Robin stated, "I think we should let him find out on his own. It would probably be easier on him that way." Cyborg stared at him, expecting more. "And if we tell him now, he would lose his purpose for building the machine. Who's to say he would complete it for us? We need him."
"While you figure that out," Raven spoke up, not wanting to be a part of that decision, "I have to go now, see you all later." Raven closed the device and slid it safely in her belt. Holly was walking up the hill carrying two bokken, or wooden practice swords, over her shoulder. She tossed one to Raven and drew her own. "What's this?" And where's my water?
Holly gave her a weird face and said "Practice." before beginning to spar with Raven, much to Raven's dismay as she imagined how sore she would be tomorrow. Maybe I should have used that workout room in the tower, and not let it go waste when Robin wasn't in there.
"How often do you plan on doing this?" Raven asked as she parried a lunge from Holly.
"At least an hour a day." Holly parried Raven's counterattack and struck her on the wrists. "Hopefully more than that though."
"Why didn't the alarms go off? How could we not have known?" Robin yelled out in anger, kicking the piece of steel that was cut out of the wall.
"Why would they go off? It was a wall! Why would I wire up a freaking wall?" Cyborg yelled back at him from across the room. Beast Boy and Starfire stood in the room too, dumbstruck by the betrayal of who they thought was their friend, or ally at the very least. The other titans decided to excuse themselves quickly and check the rest of the tower for anything missing. A task they knew was pointless but did thoroughly nonetheless. Robin stormed out of the room, up the staircase, and went into a small room adjoining the evidence room. Cyborg followed him up and entered to see Robin pulling up Slade's profile from the database.
"We have to find him. It was no coincidence." He said, intently staring at the screen.
"I know." Cyborg left to gather the others. They needed a plan, and they needed it soon.