Chapter 1: The Cracked Foundation of Friendship
“Cyborg! Watch your back!”
The loud, metallic buzz of the giant cybernetic insects flew around the collection of heroes filling the air with the sizzling red beams of hot energy. The tall, black metal man sidestepped as one of the bugs tried to latch on and blew it away with his hand cannon.
The black energy of Rachel Roth complimented the green bursts from Starfire’s eyes as they cut through the swarm that seemed to grow even larger. The roar of a green bear slashed through the ones at the lower level allowing Robin to pinpoint Beast boy’s location. The team was working perfectly holding the swarm back from the Jump City citizens who were attempting to escape the turmoil.
The Kaz’Kal were not giving up, and it did not help that the portal to their dimension remained open. He had told Raven to get there, but the young sixteen-year-old with smooth grey skin, haunting dark eyes and the presenter blue cloak had not been able to cross the gap.
“Raven! I need you to get up there!” Robin shouted from his vantage point on the roof. Two of the Kaz’Kal dropped towards him but were quickly dispatched with his electrified batons.
“Working on it,” She growled back at him, cloak billowing as she attempted to fly up through the enemy lines, but they seemed to know what they were attempting.
Robin was about to redirect Starfire to assist when one of the larger insect creatures landed a massive blow to Raven’s chest causing her to plummet towards the ground. Robin could not see anymore as a Kaz’Kal struck him forcing him to the ground and into a fight.
Pain. Raven blinked as she tried to clear the tears that forced their way out due to the agonizing pulsing through her body. The ricochet from the brick wall to the trashcan had slowed her fall but not enough. She pushed herself off the ground as a few drops of blood fell from her nose.
She glared up at the Kaz’Kal as the battled the other Teen Titans and at Robin who had forced her to try to break through the primary line by herself. What did he think she was? Invincible.
“It’s not like it was the first time you’ve tried.”
Raven pushed herself to her feet and tried to stabilize herself off the wall, but a shot of agony told her that her leg its if not a hairline fracture. Concentrating, she felt her body lift off the ground and begin to glide up again, the cape wrapping her in it’s protective sheath. The young woman looked about trying to figure out the tactic.
The team had forced the intergalactic insects back towards their dimensional rift. The girl flew wobbly and landed beside Starfire who had just blasted an insect apart with the beams from her eyes.
“Friend Raven! Are you okay? I saw you make the scary fall!” her naive but perky friend asked horrified. Out of all of them, Starfire was the only one who truly cared for her, but she did that with all of them, and that was not very special.
It was a lie, but she was not going to show any weakness to them. For the last few months, the strain of the attacks had angered much of the self-proclaimed Teen Titans, and that had begun to put stress on the entire friendship.
“Then we must hurry and help the others. The Kaz’Kal continue to do the kamikaze on us as they prepare their ship for launch.”
“They’re leaving. Let them go.” Raven muttered shaking the drying mud off her dark purple cloak.
“We cannot! There are humans aboard the ship of space. We have to rescue them.”
Without waiting for a response, Starfire shot off into the sky as a purple-orange blur. Raven growled to herself trying to block out the pain. Closing her eyes, she focused on one tiny spot at the back of her eyes and willed the pain away. The minor brain trance would keep the ache away until they had finished up.
As she began to focus and levitate off the ground, she felt some soft and cool run along her back. She jolted and settled to the ground looking around her.
“I could have sworn those were fingers,”
Either the Kaz’Kal was getting to her, or something else was in the ally. Now, she didn’t care. She jetted up into the sky and made her way back to the battle.
“Did you see how I splattered that one bug with my cannon. He bounced off those two others like bowling pins!” Cyborg shouted at the top of his lungs with a laugh. The African American half-man, half-machine gave the younger green boy a high five. Beast Boy crowed with excitement.
“They didn’t expect it when I transformed into a giant eagle and threw them off the buildings.”
Raven curled up on the community couch and snuggled into the familiar red satin cloth that had been her friend for the time she had been there. She opened one of her books to read when Cyborg pulled it out of her hand.
“Where were you, Raven? I lost you when we made the second charge against their lives.” the mechanical man asked, his one brown and one red laser eye focused on her.
“Falling. Now give me back my book.”
“Falling? Didn’t see you fall. Must have been some fight.”
“Yeah. Some fight.”
She made a swipe for her book, but Cyborg had turned to yell for Robin. He changed his mind when the young man with dark black hair and cutting features strode over.
“Did the Justice League have anything to pass on to us about the Kaz’Kal?”
“No. Superman was going to investigate and to make sure they leave our star system.”
“That’s nice of him,” Raven muttered to herself. “Where were you when we needed you.”
“Raven,” Robin said matter-a-factly. “The Justice League has been dealing with the signs of Steppenwolf and have entrusted us to keep Jump City and the rest of the world safe. They have a lot on their plate, and so do we. We just need to---”
“Enough!” Raven choked out in rage. “I’m sick and tired of all the speeches and all the fighting we have to do. This is the third attack in as many weeks. We need backup.”
“We had it fine, Rae Rae.” Beast Boy cooed as he peeled himself a banana from the kitchen.
The gray-skinned woman raised her hand to smite him but thought better of it. She did not need that lecture too.
“I’m going to my room. Don’t bother me or you’ll pay.”
Not giving Robin a chance to say anything else, she strode out of the room and towards her own.
Raven made sure to slam the door hard and threw herself on her bed. As she came into contact with her pillows and comforter, the sorceress immediately regretted it. The pain and agony that had been hiding burst on her mind sending waves of nauseating misery swept over her.
The young woman was able to roll over and lay on her back to stare at the ceiling. A long fly stared back confused at the attention it was getting.
At her bidding, it quickly flew away to find another place to perch in her room. Raven closed her eyes to rest and meditate before trying to take a shower. Chanting a mantra softly in her mind, she felt the familiar sensation of the nothingness that put her mind at peace. The world around her fell away until she was alone in the blackness that insulated from everything else.
She could feel herself floating in the void, the lightless void stretching on around her. Her muscles had begun to relax as the world coaxed the stress out of her. It was at that time she sensed the presence again, in the darkness around her.
At first, Raven began to receive back to her body away from whatever it was but she hesitated. It felt familiar but not something she had felt before. Raven slowly allowed her mind to return to the void where it was waiting.
It smelled like a morning rain on a spring day. It was the same scent and feeling she picked up in the alleyway earlier that day. Raven reached out to touch it with her mind, and it shimmered surprised and pleased.
She heard her name, and she bolted back from in a panic. The sensations of her room came rushing back but not before a flash of an image hit her hard. Her eyes popped open with a gasp, sweat-drenched her body. What was that?
She sat up quickly and looked about. The clock on the wall had only shown an hour had passed, common for time to be disconcerting after meditation. The memory of the picture stuck with her. It had been the Jump City Train Station lower level. There was a big Green 13 that had been worn off by the years.
Why had it shown her that?
Raven glanced at the clock again. It was a few minutes past eleven thirty, there was enough time to look. Grabbing her cloak and ignoring the pain, she made her way for the elevator.
Chapter 2: The Black Ring
Raven has snuck out of the base but her discovery has ramifications that are felt through the entire fabric of reality.
The wind had picked up a bit as her footsteps echoed down the pavement. The soft moan brought a chill of future rain that caused Raven to pull her dark cloak tighter around her. Getting out of the tower was easy as everyone had passed out from the fighting. She could not shake the feeling that sang softly inside her head, and there was nothing to stop the young Azerathian of finding the answer.
There were so many possibilities to consider. A magical artifact or being could be reaching out to her from one of the many planes, or it was merely a trap by her father, Trigon. Her mind burned to know what it was, what had found its way into her only place of refuge.
The subway station entrance loomed in front of her, and she quickly went down without hesitation. A few late night commuters glanced at her as she kicked an empty burger wrapper off her foot blown there by the breeze. The air went from soothing rain to the stench of diesel and urine. She like the dark but the subways were horrible places.
‘It’s section 13.’
Some people would have been superstitious about the number, but she would have embraced it. It was a misunderstood number much like people misunderstood her. Raven liked her friends; she just wanted them at a distance. A distance none of them were willing to keep.
Beast Boy especially. The young, green, Teen Titan thought he hid his infatuation with her but it was so obvious, it was obnoxious. The way he would stare at her when he thought she couldn’t see him, the cute nicknames she quit growling about, and just the way he said her name. She when you had a demon lord after you to bring around the end of the world, romantic relationships was not that interesting.
The appearance of a map brought her back to reality, and the gray-skinned Titan stopped to study it. It was large and covered most of the wall opposite of the track, but the glass over the top was stained with all sort of grotesque liquids and dirt. She found Sub-section 13 to be farther down the way. A five-minute walk took her there, but a padlock to the lower entrance stopped her.
Raven bit her lower lip as she studied the lock. It was not that it was not difficult to break, it was the act of breaking it. As irritating as his speeches were, Robin’s moral compass had unfortunately rubbed off on her. Only hesitating for a moment, summoning a bit of the dark magic in her, he black tendril snapped the chain with ease.
Quickly pulling the chain away for the handles with a rattle, the young girl disappeared into the inky blackness beyond.
The darkness did not bother her though Raven did wish she had some light. It was at these moments the young girl realized how alone she was and how quickly a situation could turn against her. There was no doubt that the demon sized of her made the young woman powerful, but she had been overwhelmed before.
It was the dirty bulbs down the corridor that gave Raven a bit of peace. They shed their feeble light enough to illuminate good sections of the long passage that had not been used in years. The rattle of a subway train shook the room sufficient to cause a bit of cement dust to descend. The buzzing in her brain got stronger.
It pulled at her gently, calling her name softly like a mother calling her child. Memories of her mother wafted through her mind, the sweet scents of her world of Azerath that she had not ever visited. The song in her head had many promises.
‘You’re a fool, Raven. You know these always turn out to be traps.’
It was true. So many times things that sounded good turned out to be horrible traps meant to maim or kill herself or her team. On the other hand, it was not like her team wasn’t trying to get her killed in some of the fights. Raven rubbed her arm that was still bruised from the fall.
She was tired of them. Tired of being used as a target under the guise of protecting the city. She wanted more than that. The rattle of the train was closer, and Raven lost her balance. As she supported herself on the wall, her heart gave a leap as it broke through and her body tumbled forward.
Crossing her arms across her face, Raven tried to tuck and roll but did not go far. The little alcove between walls was only a few feet deep, and the soft mud supported her on impact. Raven pushed herself up and peered around her. The light from outside barely filled the little cavity. The unheard song vibrated loudly that her teeth chattered.
‘It’s in here.’
Raven began to feel around in the dirt for a few minutes, but as she was losing hope, her hand brushed something cold and hard. She wrapped her fingers around it and pulled. The song instantly went silent. Pulling herself back out into the corridor, she looked down at what she had.
It was a strange thing that the girl held. It was a ring that almost resembled a halo. The metal was flawless and amplified the light around it that bounced of its sheen. It was distinctly a few degrees cooler than the air around her.
Raven turned it over in her hands a few times trying to figure out what it was but there was nothing. No latches, no instructions, no buttons to tell her what it was. All she could make out was that it was a solid black ring of unknown material.
Tucking it into her cloak, she made her way out of the subway tunnel. More research was going to be needed.
Clark Kent turned from his conversation with Hal Jordan as Diana walked up to him. Of course, at the Hall of Justice, they were dressed in the attire that the world knew them the best at.
“Sorry to interrupt but you need to come to the command center. J’Onn was calibrating the sensors for the new Wayne Satellite when the system locked up.”
“Locked up?” Superman asked after excusing himself from Hal.
“Yes, It’s displaying some strange symbol. A purple wreath surrounding a black circle.”
Diana could see immediately that it meant something as the curiosity of Superman’s face turned to stone silence. His pace picked up.
He strode into the room in time to see Bruce Wayne catching up to him.
“You heard?” Superman asked.
“Yes,” Batman responded. “I hope this is a false alarm.”
Once inside the command center, Superman tapped a few buttons sealing the room. The glowing purple symbol she had described as plastered across the screens. Both Clark and Bruce began to type on their panels entering the sequence of commands as they were needed. The symbols finally disappeared, and data started to scroll.
“Midnight Protocol?” Diana asked concerned. “I’ve never heard of the Midnight Protocol.”
“No one is supposed to, Diana,” Clark responded as he moved to Bruce’s side.
“It’s confirmed, Clark. Sensors are detecting a burst of sovereign particles in the western side of the United States. Somewhere in...Jump City.” Batman read off from the data.
“Jump city. Isn’t that where your ward is?” Clark mused.
“Yes, I’m not sure if we should bring him into this yet.”
“Agreed. How’s the saturation?”
Bruce checked another reading and frowned. “It’s saturating. We need to begin connection establishing.”
“Bruce. Clark,” Wonder woman said with a frown as she put her hands on each of their shoulders. “What is going on?”
“If we don’t act fast, the end of reality.”
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Chapter 3: Sovereign
Raven meditates and meets the entity that has been speaking to her.
Raven had thought she would not have been able to fall asleep. It had been easy to sneak back into the Titan’s tower and return to her room. Beast boy was even passed out on the hallway with a cookie in one hand and a cup of milk in the other. That green obstacle was easy to pass by just gliding over.
The strange, black ring she found had been safely hidden in her closet underneath her spell books and research material. It was still in the forefront of her mind as she sat at the dining room table eating her morning bowl of cereal.
“Mornin’, Mama,” Garfield Logan cooed as he strode into the room, his usual black suit with purple trimming rumpled as ever.
Raven muttered something into her bowl refusing to make eye contact. The anger from their last battle percolated to her soul. She kept spooning in the cereal while reading the back of the box. That was until it was wrenched away.
The circular sugar cereal clinked into the bowl of the other young woman who lived within the tower. Her bright pink hair cascaded perfectly down her shoulders, and the brilliant smile was never far away from her gorgeous green eyes. There had been a few times she had been jealous of her but settled with the shortcut black hair Raven always sported.
“Good morning, friends!” she sang out happily as she fumbled with the milk carton. “It is a wonderful day, is it not? I am excited about the sunshine and the birds that sing sweetly.”
“It’s a nice day,” the energetic voice of Robin came from the living room as he strode in. “but we need to be ready. We drove the insects away, but we still need to make sure there aren’t any stragglers. There are rumors that Killer Moth may take advantage of the disarray.”
‘Nobody cares, Robin.’ Raven thought to herself wishing she could just pull up her cape’s hood and vanish from the premise.
“That is not the good news, friend Robin,” Starfire’s voice wavered in concern. “Do we need to begin patrols early?”
“No,” Robin responded with a shake of his head. “Batman contacted me last night. He told us a representative of the Justice League is on their way here to talk to us about the Kaz’Kal and another matter of importance.”
Matter of importance. Raven’s ears perked up, and she turned to face him, the bored expression firmly planted on her sharp, beautiful features. “What matter of importance? They lose their dry cleaning in Jump city?”
“No, Raven,” Robin responded completely missing or ignoring her taunt. “He says it’s about possible artifacts in the Jump City area. He didn’t want to go into detail. Blue Beetle will be here sometime towards noon, and he wants us all here.”
The calls of affirmations echoed through the room, with Cyborg making a point to stick his head in the room and let them know loudly that he was excited to see another armored hero. Cyborg was always trying to get in with the Justice League.
Mumbling her excused, Raven made her way back to her room and sealed it behind her. That was not unusual as she never wanted to be disturbed. The young sorceress began to lay out her plan. She had a few hours before noon when Blue Beetle would arrive, and she was going to be promptly in the living room. In no way was she going to have them anywhere near the artifact she found.
The niggle in the back of her mind told her that they were looking for the artifact. ‘It sang to me. I need to know why before they take it.’
Retrieving the large ring from it’s hiding place, she placed it in her lap and closed her eyes. She could feel the cold metal pressing into her bare thighs. Slowly, Raven relaxed her breathing and began to meditate, following the familiar path to the empty world she always went to in these sessions.
When her mind got to the warm embrace of empty comfort, she sensed the presence in the place waiting for her. With her dream hand she gently reached out trying to touch it, but she could not come into contact with anything substantial. The presence was not threatening nor did it mean her any harm.
“Hello,” Raven vocalized or at least in her mind. She was deep into her meditative state and firmly planted her conscience in her dream body.
The voice was soothing and warm like honey and came from just right of her ear. She spun around in the blackness and saw nothing.
“I...I can’t see you whoever you are.”
“I’m sorry, my dear,” it said again as if whispering gently into her ear. “This is as best as I can do in the circumstance. I sensed you in the battle, the power of chaos rolling off of you. You are beautiful.”
Raven was taken aback at the words and took two dream steps back. The voice did not leave her ear.
“I apologize. I did not mean to be forward. It has been a long time since I’ve spoken to someone let alone as entrancing as you. You prefer Raven?”
“Yes,” she responded, but the words continued to spill out unchecked, “but I don’t mind if you call me Rachel. I like the way you say it.” What the hell is wrong with me!
“Thank you, Rachel. I am called Sovereign, but many feel that it is a self-important title. You may call me Jason.” it said.
The air around her in the empty room took on a sweet smell of lavender mixed with lemongrass. The wind blew gently across her face.
“Jason,” she repeated more in awe than she meant. “It’s...it’s nice to meet you...I think.”
Its...his laugh gently caressed her ear in a harmless chuckle. “You are right to be suspicious. You are one of the guardians of your city, your reality. You see things as friend or foe. You must assess me.”
“What are you then?”
“I am both. It is your point of view. There are many who see me as a threat, and they imprisoned me because of it. I admit, my actions did cause harm, but I only wanted the best for all beings in the reality-nexus.”
“The ring you hold. It is my Archon’s Ring. A way for me to communicate with those who find it and I find worthy. Do not put in upon your head though.”
Dread filled her at the words and the horrible thoughts of the magical artifact and what it could do flowed through her. Had she brought a dangerous weapon into her home?
“No, it’s nothing like that. It is my talisman, my connection to realities where they are scattered. Iris has seen to the destruction of all but this one.”
It did not stop to give her time to ask the question.
“Those who put on the Archon’s ring are given great power and status. It can dominate you if you are not ready for it. You are a beautiful young girl, and I don’t want your mind reduced to that of a slobbering idiot because you didn’t know better.”
“Then why did you call to me?”
“Because I would like you to wear it. I would like you to become my Archon, but you do not know the benefits or the agonies that go with it. I want you to be mine but at your choice.”
Raven shook off the feeling of contentment and summoned the sardonic self of hers. “Listen, buddy. I’m not taking my clothes off for you. I’m not an easy bedroom romp.”
The laugh tinkled again. “Your body would be your own. I would simply have a portion of your mind that would be mine. You would not lose your ability to make decisions.”
The young sorceress frowned as she looked ahead in the darkness. "You're not giving me any reason why I should do anything to help you, Jason."
"I can help you find a world without pain."
Silence reigned at those words. They resonated with the unspoken feeling in her chest. A world without pain, the fear of Trigon, the fear of death of her friends or anyone for that matter. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out.
The sense of urgency came over her, and the voice began to fade. “Our time is up for now. Speak to me again if you decide you want to know more and if you don’t, throw my circlet into the ocean. I’m a patient person. Awake.”
Raven’s eyes flew open instantly, and she plopped gently onto the bed where she had been hovering. The entity had forced her back into her body with no need for her to return through meditation. The clock showed fifteen minutes before the arrival of Blue Beetle.
Hiding the ring, Raven charged out of her room and towards the living, mind full of question.
Chapter 4: No Longer A Secret
With the Blue Beetle in Jump City, search for the artifact has begun. The Teen Titans and Blue Beetle goal is to find and make sure that the artifact is nowhere anyone can use it.
By the time Raven made it to their living room that doubled as the conference center, Jamie Reyes was already talking with Robin. For a split second, Raven was not quite sure who he was but remembered that the alien armor known as the blue beetle was not active all the time. She had no doubt he could activate it whenever the need arose.
At present, they were both greeted by the kind, soft features of a young man with brown skin and dark eyes. He smiled towards Raven as she walked into the room trying to hide how out of breath she was.
“It’s nice for you to come and see us, Blue Beetle,” Robin said leading the party towards the couch. “Something up? I haven’t heard from the Justice League except for the usual monthly updates.”
Jamie nodded as he sat down. Robin sat beside him while Starfire hovered, Beast boy sat on the coffee table and Cyborg stood behind the couch with his arms crossed. Raven kept her distance from the entire crowd. Her instincts were telling her to be ready to run.
‘These are your friends. You’ve done nothing. You’ve just been talking to an ancient alien entity through your visions.’ That last bit made her wince.
“Superman thinks we may have trouble,” Blue beetle said with a solemn nod. “There are signs of an ancient artifact being activated somewhere around Jump City, an artifact that has the whole JLA concerned.”
“Really?” Cyborg said with a tilt of his head, red eye focused on the messenger. “What type of artifact.”
“We think it’s Kryptonian and you know how powerful anything from that planet can be, Robin.”
Raven watched her friend nod, focused on the information. Dick Greyson was always planning, setting up contingencies and being ready for whatever came their way. Raven hated all that thinking. She just wanted to read her books.
“I haven’t seen anything like that or even whispers. H.I.V.E Academy has been keeping to themselves for the last few months.”
Kryptonian. Raven let out the breath she did not realize she was holding. They were looking for a remnant of Superman’s planet. Not the piece that she had.
“Do we have any idea what this Kryptonian thingamabob can do or find it?” Beast Boy asked. “We gonna see some Blue Beetle action?”
“No, it’s just an artifact. Superman gave me instructions on retrieving it.”
“What does the artifact look like?” Starfire asked excitedly. “So we can help you find it!”
“It’s reported to be a simple black ring big enough to be a crown or a tiara.”
Raven’s heart went cold.
“Black ring? Haven’t heard anything about that.” Cyborg continued. “How about you, Raven?”
His voice was like a splash of cold water on her face while the heat of fear traveled up her spine. She was glad her cape because they could have seen her start trembling otherwise.
“I...uh...I...I haven’t seen anything like that.” she lied.
“This artifact sounds very dangerous, Blue Beetle,” Robin said with finality. “We’ll begin doing sweeps tomorrow.”
For the next week, Blue Beetle and the Teen Titans began to systematically sweep Jump City looking for the artifact of which the Justice League had spoken of. Blue Beetle had brought some equipment that augmented his royal blue armored suit. For the first days, Raven had been gripped with terror that the gadgets would bring them straight to her closet door but they inexplicably did not.
Raven had avoided meditating with the ring to contact Jason and it did not beckon to her sensing the need for discretion. It was on the fifth day as the sky began to cloud that Blue beetle assembled with them on the roof of Jump city’s tall buildings.
“I don’t understand it,” Jamie said with a frown, his face partial hidden behind the blue scarab generated mask.
Robin landed gracefully beside him and studied the screen over Blue Beetle’s shoulder.
“I can’t get a lock on the particles to help us locate the artifact. it’s like there is a low-level saturation already in the city that’s masking its presence.”
“Is Jump City in danger?” Cyborg asked plopping himself down on a pile of cement blocks that workers had stopped using a long time ago.
“Only if someone uses it but it doesn’t appear that anyone actually has it. We should be seeing heavy spikes of….particles of the user.”
“What’s your plan?” Raven ventured hoping a tremor did not appear in her voice and give away the deception.
“I’m going to have to contact Superman and see how he wants to proceed. Shall we meet back up at your HQ, Robin?”
Everybody assented but Raven shook her head quickly. “I’m going to look around a bit more then I'll meet you there.”
“If you find it,” Blue Beetle warned. “Don’t touch it. Contact me immediately for retrieval. You cannot fathom how dangerous it is.”
With that, they departed leaving her on the roof alone. When everybody was out of sight, Raven sat down shakily trying to calm her nerves. Everything she had heard so far about the ring had sent chills.
‘He’s saying it’s dangerous but I know he’s lying. It’s not Kryptonian. It’s something...older.’
Why was Blue Beetle or even the Justice League lying about the artifact? She could sense the power coming off of Jason but he had given her no reason to think that he was evil. Truth be told, Raven knew she had not spent a lot of time with him...it...either.
Raven dropped sharply out of her mind as the sense of being watched swam over her. She jumped up, blue cape swishing as she faced the sensation from behind. Standing before her was a young woman she had least expected.
The girl wore way to many shades of pink and purple and must have worked rather long and hard to get her pigtails to resemble a horseshoe. She had the same gray skin tone though with a bit more rose in her cheeks. She wore a black dress with a purple half shawl and high boots to match.
The name rolled off Raven’s tongue with menace and disgust. Raven’s eyes went white as she summoned the power to fight. Instead, Jinx spread her hands out submissively.
“I...I didn’t come to fight, Raven.”
“Then why are you here.”
“I saw what you found last week. I was looking for it too.”
Raven’s eyes narrowed in fear and anger. The hexwitch had to be lying.
“You’re risking a lot coming here and lying to me. You’re still wanted for your attack on the Jump City Stock Exchange.”
“Raven,” Jinx said her eyes uncharacteristically pleading. “I’m serious. I saw you find the Archon Ring. I heard the song too. It left me when it found you.”
Raven’s mouth went into a firm line as she listened to Jinx. Though the Azerthanian wanted to call her a liar, there was a surprisingly honest look in her face and eyes. There was no way she was going to give in though.
“You wasted your time, Jinx. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Leave.”
“Raven. I’ve been searching for him since I was a child. I beg you, let me talk to Sovereign.”
The realization hit sorceress like a tone of bricks. There was no secret.
Chapter 5: A Crack in the Teen Titans
Raven is trying to come to terms with the position she is in while others are preparing to find the artifact at whatever the cost.
For the most part, the tower was quiet. The only sound that came to Robin’s ears was the air conditioner running somewhere in the building and the gentle woosh of air come from the vents. Blue Beetle and Cyborg had made their way down to the training room after their long week of searching, but Robin wanted time to think.
He was perfectly aware that the team had been under a lot of stress the last few months. The defeat of Slade felt so long ago, but new threats continued to emerge with horrible consistency. The Kaz Kal was one such attack. His team was feeling the strain, especially one member in particular.
“You good, bro?”
Robin looked up from the computer screen in his lap as Beast Boy plopped his green self into the couch space beside him.
“You look like someone stole your vegan hamburger.”
“Only you like Vegan stuff, Beast Boy.”
The young man shrugged his shoulders and used the remote to turn on the TV. Robin gritted his teeth as the sound of one of Beast Boy’s shows began to blare from the LCD screen.
“Have you seen Raven?” Beast Boy asked suddenly without looking at him.
“Computer systems alerted that she returned to the building twenty minutes ago,” Robin said swiping the handheld and verifying the timestamp.
“That’s not what I mean, Dick. Have you seen her? She looks sullen...well...more sullen than she normally is.”
Only the sound of the cop show permeated the silence between the two. One thing Bruce Wayne had taught him in the years of fighting crime together was human nature and watch your team. Though Bruce had taken a more paranoid approach of finding ways to defeat his allies in case they went evil, Robin wanted to believe in the good nature of people. That included a young woman who was half demon. Though recently, Raven had shown more animosity towards the team and wanting to pull herself away from them. He tried to tell himself that it was just the stress but he was anxious about her.
“Have you talked with her? You two seem to be getting along better.”
“I’ve tried. All I’ve gotten is ‘no’ and ‘leave me alone.’ I have no idea what she’s thinking. I mean, does anyone know what girls think?”
“It is not that complicated, Friend Beast Boy.”
The two superheroes turned to see Starfire glide in, her pink hair rustling in the powerful blast of the air conditioning unit. Her green eyes sparkled as she settled on the arm of the couch by Robin.
“Raven is going through the bliknorak. The seeking of meaning” Starfire said merely.
“Meaning? She’s a superhero, and she’s got great friends like us. Why would she need more meaning than that.”
