The sound of high energy lasers and falling debris permeated the air, and Robin found himself surrounded by three of the humanoid robots. Moving quickly, he threw an exploding disc at one, bashed another across the chest with his staff, and kicked the third one in the head, sending it flying across the room. Four more took their place, however, with laser weapons powered up and taking aim at him. Robin quickly rolled out of the way, and out of the corner of his eye saw Cyborg blasting his way through another group. Robin quickly released a flurry of birdarangs at the four robots, embedding them in their metallic bodies. Three of the robots stumbled backward and stopped moving, but the fourth continued walking forward. Before Robin could reach for another projectile, Cyborg ran up next to him and caught the last robot in the chest with his sonic cannon. The wave of robots had been completely dispatched. Robin felt a sense of satisfaction which quickly faded as more robots rushed in down the corridor. He was tiring, and he could tell from the way Cyborg was breathing that he was as well. Knowing it was time, Robin yelled "Change!" He and Cyborg retreated and ducked back behind the makeshift barricade that he and the other titans had built out of fallen debris and overturned furniture. Hearing his signal, Starfire and Raven rushed out to take their turn with the attack.
It had gone on like this for some time. They had initially tried fighting the robots by spreading out, but the overwhelming numbers had forced them to come together, channeling the robots into a specific hallway to avoid fighting on multiple fronts. To maintain their strength and avoid tiring themselves, they had been alternating who was attacking, with two titans on offense, two titans resting behind the barricade. The strategy seemed to be working, but the robots kept coming.
"How are we doing?" Robin asked Cyborg.
"Not good." Cyborg replied grimly. "It's going to be close. We're holding our own for now, but if their numbers don't start running out soon, we'll be overrun. Unless…"
His sentence was interrupted by a distant crash that shook the whole tower, closely followed by a loud, prehistoric roar.
"Yes!" Robin exclaimed. "Beast Boy and Terra have returned."
Emboldened by the return of their friend, the four titans launched a more aggressive attack against the robots, successfully driving them back down the hallway. They would have driven them further, but reinforcements arrived, forcing the titans to be more defensive again.
As the robots lined up in formation, an almighty bang sounded from the other side of the wall, and three robots were hurtled through the wall into their comrades. Before the robots or titans had to react, a massive saber-toothed tiger leaped through the hole in the wall and pounced on one of the robots, viciously tearing apart its electrical systems. It then transformed into a gorilla, which grabbed one of the robots and hurled it into one of its fellows. It then transformed into a rhinoceros and barreled through several more of the robots, and then transformed into an ankylosaurus and used its tailed to dispatch the robots it had overshot.
Filled with new energy, the titans tore their way through their foes, and after a while longer, the last of them were defeated, and the hallway was quiet again.
"Good work titans." Robin said. "Cyborg, are there any more of them?"
Cyborg looked at a sensor on his arm. "Only a few left. They're headed for the ground floor. It looks like they're trying to escape."
Beast Boy's expression became savage. "They are not getting away." He transformed into a cheetah, and before the other titans began to move, he had already bounded off towards the lobby.
As he ran past the doorway, he saw the remaining robots jogging toward the exit. Still full of anger, he leaped into the air and transformed into a T-rex. When he hit the ground, the impact knocked all the robots off their feet and threw up several large clouds of dust. He proceeded to finish off his opponents.
When the other titans reached the ground floor, their view of the fight was obstructed by all the dust. They heard roaring, the smack of flying metal, and a few final laser bursts. All at once, everything became quiet, and Beast Boy emerged from the dust cloud in human form again.
"Nice job, Beast Boy." Robin said appreciatively. "Are there any more Cyborg?"
Cyborg checked the sensor again. "I can't be sure, but I think that was the last of them. All of the robots have been destroyed or disabled." He said confidently.
As if to break this confidence, one of the robots on the floor gave an electric crackle and staggeringly got to its feet.
