The New Titans: The Zandia Solution, Chapter 6: Pure Hatred

by Libbylawrence

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In another cell, Cyborg sat up abruptly and recalled the pain he had felt when he had tried to disengage the Brain’s electronic hold on Brother Blood. He shook his head and realized it was all a memory. He was fine now.

“Vic? Are you OK?” asked Arisia as she yelled to him from within a glowing sphere that kept the elfin girl rolled up in a tight fetal position.

“The robotic one stirs! His kind can’t be killed like normal men!”

The words came from a nearby figure as Vic focused his vision on the inhuman form of Plasmus. The German was caught within a cage that resisted his body’s unique properties.

Cyborg faltered for a moment, as if he had suffered some type of vertigo, but the sensation passed, and he ran over to try to help the others. “Listen, pal, the only thing that keeps me from taking you apart is the fact that next to you I actually look like Blair Underwood!” said Cyborg. He bent over Arisia and shook his head. He hated to see the Green Lantern trapped in such a totally immobile position. “Hold on, honey! I’m gonna try to break open the ball that’s holding you!”

Arisia said, “Please do! I can’t use my ring, nor can I move a muscle!”

Cyborg tried to raise her spirits. “Shoot, girl, as a model you probably been in tighter spots than this one,” he whispered. His keen mind and agile hands worked over the problem, but his powers could not penetrate the energy field.

“I could free the kinder if I could reach her!” said Plasmus.

Cyborg said, “Yeah? You could at that. That freaky burnin’ touch of yours might be just what we need. How about a bargain? I break you out of your cage, and you free Arisia. I mean, we seem to be sharing space on the hate list of the creeps who took you punks out of power!”

Plasmus said, “The Fearsome Five will suffer for their actions. My allies and I are fatal men and women!”

Cyborg nodded and aimed his white sound blaster at the cage that held the pink-hued monster. The powerful sound waves broke the cage long enough for the mutated German to slip through.

“My own touch was not able to burn through the cage before it re-formed!” he said as he gestured to where the odd trap had solidified once more.

Cyborg said, “Now how about it? Can you free Arisia?”

Plasmus lumbered over and placed his burning hands on the sphere that contained the girl. It melted away, and Vic yanked her to freedom in seconds.

“Sorry to be so rough, but I didn’t want our new friend, here, to slip up and burn you by accident!” said Cyborg as he held her in his arms.

Arisia stretched and said, “Like, I thought I was never going to be able to do this again! Plasmus, stand back! I’m going to break us out of here!” With a brilliant pulse of emerald energy, she shattered the door and led them down a long hallway until they encountered some of their friends.

Artemis, Herald, Raven, Hawk, Dove, a purple-costumed man, and Warp and Phobia approached them rapidly. Artemis and Raven embraced him as Hawk, Dove, and Herald stood by in a welcoming manner. Herald said, “This is Dynamo. He’s on our side!”

Dynamo said, “Pleased to meet you. I have friends here, too. You see, some of us former villains were sent in to rescue the Force of July!”

Cyborg said, “Where are they now?”

“They were guarding the arsenal when we parted,” said Artemis. “We haven’t found them since we got out. The arsenal is empty, too!”

“Victor, I am relieved to see you well. Artemis told me of your injury at the hands of the Brain!” said Raven.

Cyborg said, “Yeah? Well, I’m fine now. Hey, what are you doing with those creeps? Same thing we’re doing with Plasmus, right?”

Phobia and Warp said nothing as Dove interjected, “They’re on our side for now. After you passed out, the whole power base shifted. The Brotherhood fell, and the Fearsome Five took charge!”

Cyborg said, “OK, but with friends like that, who needs enemies?”

Phobia pursed her lips and said, “How utterly trite. But then, who expected originality from a machine?”

Hawk said, “He’s more human than you are!”

Dove said, “We’d better keep moving. The others could be in trouble.”

