The five Titans stood in the entrance of the two-story natural history museum, white marble staircases on either side with a T. Rex skeleton standing upright in the center as the museum's jewel. Civilians rushed past them amidst the familiar cackle of the HIVE in the center as they made their way toward the archives. The Titans floated above the ground, spotting the five ringleaders and their small squadron of henchmen racing toward a flight of stairs on the other end of the room leading downward. Beast Boy smirked and pounded his fists together, spiking a green aura around his purple and black spandex jumpsuit. "Let's kick some butt," he said, roaring into a green flying serpent with scales and bright red eyes. Starfire and Raven flanked him while Cyborg and Robin led the charge from above. Beast Boy surprised the HIVE by flying them into a circle, suppressing their forces with well-placed green ki blasts from his mouth.
Jinx and the other four HIVE elites turned around with a grimace, brandishing their own special powers before settling into their battle stances. Many of the HIVE soldiers ran- they wouldn't do it before, but ever since the Titans came back from the Tournament, they would rather deal with members of the League. "You again?!" Jinx snarled. "If you think you're going to take us down so easily this time, you're gonna be sorry-"
Raven angrily kicked her in the face, sending her rolling down the stairs. Gizmo and the others looked back nervously, seeing their leader sprawled out on the carpet unconscious. Mammoth let out a cry of rage that was silenced by one swift punch from Starfire, and Gizmo's escape was ended by one key strike with Cyborg's sonic blaster. "C'mon man, this isn't fun anymore!"
Robin chuckled at Billy Numerous' attempts to surround him. "We gotcha now, boy!" They charged him, throwing punches and kicks from all angles. The master apprentice dodged them all and returned with his own precise jabs, knocking them down and putting them out of the fight.
Beast Boy morphed back into his human form and glared at See-More. "So, what's it gonna be?"
See-More swallowed nervously at Garfield's hands morphing into big, werewolf-like claws. He grew three feet of solid muscle and his ears grew outward, his nose morphing into a snout and a green wolf tail extending from his lower back. He backed away and went for the door. "I'm out of here! Sorry guys!"
Raven intercepted him faster than lightning and shattered his goggles with a charged punch. The team didn't bother celebrating; that was too easy. They rounded up the rest of the HIVE soldiers and tossed them into police cars, once they arrived. The five Titans stood outside the museum. "What are your plans for the rest of the day?" Robin asked everyone. "It's two o'clock now."
"I have the lab class from three to seven with Raven," Starfire said. "Boba afterward?" she suggested.
"There's a review session in Etcheverry, seven to nine," Garfield yawned. "I mean I'll probably just skip it so I can nap but I'd feel guilty leaving Cyborg on-"
"We're in a mechanical engineering class, one you shouldn't even be in because you're bioengineering," Cyborg said bluntly, looking down at himself. "I am a mechanical product of engineering. I don't know about you, but this exam's gonna be a glorified BuzzFeed personality test for me."
"Boba… now?" Robin suggested. "My next class is at four."
Silence fell upon the group.
"Boba now," Robin said happily as if the problem had been settled.
"In costume?" Garfield said. "I mean, it's not like we're gonna say no."
"Let's hurry back to the tower then," Robin said, stepping forward and vanishing with the wind. They appeared at the entrance to Sproul in their ordinary clothing once again and headed toward the small but busy bubble tea restaurant where college students sat around tables, talked, and chilled for a little while with gummy, black tapioca pearls in milk tea.
"The line is pretty long," Starfire said, seeing their fellow students snake their way in an S-shaped curve leading outside.
"This place gets through long lines pretty fast," Garfield said, "roughly fifty point nine seconds per beverage. If we stay in our spot now, we should have our drinks in 11 minutes."
The rest of the team looked at a certain Garfield in surprise.
"I…" Garfield chuckled. "I spent all of my meal points here."