The other titans turned to face it, but before any of them could react, Beast Boy rushed at the robot with uncharacteristic aggression. Not even transforming, he proceeded to whale on the robot with his bare fists, hitting it as hard as he could as often as he could. His face had curled into a vicious snarl, and every time his fist connected with the robot, he let out a savage, angry grunt. He finished his attack by kicking the robot as hard as he could toward the wall. Flying across the room, the robot smacked into the wall and left a deep impact. Its head and its body flew off in two different directions.
His attack finished, Beast Boy rested his fists on his knees, panting slightly. The rest of the team stared at him in shock.
"Beast boy, are you all right?" Raven asked. The last time the team had witnessed such anger had been when Robin lost his temper while looking for the cronoton detonator.
"No." Beast Boy said in a surprisingly soft voice. The anger in his face was gradually draining away, giving way to a miserable, hopeless expression. "No, I'm not. I should have been here."
"Yes, you should have, but you came eventually, and you helped turn the tide of battle." Robin said. After a pause, he asked, "Why didn't you answer your communicator? Where's Terra?"
The color drained out of Beast Boy's face, and he stared numbly at the floor as if he had forgotten how to speak. After a moment of uneasy silence, he said "I lost it. And…I don't know."
Robin looked as if he wanted to inquire further, but something about Beast Boy's expression held him back. "We'll talk about this more later." He turned back to the rest of the team. "We're not quite in the clear yet. Cyborg, work on regaining access to the main computer. The rest of us will sweep the tower. Find and destroy any technology the robots might have planted. Search thoroughly. Meet back in the main lobby in an hour.
They all dispersed calmly and quietly to their tasks, but inside, their thoughts raged.
Well, we kicked them out, but we still don't know how they got in. None of it makes sense. We've had breaches in security before, but nothing of this scale. They couldn't have overwhelmed my security from the outside without triggering some kind of alarm, so it must have been turned off from the inside. But how? Did Slade slip some kind of bug or small spy gadget into the tower with us after the last fight with his robot minions? I don't really see how that could have worked to this degree, but that seems to be the only explanation that makes sense. Unless…
Where was Beast Boy and Terra? Did they go on a date or something? It would make sense. Beast Boy has always been sweet on Terra, and while I'm not as certain about girls emotions, Terra seemed to reciprocate the feelings. But where is she? And why didn't she come back with him?
How did this happen? I do not understand. Being invaded in our own home seems so wrong. But at least it's over now. It has to be over…
Something's wrong. Horribly wrong. Normally I have to actively probe into people's minds to sense their thoughts and feelings, but Beast Boy's emotions were boiling over. Rage, confusion, sadness, regret…something happened to him tonight. Something bad. And I think it has something to do with Terra. But what?
I have to tell them. I have to tell them. But how? I still can't believe it myself. How could someone I thought I knew so well be hiding something this awful? She said she wanted to be my friend, but she was willing to let my friends die in cold blood. How much of what she ever said to me was genuine, and how much of it was just a game?
After an hour, Robin returned to the lobby. Like much of the tower, bits of debris were scattered everywhere, and some of the furniture was upturned or destroyed.
He turned to Cyborg, who was sitting on a part of the couch that was still intact.
"Have you regained access to the computer?"
"Almost." Cyborg replied. "I just need a little more time."
Robin nodded. He walked over to the kitchen area and placed several of the devices the robots had left behind on the counter. He then walked over to the fridge and pulled out a pitcher of water and some sandwich makings.
"I figure we might as well have something to eat now." He set down the food and reached into another cupboard to grab some plates. "We've had a long night, and we need to keep up our strength."
"With you making the food, I'm not sure that'll be possible." Cyborg's tone was teasing, but the humor didn't quite reach his eyes. Robin didn't reply, and continued with his task.
After a few moments of silence, Cyborg spoke.
"Look Robin, there's something we need to talk about." Cyborg said in a serious tone. Robin glanced at his friend.
"We managed to fight them off, so I think it's safe to say that tonight was a success. But that still leaves the question…"
"How did they get in in the first place?" Robin finished for him.
