Ch. 1: The Strings That Attach
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the clothes on my back.
"The strings aren't the most essential part of the puppet. It's the soul that brings it to life." ~Anonymous
Written as: Jason Todd
Oracular noises and medleys torment my mind as I lie awake in the early hours of the day. I subconsciously hear a rhythmic tune that feels as if it's lingering in the very front of my brain, behind my eyes. The presence of the piece of music screams out of elegant string instruments and a harp or whatnot. But it still haunts me to no end. I feel trapped by the angelic sounds that reverberate throughout my head. And I know of its origin. The harmonic piece of fine instrumental sounds originated from a musical globe back at my old home. I have not been there in a while, so it is a surprise that I still remember. But anyway, inside the transparent glass globe, there is a girl— a princess —and a boy— a prince —waltzing together. And whenever I twisted the small knob, the music played, and the figurines started to dance to the orchestral song. Which is the very song that haunts me whenever it pleases.
The scene that the piece portrays, to me, is a somewhat peaceful setting. The time is night, a small abode is empty except for a small figure curled up in a corner. A cloth similar to a shroud is covering the child, while they listen to a musical sphere that plays the same orchestra as the one I am thinking of. The girl is partially insane, suffering from the mere touches of psychosis and loss of loved ones. And it seems like she relies on that small glass globe filled with dancing royalties.
I know that it is a weird vision of resemblance of this song but it comes to me without much thought.
But there are other things that linger in my mind without plausible reason. There are doubts, pessimistic muses, criticism, and second thoughts. I do not know why, but they are just there. Swimming in my head like mindless fish. But I might have a theory as to why. Those things are there to deter me from being … I do not know, what I want to be? It is just a guess, not a fact. But sometimes I think I am the cause of them being there. Maybe, I am not entirely sure. Just like a lot of things lately. Like my current vocation and such. Growing up with heroes and good-willed people does not help me with being a this … thief. I was not raised as such, so my childhood lessons only serve as petty reasonings for me to stop. And it bothers and pesters me to no end.
But I do not know whether to listen to these memories or not. Maybe if I wait too long I will find out the hard way. I hope that is not going to be the case. So all that there is left for me to do is to continue and try to not get caught. Then I will see where this lifestyle gets me.
Jason put the pencil down and clenched his hand, feeling the cramps in his fingers. He exhaled and closed the small book, sliding it into a drawer of a desk with a brash slam. It was not his furniture so it did not matter. Nothing in the capacious room was his, not even the suit he was in. The rusty bed was not his, the cozy apartment was not his, and the whole building was not his property. It did not even belong to anybody at the moment, enabling him to temporarily use it as a home. Or, under his other alias, a secret hideout from others. So be it as it is, it has been his only setting for a month or so and although it has been a nice benefactor for him, it was beginning to become tiring.
The same routine was becoming tedious and the same surroundings were becoming too familiar. That gave him the signal to pack up and run. But that would be set for the next day, him having an unbearable exhaustion pooled in him. He was getting so lazy and comfortable that sitting around only gets him worked up and tired. The cause: nothing having his interest enough for stealing. So all he mostly did during the day was settle down in front of a window and stare down at the few people that walk the sidewalks. There were a few opportunities for him— like purses, brief cases, and wallets —but he did not have a strong desire for them as much. So all of those people were of no worth to him. Less than usual, that is.
But then, to his surprise, a familiar person ran by the building— or more like floated. He jerked forward and stuck his head out the window, watching where she went. The woman was simply rushing after something, but he could not identify what. Whatever she might have been chasing was either too far to see or invisible to the eye.
Jason, with his curiosity piqued, stood up from the wooden chair and grabbed his mask from the bed. The mask that represented his other alias. Once done checking if the woman had taken a turn or not, he then bounced up flights of stairs and landed on the final top floor. He arrived at the roof but did not waste any time lingering around. He ignored the cold drafts chilling him and ran to the edge of the rooftop. And with no hesitation Red X jumped from the end of the concrete to the next establishment nearly three feet away. The woman's figure was soon in his sight and he sped up his jumps and decreased his skidding feet.
"Come on. Don't let me lose 'em," he whispered.