“Yes, I’m trying to home in on Protector’s signal,” said Cyborg. “He and Gar and the others have to be close by!” He adjusted his own communications system and frowned. “They’re right above us!” Before he could act on his words, the floor shattered, and a powerful and sultry woman in a gold and purple costume smashed through the roof to land before them. Golden Eagle, Harlequin, and Protector floated down in her wake, along with a newcomer in a dark hooded robe and a slightly unsettled Monsieur Mallah and Houngan.

Dynamo said, “These are my friends!” He pointed to a pretty girl in a golden two-piece costume and a blue hooded robe and the other woman, who wore the brief purple and gold costume that left her stomach, back, and legs bare.

“This is Psi. She’s the one who helped us find you. She is able read minds and do a lot of stuff with her mutant powers!”

“I shielded our thoughts from Blood’s cult when we arrived,” said Psi. “They thought we were just another group of criminals seeking sanctuary!”

“I crave battle! Enough of this idle chatter!” demanded the other woman who had broken through the roof.

“Easy, Princess! You’ll have all the combat you need soon enough!” said Psi.

Hawk elbowed Golden Eagle in the ribs and whispered, “Quit gawking at the Mexican babe! What would Lisa think?”

Golden Eagle said, “Whoa, I’d be toast, dude!”

Dynamo said, “Tlaca is beautiful! (*) I find myself staring at times, too!”

[(*) Editor’s note: Tlaca’s first and only appearance was in “Princess of the Golden Sun,” Superman Family #165 (June-July, 1974).]

“The Princess of the Golden Sun accepts reverent awe, as is her due!” said the haughty Mexican girl.

Hawk said, “Sheesh! She reminds me of the sun goddess we fought a while back!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Titans West: Cinco de Mayo Mayhem.]

“I am the only true goddess of the sun!” said Tlaca.

Plasmus said, “I am growing angry! If I do not find the Fearsome Five soon, I will turn my powers elsewhere!

Warp said, “Be calm, my friend. Houngan and I are equally eager for battle!”

Mallah roared, “I have more cause for anger than any of you! I have lost my best friend and my only master!”

“Speaking of friends, where are the others?” asked the Protector.

Warp said, “I fear I can tell you where the lovely Kole is. She was about to fall to the deadly touch of my esteemed comrade Plasmus when, in deference to her nubile charms, I used my power to warp her far away!”

Hawk jerked him off the floor and said, “OK, Froggie, start talking! Where is she? Bring her back now, or I’ll rip your frog legs off!”

Warp said, “Cease and desist! I know only that I removed her. Where she is now, I cannot say! I only tried to teleport her over the ocean. That is not where ended up. That much I can say!”

Raven said, “I think he’s telling the truth.”

Hawk shoved Warp into Phobia and said, “Great! Just wonderful! First we lose Lilith, then Gar, and now Kole!”

Raven said, “I can sense Lilith. Her own strong empathic powers register to my own. She is alive and in a state of strong emotion.”

Hawk said, “Legs is always hot and bothered about something or someone!”

Dove said, “We’d better find her quickly.”

Arisia said, “As for Changeling, I bet the Crimelord has him. You guys said he hated Gar more than the rest of you. I mean, he hates him more than he hates you guys!”

Artemis nodded and said, “If Nightwing’s theory is true about who Crimelord really is, then he would kill Gar for sheer pleasure!”

Psi frowned and said, “Dynamo, Tlaca, and I came here with Silver Deer. She is gone! I just sensed it. She’s vanished along with the Force of July. None of them are here any longer! Some kind of device accidentally dispersed them through time and space!”

Tlaca yawned and said, “I grow bored. Bring me battle or let me bask in the adoration of my admirers!”

Harlequin elbowed Protector in the ribs and said, “Miss high maintenance may have a point! We’d better take down the Fearsome Five fast. Lilith has done a lot for me, and I can’t stand the thought of her being hurt!”

The dark-haired girl named Psi said, “I can take you directly to Changeling. As you surmised, he is being tormented by the Fearsome Five.”

Cyborg said, “Well, they’re in for some torment all their own!” They followed the powerful mutant named Psi as she levitated them through the huge complex and stopped suddenly. “The misguided cultists of the Church of Blood have been ordered to hold us off. Your escape is known, even though my powers have shielded my teammates and I from detection thus far!”