"Exactly." Cyborg glanced down at the sensors on his arm and continued to fiddle. "We've had some security breaches before, but never anything on this scale before. I've analyzed the whole situation, and there's simply no way that large number of robots could have gotten around or overwhelmed the security from the outside." He looked back up at Robin. "So that leaves only one other possibility."
"The security must have been turned off from the inside." Robin replied. He stared absently across the room, as though lost in thought, though he continued what he had been working on.
"Yes." Cyborg let out a heavy sigh. "And that make even less sense, because everything seemed clean when I shut everything down for the night. I guess Slade must have planted a bug on one of us or something, and smuggled it into the security system."
"I think he may have smuggled something worse than a bug inside." Robin said grimly.
Cyborg looked at him in surprise. "Something worse? What do you mean?"
Robin breathed heavily. "I mean, that perhaps-"
His sentence was interrupted by the sound of the hydraulic doors swooshing open. Robin and Cyborg looked up to see Raven walking down the steps towards them.
"Was the sweep successful?" Robin asked.
Raven nodded. "I found a couple of devices and cameras in the infirmary, but they've been taken care of." She set the remains of the devices next to the ones Robin had found on the counter.
Robin nodded in approval. "Good work. I think Starfire and Beast Boy should be finishing up their sweeps anytime now." He gestured at the plates of food he'd put together. "I figured we could use something to eat after such a long night. We could eat at the tables over there, its lucky they're still intact. Could you help me…"
"Of course." Raven replied, her eyes glowing white. All of the plates were suddenly wrapped in a black energy, levitated off the counter, gently floated to the other side of the room, and set down gently on the yellow tables opposite the kitchen area.
After she was done, Robin said seriously, "Now, Cyborg and I were just discussing something…"
"Before we get into anything, there's something I think you need to know." Raven said.
Robin looked mildly surprised, and then said "All right. What is it?"
"As you know, one aspect of my powers is empathy; I can sense the thoughts and feelings of those around me." Raven said. "Normally I have to actively probe into people's minds to sense their thoughts and feelings. However," Raven glanced at the floor, and Robin was surprised to see that she looked nervous. "Beast Boy's emotions were boiling over so much that it was difficult to shut it out."
"What kind of emotions?" Cyborg asked, concerned.
Raven's normally blank face reflected his concern. "Rage, confusion, sadness, regret…something happened to him tonight. Something bad." Her expression hardened. "And I think it has something to do with Terra."
"Terra?" Cyborg exclaimed.
"What do you think it is?" Robin inquired.
"I'm not sure." Raven replied. "I can think of several possibilities, and none of them are good."
"What kind of possibilities do you mean?" Cyborg asked.
"I think," Robin said before Raven could reply, "that we should wait until Starfire and Beast Boy return before we speculate about what happened."
Raven looked as if she wanted to object, but instead gave a small nod. Cyborg went back to what he had been working on.
A few moments later, Starfire and Beast Boy entered the room. Robin looked up, and said. "The sweep was successful?"
Starfire nodded. "I searched very carefully, and I am fairly certain that I found and destroyed all the enemy technology that was planted in the upper levels."
Beast Boy said quietly. "Likewise for the lower levels."
Robin nodded, then turned to Cyborg. "Have you regained access to the computer yet?"
"Almost." Cyborg replied. "I still need a few more minutes."
"Okay. While we're waiting, we need to take care of one more thing." He turned to Beast Boy. "Beast Boy, where were you?"
Beast Boy glanced down at the floor. He still hadn't decided how he was going to tell his friends what had transpired. He decided to start with a basic explanation. "Terra and I went out on a date."
Robin looked unsurprised. Cyborg looked slightly startled. But Starfire suddenly looked exuberant.
"Oh, that is wonderful Beast Boy! I have heard that this is an earth custom which occurs between two people for the purpose of getting to know one another to see if the two are romantically compatible. Was your evening enjoyable?"
Starfire's smile faded as she noticed the miserable expression on Beast Boy's face.
"What happened?" Raven asked, not unkindly.
"Did you two have a fight?" Robin asked.