Starfire shook her head. “You don’t know if that is all the meaning she needs. There are a lot of choices she could make to find her meaning. Maybe going on her own path.”
“Leaving the Teen Titans?” Beast Boy said shocked.
“Is she so chooses, Raven should leave the Teen Titans.”
“What would we do without her?” Robin asked trying to comprehend the possibility.
“We will get along as we always do. Raven is our friend but if that’s what has to happen, then so be it.”
Robin was not sure about that. Raven was too good of a friend to leave like that. He had to find time to talk to her.
“Let’s table this discussion.” Beast Boy said with a smirk. “My favorite episode is coming on.”
Raven spent most of the evening meandering through the hallways that were silent and dismal much like her soul. The sorceress was sure that Jinx would have fought her or worse, inform the entire Titans that she had the artifact. Instead, Raven could have sworn there was a tear in the witch’s eye and a sad crestfallen look.
The entire journey back to the Titan’s tower had been fraught with emotions. On the one hand, she had Blue Beetle, the Justice League, and her friends sure that the artifact was pure evil and would destroy the known world while on the other, she had met the entity that owned the ring and gave her no indication that it was malevolent. It hadn’t even pressed her to get out or unleashed into her world.
Then the was Jinx who had risked a severe beating and capture to ask her enemy for a chance to hold the ring. Her body felt as it was being torn in so many directions and she was going to split apart.
‘This is ridiculous. I should just give Blue Beetle the artifact.’
Immediately that felt like the wrong thing to do. The UN Meta-human act had made harboring class 1 artifacts punishable by imprisonment and their powers restrained. She couldn’t go to Concord Federal Penitentiary or Blackgate Penitentiary. There were enough horror stories about them and what places like that did to powerless superheroes.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised these places are why we have the Joker.’
Raven slowed as she closed onto their living room. She could hear voices talking. Raven easily picked up the sounds of Starfire and Robin though it took her a second to recognize Beast Boy. He always spoke softly.
“…Raven should leave the Teen Titans.”
Raven froze in the shadows, her heart trying to break out of her rib cage. The ringing in her ears got loud as she tried to hear what was being said.
“What would we do without her?”
‘Robin is on my side. He’s got to be. I don’t want to leave.’ But hadn’t she been telling herself she had to leave the last few weeks? It was different when your team was planning to abandon you and kick you to the curb.
“We will get along as we always do. Raven is our friend but if that’s what has to happen, then so be it.”
“Let’s table this discussion. My favorite episode is coming on.”
Sharp and dismissive. The entire conversation had ended, and they were now watching their show together. Anger weld up inside of her, a fury she had not felt in a long time. Back of her mind, she could feel the demonic portion trying to force itself up and out. Raven turned away and caught her reflect. Her pupils had vanished, and the entire eye was replaced with a fiery red.
‘Get rid of me. Do they think they can just toss me out like trash?’
Raven stormed towards her room and once inside through herself on to her bed, tears of anger and animosity running down her cheeks. Without thinking, she threw open her closet and reached for the ring.
Immediately, she found herself in the blackness, the meeting place of Jason...Sovereign. Her power roiled around her, but the calm presence soon appeared. She didn’t feel the movement, but Raven could have sworn it happened. Like a hand swatting away a fly, she felt the demon inside her be shoved down and her self-control return.
“I...I’m sorry, Jason. I didn’t mean to storm in her angry.”
“It’s alright, Rachel. You have a lot to deal with when it comes to that portion of your self.”
His voice was so kind and understanding, and her heart seemed to want to move in his direction. He would not betray her like the team just did. But she needed to make sure she wasn’t being used either.
“I found Jinx. She said you were calling to her too. Is she the one you want and I just stumbled on you?”
“Jinx?” He responded puzzled, and she felt the shimmer of power emanate from him. “Ah, the improbable one with the low voice. Yes, she had heard the Archon Ring, but you had found it first. I did not know who either of you was until you picked up the ring and I got a chance to see you. The improbable one has been searching for me her entire life; she has even tried to use her magic to pierce the reality-nexus walls with little success. She does not comprehend what she is searching for.”
“She asked to speak to you.”
“Do you want me to?”
“Do I have a choice?”
Jason chuckled, and immediately Raven wanted to scream at him about being condescending, but the tone quickly made it subside.
“I am not the ring, Rachel. I am trapped inside the walls that make up the Reality Nexus. Imprisoned by the Iris and wanting to find a way to rejoin the world. The ring is an amplifier for who wears it. Jinx is a stranger to me; you are not. I’d be happy to talk to her if you want but I’m not here to play favorites. The ring is yours until you willingly give it up.”
Raven nodded. The first shock was she was considering talking to Jinx, a member of the HIVE, and the sworn enemy of the Titans.
‘It’s not like they want me to be a member anyhow.’
“I’ll think about it.”
“Good but I should warn you, I want to talk to you about what I want to do. The choice of the ring is fast approaching as Iris is narrowing down where I am. Please speak to me soon.”
With that, the darkness vanished, and Raven found herself laying on the bed with the ring in one hand. One thing was sure; she could sense the crucible getting closer.
Only a few of the superheroes were in the Hall of Justice when the crackling of dark and white light began to emanate from the three spires that bent in to meet in the middle. They had been long hidden underneath the JLA’s symbol only to be used in dire times. This was one of those times.
Superman stood a reasonable distance away as the power and energy from the energy fissure snapped and swung about trying to stabilize. Hal Jordan stood by him, ring ready but Superman knew there was no need for it yet.
“I seriously can’t believe this device has been here and we’re accessing another reality. I mean, I know of the multiverses but something that’s entirely outside our multiverse?”
“It’s a secret that nobody should know,” Batman responded darkly in the corner of the room, cape wrapped around him. “But the time has come to reach out to our counterparts.”
Before Hal could ask, there was a flash, and the portal stabilized as a white wall of light. Two forms stepped through before it snapped again and disappeared. The first was an unassuming man in his mid-forties with a suit and tie. He had a bunch of folders under his arm and looked more like a bureaucrat than a member of Iris.
The other was a striking woman with a black jumpsuit and flaming red hair. She walked close but not to close to the man she was escorting. Superman approached and extended his hand.
“Welcome to the Hall of Justice, Mister?”
“Agent Phil Coulson. This is Agent Natasha Romanova,” he said with an easy smile. “It’s an honor to meet you, Superman. When Director Fury indoctrinated me in the Iris Initiative, I was fascinated with your world. It is so much like mine but with unique deviance in development.”
“I too, Agent Coulson,” Superman said escorting them to the briefing room. “But I thought I would be working with the Colonel. He was the one that formed the Iris Initiative after Millennium attempted to destroy the reality Nexus.”
“Sadly,” Coulson said with a shake of his hand. “That reality has drifted too far away now for our worlds to access. We would have to waste too much time hopping between realities to find a connection to his. We are on our own for this one. Sovereign is awaking, and if we don’t find that Archon ring, we’re looking at the end destruction on an unimaginable scale.”
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has read this far. I've been pleasantly surprised with the number of reads I've gotten and the Kudos given. I've got a lot to go on this story as I have such great plans, big and small for multiple characters.
I actually enjoyed writing this chapter a lot as it is getting to where I want to be. The previous writing was the preamble but it's almost time for choices to be made.
Chapter 6: The Choice is Made
Actions and inactions has brought Raven to a decision about Sovereign and the Archon ring but the question is, can she make the choice she wants to make?
This time it was the Hive five that struck the Jump City Bank. It was tamed compared to the last few battles the Teen Titans had fought, but it was about time for them to rear their ugly heads. As usual, Mammoth was the most destructive smashing through a few cars out to get Beast Boy in his ape form while Starfire and See-More were battling it out with their respective energy beams. Somewhere above Raven was sure Robin was dueling Gizmo on some sort of metallic contraption while Billy Numerous was keeping Cyborg busy with his multiplication trick. Raven had found herself facing down the pink pigtailed Jinx in a surprisingly tame and lethargic encounter.
Raven had just dodged a blast of Jinx’s magical energy that seemed misplaced to begin with while the young Azerathian sorceress found herself hesitating long enough with a throw of an object by her magic that gave Jinx time to roll out of the way. What was going on? Jinx had seemed to be trying to tell her something with her eyes, but either Raven could not understand it or refused to.
What the final straw of that battle was when Raven had spotted the civilians trapped in a ground floor cafe that was desperately trying to get out of the way of Beast Boy and Mammoth interlocked in a struggle. Raven’s breath caught as she reached out with her magic and gripped two young girls who would have been crushed by the massive monsters that plowed through the plate glass window. The other man that Raven could not grasp floated gently down gripped by the purple magic of her opponent. It was there that Raven made her choice.
It was the next night that Raven showed up at Station 13 where she had first found the Archon Ring, which was curled up under her blue cloak. The air had taken on a colder feel as autumn moved towards winter. The wall that she had shattered had since been repaired, but she knew about the space in between. It was the footsteps that made her look up at the woman that approached.
Jinx was wrapped in her cloak hiding her distinctive features from the rest of the world. Her purple eyes seemed curious and hopeful.
“I...I was surprised to get your message, Raven.” Jinx said muted.
“I saw what you did. Those people could have been seriously hurt,” Raven responded in her low voice. “You could have let them get hurt.”
“I wanted the money,” Jinx answered with a simple tone. “Nothing else.”
“That’s why I decided to let you speak with him.”
Jinx’s eyes began to sparkle, and the hood fell away allowing her pigtails to escape. “I...I appreciate it, Raven---”
“But I will be clear. You try to hurt me or take it from me; I’ll bury you.”
The Hive sorceress nodded mutely and looked a bit nervous at the portal Raven summoned.
“We have to do it where nobody can stumble upon us.”
Jinx gave a small nodded and stepped in. Raven followed suit and was hit with the musty smell of dirt and fresh mortar that permeated the space that once held the ring. The sound of the subway was muted in the space between the walls.
Raven took out a small triangle and activated the lantern giving the room a warm glow. The two girls took a seat in the center, and Raven slowly produced the ring from under her cape. She heard Jinx’s voice catch.
“What do you know of Sovereign,” Raven asked holding the ring in her lap, and she could see Jinx struggling to keep her hand away.
“He’s an entity of immense power and strength. When I was a little girl, my stepfather told me about him from a book that he had memorized. It seemed that the world had done everything in its power to remove mention of Sovereign.”
“I’ve been searching for him because he’s said to be able to answer any question you want to ask. I have a question that needs to be answered. This is the first time I got proof he’s not a myth.”
‘Oh, he’s not a myth’ Raven thought to herself.
Gripping one end of the ring tightly, she offered the other end to Jinx. As soon as she timidly took it, they were immediately surrounded by the blackness of the subconscious world. Raven heard the squeak of terror and reached out gripping Jinx’s silken sleeve. The girl appeared standing beside her in the inky blackness.
“Where are we?”
“My subconscious, I think.”
“Its more of a twilight world that I’ve drawn your subconscious too, Rachel.”
The voice filled around them, and Raven began to feel Jinx shake. She could not tell if it was excitement or terror.
“I see you brought Miss---”
“I prefer Jinx, sir.” the girl barely squeaked out.
“Jinx. Such a heavy moniker for such a special woman.”
“I’m tired, Jason.” Raven began. “The Justice League is looking for this ring, you’ve made promises of worlds of peace, but all I hear about you is terror. You had something to tell me. Do it.”
Sovereign did not respond, but the blackness began to fade like a mirage, and the sounds of screaming came to her ears. The stench of blood, death, the agonizing screams swam around her and Raven’s knees buckled. Jinx had nuzzled in close for protection at the visions that assaulted them. When it felt like it would not end, the world changed to a peaceful green valley were children were running about and someone at the top was having a picnic.
“I can sense the evil and death from so many realities. Countless die due to evil choices. I had a vision of one reality, a reality that could contain the good so they may live where no harm came to them, no pain, no death.”
“And for that, you were imprisoned?” Raven asked incredulously.
“I think it’s your own saying that you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.”
“Beast Boy’s saying.”
“Well, Iris protested the eggs I had to crack. I had to siphon power from the nexus, but it could destabilize other worlds. I believe I could have kept them together, but they didn't even bother to talk to me about it. The next thing I knew, they had generated a prison and locked me away in The Between where I can only get snippets of what is going on.”
Never given a chance to make a difference. That resonated with Raven in a way she was not expecting. The idea of people not having to worry about evil killing them or the inadvertent actions of superheroes was a world she could agree with. A world where she could hang up her cape and never worry about someone trying to kill her or her friends. A world of peace.
“A staunch ally, Millennium, used the Y2K virus to try and cause an energy burst that would have gotten me out but Iris was successful in stopping him. I cannot stand the sound of suffering much longer and want to build this world for people to live in.”
“Where do I come in?”
“I need an emissary, someone to act on my behalf. I can channel a good portion of my strength through the Archon Ring, but I cannot manifest in any meaningful way. I need you to decide if you’ll become my emissary and bring me back into this reality so I can build a better one.”
So that was it. He needed someone to open the door to let him into the world. She was just a tool.
“You are not a tool, Raven. I am nothing without you.”
“Use Jinx,” Raven said dismissively. “I bet she would be happy to serve you. She’s been looking for you for a lot longer.”
“As much as it would be an honor to serve you, my lord,” Jinx’s voice came across a bit stronger but with a timid waver. “You did not ask me.”
“I want you, Rachel. You can see the vision that I want. I don’t want a mindless tool to do my bidding. I want someone who wants to build this new reality with me. Will you be my Archon?”
Silence filled the field they stood in. Raven closed her eyes and let the sensations of the sweet grass and warm wind push her hair about. The laughter of children carefree and full of potential careening around the grass chasing butterflies. The young sorceress opened her eyes to be greeted back the black void.
“Yes. I’ll do it.”
“You may be pitted against your friends. Some may understand your choice while others will not. Are you willing to do what you must to build the world you saw?”
“I will serve you also, My lord,” Jinx said again, but there was a catch in her throat as if someone had grabbed her by the throat. Raven spun on to her strange ally and saw her eyes had widened. Something invisible had gripped her throat. She fell to her knees but did not raise her hands to defend herself.
“I do not take betrayal lightly, Jinx.” the icy cold voice of Sovereign permeated the void. The temperature felt as if it dropped multiple degrees. “You betray my Archon, I will show you pain and misery your body and mind have never experienced. You will serve, Rachel, and do what she tells you even at the cost of your life. Do you agree?”
All Jinx could muster was a quick nod before she was released.
“Put the circlet on.”
Raven’s eyes shot open and found themselves still sitting in the dirt. She had made her choice. She slipped the circlet over her head, and it rested gently on her brow. To her surprise, she felt it shift and move to fit her head better and then dig in. Raven cried out in pain instinctively reaching to pull it off, but Jinx gripped her wrists and held it.
“It’ll be over quick, my lady.”
True to her word, it quick burning and she found that it had affixed itself to her body, becoming one with her. She felt the burning power of Sovereign in the back of her mind ready to be summoned when needed. The device had implanted the first step in Jason’s plan in returning to the world.
“I know what we need to do,” Raven said standing. Her voice resonated much more powerful than it once did. “but we need to cover ourselves, so here is what you are going to do.”
Chapter 7: Titan Lost
Raven knew the choice was coming when it came to her friends, she just did not expect it to end like this.
One thing was more comfortable, Blue Beetle had left to report to the Justice League which meant that Raven had more time to prepare than she had initially planned for. The advantage of her cloak’s hood was that it obscured a lot of her face and so the simple band that surrounded her head just above her chakra stone was invisible to all but the most observant. In this case, none of the other Titans.
Raven sat on the couch curled up into the smallest ball she could muster; a book was laying open in her lap as a distraction. She pretended to ignore the others but quietly listened. Robin, of course, was planning.
“Alright, we have a bit of a breather. We were not successful in finding the artifact the Justice League wanted, but we still have a lot to deal with. The last two weeks there have been multiple break-ins at banks and museums in and around Jump City.”
“Yeah, dude. We respond but there is nothing there, and no money is taken.” Cyborg chimed in irritated. “It’s like they know we are coming before we get there.”
Raven’s pulse began to quicken and sweat beaded on her brow. There was no way they could know. She tried to ignore the communication device on her belt that had a new frequency added.
“It is possible we are facing someone who can sense our coming,” Starfire suggested from the other side of the couch. “We have seen things like this before.”
“But why are they hitting banks and museums and not taking anything? What do you think, Raven?”
All eyes turned to her and Raven felt the subconscious burning of the artifact on her brow. She tried to force the usually bored irritation into her voice. “I dunno, maybe they’re searching for something specific?”
Too close to the truth but it made sense to suggest, and the rest seemed to have agreed.
“Yeah, maybe they are looking for the artifact to and thinks the museums have it.” Beast Boy called from the kitchen, the sound of the refrigerator door slamming shut to punctuate his statement.
“We searched all the museums and didn’t find anything with Blue Beetle. I don’t think they are looking for the same things we are. I think they’re looking for something different.” Cyborg responded, his red eye studying the holographic map of the city that floated between them.
Raven struggled to remain calm. For most of the time, she had been able to excuse herself from the meetings for one reason or another. She did not want to ruin the plan by a stray look or gesture or worse; they see the bad around her head.
“Well, we need to find a pattern so we can get ahead of them,” Robin said bringing up the holographic map of the city. “Let’s go over everything again.”
The night was thick with fog as Raven stepped out into the garden that stood outside the titan’s tower. It was a loving project by Starfire, and it’s meandering, vibrant colors proclaimed as much. Emotions waged inside her, and it made her sick. The vision of Sovereign and his perfect world resonated with her. The idea of those she loved living in peace with no threats to their lives. It was a belonging more potent than the one she felt with the Titans. The Teen Titans were adamant that Sovereign was evil and that it...he...needed to be stopped.
The young sorceress turned to see the black silk hood and accompanying the leather arm cape that wrapped around the thin form of Jinx. It was disturbing that Jinx had gone from such an enemy to a willing participant so quickly. She had even continued to call her ‘my lady’ or ‘mistress’ as if she was royalty or her master. Raven had tried to get her to stop, but the woman had gravitated heavily towards Sovereign and following the entity’s emissary. She recognized it, a craving to belong somewhere and not only find it but being overwhelmed by it. Was she conquered also?
“Well?” Raven snapped irritably. These meetings were dangerous, and it took one misstep to throw things into chaos.
“I’ve hit the major locations you suggested, but there is nothing there that resembles what you described to me. I think it must be hidden somewhere else.” Jinx said with a tone of irritation at this.
“The Obsidian Key is powerful. The Department of Scientific Investigation may have it.” Raven mused and began to pace on the garden path.
“The D.S.I. does have a skyscraper here,” Jinx said, a light coming to her purple eyes. “We could hit that?”
“No,” Raven waved her hand. “It’s not that simple. We go anywhere near the D.S.I.; it’s going to bring down everyone on us. We wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“Then what do we do, Mistress?” Jinx asked folding her hands across her small but shapely chest.
“I’ll think of something. How is recruitment going?”
Jinx gave a weak smile. “Not as good as I hoped. Mammoth and See More have joined our cause, but Gizmo and Billy Numerous have chosen to stay on their own. They don’t see a future for us to win.”
“How much did you tell them?” Raven asked, her voice acid. Allegiances were fluid now, and she could not risk any of those contacted turning sides.
“Not enough for them to threaten us,” Jinx quickly assured. “They think I’m starting a new criminal syndicate with a mystery investor.”
That excuse would hold for now, but it would not take long for someone to connect the dots. There was a timetable which Jason continued to urge expedience. Something of an organization called Iris was supposed to be closing on them.
“Do we have any contacts inside the DIA?” Raven asked.
“I have one or two people who owe me a favor. I’ll see if they have an idea.”
With that, Jinx melted away into the darkness to leave the island. It was only a minute before she heard the soft hum of the HIVE speedboat that she had commandeered skitter away towards the mainland.
Silence soon ruled except for the sound of crickets. Raven pulled her hood back and breathed deeply the muggy summer air that held the familiar scent of grass and flowers. Her heart was hurting, but she could not figure out what it was. Her hand gingerly touched the cold metal about her brow, but it was silent. The presence of Sovereign just a background hum that was almost unnoticeable.
It was a feeling she had learned to get used to. Since putting it on, she had felt him around her, in the corner of her mind. It was weird at first since Raven could feel him watching her gently while other times not around. In her dreams ranging from the usual common dreams to risque fantasy, Raven could feel him though she could sense him turn away for the latter dreams. The only time the young woman knew for certain, he was there was when the nightmares would come, but they were crushed and brushed away by a dominant invisible force and then she was deposited into one of her peaceful dreams. He was her protector, even in her head.
Raven began to lift her hood when she felt a hand rest on her shoulder. Fear shot through her like a gunshot and blood rushed away from her face and heart. Ice gripped her as the young sorceress tried to force herself to turn around.
“Friend Raven. May we talk?”
No matter how many times she swallowed, Raven couldn’t get her mouth moist. Her leaden feet turned her slowly until her purple eyes came in contact with the gorgeous green of her Tamarian friend.
“Stt...star...starfire. I didn’t expect you to be out here this late.”
“Neither did I you.”
“You...you know. Beautiful garden. Had to..sm..smell the flowers.”
“Were you sharing the experience of the flowers with Jinx also?”
‘Shit!’ Raven cursed to herself. How much had Starfire heard?
“Please, Friend Raven, please do not lie to me. I do not understand why you tell the lies, but it is very distressing to me.” The young superhero said as she sat down on the bench in the middle of the garden, her pink hair wafting gently in the breeze. She was wearing her unicorn pajamas she loves so much.
Not sure what else to do, Raven sat herself down by her friend and waited silently, not sure what to say. Her mind rushed from option to option trying to figure the right move. The presence of Sovereign had gotten stronger meaning Jason was listening. Starfire broke the silence first.
“I am struggling with the emotions of love and fear, Raven. I love you like a sister and trust you, but I do not know what to make of your recent choices. I had initially hoped that your meetings with Jinx were erotic liaisons to satisfy your needs, but then I saw the artifact upon your brow.”
Erotic liaisons? Had Starfire thought she was sleeping with Jinx? For a split second, the image of a nude Jinx and her adorable smirk flashed across Raven’s mind, but she banished it.
Starfire reached up and gently brushed the band around Raven’s head and for a split second, she feared Sovereign would strike at her, but nothing happened.
“This is the artifact the Beetle of Blue was looking for, is it not?”
No lies. “It is.”
“And why do you not give it to Blue Beetle? He says it’s evil.”
“But is it? I’ve spoken to the entity that they fear. It just wants to create a peaceful world for all of us to coexist in.”
“What is the cost, Raven? Has it told you?”
Raven wasn’t a fool. There were people who would resist his entry into the world, and they could get hurt. Unlike Jinx who could have gotten it first, Raven was going to use restraint to limit those who would get hurt.
“Yes, I know that people could get hurt but Starfire. How many people are hurt and killed every day from evil people? All he wants to do is to create a world where the good can live in peace and only those who try to stop his emergence would get hurt. I don’t want to fight you.”
“So you have already chosen to ally yourself with the artifact?”
Had she? It slowly dawned on Raven that she had committed herself to Sovereign’s rise a long time ago and had only been kidding herself she was on the fence.
“Yes. The world has suffered enough at the hands of villains like the Joker or Darkseid. It needs to stop, or they will just go on continuing to kill and maim.”
Starfire remained silent.
“Will you help me, Star? To make sure nobody gets hurt?”
“I cannot, Raven. I cannot commit wrongs in hopes that they come out right.” Starfire said with a heavy sigh.
Tears welled up in Raven’s eyes, and she balled her fist desperately hoping she would not have to fight her friend right then.
“But I swore an oath of loyalty and friendship which I cannot break either. I will not harm you or raise my hand to strike you, Raven.” Starfire said turning to look deep into Raven’s eyes, the beautiful, expressive eyes pleading.
“But that oath does not shield or protect anyone serving this entity at your behest. I will resist any illegal act you take, but I will not harm you.”
It was like a knife had cut into her, but the first line had been drawn in the sand by her dear friend. Raven hung her head and pulled the hood of her cloak up obscuring the artifact and also to hide the tears rolling down her cheeks.
“There are things in your room that I know you will want,” Starfire said kindly. “I’ll help you collect them, but I must tell the others when the sun returns. Is that an okay compromise?”
“More generous than anyone else would give me, Star, I just wish you could see it my way.”
“I can, dear Raven, I just do not agree with the conclusion you have reached. It is the villain's way of solving problems.”
Raven stood and summoned the magical power inside her body and began to focus it in front of her. “I cannot take anything with me. They’ll assume you’re on my side or complicit. I’ll just leave now.”
The dark portal swam open in front of them, and Raven tried to give her friend a teary-eyed smile. “I hope we can see the same thing.”
“I too. Be safe.”
Raven stepped into the portal and found herself on the hills opposite of Jump city, the Titan’s tower a small dot in the lake to the north. Though it did not happen the way she wanted, it was done. She was no longer a Titan and now alone.
Chapter 8: Action must be Taken
The Teen Titans and the Justice League must come up with a plan before Raven succeeds in her goal of getting the Obsidian Key.
Garfield Logan was numb. His entire world had crumbled at his feet when Starfire broke the new a few hours ago. Beast Boy had noted that Raven had not shown up at the breakfast table and he thought his lovely friend had decided to get her beauty sleep. He used to joke with her that if that was the case, she did not need any rest at all.
His jokes were corny, but they elicited a little tug at her mouth that the young shifter hoped could be turned into a full smile by him one day. But that was not going to happen now.
Everyone was handling the news of Raven’s betrayal differently. Cyborg was angry. The large half man/half machine was always straightforward and to the point. He spent the first thirty minutes raging that Raven should have asked for their help instead of taking on the artifact herself. Starfire was uncharacteristically stoic, her eyes seemingly older than they were yesterday at the pizza party in the living room. Robin refused to accept it. He had already come up with two different plans of freeing Raven from the artifact that he believed had possessed her. Dick Greyson declined to take Starfire’s version that their Raven...his Raven...had gone willingly with the entity.
Robin was winding down another plan when the doors hissed open and four figures strode in. Robin immediately straightened as his mentor, Batman strode in with Superman to his right. Behind him were two people Garfield had never seen before, an older man with a thinning hairline and a rather beautiful redhead in a catsuit. She was nowhere near pretty as his Raven.
Batman went straight to Robin and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not your fault, Robin.”
Robin did not respond but his shoulders drooped. Nobody saw Garfield though as he had changed into a fly a while ago and was at the top of the Titan’s ceiling not wanting to be talked to.
“I understand your dedication to your friend, Starfire,” Superman began. “But you should have let us know sooner. This artifact that your friend Raven has is extremely dangerous.”
Starfire did not answer but was looking at the two people that arrived with them. Sensing the question, Superman motioned to them.
“This is Agent Coulson and Agent Romanova, they’re assisting us with locating the artifact.”
“It’s good to meet you all,” Coulson said with a gentle smile. “I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.”
“She’s not dead,” Robin snapped.
“No,” Coulson nodded. “But we don’t know how much of the entity’s personality has imprinted on your friend. I don’t wish to be blunt but it could have consumed the Raven you know and is using her body as his vessel.”
“Please tell us what we are dealing with,” Starfire asked muted. “You wish us to assist you in the hunt for our friend so we deserve to know of the artifact.”
“I agree,” the red-headed woman said for the first time. “This is personal for them, Phil.”
Phil Coulson did not argue but looked to Superman who gave his consent.
“Do you by any chance have one of those holographic thingies the Justice League has?” Coulson asked pulling out a crystal chip.
After inserting the chip and then ten minutes trying to find the remote, the holographic projector kicked a symbol of a flower Beast Boy did not recognize.