Dynamo said, “Psi, Princess, and I will deal with the Blood cultists. Can you Titans free your pals and handle the Fearsome Five?”

Hawk said, “Don’t worry, pal. We were fighting thugs and punks when you were still Joe Nobody!”

Dove frowned and said, “Way to win friends and influence people, Hawk!”

Hawk shrugged and said, “Sorry I shot off my mouth. I guess I’m just getting tired of being put in rotating cells!”

Dove said, “And you’re worried about Lilith and Gar and Kole.”

Hawk nodded and said, “As a matter of fact, I am!”

***

While the three Task Force X members prepared to battle the robed minions of the Church of Blood, the Titans prepared to face their own foes.

Herald said, “The Crimelord seems pretty normal in terms of his power. He’s just a dude in an armored suit and a cape, right?”

Artemis said, “Yes, but Nightwing speculated that that armor came from another old foe of ours called the Disruptor. It allows the user to disrupt the normal state of powers or gear. It was created for a guy named Beldon. Nightwing said he figured ‘Brains’ Beldon acted as a kind of mentor to the new Crimelord.”

Golden Eagle said, “I know he totally caused me to wipe out. I flew right into a wall!”

“Let’s split up! Protector, Arisia, and Eagle will get Lilith, while the rest of us face down the Fearsome Five!” said Herald.

Artemis said, “That’s a sound plan! I agree!”

***

Meanwhile, Garfield Logan was staring up at the armored Crimelord as the villain exerted a painful control over the young man’s shape-shifting powers. “You can’t escape my hatred by becoming a witless animal. You can’t hide from what you’ve done. You will face me as nothing more or less than the arrogant punk you’ve always been!” said the angry black-caped villain.

Gar said, “I don’t know why you have it in for me, but leave the others out of it. Let Artemis, Raven, and the rest go.”

“How noble!” Crimelord said. “How sickeningly noble! And how very unlike the spoiled brat I know you to be!”

Gar said, “You took Jillian Jackson captive and used her home as a base. You had Gemini pose as Jill and pretend to love me. You used her. You hurt me. But why? Who are you behind the Darth Vader mask?”

Crimelord removed his helmet and revealed features Gar knew all too well. “Galtry? You’re my old guardian! How’d you become such a smooth-talker? How’d you get the armor and the power?”

Crimelord slapped his face and said, “You wrote me off years ago. You thought I was nothing. Well, thanks to ‘Brains’ Beldon, I’ve become as powerful as anyone else could only dream of becoming. I acquired the armor his son once used. I can use it to kill you, and I will!”

Gar shook his head as he wiped blood away from his mouth. This creep’s looney tunes! I can’t fight back while he can mess with my powers, but maybe Vic and the rest will get here soon if I stall for time, he thought.

“You’ve hated me since the day you lost the court case that removed me from your custody,” said Gar. “All you wanted that for was to soak up any money I had coming to me. You wanted to live off my wealth, since you were too useless to make your own money!”

Nicholas Galtry scowled and grabbed Gar by the shirt. “You smart-mouthed punk! I hate you! I hate you! I’ll kill you right now, and then I’ll let my partners wipe out your friends!” he roared.

A blast of solid sound struck him as Herald jumped into the room and used his remarkable pipe to separate Gar from the furious Crimelord. Artemis used her lasso to snare Gar and pull him to freedom. “Gar, don’t worry, we’re here now!” she said as she released him from the lasso.

He grinned and said, “You know, I’ve had dreams where you tied me up like that!”

She said, “I can tell you’re your old self again!”

The Crimelord lowered his helmet and gestured as Herald’s pipe generated a backlash of sound that knocked Mal into the air and into the arms of the Golden Eagle. “Thanks for the save, Eagle!” said Herald as Golden Eagle lowered him to a safe landing.

“No problem! Totally wicked feedback on your pipe, dude!” he said.