Beast Boy gave a hollow laugh. "I guess you could say that." He shifted slightly. "I don't really want to talk about it. But you need to know. All of you." He sighed, his ears drooping slightly. "I'm not sure where to begin, so I guess I'll just start from the beginning. It's kind of a long story, so you might want to make yourselves comfortable."
Cyborg was already sitting across from Beast Boy on part of the ruined couch, working to regain access to the computer. Raven walked over and sat on another part of the ruined couch so that she was in between the two. Robin and Starfire were in front of the couch, and decided to remain standing.
Once he saw that they were all ready, Beast Boy began his story.
"Earlier this evening, I went by Terra's room. I'd been working up the nerve to ask her out for a while, and I finally did it tonight. However, she initially turned me down, so I went back to my room to mope and curse myself for acting like an idiot."
Beast Boy remembered how nervous he'd been, and yet how excited and eager he'd been at the same time as he walked toward her room. How crushed he'd felt when she said no. It had only been a few hours ago, but it felt like much longer than that. Not so long ago, he would have been embarrassed to talk to his friends about it, but now, it no longer seemed to matter. So much had changed since then, so much…
"However, she flew by my window, and then she asked me out. I was surprised, but I was super pleased that she had changed her mind."
"She took me to some of the places she used to stop by when she was traveling, before she was a Titan. We eventually settled at an old amusement park. It was…"
His heart sank as he once again remembered how different he had felt only a few hours ago. That night with her had been absolute bliss. Spending time with her, laughing with her, playing with her, being open with his affection for her, safe in the knowledge that she reciprocated his feelings, that she could be trusted…
"It was…beautiful, being with her. It was what I had wanted since I first met her. And it was all so…"
He couldn't stand dwelling on it any longer. It would only make recounting what had followed all the more painful. Wringing his hands, he quickly jumped to where it had all gone wrong.
"After a while, we went for a ride on the Ferris wheel. She asked me 'If you knew something bad about me, would you still be my friend?' I was puzzled at her question, but I quickly said yes. She then said 'If you were really my friend I could tell you anything. And no matter how horrible it was you'd still like me, right?'"
I should have known then, Beast Boy thought. But he hadn't, he had been too shortsighted, too naïve, to see what was happening.
"I didn't know why she was asking me that, but I wanted to comfort her, so I promised her I would. We almost kissed…" His face darkened, and a hint of the savage animal he had been glinted in his eyes. "And then Slade appeared."
"What!" Robin exclaimed. Cyborg looked up from what he was doing, his face aghast and full of shock. Starfire let out a gasp, and her eyes grew wide. Raven's expression hardened slightly. Robin, looking slightly alarmed, asked "What did he want?"
"I didn't know at first." Beast Boy replied, the savage look fading slightly. "We fought. He was tough. Real tough. Even though many animals have greater strength, speed, and endurance than ordinary humans, he was still able to hold his own. The fight ended with Terra using her power to collapse the Ferris wheel."
"We fled to the nearest building, which happened to be an old house of mirrors. It was there that I discovered that I had lost my communicator. I told Terra that we needed to get back to the tower, but she said that she could never go back. I asked her why." The savage look on his face returned. "And then Slade appeared again, but because of all the mirrors, I couldn't tell where he was. And he said…"
Beast Boy faltered and the savage look vanished. He was at the most painful part of his story. He knew that this was the point of no return, that once he told his teammates about what Slade had said, there would be no going back. It would mean accepting the fact that the girl he had cared so much about had been a traitor; that some or all of what she had said to them, said to him, had been lies; and that she was responsible for the vicious attack that had nearly destroyed them. His face was full of anguish, and he looked as though he might be sick. Eventually, he croaked out.
"He said 'Because she's not your friend, she's my apprentice.'"
A stunned silence followed. Cyborg looked speechless, which was very unusual for him. Starfire put her hands to her mouth, and her face held an expression of horror. Robin grimaced, and Raven's expression hardened further, but neither of them looked as surprised.
Beast Boy continued.