The team shrugged it off as something that happened regularly. As they waited in the line, Raven found her spot to be more and more unbearable. The lights, voices, and heat, even wit the ceiling fans, were becoming too much. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, placing a hand over her right eye. The pain stabbed like a knife through her head and down her back, making her stumble back into Beast Boy's arms.
"Rae," Garfield said, "are you alright?"
Raven pushed herself to her feet, looking around for any witnesses. People were too invested in their drinks. "Yeah, yes, I'm fine," she said, noticing just how bright the lights were. She put up her hood and kept waiting in line. Garfield placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, squeezing it to remind her she wasn't alone. They walked out of the small shop contently sipping on their tea.
"We should go to the lab building now," Starfire suggested, "I still have to clean out my glassware from the last time… I think I still have some ethanol in my nose from the last distillation."
"Then let's meet up later," Victor suggested to the group, receiving agreement as they parted ways. Raven and Starfire move across campus and into the tall, clean white lab building by the historic Pimentel hall that doubled as a nuclear weapon lab during World War Two. They took the stairs to the second floor and the level smelled like acetone, sweet but unsettling and something one would not want to eat. They walked into the lab room with four rows of blacktop benches and two wide windows in the back.
"I hope we can leave early," Raven said, pulling her hood down and donning a lab coat after her friend. Her headache hadn't left. Persistent, it was.
"We're only doing acid-base titrations again," Starfire said reassuringly. "It should only take us two and a half hours."
Raven winced at the pounding in her forehead. "Great."
"Hello everyone," the tall, lanky graduate student instructor of their lab section said cheerily, walking past twenty students in goggles and brandishing flasks and test tubes. "Today we're going to discuss column chromatography, this will take all four hours so hold onto your hats!" He let out a geeky chuckle before turning to the whiteboard. "I'll be doing a small demonstration in how to extract your first few compounds, but if you feel confident enough, get started!"
"Oh," Koriand'r turned to her friend who had already set up both column apparati. "Raven?"
"Yeah, I just- I need to finish this as quickly as possible." Raven took out her lab notebook and gestured at Starfire to do the same. Other students seemed a little jealous at the women's efficiency in this task, working in partners to separate column after column. Each compound separation grew harder for Raven as her headache evolved into a splitting migraine after an hour and a half. They still had three compounds left to separate and organize, but Raven's chemical-machine prowess waned. She held the pipette containing an organic solute in one, shaky hand while Starfire prepared the already separated extracts for a purity test on the other side of the room and under a fume hood. She growled in anger and slowly put the full pipette down on the table. Her eyes opened wide and she looked down at the black tabletop, her vision shaking and blurring with every pulse of her rising heartbeat. She leaned forward with her arms, feeling a cold sweat coat her arms and forehead. She swallowed nervously as her knees shook, the sunlight grew unbearable and the sounds of her classmates' reactions bubbling made her want to scream.
"How is it going?" her graduate student instructor said from behind her. She nearly jumped out of her skin. "You two got through all of these pretty fast, and- oh?" The grad student picked up the filled pipette, frowning at the yellowish solvent pouring from the bulb used to push any liquids out. "Rachel, is there a reason why you left this pipette just sitting here?"
Raven could not respond fully. "No," she said softly, fighting the feeling of unspeakable evil surging through her veins. She took the pipette from his hand and shakily aimed it at the column funnel. She squeezed the bulb and let her arm drop as the solute sprayed all over the floor and bench.
"Whoa! Rachel, watch the aim! You'll have to get more reactant- why do we add this catalyst to our synthesis?" the grad student asked.
Raven felt her chest tighten and her body shake against the evil knocking on the door. "I-"
"It's a weak, bulky base, so what would we do afterward?" he asked, receiving a mumbled response. "Rachel? Rachel? Rachel?"
Starfire glanced from her extraction station and almost turned white from the apprehension.
"Rachel? Are you alright? Rachel?" the grad student pestered, rapidly tapping the table. "Rachel? Rachel?"
"She doesn't look okay," one student across the bench said. She hurried over to Rachel's side and attempted to take her by the hand. "Let's take you to the Tang Center, okay?"
