by Hitman 44077
I don’t have much time before they find me, Dr. Randolph Porter thought as he ripped some cloth from his lab jacket. He tied the cloth around his left arm, just above the elbow. He smiled as he took a glance at the syringe filled with the modified Ambrosia formula. But they’re not going to like what they find. I’ll make sure of that.
The veins began to appear on his arm, and without hesitation, Porter injected himself with the syringe. Seconds passed, and then Porter began to sweat profusely. He felt his body burn as if he had a fever, and he began shaking. “Ughh!” he grunted through gritted teeth, his eyes wide as his body continued to shake.
His body then began to transform. First his clothes ripped away as his body expanded, then his very flesh did the same thing. His glasses fell to the floor inside the plane, and the skin and hair on his head and face also tore. Underneath shreds of human skin was a dark purple body with a second set of arms forming at the top of his shoulders. Porter was beyond pain, but finally the transformation was complete. But the drug did have an immediate side-effect — pure, unbridled rage.
“RAAGGHH!” Porter bellowed, almost as if he were an animal. He began pounding the plane with his arms, all four of them, and stomping the floor of the plane with his feet. He continued to beat at the plane, even as it began to rock and shake, when the beast-like creature noticed the glint of the control boards through his now-black eyes.
He began to attack the control panels of the plane, pounding those as he did the walls, when finally, sparks began to flutter across the panels. He continued to pound, even as small flames began to form. The flashes of flame only encouraged the creature to continue its attacks in earnest, which caused the flames to expand. Yet, the flames didn’t burn the hands or arms of Porter. The creature continued to pound, when finally, the damage he’d caused to the plane took its course.
The plane caught fire all around, and finally, with Porter still enraged and inside, it exploded. The plane’s destruction wasn’t unnoticed, however.
“What the hell?!” Cyborg yelled upon hearing the explosion.
“Oh, God, the others!” Arsenal yelled, concerned for the others who stayed behind.
“Let’s get back there now!” Nightwing yelled, maintaining his reason even as he and the other New Titans followed closely behind.
Arriving back near the small villa Porter and Bane had used as a haven of sorts, the Titans saw the flaming wreck that had once been Porter’s small plane. “What happened here?” Protector asked, staring at the wreck.
“Good question,” Artemis said, equally puzzled. She pushed her hair away and reached for her lasso, just in case.
“Cyborg, take a thermal scan around. See if anyone’s near the area,” Nightwing said to his partner.
“I’m on it,” Cyborg said as he began his scan. Cyborg didn’t have to finish his scan, because as all of the New Titans stood, they saw something that bordered on fantastic and frightening. There, walking out of the flaming wreckage, was the dark purple creature that Porter had become.
“X’hal!” Starfire said, almost in a whisper, yet breaking the silence that had engulfed the team. “Who — or what is that?”
“I don’t know,” Changeling responded, his comic demeanor suppressed by the shock.
The creature finally stopped walking and stood roughly twenty feet away from the team. The rage that had possessed Porter had by now subsided, and he stared at the heroes in front of him. “Ahhhh, the children,” Porter whispered in a darker voice, a sinister smile growing upon his face. “Still looking for me?“
“Porter?!” Arsenal yelled in disbelief. “My God!“
“God? Yesss… I am… a god,” Porter said as his hands began to glow with red energy. “The formula is… a success, dear boy. This could have been you… had it not been for the intervention of your friends.”
“Get ready,” Nightwing whispered to his teammates, as his past encounters had him on edge. The others slightly nodded their heads in agreement.
“I must thank you… and the best way to do that is by giving you a quick death!” Porter shouted, raising his arms at the group of heroes. The red energy shot from his hands, but the team was ever ready.
Nightwing shouted, “Scatter!” And his teammates did. “We have to stop him!” he said urgently to the team. “Titans together!”
“Titans together!” the others shouted in unison, their wills unwavering.
The New Titans attacked, with Starfire and Cyborg firing star-bolts and energy blasts at the transformed Porter. Changeling changed into a cheetah and charged at Porter, then, before making contact, transformed again into an electric eel, which wrapped around his enemy and began to send electricity into the body. Nightwing, Artemis, and Protector used their ropes and lasso to try to bind the creature where it stood.
Surely, there would be enough to stop their foe, but then Porter began staring at his enemies. Suddenly, the New Titans fell to their knees — Changeling included, who changed back to human form — as they felt pressures within their heads build. The ropes and lasso that held Porter in place dropped, seemingly by themselves. Porter stood in amusement, sensing victory.
“Yes… I have more than just strength, Titans. When I said I was now a god, I meant every word. I represent mankind’s future… and once I’ve finished you, I’ll–” Porter said before feeling something hit the back of his head. He turned around, which released the Titans from his grip, and he stared at the person who’d distracted him.
“Even though Bane destroyed my bow, that doesn’t mean I’m helpless!” Arsenal shouted, flinging baseball-sized rocks at his enemy. “We will stop you!”
“Will you?” Porter asked angrily, before firing several shots of energy at the bow-less archer. Arsenal managed to avoid the blasts, which instead struck the villa and sent it crumbling to the ground.
Porter would have continued his assault, but Starfire and Cyborg attacked their foe again, trying to stop him without killing him. However, nothing was working. “Still you confront me? You have no chance!” Porter shouted, as first his hands began glowing red again, and soon so did the rest of his body. Energy surrounded the creature, and the ground shook, when something unexpected occurred.
The massive energies at Porter’s control began to eat away at his seemingly impervious body. “What… what is happening?” Porter asked aloud. “NOOO!” he shouted in horror as he watched the energy eat away at his arms and body.