"I called him a liar, and began breaking the mirrors, trying to find the real Slade, but couldn't. And he kept talking…"
Every word he had heard from Slade felt like it had been burned into his memory. He had fought hard to deny what Slade told him, but Slade knew how to hurt with just his words better than any other adversary he had faced, especially when all that he had to do was tell the complete and painful truth.
"He said 'The girl you knew was merely an illusion. A fantasy. In reality, she's been working for me. I found her, I trained her to control her impressive powers, and then I sent her to destroy your little team from the inside out.'"
The air in the room suddenly felt much colder and darker as the full implications of what Beast Boy was saying sank in. Cyborg looked as though he hadn't slept in years, while Starfire looked like she was holding back tears. Robin's face had become masklike, and Raven's expression was now stony.
"'Tonight her orders were to strike. But I guess she took pity on you. Perhaps..." Beast Boy grimaced, and looked as though he had an extremely bitter taste in his mouth. After a pause, he forced himself to continue. "Perhaps she wanted to keep you as a pet."
The shock was fading from the others faces, and they began to look concernedly at their friend. He found himself unable to look at them, however, and forced himself to continue relaying what Slade had said.
"'However, despite this minor error in judgment, she was kind enough to deactivate the security at Titans Tower. Your friends are being annihilated as we speak.'"
"I called him a liar one more time, but then I heard Terra speak. And she said 'Beast Boy, it's the truth.'"
At this, Beast Boy found he was unable to continue. He put his head in his hands, physically exhausted and emotionally drained.
A few minutes went by as they processed what they had heard, and everything that it meant.
"Beast Boy," Starfire said tentatively. "given that she…went on the date with you…is there perhaps a chance that she is not completely loyal to Slade?"
Starfire's words cut right to the heart of the matter for Beast Boy: had Terra been a friend? She had gone out with him, and had seemed genuinely torn when he and Slade had fought. But, he reminded himself, she had been working for Slade, and had been willing to let his friends die without a qualm. Perhaps if he hadn't pushed her away at the end, she might not have gone with Slade. But he couldn't simply ignore the things that she had done, nor pretend like everything could magically be all right again after a simple apology.
He lifted his head from his hands, and said dejectedly. "I think, on some level, she did care about me. But she didn't care about me enough to care about the lives of my friends," he gestured at the remains of a robot with disgust. "and in the end she didn't care about me enough to leave Slade."
Beast Boy suddenly found himself unable to be with the others any longer. He had told them everything that they needed to know, perhaps more than they needed to know, and he wanted to be alone, to deal with his feelings by himself, without the others watching. He slowly got up and began walking to the door.
"Beast Boy." Robin said. Beast Boy turned and looked over his shoulder at Robin.
"If you ever need to talk, we're here for you." Robin said. Cyborg and Starfire nodded in agreement. Raven said nothing, but her expression softened.
Beast Boy tried to say thanks, but the word died in his throat. He gave a small nod, and then walked across the room, through the ruined doorway, down the hall and out of sight.
There was a profound silence.
After a few moments, Cyborg broke the silence.
"Well, looks like we won."
"Then why does it not feel like a victory?" Starfire said sadly.
"I knew it." Raven breathed. "I knew it! We never should have trusted her."
"But we did." Robin said wearily. "We all did."
There was a rapid chirping noise.
"I've regained access to the computer." Cyborg said. "Security codes and encryption strings have all been reset."
"And all enemy surveillance technology has been located and destroyed." Starfire added.
"Problem is," Raven said darkly. "Terra gave Slade more than secret codes and hidden cameras: she gave him us. Our flaws, our weaknesses, everything he'd ever need to know."
"It doesn't matter." Robin said firmly. "When Slade makes his next move, we'll be ready."
"And Beast Boy?" Cyborg asked.
"He will be…all right?" Starfire asked.
Robin hesitated, then said "He just needs a little time."
But they weren't so sure, and as they dispersed to clean up the mess and repair the damage sustained during the attack, Raven thought she heard the faint, mournful whimpering of a dog echoing down the hallway.