“To start, you know our names but not where we are from. In short, “Agent Coulson started. “we’re from another reality, one that suffered an attack from Sovereign when he tried to emerge once before. We are members of a group known as the Iris initiative that monitors all different realities to watch for the return of Sovereign, the entity that is trapped between realities.”
“So, this Sovereign is not the band that Raven has?” Robin asked studying the images that were appearing.
“No, it’s a conduit to him. There were many at one point and he dominated the minds of those who wore them and called the Archons. Iris thought we had destroyed all the Archon Rings.”
“What does he want with Raven?” Cyborg asked for the first time since the JLA’s arrival.
“He needs a vessel to do his bidding. He cannot enter our reality on it’s own as steps were taken to seal him away. In essence, it’s like having a GPS but you’re not able to put in the address to where you want to go. Your friend Miss Raven is anchoring him to this reality, allowing him to focus his energy and prepare to breach and enter.”
“For what reason?” Starfire asked.
“To destroy it all, reduce it to it’s smallest energy state and consume it is all we have been able to figure out. In the last war with him, His Army of Midnight destroyed another reality, consumed it. That’s what we have been able to extrapolate.”
“I don’t understand it,” Robin said pushing himself off and away from the display. “Why would Raven side with such a creature?”
“I believe Superman told me that you have demons in this reality and Raven is half demon. Could that side of her have forced its way out?” Agent Romanova asked.
“Raven had it under control and we never saw it much after Trigon was defeated,” Robin answered.
“Which I must say was an exceptional feat, Robin,” Coulson said kindly. “Batman allowed us access to some of the Teen Titan mission reports in our research of Raven.”
“Raven had learned how to control her demon side, Agent Coulson,” Robin continued after giving a glance to Batman who had gone to the corner of the room to watch. “The only thing I can think of is that she truly thinks she’s helping. She’s been under a lot of stress lately.”
“Yes,” Superman said. “Jump city has been under heavy attack lately and this artifact may have been the reason why.”
“What do you we do? We can’t just let our friend go without helping her!” Cyborg demanded. “I’m ready to kick whose ever butt we have to so we can bring her home.”
“If she’s doing this under her own volition, it makes her extremely dangerous. Sovereign doesn’t have to exert his will on her. She’ll willingly move towards his goal and accept the power he can channel to her as they go.” Agent Romanova said.
“We need to stop her, without harming her if possible. Starfire, you mentioned they were searching for the artifact?”
“Yes,” Starfire answered. “They believe the DIA has it.”
“Which she is correct,” Superman mused. “I had it moved there a year ago. I had no idea Sovereign would make a move this soon.”
“Then that’s where we will face her,” Coulson said. “and I have just the team to help.”
With that, Garfield flew away to his room. If what they were saying was true, his Raven was gone.
Chapter 9: The Attack on the DIA
Raven has assembled her team and is striking at the DIA to get the Obsidian key she needs to let Sovereign in. The problem is, she knows Iris is waiting for her.
“I don’t like this plan.”
Jinx stood near the closed vehicle exit hatch of the dropship that had “liberated” from an ARGUS facility in Jump City. The ship’s sensor cloak was up hiding its emissions, but the rumbling thunderstorm helped even more. Raven looked up from the rivet she had been staring at since take off and looked at the young woman.
Jinx had shed her look from the H.I.V.E, her striped stockings and purple dress had been replaced with a black outfit with purple highlights that complimented her pink hair which she still wore in the U shape she lovingly crafted. The soft satin choke collar still adorned her neck though it was no longer a plain piece one that made it appear she had a mosaic pattern on her skin. Her eyes seemed to care genuinely, something Raven had not gotten used to yet.
“It’s the only way, Jinx,” Raven muttered. “It’s not optimal, but it’s the only way we’re going to get the obsidian key.”
Jinx strode over and knelt down in front of her new leader and pulled her chin to face her beautiful purple eyes.
“Raven, they’re desperate. Trust me; they will do any horrible act they can to get the Archon Ring from you or to stop you. If Sovereign is going to have a chance, we can’t risk losing you.”
Raven wanted to pull away from the girl’s warm fingers that gently held her chin, but the scent of blueberries and hairspray was captivating. Raven was only able to avert her eyes. “Do you have a better plan? The aerial bombs are only going to work for so long.”
Jinx lowered her head and nodded mournfully. Every scenario they had run showed their defeat at the hands of the JLA. They had to play a long game that none of them was comfortable with, especially Raven.
The young sorceress felt the comforting nudge from Sovereign that she was not alone. He had warned her about losing her friends, but she did not realize how bad the ache was going to be.
“We’re arriving, Raven,” See-More called from the cockpit, his single eye rotated to infrared mode. “I’m not detecting anything on infrared scans.”
The Azerathian Sorceress nodded and stood pulling her hood up over her head so only her eyes and lower mouth could be seen. She had added a bit of body armor to the usual black unitard she wore as instinct was telling her that this fight was going to be much more difficult.
Looking back, she found the familiar villains that were now on her team. Mammoth was prepping his equipment, having brought a heavier duty armor though Raven wondered if it was necessary. The massive man was almost unstoppable and was a testament to his nickname. Jinx had stepped up and declared herself Raven’s second in command, even though she was neither asked or offered. The hex witch had not lied that she was searching for Sovereign for a long time and had met multiple people who had wanted his vision or wanted to be on the winning side.
Bulletman stood there in his simple outfit, but a cone-shaped metal helmet that Raven was told allowed him to fly and deflect bullets. The minor metahuman had retired a while ago but came back at Jinx’s request.
The others were a strange hodgepodge of mercenaries who heard there was good money in it, which Jinx seemed to have plenty in and others who were there for their reasons. Raven did not need true believers, but she needed them for the coming battle.
A woman in a white dress was letting down her excessively long hair that seemed to twitch and move on her own. Raven had been told she was Godiva and had control over her hair in a way animals could control their tails while a decrepit old man that appeared to mostly plant stayed huddled in the corner. The Floronic Man was known to hate having his feet off the ground.
“Beginning approach!” See-More called from the cockpit, and Raven moved towards the landing gangplank that was about to descend. The machines rumbled, and the plank lowered letting the heavy rain wash in with the wind. Raven’s cape billowed about her legs, and she tilted her head down to keep the water out of her eyes.
‘This is the point of no return.’
That was not true as that decision was made long ago, but this was going to pit her against those she once called friends. Though she could not see them twelve stories down, she knew Robin was there with the Teen Titans and the Justice League. There was a good chance Iris was there too. She was going to have to cut her way through them to succeed in bringing peace to the realities.
Stepping out, she began to float down towards the rooftop and the helicopter landing pad. The ignition of the jetpacks of her mercenary escorts and the howl of the ARGUS dropship filled the air around Raven. As her feet touched the ground and the soldiers clomped down around her, she heard the voice strong through the cutting rain.
“That’s far enough, Raven.”
It was the man with the metal arm with the red star that spotted the incoming dropship from his sniper position on the nearby building. Though the introductions were hurried, Robin remembered his name quite well. They called him Winter Soldier. Agent Coulson had brought a few metahumans from his reality, and they were well trained. One man stood beside him in a Blue medium armored suit and a red white and blue shield strapped to his back.
Winter Soldier’s voice came through the piece installed in Robin’s ear. “I see it. Medium sized dropship is closing high and fast, Cap.”
“Understood, Bucky. Thanks.” Steve Rogers responded and gave Coulson a nod. He then turned to Robin and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry it came to this, Mister Robin. We’ll try to be gentle as best as we can. The tetrodotoxin B bullets will render her unconscious.”
“She’s not going to go gentle on you, Captain America,” Robin responded cynically. “She never goes easy on who she perceives as an enemy.”
“That’s why I’m hoping you can talk her down, “Steve said with an uncharacteristic kindness Dick was not used to seeing in soldiers.
“I honestly don’t know who she is anymore, sir.”
“Heads up. Dropship’s hovering and door opening. Counting six mercenaries and one woman that...appears to be wearing a cloak?”
“That’s her,” Robin said with a definitive nod to Captain America.
The rain drilled hard into those who were hidden around the rooftops. SHIELD agents mixed with ARGUS agents and metahumans waited for the Azerathian sorceress to touch down.
Robin stepped out of the cover and tried to put on the best commanding presence he could muster.
“That’s far enough, Raven.”
She turned to face him, her dark eyes staring at him from underneath her rain-soaked cloak. Her feet had not touched the ground, so she just hovered there in her dark glory.
“Don’t get in the way, Robin. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“What you’re planning to do will hundred millions of people, Raven. I’ve seen the footage of the last time Sovereign tried to come through. This isn’t you.”
“I got a bead on her,” Winter Soldier’s voice came across the earpiece.
“Hold your fire.” Captain America’s voice responded. “Give him a chance to talk her down.”
“Raven, Sovereign is evil. He’s manipulating you into doing this. He’s using you as a means to an end.”
“Like how you used me?” Raven snarled back at him, a hint of red appearing in her eyes. “How you always put me in the thick of the fights. Do you know how many bruises I’ve received trying to be a good soldier for you.”
The venom and ferocity of her words caught Robin off guard. He took a step back not sure how to respond.
“This world is tearing itself apart. Realities are tearing themselves apart. They need peace and order, and Jason can bring it. Step aside, Robin and let me achieve it so you, Starfire, Cyborg, and the rest will never have to fight and risk their lives again.”
“I can’t do that, Raven. You know that.”
“You can,” she hissed through her teeth. “You just refuse to do it.”
Captain America’s words rang clear through the earpiece.
“Take her down.”
The building was close enough that the report of Winter Soldier’s sniper rifle ricocheted through the metal buildings but as quickly as the night-night bullet traveled, a black incandescent field appeared around Raven, and it shattered on impact.
“What the hell?” Winter Soldier barked in surprise.
The shield was instinctive though Raven was sure Sovereign had a hand in it. The round exploded in a blue puff upon impact, and Robin’s battle cry told her it had started. The ARGUS drop ship swooped in and spilled out Godiva, Floronic Man, and Jinx who landed in the middle of the free for all. Bulletman zipped past into the battle bowling over Cyborg who attempted to jetpack in the air and get into the fray.
A circular disc sang out, and Raven feinted left as it whizzed by striking off the dropship and coming back to catch Bulletman in the back of the head. It reflected back to the strange man in the blue armor and mask with the letter A in white.
He caught the shield and went to throw it again, but a burst of pink energy struck it, and the shield careened to the right of where he was throwing and caught Robin in the chest before bouncing back and hitting Cyborg who had just thrown Bulletman off.
“What was that?!” the man with the A said surprised.
“She’s a hex witch,” Robin roared over the din of battle. “She can curse things with bad luck.”
Jinx’s voice cackled maniacally as she danced through the battle sending bolts of purple energy all about. Balling up the power in front of her, Raven pushed a flash of black light through the soldiers guarding the entrance, and she began to advance. It was then, with a heavy thud, the red and blue with the billowing cape landed in front of her.
“That’s enough, Raven,” Superman said sternly.
Superman turned to see Jinx to his left. She threw back her shoulder cape and lobbed four spheres into the air. Instinctively, Superman used his heat vision to incinerate them, but they exploded casting a green haze in the area. He chocked and stepped back.
A smirk crossed Raven’s face. It was becoming so much easier to see this man, the symbol of the JLA’s failure to protect the world face it’s worst weakness.
The man with the A rushed in and deflected a blast of black energy at Superman and quickly pulled the man away getting him clear enough to fly away.
“This whole place will be saturated, Superman.” Jinx taunted. “Better keep your distance.”
“Take her down, Bucky!” The man with the A was yelling, but Raven knew the snipers were having trouble targeting. The heat sensors in the rain were useless while See-More was broadcasting the signal directly at their nest.
It was then that the plan began to fall apart. The man with the A hurled his shield at the ARGUS dropship, and the left engine exploded. It started to shutter, and Jinx looked to Raven with fear in her eyes. Raven nodded.
“Fall back!” Jinx called to those still standing. Most of the soldiers had fallen, and Beast Boy had just taken down Godiva with his octopus form.
The glint caught Raven’s eye, and she saw the shield coming for her. She hesitated and braced for the pain. It exploded through her chest as it caught her directly on the breast and the sorceress fell backward landing hard. The wind gasped out of her lungs as they piled on to her. Stun sticks were applied to her body sending scorching agony through each point. The control sticks latched around her wrists forcing her on all fours shocking her every time she tried to flex.
Raven fought hard not to scream, but the agony was too much. She let out a dreadful wail as the Iris Strike Team latched a collar around her neck that shocked her into silence. One of the soldiers flew through the air from a blast of energy and Raven turned to see Jinx charging through bleary eyes.
“Jinx. Run!” Raven commanded with as much power as she could through the electricity.
Jinx hesitated but began to back off as Cyborg started to close on her. She quickly leaped off the side of the building and landed into the damaged dropship that banked and departed through the city away. Raven breathed a sigh of relief when Superman was not up to giving chase.
A man in a suit, soaked to the bone and a receding hairline came up to her with his gun drawn. Raven pushed herself up on to her knees to glare at him defiantly. If she was going to be executed, he’s going to look right at her.
“The rounds in this weapon are non-lethal, Miss Roth, and I prefer not to use them, but I can’t risk you trying anything until we get you properly secured and taken care of.”
With that, he fired a round into her chest. The potent chemicals swamp through her system, and she passed out to black.
Chapter 10: Prisoner of The Titans
Raven is a prisoner but is she actually helpless?
When consciousness flooded back, it was not gentle. Raven felt as if someone had jammed an ice pick directly into her eye socket and was in the process of giving her a lobotomy. Forcing her eyes open she found herself staring up at a gray, plain ceiling. She rolled into a sitting position on the cot and groaned at the act.
The little squeak made the ex-titan jerk her head up to see a young woman on the other side of a force-field looking at her with large, startled eyes. She fumbled the radio on the plastic table in front of her.
The ex-Titan looked about her gauging her location and realizing where she was. The small cell with force-field and warded walls, the shackles encasing her hands, the diminutive guard room told her that she was being held in the high-security cell block of Titan Tower. Designed to keep people like her.
Raven closed her eyes trying to sense Sovereign, but she could only feel a cold echo in the distance. Someone had upgraded the wards and whoever it was had an excellent knowledge of magic. Raven could feel the fear of the woman outside the cell and understood how she must look. The ex-Titan had been stripped of all her clothing except her leotard, so her short purple hair was tussled and probably looked like a swimmer who just got out of the pool.
The door ground opens laboriously and a few people strode in. The man who had shot her was accompanied by Batman and her old leader, Robin. Raven refused to make eye contact with Robin though she could feel his eyes on her skin.
“Thank you, Simmons,” Coulson said. “We’ll take it from here.”
The girl quickly hurried out. Coulson grabbed one of the chairs and plopped it in front of her chair then sat on it backward so he could rest his arms on the backrest. The many scenes from the police procedurals that Cyborg always watched came to mind.
“It’s good to see you up and about, Miss Roth.”
“I prefer Raven,” she responded in her usually lethargic growl.
“Raven,” He said with an easy smile. “Sorry about the little dust-up earlier. I wish we could have started out on better terms.”
“Is there a point to all this?”
“I hope I’m not to difficult to read for your empathic abilities,” He said. “but they tell me you have a potent punch and I don’t want the force-field to go down.”
She jolted up and cursed herself. This stranger had access to her files and probably knew everything in them. Raven had done enough interrogations to realize what was going on. He was trying to build a rapport. The young sorceress was not going to have anything to do with it.
“What do you want?”
“Wanted to talk about the artifact you’ve got there,” he said gesturing to the band. She instinctively reached for it forgetting that it may have been taken. The cold metal felt comforting against her fingers.
“What about it?”
“I would like you to give it to me.”
“I don’t think you know what it is and who you have allied yourself with, Raven.”
“Oh,” Coulson said with a knowing nod. “Good. So you know about the other girl that tried to help him in another reality and the millions that died because of it.”
Why had she gravitated to that phrase instead of the millions? Raven knew that Jason had tried to come back through first, and she expected a body count from a fight but not in the millions. She decided not to show she was uncomfortable but Coulson saw through it.
“So you didn’t know. Want me to tell you?”
“Not like I can stop you.”
Before he began, there was a buzz, and Batman picked up his communicator from his belt. He spoke a few words she couldn’t make out and then nodded to Coulson.
“DIA’s gotten it taken care of. No issues.”
“Thank you, sir,” Coulson responded and turned back to Raven. “Oh, that was just the obsidian key. DIA’s following procedure. With the Archon Ring activated, we’re burying the obsidian key where you or Sovereign will ever be able to detect it.”
Raven’s mouth became a firm line, and Coulson settled back into his chair. “Where was I? Oh, the girl. Her name was Heather. She was just like you in a way, young and impressionable and chose to side with him. As soon as she put on the Archon Ring, he dominated her mind and made her open the portals much like he is doing to you. She created the Archon Knights, soldiers all wearing the band and funneling his power. He destroyed millions in building the device that subsequently crushed the reality into a small pellet of unspeakable power. He was about to use it to destroy the rest of realities when Iris stopped him.”
“My mind is not dominated,” Raven responded.
“How do you know, Raven?” Snapped Robin who had been silent the entire exchange. He rushed up to the security screen before Batman could put a hand on his shoulder. “How do you know he hasn’t taken over your mind and made you think that you’re in control? How do you know you are even you anymore?”
Raven did not answer nor did she look at him keeping her eyes focused on a spot over Coulson’s shoulder. She could not risk looking because she didn’t want to convey all the turmoil and emotion that was chewing at her gut.
“Raven, there’s no way to know. Sovereign is feeding you a fantasy of a perfect world, but it will be built on the bones of billions.”
“Not if I help him,” she whispered. “I can keep people from dying...unless you resist.”
“You’re living in a fantasy,” Coulson sighed. “Sovereign is a monster, and you can’t see it.”
The flood of white-fire burst on her breasts as she felt the energy of Sovereign shove against the magical barriers. She could feel him pushing into every cell, and a gentle request nudged her mind to allow him to have control for only a moment.
Fear ripped through her, would she lose control forever if she let him? She trusted him this far, and she was already in all the way. Even if she did turn over the Archon Ring, she was still going to prison. Relaxing her mind, she felt it picked up by the powerful golden current and wash into a gentle cocoon of darkness where she slept.
Robin took a step back from the forcefield when Raven’s lovely purple eyes washed and radiated gold light. Her posture had changed from a prisoner to one who was in control. She stood up with an uncharacteristic smirk on her face.
Coulson’s expression went from kindness to anger. He spoke one word.
The voice was raven’s, but there was an undercurrent of a male tone that sounded off key to Raven’s lovely dark tonal strains. Robin gripped his telescoping staff tightly while he mentor’s muscles were tense and ready to strike in case it got out of the cage.
“Release Raven,” Robin said stepping forward. He was not going to miss the opportunity to face the foe that had taken his friend.
Raven’s body turned its eyes on him, the brilliant gold seemingly mocking him. “She’s not a prisoner. She can remove the Archon Ring anytime she wants. She chose to be with me.”
“Is it so hard to think that she wants something more? What can you Titans provide her but more pain and death? I can bring her peace.”
“Don’t listen to him, Robin,” Coulson said stepping up to the young man. “Sovereign’s a manipulator. He’s dominated her; she just has to realize it.”
“You used the same lines with Heather, Philip.” the creature drawled as he sat back down on the bed and stretched Raven’s shapely legs. “You got her killed.”
“You killed her.”
It was between blinks, but Sovereign had moved from the sitting position to face right up against the forcefield causing both Robin and Coulson to step back.
“You killed her!” it screeched. “You tried to rip the archon ring off her head shattering her mind. I was forced to use her body, and it’s a horrible state because of your fear and loathing of a world where you are not needed!”
“You had to be stopped,” Phil said quietly, hand still on his weapon.
“Congratulations. You broke a young girl and killed all those connected to her.”
The rage had vanished, and the creature sat back down on the bed, it’s quiet easy going manner returning. “At least I got to burn out Fury’s eye before the realities separated or are he still blaming that on Captain Marvel?”
Coulson did not respond, and Robin looked at him. His face was one of someone in thought. Robin hated this. He knew he was out of his depth with the entity and he was sensing even the Justice League was too.
As Coulson’s expression changed, Raven/Sovereign’s grin widened. “Ah, you are finally getting it.”
“Getting what?” Batman said for the first time.
“Raven’s plan.” Sovereign drawled as he began to lazily kick his feet as if bored.
“She let herself be captured,” Coulson said firmly. “But why?”
It was Robin who had seen the tactic before, and the realization hit him hard.
“She’s feinting,” Robin said his breath coming into gasps. “She’s allowed herself to get captured to drop our guard. We think he people are broken without her; they’re not.”
“And we just moved the Obsidian key into the open,” Batman said reaching for the communicator.
It burst alive with chatter and Batman turned it up so everyone could hear.
“This is convoy Alpha-six. We’ve been attacked by a group of metahumans. We’ve identified one of them as the fugitive Jinx, and the other is a Tamarian woman. Our defenses are too weak to repel her. They’ve got the package.”
Batman looked up at Robin, and he shook his head. There was no way Starfire would have sided with Sovereign. He took the communicator.
“Can you describe the Tamarian?”
“Thin, lithe, black hair, and ruthless,” the voice said on the other line.
Sovereign’s laugh tinkled through the room. “I now have the obsidian key.”
Sovereign/Raven leaned forward with a grin. “How long did you think you can keep my Archon?”
With that, the light faded from the eyes and Raven passed on on the cot sleeping peacefully.
Chapter 11: End of An Era
Raven faces two of her friends from the side of a prison cell.
Sorry for the delay of the new part. I had begun to feel that I was rushing parts to get them out and they were losing quality, so I took my time to write this portion to bring in more about the personalities and the reasoning instead of just straight action.
I want to thank every one of you who has read this and especially those who have found this story interesting enough that you are following it. Thank you for the support!
The room was dark except for the telltale blinking red light of the security camera. Raven sat on the cot, legs drawn up under her, and arms wrapped around herself as she tried to keep herself calm. Her emotions were running rampant from fierce fury to overwhelming fear and it had become so strong she couldn’t meditate. Before the Archon ring, she would have been concerned the demon portion would have gotten loose but that was not happening.
Since Sovereign’s temporary control over her body, she had not been able to sense him. After hours alone in the cell, she had come to the conclusion that he probably had burned so much energy across the void that he had to regain his strength to return to her. That meant she was alone in the maximum security cell. Just the thought made her want to throw up the bland prison meal they fed her earlier.
The first few hours, she paced the cell trying to find any of the telltale weaknesses but she doubted there would be any. She helped design the cells to hold magic users like Jinx and it appeared they took it a step further. Not only were the walls made magic proof, they had placed bracelets on her wrists that inhibited the flow of magic which made it impossible for her to cast anything. Add insult upon injury, the force field had been set to the strongest level without actually killing her. The shock from touching it would put her on her ass.
She was a prisoner and was not going anywhere. The first step of her plan had worked but she did not know if the second would have a chance now. Raven was not sure how far they would go to stop her.
The other cells in the octagon shaped room were devoid of occupants and her captors had decided not to utilize guards so when the door hissed open she looked up from her spot on the cot to see who it was. It was a large black man with a scowl on his human half while the machine part stayed cold and neutral as it always did. He strode up to the force field and crossed his arms against his chest.
Raven stared at him defiantly, not willing to back down or cower. He might be angry but it did not come close to the swirling turmoil she felt in her heart and chest.
“You could have told us,” Cyborg said between gritted teeth. “We were a team and we could have helped you.”
“We were never a team,” Raven responded low and even.
Yes, it had felt as if they were a long time ago even when it culminated in a desperate fight against her father. Things were going in a direction she would have never expected with a team where she could belong, friends who cared, and a certain shifter that seemed to be interested in her romantically. It was weird at first but she had grown accustomed to the affections that he showed her, even though Garfield was clumsy and stereotypical with his attempts.
“How can you say that?”
“Easily,” Raven said. “We spent how many days in battle and still never did anything to solve the crime. I made suggestions in stopping some of the villains but they were not heeded as you preferred to do your plan.”
“Robin and I analyzed all the plans and ours were the best at handling the situation.”
“And the villains continue to escape.”
“There will always be a next time to get them when the do, Raven.”
She looked directly at his own good eye and spoke with finality. “No, not when I’m through.”
“I don’t know what has happened to you, girl. I thought I knew you but this thing has poisoned you against everyone.”
“I’ve always been like this,” she whispered. Damned to destroy it all.Trigon had said she was destined to destroy the world but she had always assumed it would have been with her father. Not on her own with a powerful entity.
Cyborg stood there for a few more minutes in silence before turning and leaving the room. As the door clanked shut, Raven was left with the silence again. Pulling her legs underneath her in her usual meditation pose, she tried to concentrate and go to her quiet place. It was the buzzing of the fly that made her realize she was not alone. The sound was different but familiar and a smile crept on her face before she could stop it.
The fly landed on the floor in front of the force field and morphed into her green friend who sat there cross-legged watching her. His face was not one of anger or sorrow but loving concern. Raven let the weak smile stay on her face.
“I was sad when you left,” Beast Boy started in his soft voice. “I thought we may have had something.”
It was the first time she had ever apologized for leaving to anyone. In Garfield case, Raven felt that she actually hurt someone.
“I really worry that Sovereign is using you, Raven. The stories I’ve heard and the footage I’ve seen from his last return really makes me scared for you.”
“I know but I can’t trust anything that Iris says. They’ve been trying to destroy him for as long as he has been trying to help. How do I know what they are showing you isn’t fabricated for your support? What if they’re using you?”
“I trust them.”
“And I trust Jason.”
Garfield tilted his head slightly. “Jason?”
“That’s the name he’s taken when talking to me, Gar.” Raven said with a slight blush in her gray cheeks.
“I see. Are you in love with him?”
“No,” she answered quickly. It wasn’t love at all. Raven’s heart twisted slightly. It looked a lot like an obsession.
“And you’re not in any pain?” Beast Boy asked motioning to the band around her forehead.
It was probably the first time in years she wasn’t suffering from some physical or emotional pain. The demon portion of her bloodline had been fully suppressed by Sovereign’s presence. She felt more like a normal girl than she ever had.
“I miss you, Rae Rae.”
Raven bristled for a quick second at the nickname he had given her but gave him a simple smile.
“I miss you too. I’m sorry it has come to this.”
“You...you could always come with me? Meet Sovereign yourself.”
Was that shock in Beast Boys eyes at the invitation or was she reading to much into it? The young man stood there on the other side of the force field, his eyes inscrutable and dark. The realization dawned on her that Garfield Logan actually had a crush on her.
“I can’t, Rae.” he said hanging his head at last. “I can’t turn my back on everything. I don’t see what you see. All I see is my best friend who has become the villain.”
He smiled weakly at her and raised his hand and rest it a few inches away from the energy barrier. “Come home, Rachel. Come home to us.”
“I can never come home, Garfield.” Raven answered with finality as she turned her back no her friend and sat on the floor. “It’s over.”
Chapter 12: Onward to Oblivion
Raven is still a prisoner and the Justice League need to find out what to do with her before Jinx and her cohorts find a way to break her out. While they plan, Raven encounters Sovereign again and learns more of what she has signed up for.
Thank you for the notes and the reviews! To the BBRaers who have PMed me and left reviews, don’t worry. Nothing is final until the story is marked completed.
“They have the obsidian key,” Batman said with finality to those assembled around the living room of the Teen Titans. Robin had never seen the room so filled in as members of the Justice League and those from the other universe tried to find a place to sit or stand.
Agent Coulson had made himself at home at one of the tables that had been set up with his entourage of superheroes. He had met a few of them already but a few more had been added since then. Alongside Captain America was a young woman with scraggly brown hair, with a low black top covered with a red jacket. Robin had heard her mentioned as Wanda a few times.
Others included someone who appeared to be like the Green Arrow and a few more agents from Coulson’s organization.