The graduate student felt quite embarrassed. He couldn't tell if she looked pale or sick or not at all. He put a hand on her wrist, feeling her heart pound through his hand. "Rachel, you can make up this lab in any other section this week." He nodded to the classmate holding her hand. "Alice, take her home. You can stay after for another hour to finish your column purification."
"Thanks!" Alice said, taking off her goggles and setting them down on the bench. She took off her gloves and reached for Raven's hand again.
Raven closed her eyes for a moment, pleading with her inner demons to stay quiet. She didn't know why they were acting so violently today, but with all the sharp glassware and . She opened her eyes feeling adrenalin surge throughout her whole body and stared into the black bench, seeing four red eyes open and stare back at her.
Starfire dropped her flasks into the fume hood and darted toward Raven as fast as she could. Time seemed to slow around her and she could see her friend clearly, her demonic black aura exploding all around her and throwing the grad student and Alice to the ground. Glassware everywhere in the room popped and shattered and the window panes had been blown out all within an instant. Starfire cried out in a panic at the inability to save everyone, but help had already arrived. Two orange flashes swiped any and all glass flying toward the students, but they were still caught in the black burst of an energy that didn't belong to Rachel. The orange flashes disappeared, more than likely to save the rest of the building. It was just her and Rachel.
Koriand'r wasted no time in charging the demon inhabiting her friend, taking the four-eyed beast behind the head and grabbing a fistful of violet hair. "I have had enough of dealing with you," she said, her green eyes glowing in the cackling beast's red ones. Raven's cheeks spread into a sharp-toothed grin and she whipped Starfire out of the window. She followed Starfire out and doubled up her fists, slamming Starfire into the square brick-tiled courtyard among the four lab buildings. Starfire quickly took off her Berkeley sweatshirt and jeans to reveal her superhero outfit. Raven's black aura spiked and she slowly took her master's Crane stance, balancing on one foot. Starfire ran her thumb across her nose and fell into Vegeta's signature stance, gesturing toward the demon to make its move.
Raven leapt forward, spiraling with a loud screech as it threw a kick at Starfire's face. The Tamaranean ducked and threw an uppercut back. Raven redirected the punch and rolled off her arm, landing in a crouched position to sweep her opponent with a spin kick. Starfire flipped back and landed on her feet, balling up her fists and charging again. Extraterrestrial and supernatural collided in a flurry of green and black energy, proving a worthy and equal match between them. Raven connected with a palm strike in Starfire's stomach and Koriand'r countered by taking Raven by the shoulders, flipping back to body slam her opponent into the ground. She used that opportunity to grapple Rachel into an armbar, but the demon was having none of it. The beast that fought Starfire today was the worst she had ever seen it.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos!" the demon shouted, his own deep and rumbling voice fusing with Rachel's shrill cry of terror. Starfire lost her grip and was sent rocketing into the side of their lab building. She looked forward again, seeing the enraged demon fly toward her with a lethal knee strike. She gasped and rolled out of the way, catching the back of Raven's head.
"I apologize, Rachel," she said, slamming Raven's face into the wall. Starfire followed with a rapid series of palm strikes to the demon's back and a green ki flash from her palm that made the beast squeal in pain. "Go down already!" she exclaimed.
Raven whipped around, cracking Starfire's jaw with a left hook that sent her rolling into a small center fountain. She formed the Crane stance again and took off into the air, her signature black Raven symbol morphing into the symbol of her father. Raven put her hands together and aimed them at Starfire. "Azarath Metrion Zinthos!"
Starfire looked up in fear and braced herself for the impact of the incoming black wave, but the orange flashes were back and they weren't very happy. The black wave was canceled as the duo struck, taking her down with masterful and precise strikes that ended with the demon groaning painfully as it went back to sleep. "Master Yamcha, Master Krillin, I could not stop her on my own."
"Don't worry about it, you did your best," the spiky-haired Arab warrior with a scar down his face said, channeling the chi of the wolf into his palms.