The New Titans watched in horror of their own as they learned what Porter was now experiencing firsthand — that the modified Ambrosia formula was a failure.
“How?! It was perfect! Now, I — aghh! AGGHHH! No… NOOO!” Porter shouted as the energy finished eating away at his body. Finally, all that was left of Porter was his skeleton, and the red energy that had been at his command caused it to shatter. Bones sprayed all about the area, even as Porter’s skull came to a rest at the feet of the Protector.
A fitting end to the creator of that poison, and yet it doesn’t take the pain away. Not even this can bring Ted and Casey back, the Protector thought, closing his eyes.
“It’s over,” Artemis said aloud, breaking the silence that had overcome the team.
“Pretty much. Look, we’d better stay here until Faraday and the others arrive,” Arsenal said. “Plus, there’s some things I need to take care of.”
“You go do that, Arsenal,” Nightwing said as he glanced at Starfire. Arsenal’s words coincided with his own feelings, and he knew he had business to attend to himself. “Look, team, take Arsenal to the T-Jet. I’d like to check things out here with Starfire.”
“Yeah, I bet you do,” Changeling said, acting in sly amusement. He grinned at his friend and leader but saw something different, as if there was something that needed to be spoken by the two of them in private. He scrambled, feeling like an idiot and spoke again. “Uh, look, Nightwing–“
“It’s OK, Changeling,” Nightwing said, reassuring his shape-shifting friend. “We’ll meet up with you when Faraday arrives, OK?”
“OK,” Changeling said, feeling a little better.
As the other New Titans made their way to the T-Jet, Nightwing walked over to Starfire. He looked at the woman he loved and saw pain within her wide green eyes. His own eyes were filled with compassion as he addressed her. “I think we need to talk.”
“Yes… yes, we do, Dick,” she said quietly as she reached out to her lover’s hand and held it tightly. “We need to talk… about many things.”
“I’ve watched you during the nights over the past month, Kory. I see sadness and pain written all over your face. I know something is wrong,” Nightwing said softly. He looked Starfire in the eyes and spoke again. “Let me in. Tell me what’s wrong.”
Starfire slowly released Nightwing’s hand and closed her eyes. She was momentarily silent, but finally spoke again. “Things have changed, and at first I thought it was in light of the invasion. But it might be more than that.”
“I know it was probably rough seeing Ryand’r and the Omega Men again, being reminded of what’s happened to Tamaran and Komand’r’s dictatorship. Is that what’s bothering you?” Nightwing asked.
“That — that is part of it,” Starfire said, opening her eyes where tears had formed. “Ryand’r asked me if I would join him and the Omega Men in an effort to free Tamaran from Komand’r’s rule. I… X’hal, this is so hard…”
The tears dropped from Starfire’s face, even as Nightwing softly rubbed the tears away. “Hey, Kory, it’s OK,” Nightwing said reassuringly.
“No it’s not, Dick!” Starfire snapped back, in equal amounts of sadness and anger. “I ache inside, and I feel so torn. I want to liberate my planet, but Earth has been my home for so long. How can I consider leaving her — leaving you?“
“You have to do what makes you feel right, Kory,” Nightwing said, trying to understand his girlfriend’s turmoil. “That’s what makes us who we are.”
“You are so kind, so loving. And still, what happened in May comes to mind,” Starfire said sadly.
“At the wedding,” Nightwing responded, rather than asked.
“When Eros revealed how he’d manipulated the team, made our friends think they loved one another, all in his petty sense of revenge against Thia, it reminded me of our trials — what we went through after I married Karras,” Starfire said. “Were we manipulated, too? Were the feelings we had before the marriage reignited by Eros instead of our own free will? (*) It bothers me, Dick — it bothers me so much because I don’t know!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The New Titans: What’s Love Got to Do with It?]
“Believe it or not, Kory, I feel the same as you. After we dealt with the hostage situation, things felt as if they were beforehand. There wasn’t any logic to it, just love, I thought. But we’ve been together even after Eros revealed things. Part of me says that proves our love wasn’t manipulated, but I still don’t know for sure myself,” Nightwing admitted. “I think… maybe both of us need to decide for ourselves if our love is real, independently of one another.”
“What do you mean?” Starfire asked, drying up the last of her tears.
“I think we need time away from each other, so that we can both examine our feelings and decide one way or the other. You want to liberate Tamaran. I say take Ryand’r’s offer — join him and the Omega Men and do what you can to free Tamaran,” Nightwing suggested.
“But what about you, Dick?” Starfire asked, her voice trembling somewhat.
“I’ve had things on my mind as well. Bruce and I’ve spoken lately. He’s offered me a job, and, well, I’ve decided to accept. I was going to tell the team tonight of my intentions, but when Jason arrived, things took a different turn,” Nightwing said.
“You were going to leave the Titans?” Starfire asked.
“I am leaving the Titans… for a while,” Nightwing stated. “Is it forever? No. Believe me, I love my friends. This isn’t another chapter of me finding myself, but I want to do this. I’m just glad I could tell you before I announced my decision to the team.”
“What will happen from here?” Starfire asked.
“Either we’ll know for sure whether or not our feelings for one another are real, or we’ll come to terms with things the best way we can,” Nightwing said solemnly, almost fearing the second choice. “No matter if it’s love or otherwise, I will always be there for you, Kory. I’ll be there when you return, and I know you’ll be there for me.”
“I can think of no finer agreement, Dick,” Starfire said with a small smile.
Though their feelings were heavy, the two teammates hugged and shared a kiss, knowing that, in a way, this was their way of saying goodbye.