“What we know from the last time Sovereign tried to come through, the obsidian key needs to be used at certain points in the world relative to the position of the reality nexus, “Philip Coulson continued. “and that they need the Archon Ring to power it.”
“What if the prisoner’s team has another one?” Wanda asked in a thick Russian accent.
“Her name is Raven,” Robin started angrily but quieted when Cyborg placed a hand gently on his shoulder.
“Even if they did, they can’t use it.” Coulson continued. “Raven is the first Archon, and only she can create more since Sovereign has linked himself directly to her. I’ve reviewed the combat footage and nobody we encountered has an archon ring. I believe we have the only one.”
“So, they’re going to come for her.” Captain America said speaking up for the first time at the meeting. “They’re going to come for her and hard.”
“That would be my thoughts too,” Superman said with a nod.
“I would advise against moving her,” Wonder woman said. “That’s how they got the Obsidian Key. It’s challenging protecting a moving target.”
“And we all can’t stay here forever,” Winter Soldier said. “The public is becoming aware something is up as all you have left your usual haunts.”
“He is right,” Batman said. “We cannot stand around hoping Jinx and her team will attack. They’ll wait us out till we’re forced to return to our respective cities to stop the crime waves that would invariably appear.”
“So they still have us at a disadvantage,” Beast Boy said from the far corner of the room.
The silence in the room answered the question. They still had no clue what they were going to do next.
After the conversation with Beast Boy, Raven fell into a dream filled sleep. She dreamed that she was back in the tower like everyone else but the tower kept trying to kill one of her friends. A few times, she would walk out in the living room to see all of them but find that she was naked and scurry back into the dark corners. She could feel herself toss and turn and a whimper escaped her lips.
The dreams soon were swept away into comfortable darkness and a warm presence trickled in. Raven popped her eyes open and found herself sitting in a field of grass and the air had a hint of honey and clove. Raven felt as if her body was suspended in the beautiful world and the bright sun did not cause her to squint or obscure the scene about her.
“Thank you,” Raven’s dream self said as she looked up at a puffy cloud that oddly soothed her nerves. She knew she was safe here.
“You are welcome. I apologize it took so long for me to return. Conversing with them from The Between is incredibly taxing.” his voice wafted past her ears as if he was behind her. If she calmed her heart enough, she could swear she felt him leaning up against her back, a warm hand pressed against the base of her neck gently kneading the tense muscles that still ached from the fight. She instinctively relaxed back into him allowing the warmth to comfort her loneliness.
“I can sense you better,” Raven said her soft voice almost carried away by the fresh breeze that rustled the yellow flowers near her feet.
“You lent me your body, Rachel,” he said with only the smallest hint of amusement. “It has allowed our selves to become more intertwined.”
She felt the ghost of fingers gently press down along her spine sending warm chills through her body and Raven involuntarily shivered. The ghostly hand stopped.
“I don't’ mean to make you uncomfortable, Rachel. From my understanding of mortals, such measures help relax and remove stress.” it said with concern.
“I’m...I’m not used to being touched, Jason,” she said trying to focus on the blade of grass and hiding the burning red in her face. She had never let anyone touch her willingly and Raven was worried how quickly she let him rub her back.
“You have never allowed anyone to touch you?” he said with the concern melting into compassion. “You must be touch starved, Rachel.”
“I...I couldn’t risk any emotions cause of of---”
“Your demon side, I know. But I have suppressed that side of you so you can be touched with no risk.”
“I’m not ready.”
The ghost hand receded after giving her a gentle pat on the back.
Instantly, she sat up to turn but the dreamscape seemed to shift. Raven was infuriated she could not see the person that she had risked everything for.
“I don’t mean to insult you.”
“You haven’t. I’m not trying to force anything on you. The world, your friends, the rest who oppose us, they’ve done that all your life. Conformity.”
“They mean well.”
“Yes, but even to the extent of your happiness?”
Raven nodded silently. The demands of being a Titan had weighed heavily and she had not realized she was struggling with the responsibility. The idea of being at peace was what drove her.
“I understand but...”
The voice turned kind again. “Please tell me. I will not be upset.”
“What if it’s true? Are you planning to kill millions to create this new world for everyone? What are you truly evil and I’m just another pawn in your game? What if I have to kill my friends?”
The words spilled out of her and she was shocked as Raven never spoke that much all at once. She had crafted a finely tuned persona of being monosyllable and a recluse to keep people from bothering her.
She felt the ghostly arms wrap around her waist and before she could shove them away, they lifted her to her feet and dropped her standing. The world around her began to shift, the dream-like qualities hardening into straight lines, the grass losing their foggy texture to resemble solid blades of grass. She winced slightly at the glare of the sun that softened and radiated heat on her. Raven looked about and swore she was standing in a real field and the distance, see the cold mountain range.
“What did you do?”
“I formed this stable pocket reality for you.”
Raven’s mind went numb. The young sorceress had never realized the extent of Sovereign’s power and to think he had created a world just for her shook the Azerathian to the core. Her legs buckled and she sat back down.
“I’m...I’m here now.”
“A psychic projection of you. Your body is still back at the Titan’s tower. But this world is here and I have sworn an oath the very fabric that I cannot enter without being invited by you. If you cannot stand what is about to come once you have let me in, take your friends, take those who will go with you and come to this world. You will never be bothered again.”
Words seared into her brain, a spell that would drain her energy if she used it but she could understand how to breach the barrier between worlds to this place.
“Now, you must go. They are coming for you again. Until we meet again, my sweet Rachel.”
Raven’s eyes popped open and she sat up in her bed surprisingly refreshed. She swung her feet and looked out at the door that hissed open showing Robin and Wonder Woman enter.
“You’re being transferred,” Robin quietly said as he took up position by the door. Wonder Woman began to tap into the access codes and the force field dropped for the first time since she had awoken in the cell.
Raven stared at the cold mask of her former leader, her baleful, purple eyes filled with as much genuine emotion she could muster.
“I won’t resist.” she quietly said putting out her arms and allowing them to be shackled by heavy restraints.
“Pity,” Robin said. “I was hoping for an excuse.”
Raven winced at that and hung her head.
“You want your hood up?” Wonder woman asked kindly.
Raven nodded mutely and the Amazonian warrior tugged it over her head.
Through the halls of her old home, Beast Boy showed up and handed a backpack emblazoned with a T on it.
“I tried to find a few things from your room, you could have at your new home, “Beast Boy said as Robin snatched the backpack away from him.
She nodded to him with a small smile and as Robin rummaged through it, they made it to the elevator. Everyone was there from those from an alternate reality, the Justice League, and what was left of the Teen Titans.
Raven raised her head and put on an expression of disdain arrogance. It was one thing to show her true feelings to her friends, even though they hated her now but no one else had earned that privilege.
“Rachel Roth,” Superman started as the leader of those who opposed Sovereign. “We have spoken long and hard about what to do about you. Due to your refusal to hand over the Archon Ring and willingly side with the entity known as Sovereign, we have been forced to take drastic measures.”
Were they going to kill her?
“You are hereby sentenced to imprisonment until you surrender the Archon ring to Iris or us.” he continued. “You’ll be taken to the portal at the JLA headquarters and will be transferred between realities to Agent Coulson’s world where you will be put in an isolation cube designed specifically to control Archons. You will stay there until you give us the ring.”
The room rang with silence at the pronouncement. All looked to Raven.
“Will you give us the ring, Miss Roth?” Superman asked.
The words came out like acid of Raven’s mouth.
“Go to hell.”
Without another word, they lead her to the elevator and the heavily guarded prison transport below.
Chapter 13: Hope in the Darkness
Captured and on her way to a prison where escape looked impossible, there was still hope for the dark sorceress.
So, when I first started writing this story, I didn't know how significant it was going to be or how long it was going to take to get to the ending. I knew my beginning, middle, and end but a lot of the stuff in the middle was up for grabs. This story is much more of a thriller with the idea that good and evil is really dependent on the point of view and how all the characters interact with each other. I hope you have been enjoying this so far.
On that note, I’ll be trying to release consistently, with a guaranteed release on Monday while I might slip in a chapter here between the Mondays.
To call it a transport would be an understatement. The sizeable tank-like vehicle with four heavily armored wheels on each side resembled a heavily armored caterpillar than a prison transport.
Raven was not sure if she was impressed with how much they considered her a threat or fearful of what they would do to her. Human nature and fear were never a good mix, and even the most staunch of the heroes had done things they later regretted. A dark image flickered in her mind of her broken and bleeding body laying on the floor of an unknown cell, just wanting to die but never being allowed to. The cold shiver ran down her spine as if death had poked her in the ribs.
The hatch clanked open showing off it's half a foot of solid metal and the little step ladder extended allowing her to walk inside. The switch from bright to dark caused her to blink multiple times, and the young sorceress stumbled a few times. If it were not for the Greek Princess' tight hold on her arm, Raven would have been sporting a bloody nose.
Reaching a seat about midway in the giant transport, Wonder Woman lifted the steel harness and pushed Raven gently into the worn seat. There was barely enough padding left, and Raven wiggled a bit trying to get comfortable. Like a ride in an amusement park, Wonder Woman brought down the safety rail and locked it in place. She then removed the restraints from around her hands and gently secured her wrists and fingers into holds built into the side of the seat to restrain her.
For a split second, Raven wanted to cast a spell to see if she could escape, but none of her magic would help in this situation, not to mention neither hand was free at the same time so a portal would not be able to pull her out of the enchanted handcuffs. With the last hand locked safely away, Diana pulled her hood down exposing her purple locks and matching eyes.
“Sorry, Raven. Protocol for safety response. No masks or hoods on the transport.”
Raven nodded, and to her surprise, Diana gently ran her fingers through her head in a way that only felt mothering.
“Just remember to save yourself,” Diana whispered. “Sovereign will use and abuse you until you mean nothing to him. We all love and care for you, Raven, and this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
Raven remained silent, not sure how to respond to the unexpected gesture of kindness. Instinctively Raven leaned into the hand and Diana cupped her cheek and face for a moment.
“I have to do what I believe is right," Raven whispered back.
Diana placed a kiss on her forehead and stepped back.
"I wish you a safe journey, Raven, and pray to the gods that you'll come to your senses before it's too late."
Raven watched Wonder Woman walked back out the direction she came and saw Robin standing there waiting the entire process. She did not expect him to say anything and he did not. He turned his back to her and exited with the Greek warrior.
Soldiers began to pile in taking positions in different seats around them, and both Blue Beetle and Cyborg took up positions in the fore and aft of the transport collectively. The vehicle began to rumble when the hatch slammed shut, and a lurch told her that they were on their way.
The wind ruffled Robin's hair and cape as he sat in one of the guard turrets on top of the prison transport. Built and funded by Wayne Enterprises, he could see his mentor's thoughts and ideas in the layout. It was designed to transport dangerous or highly volatile criminals or person to destinations and was segmented for damage control. Not only were there a bunch of soldiers inside and some metahumans, but each of the three segments also had a guard turret where two could sit and watch the skies for an airborne attack. Robin was buckled into one seat while the green-suited and masked Green Lantern waited quietly, casually scanning the skies and landscape for any signs of trouble.
Over in the turret behind him, the woman he now knew went by the name Scarlet Witch was standing and holding the edges of the turrets as if trying to get a better look. Agent Melinda May crouched with an FN P90 sub-machine gun clipped to her chest harness. Though loaded with what they called night-night rounds, the massive firepower told Robin they were expecting a fight before reaching the Hall of Justice in Washington DC.
One of the primary arguments that had broken out while planning the move was going ground or air. It was a thirty-five-hour drive from Jump City, California to Washington DC and many were concerned about Raven's Midnight Team striking them. In the end, it was agreed that the ground was better because they would have more options than having a plane downed. In this case, there was a convoy of troops on both fronts of the transport and behind. There were enough metahumans to pose a challenge to anything they could throw at them.
“Relax, Robin.” Hal Jordan said with a smile. “It’s to open here. They won’t strike until they have more approach cover. I’m thinking somewhere in Nevada or Arizona around the mountains.”
“You’re sure they are going to attack?” Robin asked hoping the answer was different than what he was actually expecting.
“Yeah,” Green Lantern nodded. “I’ve dealt with this type of fanaticism before. They’ll sacrifice themselves if they truly believe in their cause.”
“A cause that means the destruction of the known reality?” Robin asked angrily.
"They may not see it that way. From what I gather Sovereign promises them a new world without pain or sadness. It sounds pretty great to me. The cost is just too expensive. Midnight doesn't agree; hence we are opposed."
“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense.”
“Robin,” Green Lantern asked kindly. “Is that what doesn’t make sense or is it that you can’t make sense that your friend and comrade of so many years has betrayed you?”
“I’m going to check on the other turrets,” Robin answered instead and made his way out towards them.
Two days went by without any incident, and some were beginning to relax. The transport did not have comfort designed into it and so ever jolt, and pothole vibrated up Raven's spine. Her ass was sore, and she wasn't able to rub it out due to her hands being restrained to the side of the seat. Before they had entered Arizona, they had picked up Zatanna who had placed a necklace with a red gem around her neck. Raven was promptly informed that it was specifically designed to inhibit Einstein-Rosen bridges or her portals from forming about her. That would keep her from making her own and anyone else trying to pull her through one.
With so many magic or physic manipulators in the area, Raven did not bother to try and cast anything when they freed her hands for lunch and dinner. She was powerful, but Zatanna was legendary, and Scarlet Witch looked like a woman who could best her. Raven had seen her practicing on one of their stops, and Wanda Maximov was a severe threat. The look in Wanda's eyes was a challenge, and Raven knew she would get seriously hurt.
Raven’s heart slowly sank as the realization set in that those who had joined her may not have the ability to take on everyone guarding her.
It was drawing to an evening when they pulled into the White Sands Visitor Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The tourists had been cleared out by the advance party, and the employees informed that they would be temporarily taking the site. The giant prison transport lumbered in and parked between the circle of sedans and SUVs that created the perimeter.
Raven was unlocked for her chair, and both Scarlet Witch and Zatanna fastened their hand around each arm. They escorted her out and into the building. They stopped in front of the women's room where Zatanna went in and then came back out muttering it was clear. Scarlet Witch released her, and both Zatanna and Raven entered.
The room was medium sized with three stalls and sinks to match. The place was clean but appeared to be old with the chrome on the faucets having come off from frequent cleaning.
“Do your business and don’t try anything, Raven.”
"Whatever," Raven responded sarcastically as she rubbed her wrists and then gave her butt cheeks a quick rub to get the soreness out.
She strode into the farthest stall and slammed the stall door to make a point. As she looked up from the toilet, Raven's breath caught in her throat as she saw a young woman in a purple skirt, striped leggings and pink hair in two horseshoe-shaped pigtails sitting on the porcelain tank. She quickly put her finger to her lips with her characteristic smirk.
She hadn't seen her first ally in a long time. She had no idea how long they had kept her in the cell, so Raven had no clue had long she had been separated from her. Never in a million years, did Raven except her heart to jump in happiness at the site of the witch of chaos.
Jinx leaned forward motioning for Raven to close. Raven did a bit confused, but her eyes grew wide when Jinx grabbed the back of her head and planted her lips against her own. Instinctively Raven wanted to pull back and was horrified at how soft the kiss actually was. The blueberry scent wafted up her nose, and she naturally melted into the kiss. It was at that point that Jinx pushed something from her mouth into Raven's. At first, Raven thought it was her tongue and that Jinx was going to take advantage of her helpless state, but the taste was cold of metal and capsule-like. Jinx broke the kiss and grinned broadly. With the metal capsule in her mouth, Raven looked confused. Jinx mouthed the words: “Swallow it later.”
“Hurry up, Raven before I come in there. I don’t care if you’re done or not.”
Shifting it to her cheek, Raven growled out a response and looked sheepishly at Jinx. She had actually needed to use the bathroom. Jinx gave her a shrug and half smile.
After the awkward bathroom break, Raven had been taken back to the transport, but for the first time, she was not chained back into her chair to sleep. She still had the weird capsule in her mouth and refused to each her dinner, but nobody said anything as it was still in character. A sleeping bag had been laid out in the back of the transporter where Zatanna cuffed her feet to a metal retaining hook and left her alone. Cyborg stayed on the other side of the transport taking watch. Turning away from him, she waited and then swallowed the capsule not sure what was going to happen.
‘Hey there, my little blackbird. It's been way too long.'
Raven jolted but then kept still. How was she hearing Jinx’s voice in her head?
‘You're probably wondering how you hear my beautiful voice. You can thank the creative endeavors of Gizmo for this. It's a bio-audio capsule he invented for MAZE and their spies. He was nice to sell me a couple of them. In short, the break down of the capsule in your stomach releases his special chemicals and enzymes that let you hear my recording. The only side effect that Gizmo never solved was the stomach cramps and gas. Sorry about that.'
‘Anyhoo, you haven't been forgotten or the mission of your friend. I took the liberty of recruiting on your behalf and ready to get you out of their clutches. Midnight has grown under my leadership, and I cannot wait to introduce you to them as our official leader and Archon.’
‘Okay, I'm running out of recording time but don't give up. We're going to make a move very soon, and you just need to be ready. All you need to focus on is escaping by whatever means necessary. As much as I'd like to feel your lips again, we're all expendable. Mammoth is in a hideout with the Obsidian key, and all we need is you. Hang in there, Mistress. We're coming for you.'
The recording faded, and Raven sighed. Hope to escape a horrible fate was coming, and she just had to be ready.
Chapter 14: Fate
It was the gentle nudging of Cyborg’s foot that woke Raven from her broken sleep. The sleeping felt odd and did not have enough padding to keep out the cold steel and irregular plates that made up the bottom of the transport. She also could not turn that much with her ankle handcuffed to the wall and so her side and stomach hurt from sleeping on them. Sitting up, Raven fought a losing battle with the yawn that had forced its way out.
The young sorceress could hear everyone outside the transport in muffled tones preparing to break camp. Raven knew there were a few more stops like this, but she actually wondered what Jinx had planned. Everything had come at her from all angles, and the lines in the sand had been firmly set. The dark girl wanted everything to go back to the way it was, but there was no way of that happening.
"Is she up?" Zatanna demanded as she strode into the transport. "I don't have time for her ass to be lazing around."
“Back off,” Cyborg growled at the magician who was taken aback by the response. “I’ve got her, now go find something constructive to do.”
Not quite sure how to respond to the aggressive response from the half man half machine.
“Thank you,” Raven said standing and brushing her cloak off. Cyborg reached down and removed the ankle cuff that held her in place.
“I don’t agree with what you are doing and thinking you’re making a horrible mistake,” Cyborg said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not here for you as much as I can.”
The sorceress nodded silently and relaxed as much as the girl could as he clamped his robotic hand on her shoulder to escort her out. The cold air stung Raven’s nostrils as she breathed in the clean, desert air. A few of the black SUVs were idling while their occupants milled about preparing to depart for their next stop. Most did not glance in her direction though she could feel Robin’s eyes on her as she walked into the rest stop.
Cyborg provided her privacy in the bathroom, but the girl was a bit disappointed when she could not find Jinx in the room. There was a plan in play, but Raven felt out of the loop not knowing what they were planning to do. Hour by hour it had become easier to see Philip Coulson and those who sided with him the enemy. Even her own compatriots were becoming ones to defeat instead of friends to try and save. Was it Sovereign affecting her as Agent Coulson had warned or had she finally realized that to achieve the goal of peace for every sentient being required a sacrifice she was now ready to make?
Finishing up and heading back outside, Raven felt a deepening depression as the dark, looming transport entrance grew closer. She was not wanting to return to the seat nor get jostled around for the next twelve hours as they drove. There were no options though. She chose to sacrifice herself to get to the Obsidian Key, and she was relying on Jinx to get her out.
The shout from the man named Hawkeye knock Raven out of her thoughts and heard the distinctive squish and burn of an energy weapon. The unique smell of ionization told the sorceress immediately it was a starbolt.
Shooting overheard, she saw the black/silver blur tinged with purple of Blackfire as she flew low sending a beam of eye bolts sizzling through the gas tank of an SUV. The vehicle ruptured in a massive blast throwing everyone around to the ground. Raven stumbled, but Cyborg supported her with one hand while he began to fire energy pulses up towards the figure spinning around for another dive.
“Get me some cover and get the prisoner to the vehicle!” Captain America shouted as he deflected another purple beam with his red, white, and blue shield.
Raven's arm hair tingled as she saw the Scarlet Witch summon her power and lift the remnant of the broken SUV with her powers and throw it at Blackfire. Komand'r deftly dodged it as years of experience had taught her to fight. One thing Raven was sure of was that the Tamaranian princesses were well trained in the art of combat.
The sky thickened with blaster bolts, arrows, and objects while Blackfire cackled and dodged up in the air, taunting them to make contact.
Zatanna rushed up to Cyborg and pointed to the transport. "You need to cover the southern flank. I see more coming in from the ground. they're going to rush our position."
“Raven?” Cyborg said half worried about losing his prisoner, the other half was for her safety. Raven wanted to comfort the man, but she never had the chance.
“I’ve got her. They’re not going to have the chance to rescue her.”
That sounded a lot more threatening than Raven expected. Were their orders to kill her before her friend and comrade could rescue her?
Zatanna roughly grabbed raven by the neck and shoved her towards the rest stop which was out of the battle. They rounded a corner, and the magician shoved Raven to the ground roughly.
"Shut up," Zatanna responded peering around quickly. She bent down and ripped the inhibiting necklace they had placed about her neck away, and then the magician uttered a magic word that cracked the restraints around her wrists. As they fell away, the dark sorceress felt her powers flood back, and control of her soul-self manifest in her eyes.
"Now make it look good," Zatanna warned lifting her hand with a crackle of power.
The first blast from Zatanna's finger's caught Raven in the shoulder, and she cried out in pain. The girl's eyes went white as she grabbed the nearby mailbox, surrounded it with her soul-self, and slammed it into Zatanna sending the woman careening into the wall. Pain and agony flooded her arm, and instinctively she did the only thing she could think of. Raven funneled all her strength creating a portal behind her and allowed herself to fall in. It snapped shut as soon as she went through.
The portal was uncontrolled nor did she even take the time to think of a destination. It was only the fact that she plowed into the sand that told Raven that she was still in the desert. The girl pushed herself off the ground as the searing pain shot through her arm and once in the sitting position examined it. The blast has burnt and lacerated her left arm searing it in the process. What had happened? Zatanna had released her but then tried her best to kill her.
‘I’m away. That’s all that matters.’
Sovereign was silent. She could feel he was distant, probably focused on something else of importance. Raven did not mind knowing the person she had sworn allegiance to was also putting his strength into accomplishing their mutual goal.
The woman stood from the ground and began to peer around her trying to get an idea where she was. All her eyes found was barren land for as far as the eye could see in all directions. Only rock arches and towers of stone doing delicate balancing acts could be seen. The air had begun to take on a warm feel as the sun broke through the horizon and was making its ascent towards the top.
‘Crap. Now how do I get out of here?’
Portals were insanely difficult to make, and she had only mastered close quarters ones the best. To project herself across the state, let alone the country took a lot of power, a power that had not yet fully returned to her. Just the thought of trying to generate one of the mystical doors drained her.
Focusing her tired mind, she was able to get herself to levitate and then float quickly towards the closest rock formation. Raven knew she would need a place to hide from the heat soon.
For the next hour, sweat began to bead on her face, and her mouth became sticky. The arch was closer but still felt like it had a way to go. As she considered stopping to let her mind catch its breath, an aqua blue portal opened up in front of her, and she fell through before she could react.
Raven tumbled unceremoniously on the ground in the shade of the granite arch towering above her. The cool breeze was drying her face.
‘What just happened.’
Looking up, she saw a man in blue clothing and gold armor descending towards her. Raven's heart thrilled in fear as she recognized the golden helmet and glowing white eyes. His golden cape snapped in the wind as his descent slowed. He stopped a few feet above her head looking down at her. Raven summoned her soul-self ready to fight the magic wielder.
“Stay your hand, child,” his voice boomed like a loud orchestra of noise. “I do not mean to do battle with you.”
“Sure, I believe you,” Raven said with sarcasm as her eyes became awash with white light.
"The Lords of Order have forbidden me to get involved, but I do not think you have been told what lies before you." he intoned ignoring her as if she posed little to no threat.
“They’ve told me enough.”
“No, they haven’t," Doctor Fate responded dismissively. "The Lords of Order and Chaos have recognized the rise of Sovereign as what it is, the points of order and chaos converging into a choice. You, my child, are the one who will make a choice for many realities that exist and are to come. We cannot interfere in that."
Raven allowed the power inside of her to return, and she distinctly felt the connection with Sovereign being blocked by the magic user. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough to leave her alone in her body. It felt like a giant ache in her heart like someone had torn out a vital organ that she now had to live without.
“I see many futures in you, young Raven.” Doctor Fate said lowering until his feet touched the ground. He was still tall which required the Azarathian sorceress to tip her head back to look at him squarely in the face. “I see a future where you have fully given your mind and body to Sovereign willingly to be his slave in both pleasure and command while I see another of a burned world of billions dead, with you standing there among the skeletons.”
"So, there is no choice that I bring peace," Raven said in defiance.
"Peace is a relative world. There is peace in a land without anger and strife, but there is also peace on a dead world among the bones of their inhabitants. What you seek is possible though extremely difficult to get to."
"Then tell me how to do it, so no one has to die," Raven said on the verge of begging.
"I cannot. The balance cannot be tipped. You are the only one who can make the decisions that are to come. My only advice to you, young Raven, is to truly follow your heart when you hear it speak to you. There is no happy ending for you, but you can bring about a happy ending to millions if you follow the person that you are."
Raven was infuriated. The man who could have shown her the way had refused to do so. It was always riddles and orders, cryptic messages and blind faith. Sovereign explained his goals. Doctor Fate was no different than those who wanted to put her away or stop Jason's return. They feared and thought they can hide in obfuscation.
“Stay here,” Doctor Fate said as he began to glide towards the portal that formed above him. “Your comrades will find you before the sun touches the horizon.”
“So, that’s it then? I’m just going to randomly make choices in hopes that I will get it right?”
Doctor Fate stopped and looked down at her. He appeared to be contemplating something he wanted to say.
“You will see me one more time, Raven. When you do, you’ll know the defining moment will shortly arrive.”
With that, he was ascending and vanished in a spiraling color of ancient symbols that evaporated in the air. Raven slumped down, back against the rock with tears of anger in her eyes. The feeling of Jason returned, but he was still too weak to break into her thoughts. She hugged her knees to her chest and cried hot tears of fury.
Chapter 15: A New Raven
True to his word, the pinkette and her flying compatriot Blackfire found her as the sun touched the horizon. Jinx immediately began to fuss over Raven looking for injuries and exaggerating any of the purple bruises she spotted around the edges of her uniform. Blackfire rolled her eyes in disgust while Jinx continue to fret.
“You sure they didn’t hurt you, install a micro bomb at the base of your skull, enchant you with some sort of powerful magic?”
Raven gripped Jinx by the wrists to stop her fiddling with her cloak. Raven stared directly into the pink catlike eyes that stared back in fear.
“I’m fine, Jinx,” Raven said earnestly giving the girl’s wrists a bit of a shake. Jinx let out a ragged breath and then nodded.
“If you to love birds are done, we need to get out of her before they found us,” Blackfire drawled as she looked out towards the direction Raven guessed Iris was.
“Mammoth is bring an ARGUS shuttle,” Jinx said dismissively. “They won’t find us in time. We need to get to the safe house to rest.”
“And to plan our next move,” Raven said straightening her cloak around her shoulders and pulling the hood up immersing her face in shadows. “We may have the Obsidian Key and the Archon Ring but we still need to be in the right spot. They’ll know the spot just as we do.”