"We just finished a job in Metropolis with Supergirl and her family, it was a bit of a short notice," the short, bald Chinese master of Shaolin kung-fu said, staring down at the four-eyed daughter of darkness. "We should have been here earlier. What happened? The last time it was like this, weren't there tentacles? This thing seemed too good at Tien's style to be what we fought before."
"It evolved, and it's been steadily getting worse over time; we feel something bigger is on its way," Robin said, running into the courtyard with the other three Titans. "Sorry for keeping you waiting."
Later that evening
Raven woke up in her room again with her fellow Titans standing around her. She sat up immediately, remembering everything she had done. She shot from the bed and wrapped her arms around Starfire. "I am so sorry," she said tearfully, "I couldn't hold it in this time, it's the worst it's ever been, I didn't even know it could use me like that, I-"
"Raven, Raven, it is alright," Starfire said, hugging her back and setting her down on her feet. "Welcome back."
"Take some deep breaths," Robin said, taking her hand and slowly sitting her down. "Everything is going to be alright."
"We do have one question," Cyborg said, "you kept saying 'he is coming' in your sleep. I don't mean to put any pressure on you or anything, but what does that mean?"
Raven leaned forward on her bed, trying to collect her thoughts. "My father," she said, remembering a long-haired man with a sword fighting alongside them in her dreams, "or him. Trunks."
"Trunks?" Garfield said, confused at the connection between the time traveler and the prince of darkness. "What does he have to do with any of this?"
"When my father gets to be as vocal as he was was this afternoon," Raven said, "that means something he doesn't like is coming."
"How do we stop…" Victor tried to phrase this in a way that wouldn't offend her. "How do we stop this from getting worse?"
Raven shot a glare at her friend, although she understood his worry. "We don't, unless my father decides to reveal himself too."
"But what does Trunks have to do with Trigon?" Starfire asked.
"It's not about Trunks," the leader of the Titans said clearly, "it's Gohan. He's coming with a plan to bring him back; I wouldn't be surprised of our guy made a name for himself taking down the Ma-Djinns, but I don't think they're entirely gone either."
Light bulbs clicked around the room. "Then Trunks is merely the catalyst for what's about to happen," Raven said, feeling the pain in her head remind her of another crucial fact, "and we're not gonna like it." Her stomach growled louder than any demon she had faced today. "And another thing, if you ate my California burrito, Gar," she hissed at Beast Boy, "I'll go demonic on you because I want to."
Garfield swallowed nervously. His breath still smelled like fries and sour cream. "I'll see what's in the kitchen."
"Well, you can't stay in here," Victor said, inviting Raven out into the living room. The five made dinner and sat on the couch, watching television like they used to. Raven looked around at her friends, laughing with her like nothing happened that day. She could never forget how grateful she would be for her friends. Their expressions changed at the newscast that interrupted their evening shows.
They watched the live footage of downtown Chicago where seven foot tall gray, featureless musclebound humanoids donning the signal whipped balls of molten lava into police shields. More of these creatures crawled up from the deep split in the ground that took a shape that horrified everyone in the room to their core. Raven looked down at her palms and back at the screen, seeing her father's signal etched in the center of Michigan avenue in fire. The Z-Fighters were already on the scene, with Piccolo, Vegeta, Tien, and Chiaotzu doing most of the work, but the message was forewarning of an even bigger battle they were responsible for.
"Raven," Garfield said in the silent room, turning slowly to her friend with eyes wide in terror. "What does that mean?"
"He's picking a fight," Raven said, feeling pissed off just by looking at it again. "That's confidence, and those things aren't his. Something is helping him." She stood up and walked back into her room, throwing her purple hood over her head. "I need to meditate." She stopped before she went into her room, turning to her friends before fading into the darkness. "Brace yourselves."
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? WILL TRUNKS ARRIVE SOON? WHO IS TRIGON FIGHTING? WILL THE TITANS SURVIVE? REVIEW!