Crimelord said, “I will face you all, but I won’t do it alone!”

The other members of the Fearsome Five entered the room as Jinx slinked over to her lover’s side and chanted arcane words of power. Houngan fell hard as green fire struck his body. “I think she killed him!” cried Phobia.

Plasmus screamed as his body began to glow with an eerie light. “What is the witch doing to me?” he cried. He struggled to move forward, but Jinx laughed cruelly as her magic caused his burning skin to melt and pour down to the ground to reveal a normal human male. “What is this? She has turned me back to my original form!” cried the altered Plasmus.

“All the easier to kill you!” said Jinx as the sultry Indian woman sent a bolt of magic surging through the air at the helpless German.

Warp dived forward and created a warp hole between the combatants so that the lethal magic vanished into the hole. “Now you will pay for what you did to us!” he said. The yellow-garbed Frenchman raised one hand to strike.

But Crimelord’s disruptive power caused the warp hole to close prematurely. “None of you can fight my power!”

Hawk and Dove had raced forward to confront the pair of Shimmer and Mammoth. Shimmer stood defiantly in their path and raised her hands above her head. “The floor will not hold you. As a deadly toxin it will slay you!” she said.

Hawk leaped off the floor as it changed into a green gas and landed with both feet in the woman’s chest. She slumped forward, and he grabbed her arms and shoved them to her sides. “You can’t do much if you can’t touch anything but your own body!” he said.

Dove spun through the air as Mammoth tried futilely to grab the amazingly agile girl. “Hold still! I will snap you like a doll!” he bellowed.

“Now, that’s an offer a girl doesn’t hear every day,” quipped Dove as she tripped him and sent him crashing directly into his sister as Hawk skillfully released her and sidestepped her lunge.

Shimmer’s power hit her brother’s body as his weight crushed her to the ground. He yelled in pain as his own body was temporarily changed to a vapor before Shimmer hit the floor and remained stunned. Hawk and Dove whirled to see how their friends were faring.

Artemis ran forward and said, “The Brotherhood has turned on us! Get them!”

Harlequin dived into her path and struck her in the face with a narcotic powder puff that left her caked in a sticky white substance that gagged her. “You’re not Artemis! I saw her go over there. You’re that multi-faced Gemini!” laughed the Harlequin.

Protector wrapped a rope around the struggling girl and left her hogtied at his feet. “You can take on any appearance you want, but my ropes and cuffs will still hold you!” he said as he closed a pair of handcuffs around her wrists. She screamed in helpless fury as she resumed her own normal appearance.

The real Artemis yelped in pain as Crimelord touched her stomach and sent her crashing to the ground in pain. “I’ll kill her! So help me, I will!” he cried. Artemis groaned in pain but raised both high-heeled boots to kick him across the room before he could touch her again.

Changeling swooped down on his former guardian in the form of an eagle. “Green Eagle! I could expand my image with new heroic roles! Nah, sounds too much like Blue Falcon!” he said.

Crimelord tried to keep the wildly flying young man at bay, but he was beginning to lose ground as Phobia caught Jinx’s eye and the two women became locked in a battle of wills. “I’ll show you your darkest fears!” hissed Phobia.

Jinx laughed and said, “I have no fear of anything dark!”

Raven dropped to the floor as her soul-self soared across the room to envelop Jinx. The Indian mystic screamed and collapsed as the dark birdlike form covered her body and forced her to face her inner demons. Before Phobia could take any action, Cyborg smashed her in the face and blasted Hawk with white sound.

Crimelord said, “I can disrupt your friend’s systems! I can pull his strings like a puppet!”

Gar changed to an ape and pounded at Crimelord even as Cyborg rolled out of range of the criminal’s power. “Leave my pals alone!” yelled Gar.

Gemini was still bound helplessly, but she cried out, “You left my mother to die, you killer!”

Gar hesitated and looked at her as he started to defend himself. That moment of hesitation cost him the fight, as Crimelord kicked him in the face and placed both hands on his chest. “No more fancy tactics! I’ll let your body break down via my disruptive power!” he said.

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