“So, a fight then,” Blackfire said with a grin on her face. “You’re right, Jinx, this is going to be fun.”
The safe house turned out to be a HIVE base that had been abandoned a long time ago. Jinx happily explained to her as the shuttle descended into the depths of the ground through a hidden silo entrance that she had gradually erased the existence of the base from records so she could have it to herself. There was very little chance Iris would have its location.
That was good. Raven knew they had to plan and get ready for the next phase. Raven just wanted a bath and to rest.
Jinx ushered the sorceress into a room that was set up in a way that was much like her old room back at the Tower. A wave of nostalgia washed over her and she quickly quashed it before it became sorrow.
“I’m going to take a bath and think,” Raven announced. “Leave me alone.”
Strolling into the bathroom that was attached to the bedroom, she found the steel tub and began to fill it with water. The metal and walls soon became cloudy with condensed water confirming it was just the temperature she wanted.
Peeling off her dirt and sweat caked leotard then draping her cloak over a wooden chair with a broken slat, Raven slid her sore and aching body into the water. The temperature was quite hot but it was the way she liked it. The disadvantage of being half demon was her resistance to heat and that meant running a bath hotter than normal humans would have liked it. Robin had been nice enough to install a water heater just for her so the rest weren’t screaming in agony when they turned on the hot water.
Raven closer her eyes and rested her head on the back of the tub letting the heat soak into her cold bones. The gentle hum in her head from the Archon Ring around her brow acted like white noise lulling her to sleep.
“I’m glad you’re not hurt.”
Raven’s eyes shot open and they locked on to the pinkette’s cat like ones staring at her from the end of the tub. The girl was perched on a chair like a cat waiting to pounce. Raven instinctively moved her arms to cover her chest. Normally she would not care with another girl but Jinx had a bit of lust in her eyes.
‘Did not realize she swung that way,’ Raven mused to herself.
“I said I wanted to be left alone.”
“That’s what I told them. They won’t bother you.”
“That included you, Jinx.”
There seemed to be the sound of hurt in her voice and the girl stood to leave. Raven spoke before she thought it through.
“You can stay. Is there something you want?” ‘besides wanting to jump me in the tub.’
“I just have my concerns, mistress,” Jinx said curling back up on the chair she had originally vacated. “There is concern among the ranks about the fact that we’re bringing down the entire planet’s defenders. I’ve witnessed Sovereign’s power but they have not. They believe in the vision I told them.”
“What vision is that?”
Raven actually had no idea what Jinx had told them while she had been locked up in the tower.
“I told them you are bringing them a new world where they won’t be judged for who they are. A world of peace where you will rule it to give both villain and hero a chance to live their lives the way they want.”
It was a corrupted version of Sovereign’s mission but true nevertheless. Raven shifted in the water trying not to expose to much skin to the hungry girl in front of her.
“Sovereign has given me the next step of the plan. He’s learned from his past mistakes. He underestimated Iris the last time he tried to break through.”
It was the feeling in her heart that Jason was in a hurry at that time to get through. Something the entity would not do again.
Raven heart hovered on a precipice between what her old friend Robin and Starfire would have called good and evil. They were such quaint descriptions for things that were simple. You did not murder someone out of anger but it was okay to kill in the protection of others. That’s what Raven knew she was doing, she was protecting the world and those who got in the way had to be sacrificed to save all. Was it wrong she was secretly enjoying it.
Only seeing the reverence in the eyes of those in the fortress and the way Jinx followed every word did she feel the power of absolute control. Was this the corruption Phil Coulson had warned about? She had so much power both physical and emotional. Raven knew by the way that Jinx watched her she could easy use her for her own carnal pleasure. For a split second, Raven thought it might be worth a night of pleasure to put the pinkette to work. It was not like Jinx wasn’t telegraphing the desire in every look and word.
It was absolute power and a power Raven knew she had to start using because the stakes and stage had grown. Raven forced herself past her inhibitions and her desire to just leave things alone. She had chosen to be the Archon and she had to carry it through the protect the ones she loved.
“Sovereign wishes us to release Millennium first,” Raven spoke up and Jinx looked up from her reflection she was studying in the bath water.
“Millennium? Who is---?”
“He is a servant of Sovereign like you and I. One that will aid us in to bringing him Jason into this world. We’ve reached and past the point of no return and must accept our roles. You wanted to be my second in command, correct?”
“I would gladly serve as your second, mistress,” Jinx said eagerly.
“Then you are it,” Raven said imperiously for effect. It felt ridiculous but she saw the way the ex-HIVE 5’s eyes lit up. Raven decided to use that power to solidify the hold. She stood in front of Jinx to get out of the tub.
She watched Jinx’s eyes hungrily study her naked body and then stopped when she made eye contact with Raven who was watching her with a bit of amusement. A deep blush reddened Jinx’s face.
“And if you serve me well, you may just get the reward you want.”
“I...” Jinx tried to swallow at the bit of information. “I didn’t---”
“We all want something,” Raven said getting out and drying herself off, letting the imperious personality that came naturally to her take over. She began to dry off her curves. “we’re not doing this for altruism’s sake. I know what you want and if you earn it, you may have it. I am interested in seeing how well you would….perform.”
The last innuendo drove the blush deep into Jinx’s cheeks and she lowered her eyes to the floor.
“Now, leave me.” Raven said with a flurry of her hand and Jinx scurried from the room.
In the silence, Raven stared at the cracked mirror in front of her, the doubt, the anxiety, the loneliness of knowing her friends were hunting her struck her hard. She looked at herself in the mirror only seeing the pale skin, the ordinary hips, and the lackluster figure that she could not understand anyone would want. Her purple hair was ragged and unkempt and the rings under her eyes told of the lack of sleep.
“What have I become?” she mouthed to the mirror.
No answer came back.
Chapter 16: Still a Titan
Robin and the rest of the Teen Titans struggle with the new situation they are in and having to decide what to do about their friend that has gone rogue.
The Hall of Justice was a cacophony of noise as heroes from around the world responded to the summons of Superman and the League. Robin had found a place in the corner of the great hall where he could lean against the wall and unobtrusively watch the comings and going. It was difficult for him to put together the fact that this unprecedented gathering of metahumans was not to oppose Darkseid or Brainiac but his friend Raven. How had she changed so much over the summer?
Robin had already spent much of his time rehashing the day of the last battle against the Kaz’Kal to Raven’s escape from the JLA transport. It had been three weeks since that escape, and no move towards the focal point had been made. Batman and Superman were doing everything in their power to get ready and guard it.
His vision of the proceedings was blocked when both Kori and Garfield came up to him looking lost and hurting.
“How you guys holding up?”
“I am trying to make the best of it,” Starfire said with zero conviction in her voice.
“I feel like shit,” Beast Boy respond before he threw himself into the corner and curled up behind one of the hall of hero statue.
Robin did not even have the urge to scold him for his language but just stared at the remnants of his team. They had lost someone precious to them, and the chance of getting her back was becoming less and less possible. Robin knew he had to pull his team together, but he could not find the energy.
The young did not know if Starfire had read his mind or just understood, but she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and she broke into sobs. Beast Boy was silent in the corner, but Robin could make out the tear that ran down his cheek. Raven was killing them slowly.
“We’ve got movement!”
The bright and clean voice of Wonder woman rang out from the open upper floor of the hall, and immediately many moved towards her position. Batman had activated the command center, and Oracle had been scouring the planet for any sign of Midnight.
Robin gave Kori one more loving squeeze before releasing her and making his way towards the stairs.
“Where are you going, dude?” Garfield asked.
“She may have turned on us, Gar, but I’m still responsible for her. I’ve got to do what I can to help stop her.”
He did not want to argue with any of them again. Bounding up the stairs, he found himself standing beside a man in dark clothing and a high tech quiver on his back. Clinton Barton gave a polite nod to the young vigilante. From everything Robin had seen, the man did not speak much.
“What do we have?” Batman asked as he strode through the gathering that instinctively parted for him. The hulking man leaned over the computer as the information scrolled.
“We’ve got confirmed concentration of Sovereign particles coming out of the desert in New Mexico.” Wonder woman said gesturing to the reading. “There is an excellent chance that Raven’s proximity to the obsidian key is causing a spike.”
“That means we have a way of tracking her,” Scarlet Witch added with a firm nod. “We can stop them before they get to the focal point and let this Sovereign, yes?”
“Focal point?” Cyborg asked from the other side of the gathering.
“A point where the obsidian key has to be to let the entity in,” Batman explained as he began to type. “It is a massive equation, but it is all reliant on our realities position inside the reality nexus compared to the position inside the nexus where Sovereign is being kept. We can pinpoint where on our planet she has to be standing to force open a bridge and let him in.”
“Ah,” Cyborg responded though, to Robin, he seemed to be still confused.
“I think we need to mobilize the SHIELD and ARGUS agents and begin sweeping New Mexico and try to track them,” Superman said for the first time since arriving from Metropolis. “It’s too dangerous now to engage unless we’re there in force. We can get an idea of Midnight’s size so we can be ready at the focal point.”
“Where is the focal point, sir?” Steve Rodgers asked shield on back and arms crossed over his broad chest.
“To let Sovereign in? The entrance is presently in Romania,” Batman answered as he brought up the statistics section of his program. “Northwest of a little town called Pojorata. Coordinates 45.364139 by 25.042397.”
“So we have time,” Robin spoke up for the first time in the meeting. The entire room got silent as they turned to look at him.
“Why do you say that, Mister Robin?” Captain America asked. “Doesn’t your friend know how to make portals?”
The word friend did not sound condescending or accusing, and that was something that Robin appreciated. Raven had come from his team, and he could not help but feel responsible for the fact that she had gone rogue.
“Yes, but she can’t make portals that long distance, maybe a mile or two. It takes a lot of energy and strength to generate a portal and to do one that far would kill her.”
“I agree,” Batman said with a short nod to his old ward. “Even with the power Sovereign is giving her, it would destroy her body to try. She’s going to go there the old fashion way. We’ve accounted for twelve missing ARGUS drop ships thanks to the small faction that was HIVE agents loyal to Jinx.”
Robin gritted his teeth at the thought of the pink haired bitch. Starfire had told him about the conversation she heard so many months ago. Robin was sure the pinkette had something to do with Raven’s descent towards darkness. Unlike some here though, he felt there was still time to save her.
The conversation devolved in random discussions of how to capture or kill her and the forces of Midnight that were following her. Robin bowed out of the conversation and made his way back downstairs where Beast Boy and the redhead he was thinking about were talking.
“Robin,” she said to him, a sparkle of light in her eyes that was missing earlier.
“Beast Boy believes we have a way to save our hurt friend before she does something unforgivable.”
“To some, she’s already done that, Star,”
“I know,” Garfield said quickly. “But here us out, Robin. We are the only ones on this whole planet that understand her and the only one she trusted with her life and her secrets. I think we can still reach her.”
“You both tried,” Robin responded with a shake of his head. “You told me so before she escaped.”
“But we never tried as a team,” Beast Boy said earnestly. “We can approach her all non-threatening like, you know hands in the air and stuff and beg her to listen to us. I think she’ll hear us out. We have to be really really persuasive.”
“I don’t know...”
“If you’re going to do it, Robin, I’m in.”
The three jumped at the loud voice though it was nowhere near as loud as he initially thought. Cyborg strode over and joined his friends.
“They’re talking about killing her, man. I know they’re scared but I can’t let them kill my Raven without exhausting every option. It’s...It’s our Raven.”
The emotion that Cyborg had been holding in almost spilled out, but Beast Boy placed his hand on the man’s metal arm to steady him.
“Alright,” Robin said with a nod. “Though there is a good chance those with her are going to kick our butts.”
“At least we’ll go down fighting trying to save our Rae Rae,” Beast Boy said firmly.
“How do we find her thought?” Cyborg asked as they began to make their way to the exit of the hall of justice.
“Someone has already reached out to me letting me know he’s there in case we need help.” Beast Boy answered with glee.
When Beast Boy said it was someone who was willing to help, he did not expect it to be the short soldier of HIVE. Gizmo peered up at the three Teen Titans that towered over him.
“What’s in it for you, Robo-butt?” Cyborg asked sharply. “How do we know you aren’t in league with them.”
“Cause I won’t join some religious crusade that’s going to spell the end of the world, idiot,” the whiny voice of Gizmo shot back. “Plus...they have Jinx, and if you guys can break the hold and save Jinx, then that’s what I get.”
Robin nodded having realized over time that the HIVE 5 were as tight a family as the Teen Titans. For Gizmo, Jinx was his Raven, and he wanted to do what he could to get her back too.
“How are you going to help us, Friend Gizmo?” Starfire asked gently. Beast Boy seemed surprised at the honorific of a friend that she bestowed on their once enemy.
“I...I got the coordinates of where they are going to be in three days. Jinx has wanted me to join up, and she gave me directions on where to go to meet up with her.”
“I’m so sorry,” Starfire said kneeling and placing her hand on the little villain’s shoulder. “I can understand how much this hurts to lose your friend. We will help her as much as we can.”
“I just want everything to go back to the way it was before your bird brain girl found the ring of absolute destruction.”
Robin let the insult slide knowing Gizmo was struggling himself.
“Where are they going to be?”
Chapter 17: Death of a Titan
Raven is at the brink and the Titans make one last move to try and save their friend.
The air was bitter when Raven stepped out of the truck. The Canadian winter had descended upon the northern part of the planet with a fury. Though there was no snow on the ground yet, the grass crunched and the air bit at her face like a hungry wolf.
The girl had decided to forgo her usual cloak and leotard because of the anticipated cold, and she did not want to give Jinx any reason to try to warm her back up. Instead, Raven had been provided a dark fur cloak that covered her completely but still had the hood which concealed most of her face. The hood was trimmed in a gray fur that kept her face warm. Jinx had gone out of her way to create a winter version of Raven’s own outfit. Underneath, she wore heavy material and pants, but it still had her belt and the pin that kept her cloak together. The mountain boots crunched the grass as she walked towards the camp that had been set up.
Jinx and Blackfire had taken up positions beside her, self-appointed bodyguards while Mammoth carried the luggage and the case containing the obsidian key. Being in the middle of nowhere meant they had to bring everything with them and the creator of the camp had done just that. He was a man dressed as warmly as Raven was, but his eyes were beady, and there was a look of danger in him.
“This is Mister Leonard Snart, Mistress,” Komand’r said nodding to him. “He is in charge of the northern arm of Midnight.”
“My lady,” he responded with a sarcastic laugh in his voice. If a bow could be irreverent, his definitely was. Raven heard a growl from deep inside Jinx’s throat, but one look told the pinkette to stay where she was.
“I prefer to go by Captain Cold if you don’t mind.”
“Of course not, Captain,” Raven answered trying to sound indifferent. She might be the all-powerful mistress of Midnight, but she was scared they’d see the frightened teenager underneath it all. “Any issues getting here?”
“Not a single sign of the capes or any of those people working for them. I think they believe you’ll be popping up somewhere else.”
“Then keep it that way. Others will be joining shortly. Make sure they are seen to.”
“I’m not your lackey---”
Raven had turned on her heel before he could finish and moved on deeper until they arrived at a more substantial tent where Bullet man and Godiva were planted around the campfire near it. They seemed, and the sorceress ducked her head and entered the tent.
It took her eyes a few moments to adjust to the low light. The moon had been full and bright making the cold world around feel like daytime, but the tent had an electric lamp hanging from the support pole casting its yellow light all over.
A cot with a few comfy blankets was in the center of a card table and a few trunks acting as barriers to the canvas walls. Jinx set the items she was carrying down while Blackfire spoke with the two others outside. Their voices murmured in the darkness.
“Will you sleep, mistress?” Jinx asked, her pink eyes studying her carefully. She wore a black trenchcoat with black fur lining and a matching scarf wrapped around her head to protect her pink hair.
Jinx bowed slightly and stepped out leaving Raven to collapse on the cot with a sigh. The anxiety was ripping through her, and she had struggled to meditate. The pressure in her head had grown the closer they had gotten to the focal point. Sovereign had gotten quieter, and she guessed it was to keep her brain from exploding from the interdimensional noise rattling around her head.
“Azerath metrion zinthos,” she muttered under her breath trying to her mind calm. It was a chirp that broke her concentration, and she growled as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her Titan communicator.
Instantly she froze as she saw the round device in her hand with the subdued T on the cover. It chirped again. How the hell did this get into her possession and why was it ringing? She could only remember one time she had taken off her coat, and that was at the diner a few miles away. Who was calling her?
As it chirped, Raven debated answering it. She knew that they would have a struggle pinpointing it unless she picked up and it was easy just to destroy it. The problem was Raven was curious.
Taking in a deep breath, she flipped open the panel making sure the video communication was off.
“Raven? It’s me.”
Robin. It was Robin. Happiness, anger, and elatedness rushed through her like a flood. She remembered the looks of anger, the threat to hurt her, how mad he was when he discovered the truth. Raven also remembered the times he had saved her life, kept her from even herself.
“Hi, Robin.” What else was there to say?
“We’re in a field four miles due east of your encampment,” Robin continued his voice tense but trying to remain reassuring. “We were hoping you’d come and sit with us for a few moments before the morning.”
Was this a trap? Had Iris decided to use them as bait to draw her away from her guards.
“Just the Titans, Raven. We told nobody else we were coming.”
The tone of truth was in his voice. Raven had been with him long enough to recognize that, and the happiness that he was being honest tried to force a tear to her eye. If it was so simple, to sit with her friend before things changed again. They were reaching out to her.
“I don’t know,” Raven wavered. “A lot has happened, Robin, and...and I don’t know if I can trust you.”
“I know,” he responded with kindness. “Do...do you have someone over there you can trust?”
Well, she had someone who wanted desperately to be her sex slave. Jinx’s insatiable desire to belong and be meaningful almost choked Raven at times. The HIVE must have had been rough on her to create such longing to the point of giving up her own will.
‘I guess when you click, you click.’ Raven thought. She was supposed to be evil now, right? Was she to have her minions and people to abuse? Why did she not feel like the villain?
“I do. We’ll be there.”
“Thank you, Raven. We love you.”
The channel cleared at those words and Raven choked then let the tears fall. She wanted her friends back.
Raven understood what Robin wanted, but she was not going to allow her own idle fantasies get in the way. The Archon of Sovereign had immediately informed Blackfire and Jinx of the proposed meeting and placed Blackfire in charge in case she did not return by morning.
Jinx had been told that she was not to make any move unless ordered explicitly to and to make sure it was not going to be forgotten, Raven had grabbed the pinkette by the neck, pulled her close, and explained what sadistic things she would do to her if she disobeyed. The terrified head bobbed in understanding.
The forest was thick but not too much to push through. After a few, the two forms reached the edge of the woods and in the unplowed field saw a glowing campfire and forms huddled about it. As they grew closer, she recognized the shapes of her long-lost comrades. They turned to see her. They held a mixture of relief, happiness, and apprehension as she walked into the light of the fire. They especially seemed uncomfortable with Jinx standing there behind her, her handmaiden ready to strike. Raven had made sure to put on her first cloak so she would be easily recognizable to her friends, even if it were cold.
“Oh, Raven!” Starfire squealed and leaped up from her spot and threw her arms around her. The sweet fragrance of her Tamarian friend impaled her nostrils while the crushing bear hug made her cough. To her credit, Jinx did not move, her purple eyes darting back and forth looking for the threat.
“Come sit by the fire, friend Raven! We have a lot of talk about.”
Just like the old days, Raven found herself being drug to the log they had set up and being forced to sit. Starfire immediately leaned in on her shoulder and purred.
“Robin,” Raven said with a small nod.
“It’s good to see you, Raven.”
Raven watched his eyes, and they still told the truth.
“Does your friend want to sit also?” Beast Boy asked motioning to the still girl in the shadows.
“I doubt it,” Raven said. “She doesn’t trust you all, and I don’t blame her.”
“Is...is that Jinx?” Beast Boy asked in surprise.
The rest of Beast Boy’s thought never made it out of his mouth as he went back to rummaging in his bag.
“Come on, Beastie,” Cyborg said. “I want to roast, and we don’t have long.”
“Marshmallows?” Raven asked surprised.
“Yeah,” Robin said. “We wanted to be as informal as we could with you. I understand the situation you are in.”
“And what did you want of me?”
“I was hoping we could talk to you about coming back and giving up the Archon Ring,” Starfire said still snuggled into Raven’s cloak.
“I can’t,” Raven responded with a shake of her head. “The world needs to be fixed.”
“I know,” Robin answered. “And we have not been good at doing it. We’ve been fighting the symptoms and not the problem.”
Robin handed her a handheld computer, and it began to display data.
“This is the blueprints for a new team. Our working title is the Titan’s Sword. It’s a team that’s primary focus it finding and planning methods of taking out the problem. I want to submit this to the Justice League, and I want you to be in charge of it.”
“Me?” Raven said shocked as she scrolled through the plans. It even had the layout of a tower that could be built wherever the leader wanted.
“You said it yourself. We haven’t been doing this right, and I think you’d be perfect in making sure it’s done in a way that protects civilians but stops the problem before the symptoms arise.”
Raven’s heart began to beat faster at the plans and the thought. This was a way, a way for her to save the people she wanted to save.
“But...but...I’ve done things---” Raven said hanging her head.
“You’ve made a fool of the Justice League,” Robin started.
“Which they deserve I might add,” Cyborg interjected.
“But I know I can convince them this is the best choice. The thing is, you have to be willing to trust me and give me the Archon ring.”
The ring. That was still the goal, and she felt immediately the possessive thoughts of keeping it and the authority it gave her. Raven touched the cold metal band assuring herself it was still there. There was a sharp intake of breath and Raven looked at Jinx who had panic in her eyes.
“And I get to choose my own team?” Raven added. “Jinx stays with me. She gets the same deal I do.”
“The team is yours,” Robin added. “I would think it was a poor choice, but it’s not my team.”
Raven looked down at the plans again, but her ears caught the sound of crunching grass coming from the opposite direction she came. Jinx had moved closer to her, and her form showed she was ready to cast magic and drag Raven away.
The red, white, and blue dressed man appeared; his shield was on his back and his hands empty of weapons.
“Captain America!” Robin said as the Titans shot up out of their seat.
“Sorry about that, Mister Robin,” Cap said with an apologetic nod. “but I had a feeling you would try something like this. He didn’t know we were coming, Ma’am.”
The last part was addressed to Raven who had forced on her imperious attitude.
“Who came with you?”
“Bucky and Wanda Maxmova,” Captain American said simply. “They’re holding perimeter, but the rest of the forces will be here soon.”
Raven’s lips pressed into a firm line as she clutched the plans in her hands under her cloak. Her mind raced with options and thoughts.
“I don’t want to rush you, Ma’am,” Cap continued. “But I heard was Robin said, and I would fully endorse the team with him. I think you would be a great leader for a team.”
There was a buzz, and Raven keenly watched him press his hand to his ear, making sure she was aware he was communicating with his team.
“Thanks, Bucky,” he responded. “Dropships are landing 12 miles from here, Raven. They’ll be here by morning.”
Raven nodded, and her body went limp. She could not keep this up anymore, fighting her friends, risking everything to let an unknown creature in, Raven looked up at Robin and smiled.
“Okay, you can have the ring,”
Robin broke into a broad smile and stepped forward, but what happened next was a blur. She reached up to pull the ring off as Sovereign promised she could, but it was the crack of a shot that caused her to jerk. Had she been struck by the bullet? She looked down and found Beast Boy crumpled in front of her. The realization in the screaming cacophony hit her so hard she almost threw up. The growing red on Garfield’s chest told the truth. Someone had taken a shot at her, and he threw himself in the way.
‘No. No. no. No. noo. NOOOOOO!’
The scream that tried to force its way out never reached her lips. She fell to her knees in front of her fallen friend and felt his chest. No breathing, she could not feel a heartbeat.
Beast Boy was dead.
Before anyone sends me any hate mail, nothing is permanent until the story is over. :) That is all.
Chapter 18: A Path Chosen
A path has been laid out for Raven and due to actions that are taken, she now must walk down one of them.
Time seemed to fall away when the crack of the gunshot echoed across the cold landscape. It was only the jump and crumble of Garfield that told Robin who had been shot and who was the target.
"Cease fire! Cease fire!" Steve Rodgers roared into his comm piece. "Bucky! No, go on the shot."
"I didn't fire, Steve!" Bucky Barnes' voice peeled through the activated earpiece Robin had turned on as soon as the star-spangled hero had approached. "I have seven unidentified individuals approaching from the north. Close formation and loaded for bear. I'm zeroing in on their sniper."
Robin rushed forward towards his two friends, his mind focused on the one kneeling over the fallen shapeshifter. The young man skidded to a stop when Raven's head jerked up. Thick tears ran down her face leaving a wet streak, but her eyes had gone pure white, a sign he knew, that she had summoned her soul energy and was on the verge of attacking.
“You...You...you tried to kill me and...and he saved me,” Raven choked out between silent fits of sobbing.
“It wasn’t us, Raven, we got incoming----”
“LIAR!” she screeched, her voice resounding through the area and cause the Titan’s leader to stumble. The blast of energy was palpable.
“Robin, they’re here.”
Coming into the light of the campfire and moon, Robin saw the armored men, their uniforms tinged with green. The L on their chest plate told the man who exactly they were.
“Luthor Corp,” Robin said for his teammates to here.
“What should we do?”
“I think we need to retreat, Robin.” Captain America said laying his hand on the man’s shoulder.
The masked Titan turned back towards Raven and saw her cape billowing about her, energy pouring off of her like a waterfall.
“The moment is gone,” Steve said, his voice low. “We need to get out of here before she turns on us.”
“It’s a grave of their own making,” Barnes said grimly over his radio.
As Raven marched towards the newcomers with fury in their eyes, Starfire shot forward and snatched up Beast Boy before making a desperate run for their side. The Teen Titans began their sprint for their side of the woods when the first scream of the Luthor Corp soldier was crushed in his armor by Raven's invisible power.
‘I lost her.’
When Jinx and Blackfire, along with their soldiers broke through the opening, they found Raven sitting cross-legged in the dying campfire. Surrounding her were the bodies of soldiers who had been thrown away once they were killed. The young woman had her eyes closed, and the two skidded to a stop before quickly motioning the Midnight soldiers to stay put.
“My lady?” Jinx ventured as she approached.
Raven's eyes flew open, and the golden light spilled out, having consumed her beautiful purple irises. She stood and looked at each of them with a crazed look at none of them had ever seen before.
“Iris has shown their hand,” Raven growled, her voice filled with hatred. “And they killed one of my best friends.”
Jinx winced and noted the pool of blood she had been meditating by. The young chaos witch's heart began beating faster as Raven ripped of her cloak she was most known for and threw it on the log with disgust.
"What can I do for you, Mistress?" Jinx ventured, feeling the urge to comfort the woman she had inadvertently pledged her life to. So many times the pinkette had tried to talk herself out of this whole possible extinction level event but could not pull herself away from the violet-haired woman she followed.
Raven's glowing golden eyes rested on Jinx's face, and she quickly looked away. There was power in those eyes, a power that seemed dangerous and destructive.
"You wanted to follow me, you wanted to be with me to the end," Raven said walked closer and rested a cold hand on the side of Jinx's neck.
“Of...of course, my lady,”
Jinx let out a whimper as the hand fastened like iron around her throat. “Raven?”
Raven reached up with her other hand and seemed to peel a sliver of metal away from the band that rested on her forehead. A second later, the sharp piece was jammed in the back of the Pinkette's neck sending a way of agonizing pain through her. Jinx tried to hold in the scream, but the sheer agony ripped it out of her lips. Before it got any further, Jinx found Raven planting her lips on her own, deadening the screaming and sending a way of pleasure through her mouth counteracting the searing that now had spread up her spine towards her brain.