Soon enough, to his tainted luck, he ran out of buildings to jump on. He cursed and swiveled his head from left to right in an attempt at finding a ramp or platform. He cursed again when he realized that he had to walk with other people. So he jumped down, hauling himself from a street vendor's table and landing feet away. The feat was as easy as breathing now, it being the thousandth time he has done it. Red X smirked when he heard the shocked gasps of bystanders. It pleased the side of him that loved to scare people with savage actions. Which, considering who and what he had become, was most of him.
So after minutes of running and catching up, he was finally within range of her. It was the dark girl of the Titans. And she— the name was Raven, right? —was chasing after a middle-aged man in a weird suit. He looked like a gorilla of some sort because of all the facial hair and long sideburns. And the man was losing speed, being barely a foot away from the menacing woman.
Again the grin reappeared on his concealed lips. As much as he loved to frighten people, he also liked it when they were in pain and in a struggle. It was a cruel and an abnormal liking, he knew, something of like a madman, but it is how it is. And he chuckled lowly when the pursued man was finally caught and shoved up against a concrete wall, a high grunt elicited from him. Red X did not even cringe with the force of the thrust, only loving the scene even more. Especially the ferocity, the violence, and even the slight snarl on her small lips from the woman. She was painted as the perfect picture, the perfect example of a vicious, powerful evil mistress of a poisonous bite. And anyone who was more than acquainted with him knew that he liked– no, preferred his women strong and able to play the dominator. And now his mind track was on the mystery beneath the blue cloak and who it was exactly.
True, he had seen and encountered her before— personally and face to mask. But he had never had the time to actually know her. And that was plain obvious since she was the heroine and he was the thief. And he knew that he should not be attracted to a goody two-shoes of any way, but to someone of his status. But there was something hidden behind her good nature she poses. Something dwelling in her spiritual nature of some sort. There was some bad intentions in her, he knew. He could tell by the way she handled the ape-man, by the way her eyes had split into two sets, and how her growling and speech was raspy and … almost demonic. And by those factual observations, he knew for sure that she was a demon on the inside. Metaphorically speaking, that is. For by the looks of her, grey skin and violet eyes, she did not even look like the stereotypical red demons with horns and claws. From all observations he collected, she was just an angel misguided by the truth of the world she had landed on. Which would make her naïve. And he knew— hell, everyone knew —that she was as knowledgeable as the next immortal vampire. And not naïve and untaught like Starfire. So the angel theory was crossed off the list like many others he had thought about in the length of a minute or two.
Red X tuned in to the hassle once again to see Raven at least three times taller than her normal size, four red eyes, and a toothy snarl on her grey lips. His own pair of pearly whites bloomed on his face at the sight. It joyed him to see her shove him up against the wall a second time, to see her growl in his face, and to see his pale frightened face. The reaction was priceless and he actually wished he could take a picture so it could last longer. So when Raven whispered a dark, cryptic message in his ear, she removed her mist of dark magic from their grasp on his chest and let him drop to the dirty cobble stone beneath them. The whole backside of his suit was soiled with minuscule garbage particles and the beaming light circle in his chest went into effect. The ape-man yelped and howled in dismay as his chest erupted into a strange light show, somewhat like the northern lights. And Raven only backed a few feet and grinned to a low extent, watching instead of helping. It only increased Red X's liking and interest for her.
"No! No, no, no, no, no! My suit! Help! The witch sabotaged my light suit!" The hairy man cried out to nothing but thin air.
No one was around them, the other Titans having cleaned out the streets a while back. Red X had not even noticed the group of super rug rats scurry by and clean up the mess of pedestrians. And even more strange, they were nowhere to be seen by him. Maybe they were not the ones that cleared the block. Maybe they did not even know that their own teammate was somewhere isolated. Maybe they did not even ponder over the chances of a thief watching over their precious bird. 'Maybe's did not give him answers, but it did not mean he could not make an answer of his own.
Red X was now pleased with how this day was turning out already. In one moment he was sulking in his sad little apartment, and now he was in a one-man bird watching club. And he was planning on taking one of the special birdies home. But on the looks of how Raven's current state of figure was, he would get shredded into little red x's before she would go home with him. But the struggle would just entice him even more. Even so, maybe he should just lie back for a while before going for the attack. Who knows what she could do when kidnapped while in a seething state. So be it as it may, Red X held up his new resolve to wait a small length of time before actually taking charge of action.