It finally subsided, but Raven did not break the passionate kiss on her lips, Jinx melted as she felt her mistress' tongue exploring her mouth. The dark sorceress finally released her hand, blood covering one and the other gently setting the Pinkette down on the ground from the wave of dizziness that attacked.
Jinx felt different. She felt her body responding to an energy that was pulsing from the penetrated spate. She gingerly reached back and touched the place Raven had slammed the metal spike and found that it had formed a small plate in a diamond form. The other thing that attracted her to the dead man's armor was the golden light. The Pinkette leaned over and found that her own eyes had taken on a golden glow. They were nowhere near as bright and strong, but it was there.
“And you Blackfire?” Raven purred as she strode towards the Tamaranian who had begun to back away. “You only sided with Midnight because t was against your sister but I know what you want. You want power and this sliver can give it to you.”
“At what cost?” Blackfire retorted but found her back to a tree.
"You'll be my knight in the battle against the monsters who abhor peace; you will be granted a channel to the power of Sovereign through me. And it will only cost your loyalty and obedience until released."
Jinx watched from her place on the ground as Raven and Blackfire came face to face.
"I'm not looking to clock any bedtime with you, Rae Rae, like ol' Jinxie over there."
Her hand movement was like, but Raven had her hand locked around Blackfire's jaw before she moved.
“Then I will have to kill you,” Raven said without hesitating. “You know too much about our plans and are a threat to the peace that will come.”
"So...I don't have a choice."
“No, you don’t.”
“Fine,” Blackfire said, a tremor of fear in her voice.
Grabbing her shoulder, Raven spun Blackfire around and planted her forehead on the tree, exposing her neck. Jinx watched, and she pulled another sliver from the Archon Ring and dug it into Blackfire's neck. Komand'r did her best, but her pitiful cry came out as Raven took her time wedging it in.
Jinx's heart became cold at the thought of Raven torturing Blackfire. She had been quick with her, but the Pinkette had been loyal from the beginning. After a few minutes, it was over, and Blackfire pulled herself up from the ground wiping the tears from her eyes and sniffling. Her eyes had also taken on a golden glow.
“You didn’t have to take your time.”
“Of course not,” Raven said dismissively. “I enjoyed it.”
Jinx pulled herself to her feet and looked towards where the Titans and those from the alternate dimension had fled.
“We need to go, my mistress,” Jinx said feeling the warm pulse of enjoyment at the title radiate from her new master. “It is more important we open the gate than fight right now.”
“Agreed,” Raven said gesturing to the troops. “Return to camp and prepare to move. We’re going to release Millennium.”
“Robin, that was foolhardy," Batman said as Robin came through the tent of the headquarters that had been set up.
“Shut up,” Robin growled at him. “I don’t need you or anyone else to tell me how to handle my team. Raven was going to give me THE FUCKING RING.”
Silence reigned for a second until Captain American strode in.
“We had it,” Steve said his blue eyes scanning the faces with a cold calculation. “Until some idiot for Luthor corp sent in troops.”
“We didn’t know they were here,” Superman responded from his corner where he had been working with Green Lantern on a computer.
“Beast Boy’s dead,” Robin said simply. “Because of them.”
"He's not dead, Robin," a voice called from the tent opening. A young man stuck his head in with a brilliant smile. "Doctors have him stabilized. It seems his shifting powers also means his organs are quite where they are supposed to be. He's in a drug-induced coma until we can safely wake him."
Robin let out a sigh of relief, and Rogers gave him a warm pat on the shoulder.
“Cyborg went back for surveillance,” Bucky said as he leaned his rifle in the corner, his metal arm glimmer in the fluorescent light.
“And?” Superman asked.
"The girl Raven turned two of the other girls; I think you call them Jinx and Blackfire, into Archon Knights."
"So, it's begun," Phil Coulson said from the seat where he had been thinking. "She thinks Beast Boy died and had turned on us. Sovereign will use that to get himself here."
"We need to move through," Robin said. "She's going to be opening a gateway."
"A gateway?" Phil asked puzzled. "You can't open a gateway here for Sovereign; the alignment is not right."
"They're letting in something called Millennium," Steve responded.
Phil Coulson’s head jerked up, his eyes wide with horror. “Are you sure?”
“Heard her say it to her new toys,” Bucky answered. “What is this Millennium?”
"Sovereign's right-hand bug," Agent Coulson answered standing and grabbing his folders. "Superman, we need to mobilize now. Millennium was not supposed to be reachable. If he is, this changes everything."
The jeeps and heavy trucks had flown down the bumpy roads at breakneck speed while the two ARGUS hover jets carried the prize. Raven stood at the open hatch letting the bitter cold wind cut through her bare skin. She had refused any jacket that had been offered to her, preferring the suffering of her body over the agony in her heart.
Since leaving the clearing where Garfield had died, the blood and his dead body continued to play over and over again in her mind. It was maddening, and even Sovereign's attempt to comfort her had been rebuffed. Even though they had not been able to communicate as they had once done with all the preparations, she had let Jason read the emotions that she would instead use this pain and anger to accomplish the mission. This had become for Beast Boy, the only one who wanted peace like her.
“Approaching the coordinates, Ma’am,” the pilot called out over the wind.
Raven's mind zeroed in on the spot as if she could sense the inter-dimensional doorway. Without waiting for the ARGUS ship to land, she merely threw herself out in the frozen air and allowed her power to keep her afloat until her feet gently touched down on the spot. The trucks rolled up creating a 300-foot perimeter around her.
Machine guns, energy weapons, and ex-superheroes and villains took up their positions. They knew the order, defend the spot until death or success.
Blackfire and Jinx stepped out of the hoverjet carrying the octagonal obsidian stone with white, ancient glyphs carved in it. The stone was glowing eerily in the white of the moon mixed with the gold from their eyes.
“Blackfire. Defend this place until Millennium is through or I have died,” Raven instructed. The Tamaranian nodded curtly and flew over to organize the fighters.
“I am going to be severely weak after I open this gateway,” Raven said to Jinx making sure she had full eye contact. “and helpless for a few moments.”
“I shall protect you, mistress,” Jinx said with a curtsy. “At the cost of my life.”
“Help me get this stone into place. We have a portal to open and a reality to save.”
To those of you who have been on this ride with me, I just wanted to give you a bit of a heads up. With her belief that Beast Boy has died, Raven has gone full dark mode and is necessarily a villain for now. I know some readers aren't a fan of this type of things, so I wanted to give you fair warning.
I’ll make sure to put any warnings before the story starts in case it’s something you are not interested in reading.
Chapter 19: I am Empress
Her breath came in gasps. Each ragged pant ripped through Raven's body as the icy air burned her lungs. She did not care. Garfield was dead. Her tears had dried from the bitter wind hitting her face as she flew feet above the ground, her body unprotected by a cloak or any other garment but her dark top and skirt that Jinx had found for her. None of that mattered the friend she held so dear was dead.
Her mind screamed in agony, but there were no more tears left to cry.
"They murdered him. They were my friends, and they let him die. They all let him die" she screamed out at nobody in particular. The trees were thick, and Raven took a small branch to the face which would leave a welt, but she did not care.
The voice reverberated through her mind and body and the desire to fly left her. Raven glided downward and gently landed on her knees. The cold snow sent freezing aches up her body, but she did not care. She closed her eyes and fell forward, but her face did not land in snow. The warm scent of grass filled her nostrils. Raven sat up and looked about and immediately recognized the field of her reality.
“Touch me,” Raven begged. “Please.”
Raven felt a hand rest on her shoulder from behind and a warm sensation flood through her of comfort. She snuggled the hand with her cheek as tears began to stream down her face again.
“They killed him, Jason. I...I have his blood on my hands.”
“It’s not your fault my beautiful Rachel,” Jason whispered gently to her. “Those who pulled the trigger and put him into harm’s way did.”
“It hurts so much.”
Raven broke down sobbing while she felt Sovereign run his hands gently through her hair trying to comfort her.
“I understand,” he said. “I lost someone once to that meant more than anything to me.”
"Heather?" Raven asked letting her mind get distracted by the curiosity of the entity that she had become entangled with.
"No. She was a lovely creature, but it was someone else. Someone much older, like me."
"I lost her," Jason said quietly.
Raven wanted to press but refrained. As much as she felt kindred with this strange, ancient, interdimensional entity, she knew that she did not know all of his motivations.
“The war is coming, Rachel,” Sovereign began, his voice taking on power and certainty. “I can see the strands of fate and time converging. You're going to have to face your friends in the field, and you may not be able to offer quarter."
“I have no friends,” Raven spat, hatred seeping into their heart. “all those that stand in my way, stand in the way of everlasting peace.”
"That's my girl," Sovereign's voice smiled. "Don't lose yourself in revenge. You may use the power the ring for satisfaction, but I must be let in to enact peace for your entire reality."
“I understand,” Raven said with certainty. “I’ll see them again. I’ll deal with them each. They each will pay for killing my love.”
Sovereign was silent, and the world began to shift a bit. Raven tensed up.
“Do not fear, Rachel. I’ve been channeling my power through your body in your reality. You have risked your life in your grief. You should have frozen to death by now.”
The cold began to return, and the feeling of safety began to fade. Raven forced her eyes open and found herself blinking at the snow. Her skin was cold and clammy, and she barely felt the cold. Her head began to swim.
‘Your minions have come for you. Let them take care of your body and mind. You will need your strength to break the seal of Millennium.’
Raven turned her head and saw the pink and black of Jinx rush forward and scoop her ups. The world was beginning to spin, and the sounds were running together. The massive arms of Mammoth enveloped her, and then consciousness was ripped away.
Robin gripped the "oh, shit" handle of the jeep as it off road through cow paths and up hills while the roar of the ARGUS dropships was making their way towards where Phil Coulson had calculated as the entrance point for Millennium.
Phil had not gone into much detail, and Robin was tired of being left in the dark. Even though they were in the middle of what Wonder Woman had said was an extinction level event, his team, the Teen Titans were still being kept to the side as if they were too young to be involved. Robin did not want to believe that. Batman was obsessive and calculating, but the Titans had stopped Trigon and have faced other monsters. They could help stop Millennium.
"All I know is that he's a giant bug from an ancient dimension that it conquered," Green Arrow said from the driver's seat. Robin started out of his thoughts.
“Millennium. You were thinking about him, weren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Robin said sheepishly. “That obvious?”
“It’s alright. I can’t imagine what you and your friends are going through. I got a chance to read through some of Iris’ files on Millennium before Coulson took off with the records. It’s described as a massive machine in the shape of a beetle that comes from an ancient dimension. It met Sovereign and pledged it’s undying allegiance to and helped in the first Midnight War.”
“First Midnight War?”
"Yeah, He tried to come through in a different reality. There are lists of the realities in questions and ship names for the battles that were fought. Things like Enterprise, Jupiter 2, the Colonel. That stuff was classified, but from what I could see, Iris successfully locked both of them away."
“And now Raven is going to let it back in.”
“Not if we get to her first.”
Robin looked back towards the road. He was sure they could stop her, but he did not understand why his gut did not agree.
When consciousness returned to her, Raven found herself swaddled in blankets with heat leaching back into her skin and bones. Her head was under a soft pillow while the humm of a space heater told her where the heat was coming from. She began to sit up, letting the blankets slide away and not only discovered that she was completely naked, but every muscle ached with a vengeance.
Jinx's head jerked up from the sleeping bag on the ground, the soft glow of her eyes meeting Raven's own. Jinx looked the same except she had chosen an outfit with a dark top and skirt entirely made of leather but also wore knee boots for added protection. The black material was complemented by her pink hair and the soft glow of her golden eyes.
“You’re awake, Mistress! I was so worried.”
“It appears you had quite a time undressing me,” Raven said with her melodic growl. “Did you enjoy yourself?”
A flush came to Jinx's face, and she quickly looked away.
“What’s going on? How long have I been out?”
“You’ve been asleep for about two hours, Mistress. Blackfire has marshaled the contingent to the coordinates you provided. Scouts report that Iris is about two hours away.
“Then it begins in two hours,” Raven sighed. “Everything has changed, Jinx.”
Jinx nodded solemnly, standing there like a lost puppy.
“And we should quit fighting are destiny, shouldn’t we?” Raven asked looking at the girl whose eyes lit up a bit more. The tone of a confidant had gotten her attention.
"I believe, my mistress, that you did everything you could and nobody appreciated it or helped. The world is still at war, and all heroes do is increase the damage done."
Raven nodded in agreement and then sighed.
“Then it’s time for the Raven to die,” Rachel said with a sigh. That sigh seemed to carry a weight away.
“Mistress?” Jinx asked, concern filling her voice.
“The persona, Jinxie,” Raven laughed. “It’s time for Raven of the Teen Titans to die and for another to rise in her place.”
“And who shall that be?”
“For this point, I will be known as The Empress,” Raven said with finality. “The Dark Raven of peace.”
With those words, the last vestige of who she was in the spring slid away. Raven felt the sadness of her old life dying as it was but all it had done was get the boy she had come to love killed and her friends as mortal enemies.
"I'm not going to be an easy master, Jinx," Raven warned gently as she reached out and caressed the pinkette's cheek. "You may face pain and humiliation if you follow me. If you ask me right now, I'll remove the Illumination Lock from your neck and let you get far away before the fight."
Jinx stepped close taking Raven’s hand in her own.
“I shall serve you in any capacity, Empress. No matter what you do to me.”
Raven nodded and then broke into a harsh grin.
“I’ve always wanted a slave.”
Jinx balked for a second but saw the twinkle in Raven’s golden eyes. Jinx kissed her mistress’ hand and let it go.
“What shall I do for you, Empress?”
“When we’re alone, call me Mistress. I like how you say it.” Raven said as the Empress personality took over. She threw back the covers to give Jinx access to her naked body.
"And the war doesn't start for an hour or so. Bring your head over here and show me if you have any talent."
Jinx's eyes lit up and a grin crossed her face. "Oh! Of course, my mistress. I promise you'll enjoy."
The moon had begun to descend towards the horizon, and though the wind was cold, Robin did not roll up the window. His ears tried to listen to any sound outside the vehicle, and he continually checked his comm to see if she had called.
The death of the Luther Corp soldiers, for many, had convinced everyone that Raven had to be stopped even by lethal force. Robin was not going to give up on her. He would never doubt her also if she had her hand around his own throat. One thing was for sure. Robin would die before he gave up on her.
Chapter 20: Prelude to Midnight
The time has come for Raven to make a choice as the obsidian stone is in her hand and the future of the world with it.
No, I have not given up on this story. Sorry if any of you have thought that. My time had become limited after the holidays and when I did have time to write, I have been in more of the romantic mood so I was working on the story Candy. Anyhow, I finally got in the mood to cross the bridge I have been hesitant in doing in this story as you shall soon find out.
Thanks for hanging in there for me!
The first rays of the sun had begun to light up the eastern horizon when the camouflaged all-terrain jeep burst through the underbrush and into the open. Green Arrow, who had been driving the vehicle, slammed hard to the left causing it to buck and drift through the prairie before fishtailing and charging towards the north.
Robin gripped the top of the jeep, his head through the windowless sun rough scanning the sky. He had the radio pressed up to his ear trying to hear the conversation over the screaming of the engine while scanning the air for the armored Tamaranian that almost got him with her purple energy bursts.
"Delta 2! Delta 2! We have metas on the left flank coming in. We need air support! Where the hell is Hawkman?"
Robin half cursed himself and the Justice League for assuming that Raven would have stayed on the defensive. He knew the entire plan they had worked on was shattered when Blackfire showed up with a bunch of metahumans in the early hours of the morning. Since then, Iris Teams made up of SHIELD and ARGUS agents had been dealing with hit and run raids keeping them from advancing.
The shriek of a jet shot overhead, and Robin recognized the twin engines of the bat jet. The boy wonder took a risk to glance up to see the black, sleek aircraft chasing after a metahuman who was barely keeping ahead. This entire morning and devolved into fighting and Robin's plan to save Raven was fading fast.
"Arrow!" Robin warned pointing ahead towards a figure in the prairie grass. It did not take the masked archer to recognize the threat of Mammoth. Gunning the engine, Green Arrow gave Robin a look the boy wonder took as to bail, and the two threw themselves out of the vehicle as it hurled towards the giant man. Mammoth rolled out of the way but before Arrow's feet touched the ground to roll; he had loosed two arrows straight for the giant beast's heart.
The entire thing felt like slow motion for the arrows seemed to shimmer with purple energy and burst before making contact with their target. As Robin rolled multiple times, he could make out the dancing figure of the hex witch casting her hex magic at anything that moved. Robin could see the golden light that had consumed her eyes dancing along the black and purple trim of her skirt.
Robin was able to stop rolling in a crouch thanks to years of practice and hurled two birdarangs in her direction to give Green Arrow a chance to get out of her crosshairs. They exploded but prematurely as she blocked them with her magic.
"Boy Blunder! I was wondering where you were!" Jinx chortled as she strode confidently through the battlefield that erupted around her. The energy weapons of the ARGUS soldiers mixed with the pop of rifles that SHIELD had used. The red and blue tracers zipped about.
Robin stood gripping the telescoping staff that extended with a quick snap, he moved to swing it at the approaching pinkette but a slight wave of her hand, the young hero, found invisible hands gripping him by the throat and wrenching him off the ground. He struggled, but the magic force was unrelenting.
"Oooooh. It's so cute when you struggle" Jinx crowed. "I don't know what my mistress ever saw in you."
"Where's Raven?" Robin demanded between gasps as he still struggled to free himself.
"Shouldn't you be worrying about your own life, little bird?" the pinkette cooed. He felt more the energy release from his throat but fastened on his legs and arms holding them taught in the air.
"I could easily pull you apart, and you're worried about someone who doesn't give a fuck about you?"
"Where. Is. Raven?" Robin demanded again gasping as the pressure in his joints began to tighten.
"I'm getting bored of this, " Jinx yawned as she used the other hand to flick away the arrows that were sent at her.
"Allow me to entertain you."
Both Robin and Jinx turned to the voice that floated in the air to the side of them. It was a ruggedly handsome man with dark hair and a bit of gray on the sides. He wore cloth like armor and the cape around his shoulders seemed to defy the air around it.
Robin felt the power release him and he dropped to the ground as Jinx focused her barrage on the newcomer. Robin wanted to watch the man as he deftly dodged and the brilliant magical symbols that appeared to block her strikes told him the leader of the Teen Titans he was also a magic user.
"You have a lot of power, young lady," he chastised as he leather boots made contact on the dewy ground. "But you lack finesse."
He sidestepped and appeared to roll across the beam of purple energy Jinx shot at him before bringing his hand up to her face, and the pulse of orange light sent Jinx shooting a good twenty-five feet away. She hit the ground hard, but to Robin's amazement, she pulled herself up, a bit of blood on her face and dress torn.
"And you lack any understanding of what you're facing," Jinx screamed at him. Her eyes seemed to take on a stronger gold light. The newcomer did not hesitate to cast a portal and leap through a blast of golden energy churned the dirt where he was standing.
The familiar hiss of Cyborg's engines had Robin looking about and saw his friend land a few feet away. He was helping Green Arrow up near the burning remains of their vehicle. The rest of Iris had arrived at the confrontation, but it was not going well.
Cyborg leaped forward, gripped Robin and jetted into the air before the golden beam of light from Jinx could make contact.
Robin looked down at the battle raging below and felt sick. The Midnight War had begun.
The bitter wind ripped at Raven's shoulder cloak and black dress that she had downed. The dark sorceress did not care that her hair was whipped about and cut it by the ice and snow. All that mattered was the sense inside her stomach, the draw that was pulling her towards an unknown. Since ordering her forces to strike out, Raven had felt this unyielding urge to go towards the sun that was rising.
She clutched the translucent obsidian stone in her fist as the pull drove her madly through brush and ravines. Whatever was drawing her was strong, like a magnet. The bodyguard that Jinx had put together for her was hard pressed to keep up with her as she would feel the need to fly, to go faster towards the siren song calling her.
Her eyes felt hotter as the energy of her Sovereign poured through them. The world seemed to focus so clearly that it hurt to look at the colors that were illuminated by the rising sun. It was in a field by a standing pillow of rock that her heartfelt released. Raven's feet gently touched down at the plain black rock that towered over her.
Emotions wracked her body from hope, fear, to outright anger. Images of her beloved friend bleeding to death in her arms flashed in her mind. Raven closed her eyes to let the feelings to rush through her, no longer controlled or diluted.
"Lady," Captain Cold choked out coming up beside her. "We can't protect you if we can't keep up with you."
Raven ignored him as she realized that she could see the outline of the rock glowing on the back of her eyelids. It was surging with energy much like she was and that energy felt...familiar.
"Here they come, sir!" one of the soldiers shouted, and immediately Captain Cold disappeared from her side. Soon the air was filled with energy weapons and the sound of gunfire. Raven did not care. All that mattered was the energy.
She reached out and touched the rock. It hummed in sync with the power that sung through every cell.
'The stone.' the voice of Sovereign echoed softly through her head.
This was it. She knew it. Everything could be reverse until she used the obsidian key. Once she opened used it, the world would change. Raven choked as unexpected feelings forced themselves up and she fell to her knees. Robin singing to her happy birthday, Starfire giving her hugs when she didn't want them. Cyborg was standing to the side and pretending to read a manual so she could work on his car. Her friends. The only one that came to rescue her. They would be hurt. They would die.
'How can I unlock the end of everything?'
It was the zing of a bullet that broke upon the stone that brought back the same sound the dropped Beast Boy to the ground. The same bastards that murdered without concern. The suffering of the world, the cries of those who could not be saved in time forced their way up into her mind. The world had to end to bring about a new peace. She would bring it about for Garfield, no matter what happened. It would be in his memory.
Forcing herself to stand, She slammed the obsidian key against the stone, and instantly she felt the rock create a connection between them. The energy swam between them, and it forced the breath out of her. The ground began to shake as a powerful energy storm started to arc itself out of the rock. Raven felt herself get lifted off the field as power inside her chest began to tighten and press to get out. The young azarathian gasped trying to catch her breath and tears ran down her eyes.
The pain was becoming unbearable as the power tried to crack through her ribs and head down to the center of the powerful energy storm now swirling around the rock. The blue and purple storm flicked out gold arcs of light that landed with a concussive explosion around.
In an instant, Raven arched her back as the power inside forced its way out. Though in her agony, she could make out the golden energy of Sovereign pouring itself out into the vortex and in a blink and a brilliant flash of light, a stone archway stood there. She dropped fifteen feet to the ground and landed on her feet before falling to her knees in a cry of pain. Raven gasped trying to get back the air that had been stolen for so long. Tears trailed down her dirt covered face from the impromptu maelstrom of grass and mud.
She looked up at the stone maw that was in front of her, a portal into a dark hulk of a world on the other side. She could see a dark form approaching the entrance and then come through. Raven fell back sitting on her knees as her eyes tried to adjust to what she was witnessing. A massive creature pushed itself through standing at least forty feet above her. The towering thing resembled an armored goliath beetle, but its skin was made of metal and synthetic fibers while its eyes and skin glowed with an unearthly green.
"Who are you to open my resting place, speck?" it rumbled at her, the sound so low in decibel it caused her heart to skip a beat.
Raven forced herself to her feet, and the gold energy of her eyes glowed stronger. It thrust it's head forward coming close enough for her to make out the scars on flesh and metal of the giant cyborg beetle.
"I am Raven. I am the Archon of Sovereign. You serve me."
The thing was silent, and she could feel the energy in it, rough and sticky push into her senses, but it immediately withdrew as it sensed the one who would help her save the world.
"It is time for my master's return!" It rumbled with glee. "I am at your command, Empress Raven. Myself and my kin!"
It was at that moment that Raven could hear the hum and buzz. Exploding from behind him through the portal were countless smaller versions of himself zipping about and beginning to open fire on the Iris soldiers with green splats of energy.
"The army of Millineum is here! Command us! We shall follow."
Robin stood on the hill with Batman who had just landed his jet for refueling and re-armament. It was the pillow of color that shot up into the sky that drew their attention. Though Batman was emotionless on the outside, Robin could feel the emotion and turmoil inside of him.
"She's done it. Millineum is here." Batman said. He turned the white eyes of his cowl on him. "Your friend may have just doomed us all."
Chapter 21: 8 Months Seems like Forever
Time has passed since the war had begun and Robin has done his best to keep being positive but there is not much left to be positive about.
8 Months Later
One thing was for sure, the Freddie's Bar was not as packed as it had once been. Most of the residents had fled Boulder, Colorado the day She came to Denver but those who could not move away were stuck in a strange stalemate between the Army of Midnight and the Metas that were attempting to keep them contained.
Robin sat on the stool in his usual uniform, but it had since been upgraded with more armor and devices built into the chest plate and greaves. He even now had a mask that was connected to the whisper net so that he could communicate with the rest of squads functioning. Useful inventions thanks to a man named Tony Stark who had come over from the other side. At the moment though, it was recessed in the receptacle attached to the back of his neck waiting for his mental command.
Robin stared at the dirty glass of whiskey that sat in front of him. Every Friday he came into this bar to order one and there it sat while he thought. The TV blared up in the corner of the worlds' reaction to the terrors that were unfolding.
The young man glanced up at it as a pretty reporter reported the news from the day.
"Good evening, I'm Jane Lodel with ZNC news. Today, The United Nations held a joint announcement with The Justice League and the International Department of Meta-Human Affairs announcing that efforts have begun in recruiting metahumans to take on the rise of the Midnight Empress. This unidentified woman appeared six months ago with an army of insectoid robots and took over the majority of Denver, Colorado."
Robin hid the shutter as shaky cam footage appeared that showed a wild Raven, black dress clinging to her body, her wild waist long hair blowing in the breeze. Her eyes glowed a brilliant gold while energy blasts leveled streets and took out resistance. Just off to the side, he could make out the purple of Blackfire and pink of Jinx, the two bitches that were not far from his friend's side.
"We stand here today, " Superman said as the scene cut back to the meeting. "united to resist this new menace that is facing our planet. We may not be sure what we they are but I will not standby and let this planet I love fall to them."
The pretty journalist re-appeared, her spectacles perfectly balanced to show her blue eyes. "Will report more as soon as we know what the JLA have planned. Again, please remain away from Denver, Colorado or the surrounding cities."
'Yeah, not much I can do about that.' Robin scoffed to himself. The problem with Midnight taking Denver is that the weakening of the dimensions had allowed the Kaz-Kal to return. Those bugs had taken up residence in the nearby cities, and though some had fallen, others still stood. Boulder was one of those.
The door to the bar slammed open, and Cyborg stuck his head in.
"Got a swarm coming this way, Boss. You ready?"
Sighing and leaving his drink untouched, he stood and threw down an extra few dollars for the barman.
"Let's go put them back in their holes."
Robin strode out into the light as he mentally ordered his mask to activate. The pieces of metal snapped together until they covered the upper portion of his face. It took a quarter of a second for the augmented reality to kick in to show the location of his New Teen Titans.
Standing on his spider limbs behind as their support specialist, Gizmo had been instrumental in getting the Teen Titans combat ready. He had Cyborg had worked hard to come up with effective weapons that took down Kaz-Kal. Kyd Wykkyd stood silently beside Starfire waiting while Bumblebee was checking over her equipment one more time. Each one had a color and symbol assigned that appeared on all their augmented reality systems.
"Kaz-Kal swarm heading towards downtown Boulder, Robs," Gizmo said through the speaker in his headset. "looks like thirty or forty."
"Foraging attack," Wykkyd muttered under his breath.
"Usual attack pattern until we figure out what they are up to," Robin said mounting his armored motorcycle. "They've been adapting to us so they could be trying to lure us into a trap."