The light show that had previously exploded was now dimming, showing the disheveled and slumped figure of the ape-man. Raven peered at the man and studied him. To Red X, he appeared as dead as the dirt on the ground. But a grunt slipping from her lips confirmed that he was still alive and breathing— but barely. And it seemed like she was disappointed by that outcome. Like she had expected and desired for him to die against the dirty wall in anguish and physical excruciation. And that only heightened his levels of suspicions of her having a bad side. An evil, dark, and apocalyptic side. And once again, he yearned to have her beside him, in his apartment, in his clutches. Metaphorically speaking.
From where he now stood, behind a corner of an alleyway near the hassle, he watched her return back to her original orientation. Her cloak size shrunk, her two sets of red eyes merged back into one violet pair, and the snarl was gone from her mouth. She was her usual self now. Lackadaisical character, good intentions, and all anger … gone in a second. He exhaled and tightened his fists into balls of fingers. The need for her was stronger now. The mystery, the enigmatic person that she was, called out for him to find her out, to follow her. There was no one around so it was not like anyone would hear or see him just step up to her. No rug rats, no bystanders, and no distractions. It was a free shot. It was nothing more than he could ever wish for.
"Here I go," he mumbled to himself.
With a slick tone in his steps he silently bounced his way in her direction, but gradually. It looked like he was swaying in air, but he was struggling inwardly. He knew that she had the senses of an owl, a fox, and a bird all bunched together. So if a particle of dirt shifted, she would know. And if a man more than fifty-five kilograms tiptoed over to her, she would most definitely know. Hell, if anything, she would know what he was up to before he even acted. But she had not said anything or called him out on his suspicious actions. And he was becoming worried. What if she was anticipating his movement? What if she was planning to snap his neck and just waited until he was in close enough range? What if–
"Aren't you going to say hello?"
"Huh?" He asked, paralyzed in his position from shock.
She had heard him. She had actually realized that he was coming up to her. And he had guessed it too. He knew she was psychic.
"You thought I did not notice you? I am an empath after all."
Or not a psychic. Just an … empath?
"And?" He had the audacity to say that.
"I can sense your emotions, you twit," she spoke in her insulting lackluster.
Red X curtailed his previous actions and just stood there a few yards away from her. Raven was still turned away from him, having been retreating into the town but halted when she sensed a presence. His presence. His plans. His actions.
She finally rotated on her foot and faced him, emotionless mask to plastic mask.
"And your emotions can and will give away your intentions. And I can reassure you that I am not that stupid for me to not notice your 'sneak attack'."
He could have sighed in relief that she did not know of his kidnapping intentions. But he held back, knowing that something would go wrong. Way wrong, real fast.
His posture straightened and he glared at her. "You think you're so slick don't ya, little demon?"
"So do you."
He growled and began to become frustrated with her. "But I'm a thief and you're a hero. I'm supposed to be slick and deceiving."
"And you're not as smart as you claim," she countered.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Were we not stating facts?"
"You know what, forget it. Forget I was even here," he said with menace.
"I always do anyway."
He breathed in and exhaled his angry and frustrated emotions. It was pointless to get angry at her calm tone, he kept telling himself.
"Well, bye, Raven. See you next time around." He waved. "And nice job on the ape-man. I loved the anger you expressed."
Raven glared as she saw him backtrack and fade into the alleyway he came from. She was tempted to follow him, by her heroic instincts, but decided to go against it. Besides, her teammates were waiting on the other side of town. And Nightwing would just love hearing about this tale of her meeting Red X again. She almost chuckled as she pictured him fretting and going berserk over the big computer in the common room. Her smile went away as soon as she realized that he would interrogate her and question her as to why she let him get away. So maybe she would keep this little meeting a secret. It was not that important anyway. So she thought.
Story dedicated to 'JuneGrayson' and 'KenziiTheVulpix'.
Hello, readers! I'm back with a new story and this is just the prologue, or so. The real first chapter will probably be updated in a week at most. Maybe in less since I'm on winter break and all. Well, that will be all.
Cheers to a new world of stories being told one chapter at a time.