Cranking the pedal, his bike revved and speed off with Starfire and Kyd Wykkyd going airborne and Gizmo hitching a ride on Cyborg.
Once Denver had given up the fight against her, Raven had done something she had never thought possible. It took some guidance from Millineum, who appeared to be a very wise and ancient creature, and an immense amount of power but she had summoned from a reality a massive fortress of old that took up twelve blocks and displaced the abandoned buildings into his reality.
For two weeks, Raven was at the mercy of anyone who wanted her dead, laying on a comforter but Jinx had never left her side — feeding her, talking to her, and pleasing her whenever she felt like it. A deep part of her hated treating the girl like a slave, but she was long past carrying.
Now, with her fortress in place and Millenium's troops guarding it, she was in a position to move on to her next mission, freeing sovereign.
Raven had climbed to one of the higher towers that had been a guard post in some ancient war. The four human-sized cyber-insects stepped aside silently to allow her to pass. She could see much of the city, most of it dark while the remnants of humans that she had not bothered to pressed, lived on the outskirts. Kaz-Kal had made a home in the no-man's land, and she did not care. They were smart enough to stay away, and she still had Blackfire kill a swarm or two to make sure they knew their place.
'Peaceful,' the voice in her head said. Since the ripping of dimensions and giving herself completely to the energy in the archon ring, she could hear her Sovereign's voice much clearer. At times, she still went to the secret dimension he made her to talk and to listen to past stories.
"It is," she said out loud. The insect troopers did not even note the fact she was talking to herself.
'I'm sorry for the suffering you have gone through,' Jason continued. 'I sometimes struggle with making you be the one to do this.'
"I know, but it has to be done," she said. "You've seen the world through my eyes. Even know our enemy plans to bring destruction our way instead of working peacefully to bring you to hear and to end the suffering."
'Everyone fights what they fear.'
Raven turned her head sharply to see the shadowy form of Jinx hiding quietly in the doorway. The Empress motioned with her head, and her little pinkette slave approached.
"She's left the palace again."
Raven nodded. Last two months, Blackfire had been leaving when she thought nobody would notice. She had placed guard posts and listening towers around the area to try and monitor but Raven had not yet decided to pursue her actively. It could be anything from blowing off some steam by killing Kaz-Kal or using a man for her pleasure. If she was not actively trying to undermine the work, then she didn't care what she was doing.
"If anything new comes about her actions, let me know."
"I think it was a brilliant strategy when you made her service you," Jinx continued following her mistress down the stairs. "It reminded her of her place in the hierarchy."
"It would also anger her enough to make a mistake if she's planning something against us," Raven continued remembering the morning fondly in the throne room where Blackfire was given the order. The girl was not as energetic as Jinx, but she got the job done.
"You are not worried?"
"Not yet. Let us get some sleep. I think you have earned yourself some attention."
Jinx's eyes brightened excitedly at the prospect of being on the receiving end. She had been a good girl indeed.
The battle lasted for three long hours, and the Kaz-Kal were trying to lure them into a trap. The New Teen Titans had been a thorn in their side every time they tried to forage and would have done anything to take them down.
This time, it was an ambush of much larger creatures, stronger, and very agile. It seems they were either a new unit or they could evolve.
For being enemies only a year ago, The agents of the HIVE and Teen Titans had melded into their fighting team. Gizmo was dedicated to finding and saving Jinx which Robin could not fault him for. He, himself, wanted to rescue Raven though neither knew if it was possible. Bumblebee had moved Titans East out of Jump city in the first days of the Battle of Denver as the JLA chose to set up camp in the Titan's Tower to be closer to the fight. The time had changed and the position to summon Sovereign was coming to the United States.
Bumblee was here for revenge. The second day of battle, Titans East had been cornered between a flank of Midnight soldiers and the Kaz-Kal. Speedy and Más y Menos had been killed in the first wave while See-More who had joined them had been severely hurt. Aqualad had to find the news in Atlantis has Colorado was too far inland for him to be much good. He also had to return to Atlantis as Arthur had summoned him. Bumblee had made one clear, the one at fault was Blackfire who had led the assault and the one she would murder.
Kyd Wykkyd on the other hand never really explained why he was there though Gizmo said it was the same when he was part of the HIVE. If he had chosen to ally with a team, he was loyal until death, or it disbanded.
At the moment, the five were camped on the roof of one of the buildings, campfire glowing softly. They had built it under a lean too of metal, so the light was not readily seen. Gizmo had also become the chief of the team taking the cans and rations into some edible. They all sat around, strange bedfellows but a team.
"How's Garfield doing?" Starfire asked quietly.
"Not happy that JLA has him assigned to Star City. Because he's still recovering, they want him training the new metas that are coming forward."
Robin was glad his friend had lived, and for the most part, his old team was intact. Starfire snuggled in under his arm, and he held her close. So many times had Raven accused them of being a "will they won't they" that they never actually decided. Robin could see that Starfire cared deeply for him, but it was a bond that only war could create. That was probably why neither had made any romantic moves or consummated a physical relationship. The most was that they curled up under the same blanket so neither had to be alone.
"Any news on the three bitches?" Bumblee asked. "HQ moving on them yet?"
Her voice was hard, but Robin kept his even.
"No. They're still trying to come up with a way to either neutralize or inhibit some of the power the three have. They've repelled every attempt. We're just lucky they're content to stay in their fortress."
"Yeah, that was a big surprise when that thing appeared," Cyborg stepped in. "Every readying I got went off the scale."
The group fell silent, and Robin stood to stretch, signaling it was bedtime.
"We got an early morning team. Gotta find the rest of those nests and clear them out."
With that, Starfire stood with him, and they snuggled under the makeshift bed for the night.
Chapter 22: Irreconcilable
Sorry for the short chapter but I had a scene I wanted to put together, and it was simple in itself. I plan to continue updating this one, so I appreciate the patience of everybody waiting for the next chapter.
Robin awoke to the sound of the first bird seeing in the distance. His eyes had opened fully to stare at the fading stars. The sun had begun to paint the horizon orange and their campfire still smoldered with matching light. He listened to the sound of the bird not hearing anything else but rustling clothes and the gently flapping of a sleeping bag as someone rolled over. He glanced at his watch, the movement lighting up the dial in the hazy twilight.
"Still the first one up I see."
The voice was soft, low, and filled with a deep power. The hairs on the back of Robin's neck straightened as he sat up to see the figure seated on the bricks that made the fence for the nine-story building's roof. Even though she was a dress of solid black that clung to her waist and chest but flowed freely around her legs and the dark purple hair the streamed down her shoulder, Robin recognized the woman that he once called a friend. Her azure eyes lost and invisible in the sea of gold that consumed them. Raven had her arm propped on her knee while she rested her chin in her hand.
The word barely made a sound to be drowned out by the breeze picking up. Gently extricating himself from his warm nest where Starfire still slept peaceably, Robin tried to keep his stance as non-threatening but ready as possible.
"I'm not here to fight, Robin," Raven said, her eyes seemingly boring through him.
"Beast Boy's not dead. You didn't kill him." Robin blurted out. It was not what he had rehearsed, but it got the point out. He saw a flicker in her eyes, a hesitation but resolve and anger filled them.
"You'd say anything now to try and stop what is happening," she responded with a slight wave of her other hand. "You know you can't stop it, right?"
"Why are you hear, Midnight Empress?"
The Boy Wonder had been friends with this woman in front of him for so many years, and he felt he still knew the basics of how she thought. There was no way to know how much of the alien influence had gotten into her mind, but she was half demon and names had power to them. To refuse to call her by the personal name he knew her as would have stung and he saw the twitch of pain and agony flit across her face.
"To offer you a way out," she said standing. The girl he had seen peeking through the facade vanishing into the imperious figure that now was before him. Her purple hair being caught by the breeze.
"I know the JLA are planning another assault. I'm not a fool. I know they are aware of the best time to open the pathway to my sovereign. They're going to try to strike before I have the chance."
"As we should."
"No. You shouldn't. The world is dying, Robin. You've seen it yourself. Sovereign will bring peace to this reality and stop the wars, the death, the slaughter."
She said the words so sincerely that Robin's heart ached and was distraught. The woman that he felt so much kindship for had become lost in the monster that had gotten her.
"No, that's not going to be what happens," Robin said taking a step forward. He saw her flinch but remain where she was. He dared a few more steps to her until he was directly in front of her. He could easily reach out and touch her. Robin reminded himself that a blow this close from her would probably kill him.
"Sovereign is going to destroy this reality as he has tried with others," he continued softly, imploringly. "Raven, please don't let him in."
He felt the impact of her name. The bond that he could sometimes still feel shuddered at the sound. He poured every ounce of love, a kindred spirit, and sincerity in their empathic connection but felt his heart drop as she closed the connection.
"The world needs to change, Robin," her voice barely a whisper. "Every superhero, every meta, everyone had their chance. It's my turn, and I'm going to end the suffering for good. I...Please come with me. I don't want to fight you or Starfire or Cyborg. If you don't join Midnight, I can place you somewhere where you can be safe and happy for the rest of your days untouched by the pain of this world."
He felt her connection, and the same level of sincerity hit him like a ton of bricks.
'She truly believes what she says,' his heart thought.
"No, Raven. I can't. You're about to jeopardize the lives of an entire reality and also possibly kill millions of people. I can't just standby and let that happen."
The two were silent both staring at each other before she broke eye contact and lowered her eyes slightly.
"I hoped I could convince you," Raven said voice low and sad. "I don't want to fight you."
"I don't want to fight you either, Rae."
Before he even thought it through, he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her holding her tight. Robin felt her entire body tighten to fight but collapse and shudder. He did not know how long he held the woman in his arms, her head on his shoulder but the rustling of his team wakening forced him to release her.
When their eyes met, for a second, he thought he could see her face's azure beauty through the all-consuming gold. Raven mustered a small smile before taking a step back.
"I wish this went differently," she finally said. "and I appreciate the restraint of your team."
Robin turned to look and found them all awake staring carefully at the two waiting for the command.
"Please," she said, the deep power returning to her voice. "Leave and go home. If we meet on the battlefield, there will be no friends."
Though she meant it for everyone, it felt as if she was saying it directly to him. "If you resist, I will kill you."
Robin believed every word.
Chapter 23: The Plan to Stop Sovereign
My editing tools were down so please forgive any obvious typo or syntax error I made.
Titan's Tower – Jump City
One thing was certain. Titan's tower no longer resembled the place the Teen Titans lived in but had been converted into a waypoint for superheroes of all rank and type as they prepared and waited for the inevitable. The sun had just begun to go down and Batman stood on the roof of the T-shaped building watching the last rays catch the Jump City bridge making it spark orange and gold.
Since Robin and the remnants of his team were in Colorado keeping tabs on the Midnight Empress, Bruce, and the Justice League had set up shop at the tower to be closer to the action and to deploy the battle plan once they came up with it. That was the hard part, coming up with a plan to react to a creature that nobody truly understood.
Phil Coulson had shown him the files, recordings of the strange macabre collection of items from other realities. A data chip containing an unknown equation, a blackened stick that held the resemblance of a wand, and even a recording of a man wearing a kind of futuristic jacket and wore a pair of sunglasses explaining what he had learned about Sovereign.
Now, with more heroes coming from the other reality that they had designated the M-universe, Phil was sure they had a way of stopping Sovereign when he came through. Batman was not confident.
"Bruce," called Diana Prince from the hatch to the roof. "Coulson's back and Clark wants us to talk in the common room."
Bruce gave the gorgeous brunette a nod and waited a few more minutes to clear his thoughts before making his way back down. The room he entered was a large, spacious opening with a red couch in the center facing the windows and a giant TV. At present, said television displayed the Justice League logo and the couch that once supported teenage superheroes now held the brightest and the strongest of the Justice League of America.
Superman stood with arms folded to the side with Captain Steve Rogers beside him looking like an odd but matching pair while Wanda Maximova sat on the couch besides Wonder Woman and The Martian Manhunter.
Philip Coulson had just finished hooking up his computer to the monitor that changed over to a build symbol that Batman had learned with the symbol of SHIELD.
"Thanks for taking time out of your planning, ladies and gentlemen," Coulson started. "But I think we're may have a way of stopping not only Midnight Empress but also Sovereign."
"Why is this coming up now?" Wonder woman asked. "Why was this new plan put into place before the sorceress opened the portal to Millennium?"
"Because we hadn't even completed the preliminary idea. It was actually Doctor Banner and Doctor Fate who was able to come up with a magical sciency method of pulling off what we wanted."
The screen changed to a large weapon that could only be described as a space bazooka. The shiny metal reflected the computer generated light while the glowing blue nozzle seemed to shimmer and shift between said blue and purple.
"This is what the people in R&D are calling the BQC, Big Quantum Canon."
A few chuckles emanated from the crowd and Coulson let a smile to his face.
"Yes, it's an amusing name but it is actually a cannon that we believe will be able to strip Sovereign of most if not all of his power when he comes through."
"In our reality, when the universe was formed, it created six primordial gems that we call the infinity stones. They each contain and represent the power that makes up our world," Phil started as the power point presentation began to shift. We do not have access to all these stones and the experiments we've done on them show that we cannot safely bring them through the reality gap that we are crossing."
"How does that help us?" Hawkeye asked studying the screen.
"Doctor Banner and Doctor Fate were able to come up with a container surrounded by a magical barrier that allows us to siphon off a bit of power from these stones and bring them through. More specifically, energy from the reality stone and the power stone. Sovereign is not of this reality. He's a being that exists outside of it all, in the in-between. We think that if we hit him with a double barrel pulse, we can rip the power he possesses away from him and subdue him. The reality stone's energy will warp him while the power stone will burn the excess energy away."
"Permanently?" Martian Manhunter asked.
"No," Phil shook his head. "We don't think he'll recover fast but he will recover. That's why we will need to move in, subdue him, and destroy him before he regains his strength."
"Are we talking seconds, minutes before he powers back up?" Captain America asked.
"Days, weeks, we might even luck out with months. We won't know until we detonate it."
"The challenge is getting close enough to hit him. We've only got one shot, don't we?" Tony Stark asked wryly.
"Yeah," Phil nodded. "But I believe Superman and Batman have come up with a plan on how to get close."
The Fortress of Desolation - Boulder, Colorado
It had been quite a number of months since Raven had truly taken time to meditate. The world had been moving so fast in preparation for Sovereign's arrival that it had slipped her mind. She actually had not needed it to subdue her emotions since the Archon Ring had pretty much erased her demonic half leaving her half human and half whatever Jason was.
Now, she needed peace in her mind as her own thoughts were clouded with fear and concern that anything could throw off the plan and ruin the chance of bringing permanent peace to the world.
Even with eyes closed and her voice softly chanting, she could sense the movements around her, the emotions and thoughts that made up of people's souls.
"I never realized empaths had to filter out so much."
Raven focused her trance bringing her into the milky darkness that had become a familiar meeting ground. She focused on materializing her dream self that still wore the cloak, the leotard and had soft amethyst eyes.
She could not make out his features, but lately, she was able to make out his form in the darkness, like someone who was in shadow from light. It was childish but Raven was relieved he had a human form.
"It was rougher before the Archon Ring," Raven said matter-a-factually. "I had to meditate for hours a day sometimes just to keep from being overwhelmed."
Raven felt something strange flow through her, like something tugging on her stomach. It was almost imperceptible but it was there.
"You sense it. The realities are aligning. I'll soon be able to break out of this prison they created for me."
"Prison?" Raven asked as a concern shot through her.
"Yes," Jason spat out though the words were only in her head. "The one that was called the Colonel was able to force me in to an interdimensional cell that has kept me from returning until recently. I was fortunate that their knowledge of the void was limited. It was only a matter of time for the prison to dissolve. I would then just need a beacon to home in on."
Raven was silent as she contemplated the new facts. She could feel Jason's power as he pulled against whatever was holding him in place and that pull was getting stronger.
"Are your armies ready?" he asked. "I will not be able to bring peace immediately. It will take a few minutes to tune myself to your reality."
"They understand to hold Iris back until you are complete, no matter the cost."
"Not an easy order to give."
"One that is necessary."
She felt him hesitate and Raven reached out gently with her mind. "What is it?"
"I sometimes regret what I had to turn you into to get through."
Raven understood that. She had worked hard to force back the feelings and emotions that threatened every day to spill back in. Her friends, the team that was her family. She had betrayed them all at this stab at peace for the world.
"It is a decision we are long past, Sovereign. Let's make sure it was worth it."
Chapter 24: It's Time
Sorry for the silence on this one. I've been in too way good of a mood to write on this fix. It's late enough at night that I'm able to get another chapter out. Yay!
It was time.
The feeling flooded through Raven like a dawning truth, and it caused her eyes to pop open. She felt the thrum of excitement, the primordial terror of failure, and the fact everything was about to change permanently.
Raven and Jinx's naked bodies were intertwined among the blankets and pillows in her room of the Fortress and the pinkette mode in protest when Raven pushed her off. The woman walked over to the windows and throwing them open to allow the light to flood in. The rain from last night left everything glistening in the morning light as the sun came up.
It was time.
"Wake up, Jinx," Raven ordered as she pulled on her dark dress and fastened the control gem around her throat.
"Just five more minutes, Mistress," Jinx muttered rolling on her stomach and burying her head in the pillows. The Midnight Empress scooped up the leather belt and gave a good swat across the sleepy girl's exposed posterior which caused her to yelp and fall out of bed.
Fastening the belt around her waist, Raven leaned down to the surprised and sleepy girl.
The knowledge that the world was on a knife's edge was not lost on Robin when Batman signaled for the pullback of his team from Boulder. They all knew the alignment of the realities would give their lost friend a clear shot at opening the portal to Sovereign's prison.
The Quinn jet that had picked them up screeched through the sky towards the rendezvous, only miles away from Boulder, Colorado at the foot of Apache Peak. They did not want to sit on top of the portal point in fear of the rupture, destroying their chance to stop the evil creature. Robin leaned forward with hands together while Cyborg and Gizmo were going over some of their gadgets.
"You get the briefing, Robin?" Clint asked in the jumpsuit beside him. Robin nodded without looking at the bow and arrow wielding Avenger.
"We're air support on the southern flank. We're to keep Midnight's troops busy so Superman and Shazam can close in on Sovereign."
"And the Midnight Empress."
"You gonna be okay, kid?"
"Do I have a choice?"
Had they ever had a choice. Weren't he and his friends just curled up in Titan's tower only over a year ago eating pizza and watching movies? Now, he was part of an army that was trying their best to murder a woman that he once cared so much about.
'Not murder. Stop.'
This was war, and this was something that needed to be done to preserve the rest of reality.
"T minus 13 hours before optimal alignment," Iron Man's voice came through the speakers. His suit of armor flying in formation beside them. "Then, the party begins."
The Armies of Midnight rose like a dark cloud from the Fortress. The heroes and metas that allied with her taking the lead of Millinium's minions. The giant cyber bug himself was not far, towering over her thin frame like an ever-present watchdog with the power to level streets. Raven strode out among the troops, humans who had joined her cause, Metas who saw the truth of Sovereign and the cybernetic bugs that followed Sovereign's oldest ally.
Even clans of the Kaz-Kal, space insectoids from another galaxy had joined her cause, probably sensing the impending doom if they continued to resist. Blackfire and Jinx stood in the front of their legions, their heavy black outfit mirroring her own in their own unique cut. Jinx was showing some skin while Blackfire's resembled more battle armor of Tamaran.
"Lead, Archon," Millennium's voice thrummed in low pressure. "We shall follow you."
Wrapping herself in the golden light of her power, Raven rocketed into the sky, and the swarms followed. The first fight of the final battle about to begin.
The wind whipped and cut at her, but Raven pushed through, her mind focused on the goal, to land in the center of the point and ripped a hole in the fabric of space. The thoughts of Robin's laugh, Starfire's ill aligned words, and Cyborg's battle cry flitted across her mind, but she shunted it aside. There was a greater good to be fighting for, a greater good that required sacrifice.
'Can you do it?'
Sovereign's voice came through to her mind as clear as a bell. The alignment was almost perfect, and his presence could be felt.
"Can I do what?"
'Can you kill them if you face them?'
"I'll do what I have to do, my Sovereign," she answered, pushing her friend's faces out of her mind. "Whatever it takes."
Conveniently, the mathematics pointed to the entrance of the portal being in a field at the foot of Shoshoni Peak, and it had allowed them to dig in and hide among the sparse wood and rock faces. SHIELD and ARGUS agents with all sorts of weaponry, metas that Robin had never seen, and weapons of all sorts had been set up. Robin strode out of the Quinn Jet, his armor activating and the mask extending and wrapping his face. His titanium gap still billowed, but he resembled more a soldier than the hero of Jump Suit. The suit's optics kicked in overlaying the scene with augmented reality.
Cyborg strode up beside him and pointed to a cluster of trees.
"That's gonna be the best place to intercept any of the air attacks. We're gonna need to keep as many as we can off of Iron Man as possible."
Traveling a few more clicks, His new Titans found their spots and quickly hunched down to hide. Gizmo dropped a few scatter probes that masked their signature from any sensors. Starfire huddled in close to him. She had donned the full Tamaranian armor and face mask. Koriand' r had insisted as this was a fight for the existence of her own people too. Her eyes flitted to his mask a few times as they silently waited. Bumblee had shrunk down to a smaller size and up in the tree.
It was now time to wait.
The waiting was the hard part. The holo chronometer counted off the seconds, and the sun slowly rose into the sky, bathing them in its light. It had begun to get hot to the point that his suit's environmental systems kicked in to try and regulate. Birds were singing, and animals flitted to and fro as if nothing unusual was happening.
A few deer had taken up to eat in the center of the large field oblivious that they stood in the center of an intergalactic portal point.
"This waiting is killing me," Gizmo growled, his binocular lenses zoomed out giving him a strange insect-like look.
"Trust me; we're going to want to wait as long as we can. Once it starts, it's going to be all in." Cyborg responded. "There's no booyah in what we're about to do."
Dick Grayson turned to his friend Starfire, who had come up close and lowered her voice. "I understand how difficult this is for you, but if you face Raven and find that you cannot do it. I will kill her for you. I am willing to take that burden."
"Star..." Robin started as a wave of emotion, choked him. She had spoken all their fear. Each had pretended not to hear her words, but he knew that they had.
"I'll make it quick. A snap of the neck and she won't feel a thing. It's the least I can do for someone who has meant so much to us."
"I'm not giving up on her," Robin said firmly.
"Dude," Cyborg said as quietly. "She's gone. If we don't kill her first, she'll take us out. You saw her eyes. Our Raven is gone. It's the Midnight Empress we're about to face."
Starfire returned to her spot to keep a lookout, and for the next hour, the image of Raven's lifeless body and the sound of her neck snapping played over and over in his mind's eye. It couldn't come to that. It couldn't.
"Heads up!" the speaker in Boy wonder's ear kicked in. "We've got incoming and a lot of it."
Robin looked up at Bumblebee as she zipped down and returned to size, her entire body covered with yellow and black armor, weapons at the ready.
"What is it?"
"They're sending in the grunts. Clouds of cyber minions and Kaz-Kal. They're going to try to overwhelm and hold so they can bring the bitch in."
"Alpha-2 this is central," Batman's voice came over, grim and somber. "It's a go. We see Midnight Empress in the center of the cloud. Pull those flankers away and give us our opening."
"Understood," Robin responded standing and turning to his team. "Let's do this."
Charging out, all of them shot into the sky. The jet pack lifted Robin off the ground while Cyborg's jet boots, had him going alongside Gizmo. Almost immediately the sky became alive with multi-colored energy bolts emanating from hiding spots cutting into the swarm and dropping them in droves. It seemed though that for every one killed, three appeared in its place. Bombs and bolts cut through them, and The New Teen Titans all banked north drawing a good swarm of them away. Below Robin could make out the descending mass being met by the colorful metas of the Avengers.
"Damn, all hell just broke loose!" Falcon called as he shot overhead, machine guns blasting away.
'No, hell is coming.'
In the center, Raven watched from her floating perch in the sky. The swarms had begun to descend, and as she had expected, Iris had set up, and they were mowing through her troops efficiently. She had expected as much. With their positions shown, the sorceress turned to Jinx and Blackfire and gave them a nod. With glee, the descended leading their armies with them.
The Midnight Empress watched closely as the battle raged, watching for her opening to cut through and to land. She could feel the urgency, the draw of the alignment growing closer. Raven could taste the anticipation coming off of her imprisoned comrade.
Without hesitation, she shot down towards the spot, and her guard followed. They twisted and turned as they descended, and she could feel the enemy focusing their firepower on her. Heroes flew by in blurs as the Kaz-Kal, allies, and cyber minions put themselves between them and her. She alighted on the ground and fell to her knees. She drew held her arms out, and the world became silent.
What was next was sheer pain as the power exploded out of her and into a forming vortex. An energy beam sliced through her shoulder spurting blood, but she could not care. Sovereign had come.
Forcing her eyes open, Raven saw the black portal that warped reality as if being pulled inside and from the distant stars. A form appeared and stepping out, floating in the air was a young man with brown hair, simple features but brilliant glowing gold eyes. He glided forward with a grin of pure ecstasy on his face.
"I. Am. Free!" he said with a laugh that seemed to reverberate through her.
"Sovereign!" Raven choked out a warning as she saw Superman come blasting from the woods, every ounce of energy thrown into the Kryptonian's influence. She knew that the blow he was about to deliver could shattered meteors, but when it connected with Jason's face, he barely flinched. Superman halted in front of him with a mixture of surprise and realization of how powerful the entity was.
"Hello," Jason said, a look of glee on his face. He backhanded Superman which sent him soaring away and impacting the side of a mountain. Shazam, in his red outfit, tried to hit also but found himself caught by the arm and hurled into the ground below, leaving a crater on impact.
Raven floated up to him, and he turned his eyes on her. His smile softened, and the girl's heart thrilled with excitement. It was horribly stupid of her, but she was glad he was handsome. Her Jason wasn't striking or adonis, but his eyes seemed ancient but kind. He ran his hand down her cheek.
"You've saved me. Thank you."
"Now, hold them off while I begin my process of bringing peace."
He floated upwards with arms outstretched and instantly, she felt a strange tug on her body and mind as if the world itself was beginning to shift and phase.
Raven turned to see Superman, bloodied and bruised charging in again with Wonder Woman right on his heels. Jason gritted his teeth and turned to face the attacker but caught the glint from the corner of his eye just like she did.
Batman stood there with Coulson with a strange bazooka, and the realization hit.
"No!" Sovereign's scream of anger reverberated through her.
Instinctively she flew up to him to shield him, but he dropped and grabbed hold of her. Instantly, she felt white-hot as if his hand was somehow cooking her body completely. She screamed in pain as he held her fast with no way to escape. The feeling broke abruptly when a bolt of red and blue energy struck him and dropped him to the ground. Raven could feel the power being ripped from him. Iris had done it. They had found a weapon to hurt him.
Dropping as fast, she caught the entity who had fallen unconscious, and as Superman darted towards her to grab her, she threw open a portal, fell through and snapped in shut cutting of the shout of rage from the Kryptonian. The next thing she knew, she hit the marble floor of the Fortress hard, the sorceress head slamming with a sickening crunch and though being ripped from her.
Chapter 25: A Desperate Offensive
Robin threw himself to the right, and the powered armor portions of his suit catapulted him through a small sapling causing it to explode into tiny wooden shards. Where he was standing was a smoldering black spot from a Kaz'Kal beam weapon.
'Oh, this is getting exciting,' he thought to himself sarcastically. Since the arrival of the Midnight Empress' swarm, he and his team had been pushed back from the center, and all Dick could do was hope that the plan was still working. Right now, though, he was doing his best to keep alive and take down as many of the enemy as possible.
"I need some backup!" Gizmo's voice screeched through the tiny speaker in Robin's headpiece. The augmented reality system painted a diamond to his left about 500 meters in the fray. Robin charged through the brush dodging bolts of energy that came out of nowhere. Robin's heart beat hard at the jungle melee. It was almost impossible to make out the movement in the smoke and smoldering fires that were crisscrossed with energy bolts and gunfire. In a matter of seconds though, the boy wonder could make out the metal spider arms of Gizmo followed by the mini-rocket blasts incinerating nearby foliage.
Cyborg charged through at the same time as Kid Wykydd materialized.
"defense pattern Delta," Robin called over his speaker. Gizmo immediately lowered to their level, and they took up a circle facing outward. When Robin slipped into his spot, he activated the energy cannon built into the arm of his suit, and they began to fire.
It seemed like years as the wave upon wave of Kaz'Kal continued to charge them haphazardly. There was no way out of the fight, but so far, no one had fallen. Green fire reigned down as Starfire slammed into the ground sending a shockwave scattering the enemy. Eyes blazing with fierce power, she fired off multiple starbolts cutting through the cannon fodder of the Midnight Empress.
"What are we doing?" Kid Wykydd called from his position. "We can't stay here forever."
"We gotta fight until we can't anymore. Superman and Batman have their plan. We have to keep fighting until we're told to recall." Robin responded, trying to ignore the dropping energy meter of his weapon. How long could they hold out?
When her mind came back to her, she found herself crumpled on the floor of the Fortress' disused throne room. The dust had settled back down from their portal entry, and everything hurt. Raven pulled herself up and looked about trying to clear her vision of the pain that pulsed through her head.
She found him, Sovereign, laying on the floor trying to get up himself.
"What happened?" she barely croaked out.
"They….they hit me with something that stripped me of my power." Jason coughed his arms, shaking as he tried to push himself up. "I'm not invulnerable, Rachel, I knew there would come a time Iris would figure out something."
"What do we do? They'll storm the Fortress to get to you."
"Hold them off, Rachel," Jason said as he collapsed to the floor. "I'll regain my strength if I live long enough. Peace of this reality rests on you now."
Raven pulled herself up and felt a thrum through her chest. She looked at her hands and found they had a slight glow to them.
"I've transferred as much power I could to you, Rachel, but I don't know if it'll be enough."
The sorceress gritted her teeth and balled her fists in anger.
"It'll be enough."
"Robin, you still with us?" the voice of Green Arrow came across the speaker.
"Alive and kicking," Robin responded glad to hear a voice other than his team. It means others had survived Midnight's onslaught.
"Good. It looks like the bitches are pulling back and teleporting out. Can you regroup at the secondary location?"
"We're on our way."
Without having to say a word, The New Teen Titans destroyed the last of the cyber minions and Kaz'Kal before making their way through the forest to the staging area they had set up before the fight. When they broke through the woods and into the field, All Robin saw was destruction. Bodies were lying everywhere. Many of the enemies but there were some colorful suits and human bodies of their allies among the dead.
Triage tents had been set up, and the medics were hard at work. Robin looked at his own team. Starfire was bruised and skin bleeding in places from branches and the enemy. Cyborg's armor was stained, and he could make out the fact his systems were on back up power. Kid Wykydd did not look damaged, but Gizmos was a pile of black and blue bruises and had to use his spider arms to carry him forward.
They made their way towards the big tent when a familiar form came limping towards them from a nearby medical tent. Robin did not think it was possible, but he broke out into a grin.
"Robin!" Beast Boy said with a kid like grin. "I see you survived the bugs. Glad I never had any phobias over those. Anyone seriously hurt?"
"No," Robin said after looking at each of his team for a response. "Just scrapes and bruises."
"Well, can't help with that at the moment, we got some seriously injured people. You'll have to patch yourself up."
"Not a problem. How bad is it?"
Beast Boy's face fell, and he shook his head. "We lost a lot. Most among the non-metas but we did lose some metas to."
"I heard Doctor Strange talking. We lost Hawk girl and Black Lightning. Big Barda is critically wounded, and they don't think she'll make it through the night."
Robin gritted his teeth. So much death, heroes who had protected Earth for so long were gone.
"BB, Doctor Strange needs us to start prepping the wounded so we can move!" called a voice that rang familiar in Robin's ears. He saw the blond girl come out of the tent and freeze when she saw the Titans.
"Terra," Robin said with a frown.
"We needed all the help we could get," Beast Boy said. "She and I are working together in the Medical division, until I can heal enough to rejoin you in the field, Robin."
There was too much going on, and Richard knew he couldn't drum up old hatreds, especially when one of his own had betrayed them.
"I gotta go, Robin. I'll see ya." Beast Boy said patting the boy wonder on the shoulder.
Making is way through the rest of the shuffling soldiers and the tents, Robin finally met up with Green Arrow who looked more like a brown stain of mud and blood than his trademark green. He flashed a weary smile and motioned towards the main tent's entrance.
Robin strode in with his team camping outside, and it took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the dark. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman were among the few powerful heroes that were there along with Iron Man, Agent Coulson, Captain America, and his retinue.
"My drones confirm that Midnight has withdrawn back into its fortress," Batman was saying with a low pain laced growl. He looks like he had caught the worse end of a beating. "Coulson and I got a direct hit on Sovereign so we can confirm he is down. We need to move now against Midnight Empress and her Archon Knights before they can regroup."
"What are you suggesting?" Green Arrow asked pulling some more arrows from a case in the tent and re-filling his quiver.
"All out assault on the fortress," Superman said grimly. "We cannot allow Sovereign to regain his strength, or he will rip this reality apart."
"Were risking a high casualty rate," Captain America said gritting his teeth. "I know our wizard friends can open portals and get us closer, but we'll have to cut through a lot to get in."
"It's our only chance," Tony Stark said pointing at the holographic Fortress that hovered over the overturned bucket. "As soon as Sovereign is back on his feet, he's going to hit us with everything he's got. Midnight is on the pure defensive. They didn't expect us to strike such a blow."
"When do we move?" Diana asked, folding her arms acrossed her chest.
"As soon as we can."
Raven had lifted Jason off the ground and set him on the empty throne that had seen eons of time. He coughed and could barely keep himself upright. The Midnight Empress sensed them first, the descent of Jinx and Blackfire who alighted gently into the throne room.
"What is your bidding, Mistress?" Jinx asked, stepping forward, looking curiously at the weakened form.
"Mann the defenses and prepare for a counter-attack," Raven said quickly as she stepped away from Sovereign after making sure he was comfortable.
"They aren't going to try to strike us now, are they?" the pinkette asked surprised.
"Well, it seems her god is wounded," Blackfire spat. "We're all going to pay if they come after us."
Raven snarled and spun on the Tamaranian and reached out with her hand. Blackfire was knocked backward and suspended in the air gasping and clawing at her throat.
"I do NOT need insolence from you right now, woman," Raven snarled, a deep thrum in her voice. "You are vexing me more than you are worth."
"Mistress," Jinx said calmly approaching and placing a hand gently on Raven's forearm. "We don't have time to create new Archon Knights. Blackfire is mouthy, but she serves."
Raven contemplated the thought as Blackfire kicked and gasped for breath dangling from the invisible power the Midnight Empress had cast. There was something delicious about watching her squirm, to have her life hanging so near the balance. With a huff of disgust, Raven threw her aside sending her into one of the stone pillars. Blackfire coughed and gagged trying to pull herself up from the ground.
"They will portal into the outskirts and launch a siege," Raven said returning to Sovereign's side to stand by him. "They won't be able to pierce the fortress' defenses that way. Secure the walls and let them throw themselves at us. Once they tire out, we'll destroy whatever is left."
Jinx bowed low while Blackfire turned on her heel and soared back up through the cavernous window she had come through.
"Control," Jason gasped out and then coughed.
Raven came to his side and knelt down beside him. He ran his hand through her hair and smiled at her. "You must show restraint. The power coursing through you can easily consume you. It feels good to have others lives in your hands. Avoid indulging in those fantasies."
"I will try."
"It's a fine line, my love. I know."
My Love.He had called her his love. A smile broke across her face.
Chapter 26: Iris' Death Knell
Apologies that it has been so long since I have worked on this one. I lost the thread of it and then life decided to kick me in the face multiple times. I was able to work on some of my other fics as you asw but this one just languished.
I think it's the middle duldrums that got me. (For those of you non-writers, that's the area between the beginning and end that can be very difficult for writers to get through). I know that I dealt with it a lot in my other fic "Candy" but I did get through that.
Anyhoo, just wanted to say hi and thank you for continuing to read this one. Please note that this one has a minor scene of torture near the end. I'm back and should be working on this one a lot quicker than months between chapters. LOL
It was the sorcerers the helped them cross the distance they needed to. Doctor Strange had brought a few of them with him into the other reality and their golden portals of pure light allowed the armies of Iris through and half a mile away from the massive, alien fortress that dominated the skyline of Boulder, Colorado. When Robin leaped through, he was stunned by the change in temperature and his suit immediately adjusted its filters to protect him.
The rest of the new Titans followed through while others poured into the street.
"We're three blocks down flanking to the right," Batman's gravelly voice called over Robin's earpiece. "lead your team straight through the front door."
"Understood," Robin responded through gritted teeth.
The city was desolate, the buildings long abandoned by the inhabitants. It was strange seeing the trappings of civilization without its denizens. Dick rand passed multiple storefronts with shattered windows and the refuse of a mass panic still evident on the sidewalks and streets.
"Incoming to the left!" Starfire called from above and Robin began to fire his pulse cannons attached to his wrists as the cyber bugs that descended on their position. They did not pose much resistance.
"Almost there!" Cyborg called.
Raven stood on the ramparts of her fortress looking down at the streets below. The wind ripped at her black dress and her long violet hair whipping about in the wind. She felt wild. Her heart trilled the excitement and every fiber of her ringing with power and exuberance. The sorceress felt as if she could take on the entire world.
In the distance, she could see the moving forms of Iris' army but she knew it was already too late for them. Sovereign had come through and once he healed, he would finally bring peace to her reality and end the folly of superheroes.
For the next four hours, Raven watched as Iris threw themselves at the fortress' defense. The sorceress herself swooped down multiple times to strengthen the lines that had begun to get weak. Millennium's cybugs fought hard and without care for their lives showing no sign of retreat or self-preservation.
There would be no hope for the rest of the world. They were going to be hers. The Midnight Empress would rule them all.
Robin knew that exhaustion was starting to set in as they fought through the streets of Boulder. Each time they tried to make a push toward's the massive fortress that stood out like an aberration among the 20th-century architecture. The structure was ungodly in size and was mind-numbing to think how long it would have taken to construct in natural means.
Really, Robin only cared about what was in front of him and again it was the cybernetic insects that glowed their sickly green and fired bolt after bolt of red energy that cut down people who were not ready.
The reports that had been coming through his headpiece were not good. Many of the soldiers of SHIELD and ARGUS were falling and the last command he had made out before his helmet had been damaged was Superman ordering all non-metas to fall back. Now, only those with superpowers or who could stand up to such an onslaught were left. The lack of firepower was already showing.
Robin rolled as a bolt of red energy scorched the pavement where he was just standing. The heavily armored Titan settled behind an overturned SUV that was smoldering for multiple blasts. Cyborg landed right beside him as he ejected an energy canister from his arm. He pulled another out of his chest piece but Robin saw that the slots were all empty but one.
"Running low, Robin," Cyborg said peering over the hood slightly at the bugs. They had gotten distracted by a few caped heroes on the rooftop that were firing down on them.
"After this clip, I gotta retreat for safety's sake."
"We're not gonna win this, Cy," Robin said through gritted teeth. "We've hit them with everything we got and are still wanting."
"Any word from command?"
"Radio silent since the last offensive led by Jinx," Robin answered. He had seen the horde of bugs lead by the mistress of bad luck head towards central command. Since then only static responded. They had either wiped out everyone there or knocked out all the long-range communication equipment. Either way, coordination was only short range and that was not enough to continue pushing forward.
Everywhere he and his team went, he found that the advance teams and main body had ground to a halt. With evening coming, it was either retreat or find a place to hole up. With Cyborg's power about gone, he was of the thought to retreat.
"Hey, scud bucket!"
The two turns to see the small jet-like form of Gizmo rocketing in towards them. Immediately, they stood and began to lay down suppressive fire on the enemy that saw them coming. The dwarf landed hard on the ground and bounced a few times before sliding in beside them.
"You should ask Star to give you some flying lessons," Cyborg quipped.
"Shaddup or I won't give you these," Gizmo said sitting up and pulling a few green glowing canisters out of his armored backpack. Cyborg's eyes widened.
"What are those?"
"HIVE power cells. We use them on a lot of our mech. Since brother blood stole your blueprints years ago, we used the power system design in our own things." Gizmo explained as the skeletal spider legs extended from his backpack and picked him up off the ground slightly.
"There was HIVE base here. I raided it thinking you might be able to tweak them for your own system. Advancing is gonna be difficult if we're dragging your sorry ass around."
Robin grinned at their strange ally. Cyborg gave him a pat on the shoulder as he quickly put the canisters safely into his chest cavity that slid shut to protect them. It was the sound of energy bolts of a higher sound that caught their attention. Looking up, they saw the armored Starfire zip in and descending mowing down the cybugs that were not smart enough to get out of the way. With the battlefield cleared, Robin stood and came out.
"You all are still well?" she asked breathing heavily. Her eyes still glowed green and her hands hummed ready to strike.
"All accounted for. Kid Wykyyd has overwatch at the moment." Cyborg said. "You?"
"We must begin the leaving now," Starfire said with no uncertainty turns. Though Robin's face was covered by the mask designed for him by Tony Stark, she had a knack to look right through it.
"What is it?"
"Three hordes are converging on this location. I saw them from high above. They...they are led by my sister."
One of the Archon Knights in the field. There was no way they would be able to withstand her let alone in their condition.
"Gather the rest and inform as many teams you can find, then get back here," Robin ordered. He tapped his arm bracer to switch frequencies and provided the same information to anyone in the area who still had a working system.
Kid Wykyyd appeared beside them and he pointed to the sky silently. Robin looked up and could make out the cloud of enemy soldiers moving in. The glowing purple pinpointed the exact location of Blackfire.
Everyone broke into a run as they began to make their way back the way they came. Robin's heart thrilled in fear as he heard the humming getting closer. He was not one to give up but how were they supposed to take on some many by themselves? Where was Supergirl or Batman?
Robin noted a subway entrance ahead and pointed to it. "There! We can bottleneck them at least and not be out in the open."
They threw themselves down the concrete steps but as Robin did his count, he realized that someone was missing.
Nobody had an answer. It was at that moment, Robin realized where she was.
Rushing back up the stairs, he found her standing, feet apart facing down the black-haired glowing monster. Blackfire's eyes had been consumed by a swirl of purple and gold as she grinned gleefully at her sister.
"Starfire! Let's go!"
Starfire turned, her own eyes burning hot with green flame. She shook her head.
"I'm sorry, Robin. I cannot. My sister may be a horrible monster now enslaved to a demon queen but she is still Tamaranian. She will face me in honored combat."
Robin grabbed her arm trying to will the redhead to come with him.
"Star….you….you can't beat her."
A soft smile broke the hard expression on Koriand'r's face.
"So, you have the time you need to escape. You are the most clever man I have ever met, Richard Grayson, but you need time for your cleverness. Let me buy it for you so that you may defeat Raven and save the rest of the world."
A sob tried to rip its way out of Robin's mouth but he clamped it shut, tears streaming down his face. His hand dropped and he stepped back as Blackfire advanced.
"Run along, Robin," Blackfire chortled. "I'll be seeing you shortly."
Starfire did not hesitate but shot forward slamming into her sister and both went tumbling and bouncing across the pavement and through a building. The cybugs did not move but watched their mistress fight. Robin tore himself away and ran down the steps.
There was another one of his comrades lost.
Nighttime had fallen and a cool breeze mingled with the smell of discharged energy, smoke, and burning rubber. The Midnight Empress floated cross-legged above a parapet that gave her a clear view of the battlefield below. Of course, she was not actually watching it but letting the sounds and feelings of the battle course through her. She could feel her master below, healing slowly but his powers quiet as he slumbered in a light sleep.
Iris was broken. She had felt the emotion roil off of them as their forward base was smashed by Jinx and their offensive engaged premature. It was a collective gasp and wail that descended on her that filled her with glee. Iris had tried their hardest and failed.
They were not done, not by a long shot. Her army still had to be ready as they would be more cunning and full of surprises as their end got closer. The weapon that hurt Jason was still a threat. No one had reported it destroyed nor did they see it again after it had been used. The goal now was to make sure Sovereign was never an easy target again.
It was the light landing of feet followed by the sickening thud of a body that caused Rachel to open her eyes. She turned her head slightly to see Blackfire had landed and discarded a pile of bruised flesh and blood.
A pang of horror and regret ripped through Rachel as the form rolled and she could make out the battered face of her old friend Starfire. Komand'r had given her a severe beating.
"Enjoy yourself?" The midnight Empress asked emotionless though she was torn between running to her friend's aid or smashing Blackfire to an equally messed up pulp.
"Oh, it was quite fun," Blackfire said. "Haven't had this much fun in months."
Blackfire reached down grabbed her sister's arm and in one quick twist, snapped the bone. The sound of the bone-breaking almost made Rachel vomit but no emotion reached her face. Starfire gave a pitiful wail before being silent.
"Where is Jinx?"
"Finishing off the stragglers. Most of have huddled down for the night or fully retreated. They're mostly the low-level metas and soldiers. The big wigs gave it up a while ago."
"And her?" The midnight Empress asked with a nod and raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, you know. Gonna have to patch her up in the dungeon. I've got quite a few years of….frustration...to beat into her. I'm not through with her yet."
Rachel's feet touched down, walked over, and knelt beside the battered girl.
"Then you better learn restraint. You're on the verge of losing your toy."
Rachel laid a hand on her mud and blood caked red hair and called upon a power she had not used in so long. The healing wave of energy rushed in from her soul self, long silent from the archon ring. She tuned it and funneled it gently into the Tamaranian.
The Midnight Empress felt the bone shift back into place and a lot of the internal bleeding and bruising heal away. She purposefully put her in a small coma to allow her to heal. Rachel doubted Blackfire would want to have any fun while she was asleep.
"Neat trick, I'll remember to not be her so badly next time," Blackfire said with a yawn. "Though the next time, we're gonna have a long time so I can stretch it out a bit."
"Take her and go rest," Rachel ordered. "I do not want you or Jinx tired in case Iris tries something again. You can play with your toy later."
Rachel motioned with her hand and the black portal tinged with gold swallowed Starfire and deposited her deep in one of the cells.
"Hey!" Blackfire growled. "You going soft or something?"
Rachel spun on the woman that was so close to make her scream. The gold energy poured from the midnight Empress' eyes as the power forced Blackfire to her knees.
"Do not forget who you are talking to, Blackfire," Rachel growled, her face only inches from the Tamaranians. "I was gentle with you in the throne room. Do not test my patience with you. Do not make me give you an order you'll regret. I know a few of the men in our army that would like some...attention...from you."
Blackfire's eyes went from threatening to fearful. Rachel knew the girl had been humiliated in front of Jinx and a few of the others earlier. The young woman had learned how great and terrible Rachel's power had become.
"I...I beg your forgiveness," Blackfire said lowering her head meekly.
A torrent of emotion rolled through Raven, a feeling that she had never felt. A power that she had never experienced before. She leaned down until her mouth was only inches away from Blackfire's ear.
"I like the sound of you begging. Jinx has been such a good girl lately and I think you would make a good reward for her."
There it was, the twist of anger and revulsion. It tasted so sweet on Rachel's mind to watch Blackfire squirm, powerless to do anything about it.
"I think a few nights as her bitch could teach you a few things about obedience. She's learned it quite well."
The voice was not out loud but it reverberated through the girl's entire body. She jerked away from Blackfire who had a mixture of surprise and relief, then took the opening to take off.
"Sovereign." she thought back.
"Control yourself," his voice came back. It was not anger or mean, but she could sense the stern warning in it.
"You were slipping. I warned you that the power you were wielding is intoxicating." his voice thrummed through her mind.
"Blackfire was just….I…."
"Peace, Rachel," his voice soothed. "You have done nothing wrong. I just want to make sure you do not go too far without proper training. When I regain enough of my strength, I shall teach you how to sense and curb that power so that you do not get drunk on it."
"Thank you, master."
Jason's presence slipped away and Rachel found herself sitting on the parapet shaking in the cold wind. What had happened? What had consumed her in those moments? For a second, a flash of doubt surged through her and all she felt like was a scared little girl alone in the cold.
That was all she was, wasn't she? Cold and scared.
Chapter 27: The Truth of Jason
Rachel awoke with a start. The moonlight still streamed in and a cold breeze ruffled the blankets she was under. Jinx was sleeping curled up beside her oblivious of the world around her. The Midnight Empress studied the young woman who lay there. For everything that had happened and the time that had passed, she did not seem to be the same girl when they fought in the streets. HIVE versus Teen Titans. It seemed so long ago and so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Rachel ran her hand through the loose pink hair and her the woman purr and snuggle deeper into the blanket.
What had woken her up? The room was quiet except for the night insects singing and the wind moaning through the open balcony window. She felt it again, a sharp pang of irritation which she immediately honed in on Jason's mental scent. Something had made him quite angry. He had not called to her but she had felt the emotion boil over.
It was curiosity that got the dark sorceress in the end. She threw back the covers and made her way softly down the stairs only in the nightshirt that one of the minions had provided to her when they settled into the castle. The ancient passageways were massive but silent. A few guards stood completely oblivious of her passing, their dull green glow coming through the chinks in their armor and eye sockets.
The flight of curving stairs took her towards the throne room where firelight could be dancing across the threshold of the door. Rachel slowed when she heard raised voices.
"Really, Millennium, after the years we have been together, you would bring this up now?" Jason's voice came across irritated.
"I speak to you about it because the situation is not the same any longer," the deep thrum of the giant insectoid creature's voice echoed through the hall and Rachel's bones. "You can see what the power has done."
Jason was silent at this. She could feel him seething but not at his loyal soldier. A feeling of warm cotton descended over her mind and the feelings became distant. She crept closer to listen.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Show the paths so she is not surprised when she reaches the crossroads, Atethis."
Atethis. Was that his real name? Why was she shocked that his name wasn't actually Jason. Rachel shook her head trying to focus and ignore the warmth in her mind.
"You want me to jeopardize everything we have been working for?"
"This is your quest, my lord," Millennium said with a respectful deflection. "You gave me my bargain and I have accepted it for eternity, no matter the choices you make. I just do not want to see you suffer again….like with Zanah."
"Do NOT speak her name to me, Millennium," Sovereign hissed and the burst of power radiated out from the room.
"I beg your forgiveness, my lord."
"We will continue this tomorrow. She is asleep and there is nothing we can do about it now."
Rachel pushed herself into the shadow of the half-open door and Sovereign marched past her and up a different staircase to his meditation chamber. Her heartbeat loudly as she tried to decide what to do. What if he checked on her and came looking? Why could he not sense her there?
'Come, Child. You are safe. He will sleep now.'
Millennium's voice caused her mind to vibrate and slowly she stepped into the cavernous room to see the massive cybernetic goliath beetle crouched in the corner. His keen, black sheen eyes focused on her.
"How did you know I was there?"
"I am the one that shielded you from him. Sovereign is ancient...but so am I."
Rachel continued to approach as the wave of friendliness continued to call to her and the soft cotton on her brain.
"What...what are you doing to me?"
"It is a side effect of the energy field I project. Allow me to adjust."
The feeling bled away as the cold air gripped her and the cold floor made her bare feet ache.
"What were you talking about?"
"You know who we were talking about."
"And his name is Atethis," Rachel asked wanting to get that thought of her mind.
"It is. He usually adopts a name that is comforting from the reality we enter. From your mind, he felt the name Jason would be the easiest for you to accept."
"Got me on that."
"He is very good at what he does."
Rachel's lips pressed into a thin line. Her body wanted to just ignore everything, the cracks in the story but her mind refused.
"I want answers, Millennium."
"I have none that I can give you but I do have a story if you'd allow me to tell it."
Rachel felt the moment of truth had arrived. For a minute she hesitated and then she nodded.
The world was black when Raven found herself floating in a pitch-black void. She found on her shoulders her cloak and a quick check showed she appeared as she did when a member of the Teen Titans.
"Where am I?" she called out to the void though Raven knew her voice didn't travel.
"This is the space between spaces," Millennium's voice rumbled all around her. "This is before the reality that you knew shaped and evolved. Look ahead."
Raven squinted but at first, could not see anything but the inky black void and the sparks of her cornea in her eyes. It was after a few minutes that she saw something strange.
"Is...is that blackness darker and moving?"
Two golden pinpricks of light appeared and streaked through the void towards it. When they collided, she felt the heat of the golden energy explode off of it. It was like two insects zipping around and slamming into the void.
"What's going on?"
"It is Atethis and his mate Zanah. They were the first to evolve, the first beings of the void. The representation of life and power. They fight the whisper, their opposite."
Raven watched fascinated as the two seemingly insignificant specks battled the power cloud of inky blackness but she could feel the emotions of hatred and howling fury coming off of it.
The two golden sparks joined together and in one last attack slammed the creature causing it to shriek in agony and rage before vanishing. It was then that Raven noticed one of the golden sparks was dim and then exploded in a beautiful rainbow shine of colors that wafted like oil paints in water. The cry of agony and loss that tore through her, she recognized.
"Zanah gave her life essence to stop The Whisper from consuming the fledgling multiverse. Atethis never recovered from the loss."
The world swirled around her and she found herself on a planet full of lush green life and giant skyscrapers that seemed to be made out of resin. They were beautifully crafted and exquisite in the sunlight.
"Where are we?" Raven asked squinting pulling the blue hood a bit down to cover her eyes.
"My home. Before a god descended among us."
To punctuate his words, a golden beam of light ruptured the sky as she saw a form dropping toward the city. The once beautiful skyscrapers melted under the heat of the golden energy wave that carried the rage directed at no one in particular.
The image swam and was replaced by a blackened world where life did not exist. The sky was full of stars since the atmosphere had been burned away. Raven looked in horror at the figure, her Jason standing there speaking to a much smaller but familiar insectoid.
"He told me when he first came that the realities were flawed and people suffered because they were born out of bloodshed. Atethis was so full of anger and fury that he destroyed without hesitation. I, for some reason, took his fancy. I don't know if it's because I had campaigned on my own world of peace through the elimination of all who threatened it or something else but he would calm and listen to me when I spoke."
Raven watched as Jason pressed a hand against the young millennium's head and the brilliant gold transferred to him. A pulse wave of green exploded from him giving that sickly green light to the husks that remained around him.
"I chose to let him end my world so we could move all the multiverses towards a peaceful resolution."
The world swam again and she found herself laying on the stone floor of the fortress, still in her nightshirt and the older insect in front of him. He seemed more vulnerable than he once did.
"Why...why are you telling me this?"
"Because his quest is about multiversal peace but there is another reason you must know. He will not tell you because he cannot bear to accept that it's his true motivation."
"What? What is it?" Rachel's heart trilled in fear.
"Zanah's energy, her blood, and essence spilled within the void forming so many different realities. The reality you live in, the realities the Iris is trying to protect, have grown and flourished in the bones of the mate he loved and lost. You all remind him of what he lost so many eons ago."
Tears formed in Rachel's eyes as Millennium lowered his head. "He will give you peace. You will be offered a choice. Take the select few who will continue the embodiment of peace and culture of your reality and move them adjacent to a new world outside of his beloved. But do not for a second think he will not crush this reality and destroy it and those who are left behind. The question you must ask yourself is the one that I asked. Will the sacrifice be worth it for the peace of those who survive?"